Self-Deterred Washington Campaigning for Ukraine to Negotiate

August 21, 2023


One must fear what Washington and others are doing in relation to Russia’s war on Ukraine. Washington appears to be planting the seeds of doubt and the need for Ukrainian concessions, which would be disastrous and, in the end, against our own American national security interests.

To begin, I make two points.

First, admittedly, I am very critical of the Administration. At the same time, I remind that I have been critical of previous administrations and Members of Congress who oppose supporting Ukraine from both political parties, Democrat and Republican. Ukraine is a national security issue and should never be a partisan issue.

Second, while the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation is involved in supporting Ukraine in many ways, much of the financial support received is directed to our humanitarian efforts and greatly appreciated. However, resources are always needed to support our advocacy efforts and never more than right now.

Back to Washington and Ukraine’s need to fight Putin’s war against Ukraine and the West, which began in 2014. Perhaps, the most critical mistake Washington has made, through several Administrations, is its determined self-deterrence. Time and again, the fear of Putin escalating has been offered as the reason (excuse) for not providing Ukraine with the weapons requested and needed to defeat Russia.

An ongoing dimension of that self-deterrence was discussed in some detail in the Wall Street Journal’s, “Should the West Fear Putin’s Fall?” by Yaroslav Trofimov.

“Some Western officials who once feared a strong Russia now dread the prospect of one that’s weak and unstable.”

There is and should be no question that internal Russian dynamics need to be a part of all strategic analysis and planning for supporting Ukraine and our own national strategic interests in giving Ukraine what is needed to defeat Russia. But preoccupation with self-deterrence has already drug this war out unnecessarily, making Ukraine’s counteroffensive more dangerous and time consuming – costing far more lives, military and civilian, than would have been if Washington provided weapons when requested and needed for most effective use.

Such hand-wringing self-deterrence is not the approach of a genuine superpower. Washington has been, and is, deterred by Putin’s bombast in power and is now worrying about Russia without Putin. A real superpower implies more than just a mighty arsenal, but also the capacity to use its might to deter the enemy. Washington’s embarrassing specialty since 2014 is deterring itself and inhibiting willing allies from giving Ukraine critical support.

I have stated for some time now that Washington’s unstated but clear objective is to give Ukraine substantial military support and advertise itself as being Ukraine’s biggest supporter, while at the same time never providing Ukraine what it needs to win.

Altogether, with its actions and inactions, the Administration constantly refrains “We are with Ukraine for as long as it takes.” That is not a strategic goal, because it does not answer this fundamental question: “as long as it takes” to do what? Such amorphous terminology is inappropriate, especially considering continuous war crimes and hideous ongoing genocide.

“Leader of the free world” – it just doesn’t apply to today’s self-deterred Washington.

As I have written before, if you look for messaging from Washington, then you easily find an aggressive campaign to tee up a popular impression that Ukraine cannot win and that Ukraine must move toward a negotiated settlement.

Whether it is in the constant reports that spin the current circumstances so that one is to believe the counteroffensive has failed or is not going the way “everyone” expected, the Washington story line is made up in so many ways for its propaganda purposes. It is a story line never pointing the finger at Washington’s refusal to provide weapons in a timely way or its refusal to provide weapons such as the ATACMS, which would allow Ukraine to strike the Russian sanctuaries in Crimea from which Russia is slaughtering civilians.

There was, and is to this day, argument over the appropriateness of the regional bombings of Germany during World War II, killing massive numbers of civilians. The arguments of justification were the need to take out war-supplying manufacturing centers with little or no precise bombing capabilities.

That is not the case today. Russia can strike precisely the targets it chooses, and Russia is choosing schools, hospitals, apartment housing, and more. And Russia follows up initial strikes 20-minutes later, allowing first responders to arrive and become additional victims of Russian war crimes.

In this context, consider the consequences of Washington’s delays and refusals through at least three administrations. Think of culpability for unnecessary murders.

In this light, consider the messaging in the Wall Street Journal’s, “Why Russia’s War in Ukraine Could Run for Years.”

And below that article is a link to the Washington Post’s, “Kyiv’s push curbed by Moscow’s shove – Ukraine may be running out of options to retake significant territory.” This is an article with quote after quote about Ukrainian limitations without the critical counterbalance – “pointing the finger” at Washington’s recalcitrant refusal to provide Ukraine what is needed to win.

I submit it is all a part of a media strategy to convince the American public and Congress that, despite Washington’s advertising generosity to Ukraine, negotiations and concessions by Ukraine are necessary. However, if this publicity campaign is eventually successful, remember it when Russia restarts its effort to take what it stated as its clear objectives in December 2021. And, remember when the time comes for “American boots on the ground.”

Finally, at the end of this FOUN blast is a link to the Wall Street Journal’s, “… But Growing Risks in Ukraine.” The editorial board fairly addresses the consequences of the United States’ slow delivery of arms to Ukraine.


Why Russia’s War in Ukraine Could Run for Years

From Moscow to Washington, a lack of clear and achievable strategic goals points to a long conflict

By Marcus Walker

Aug. 20, 2023 12:01 pm ET

Russia’s war on Ukraine is in danger of becoming a protracted struggle that lasts several more years. The reason isn’t just that the front-line combat is a slow-moving slog, but also that none of the main actors have political goals that are both clear and attainable.

Ukraine’s central war aim—restoring its territorial integrity—is the clearest, but appears a distant prospect given the limits of Western support. The U.S. and key European allies such as Germany want to prevent Russia from winning, but fear the costs and risks of helping Ukraine to full victory. Some Western officials are sketching out grand bargains to end the war, but they fit neither Kyiv’s nor Moscow’s goals. [There you have it – Ukraine is fighting determinedly for its freedom and independence. Washington and some in the west ignore history and reality and want a supposed peace by rewarding Russia’s bad, criminal behavior. What are they thinking? Where in history has anything like that ever worked? RAM]

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declared aims are the most elastic, ranging from ambitious imperial schemes to more limited land grabs, and shifting with Russia’s military fortunes. His long-term objective of bringing Ukraine back under Moscow’s sway looks unrealistic now, but Ukrainians believe he would treat smaller gains as mere steppingstones, rendering treacherous any peace based on concessions.

President Biden has said the goal of U.S. aid is to put Ukraine in the strongest possible position for eventual peace negotiations, without saying under what conditions it should negotiate. Earlier this year, Washington, Berlin and others hoped a chance for talks would open up this fall, if Kyiv’s counteroffensive made significant progress against Russian occupation forces in Ukraine’s south and east.

But throughout the war, strengthening Ukraine with decisive firepower has clashed with another, overriding Western priority: to avoid uncontrolled escalation that leads to a direct war with Russia or to Putin using nuclear weapons.

The speed limit on aid for Ukraine has been evident in the West’s months long debates over whether to supply tanks, planes and long-range missiles. Ukrainian troops’ limited weaponry, including air power and air defenses, has contributed to their heavy losses throughout the war, and to their painfully slow progress this summer against Russia’s fortified lines in the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions. U.S. intelligence assessments are now pessimistic about whether Ukrainian forces can break through Russian defenses and reach the coast, a key strategic aim for Kyiv.

A drawback of the U.S.’s incremental approach to military aid: Without a battlefield breakthrough, Kyiv doesn’t want to negotiate peace—and Moscow doesn’t have to.

“By structuring our approach around the goal of no escalation, around what we don’t want to happen, the U.S. has set itself up for a drawn-out conflict,” said Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington. “You end up in a strange middle ground where you’re not necessarily able to accomplish that second goal of putting Ukraine in a position of strength that makes negotiations possible.”

The muddle over Western aims was illustrated this past week when a senior official of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization spoke publicly about an idea that European diplomats have been debating: that Ukraine give up Russian-occupied territory in return for joining NATO to protect what’s left. The suggestion drew an angry dismissal from Ukraine, which says its borders aren’t for bartering. The NATO official apologized, reverting to the West’s public line that only Ukraine can define acceptable peace terms. [Do not kid yourself. What the NATO official said was not a slip of the tongue, it was intentional and expressed the slimy maneuverings of those who seem to have no idea what is and will be required for a durable peace. RAM]

In private, many Western officials don’t think the U.S. and its allies can leave it to Kyiv alone to define the goal. Ukraine’s maximalist aims, they fear, guarantee an endless war. They would like to offer Ukraine carrots to accept the de facto loss of some territory, such as NATO or European Union membership or promises of long-term military and economic aid. [“Western officials” – no names given and no evidence these officials have pushed to get Ukraine the weapons it needs and has asked for. Rather, they apparently accept the United States will not give Ukraine what it needs and, therefore, Ukraine should surrender territory and accept the fantasy doing so will lead to peace. RAM]

The thinking stems from an eagerness to contain a conflict whose shock waves have been felt across the global economy, uncertainty about how long Western voters will support the current levels of aid for Kyiv and disbelief that Ukraine can fully expel Russian forces.

The Prussian military thinker Carl von Clausewitz famously wrote that “war is a mere continuation of policy by other means,” stressing that military force is an instrument for attaining a political goal. Some unsuccessful wars have resulted less from lost battles than from the lack of an achievable political aim, so that campaigns came to be seen as draining and fruitless. Modern examples arguably include the Soviet and U.S. failures in Afghanistan and America’s defeat in Vietnam.

Now, Russia is finding itself in a costly quagmire whose point is unclear. Turning Clausewitz’s idea on its head, Putin’s policy has depended on where his soldiers were. The full-scale invasion launched in early 2022 aimed to install a pro-Moscow regime in Ukraine, buttressed by an ideology that said Russians and Ukrainians were one people. When fierce resistance forced Russia to retreat from Kyiv, the Kremlin shrank the objective to conquering all of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas area. After further military setbacks, Russia declared the annexation of four regions in Ukraine’s east and south, none of which it fully controls.

But Russia is also trying to advance in the Kharkiv region in the northeast, going beyond its territorial claims. Senior Kremlin officials continue to say they want to dismantle the Ukrainian state.

Putin sometimes speaks as if the war has largely fulfilled its aim. “The primordial Russian lands of Donbas and Novorossiya have returned home where they belong,” Putin said with satisfaction in early August, using a tsarist-era term for southern Ukraine. Only in June, however, he mused about maybe raising more troops for another march on Kyiv. “Only I can answer that,” he said. “Depending on our goals, we must decide on mobilization,” he told Russian military correspondents, suggesting his goals remain fluid.

Russia had a plan A for a quick conquest of Ukraine but no plan B, said Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center in Berlin. “Now, declaring goals could be politically costly for Putin. Having unclear metrics allows you to say you’re working towards them,” Gabuev said.

The Kremlin’s view of the timeline is clearer than the aims, Gabuev said: “They believe the cost of the war is manageable and the endurance of the Russian political system, people and economy can outlast the West.”

Recent events, from the revolt of the Wagner paramilitary group to the ruble’s sinking value, show how the war is straining Russia’s economy and military, but not yet to a breaking point. Some observers believe the state of war against Ukraine and its Western backers is becoming an end in itself, the raison d’être of a regime that can no longer offer economic growth and stability.

Russia hasn’t given up its maximal goal, pursued in many neighboring countries for years, Polyakova said: to reassert its old sphere of influence and stop countries such as Ukraine from moving further West—whether that means domination or turning them into failed states. The Kremlin’s lesser declared aims are tactical maneuvering, she said.

“Russia still has this big imperial vision that Putin has grown to believe in over his tenure,” she said. “Ukraine’s goals have not changed. The question is: What’s the Western strategic vision?”

Victoria Simanovskaya contributed to this article.

Write to Marcus Walker at

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Link to the Washington Post’s article mentioned above:

Ukraine running out of options to retake significant territory

“Ukraine’s inability to demonstrate decisive success on the battlefield is stoking fears that the conflict is becoming a stalemate and international support could erode.”

And finally, a link to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial:

. . . But Growing Risks in Ukraine

The Editorial Board

Biden’s slow delivery of U.S. arms has hurt Kyiv’s counteroffensive and plays into Donald Trump’s hands.