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NY Times – May 19, 2022 – Op Ed: The War in Ukraine Is Getting Complicated, and America Isn’t Ready. Washington Is Getting Nervous

May 25, 2022

Kherson, whose population just voted to sever their ties with Ukraine and become a part of Russia

Below a link (and full text) to the NY Times op ed of May 19, 2022 – a striking document, considering the fawning approach that the Times has given to the Ukraine war, tailing the interpretations, narrative of the U.S. State Department down to the last detail and then suddenly, or so it appears – it breaks ranks with an editorial that must have made Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky’s blood boil.

An indication of just how upset Zelensky is with the growing calls for him to negotiate with Russia  “under the circumstances” can be read here (and in this article the language used to tell Henry Kissinger where to go has been greatly “cleaned up.”)

Until now, the Times, like the rest of the U.S. pliant media, has been engaged with nothing less than NATO triumphalism – the Russians are losing the war, their troops in Ukraine are dispirited, they have suffered many defeats, etc., etc,. all of which are, from the point of view of objectivity, little more than fantasy. U. S. State Department’s push to throw money and weapons at Kiev is in part to prevent the Ukrainian government from completely collapsing and to extend the timeline of the war as long as possible, the logic being that Russia cannot sustain a longterm military engagement, it will become exhausted and be forced to give ground, perhaps withdraw from the territories it has won in Ukraine.

Ironically, now the Times, and with it certain segments of the U.S. ruling class are singing a different song and some of the above logic has turned on its head. Now it is those elements in power in Washington themselves who are increasingly worried about an extended war, fearing a comprehensive  collapse – both of Washington’s sanctions policy to strange the Russian economy and NATO’s war effort. For the first time, at least in the open, the Biden Administration fears an imminent Ukrainian military collapse in the Donbas, one that will do untold damage to U.S. prestige globally. Besides the Times, and the 56 or so Republican congresspeople who voted against the recent $40 billion appropriation to Ukraine, the Administration has shuffled out Henry Kissinger to give essentially the same message to the World Economic Forum in Davos as the Times’ May 19 editorial. Several others in Davos, including Joe Biden confident Chris Coon (D-Maryland) are also casting doubts about what Washington has gotten itself into in Ukraine. While still a minority within the Washington power structure, still the these U.S. voices are beginning to articulate a clear message: Washington should cut a deal with Russia as soon as possible to avoid an even more devastating defeat, to cut their losses while they still can. 

Why this change of heart which, at least publicly, has only come to the fore in recent days?

I want to suggest a couple of themes:

  • At least some Washington “insiders” have come to understand that the Ukrainian military is not only not winning the war in the Donbas, but is about to suffer a defeat, some say is catastrophic, from which the country will not recover, that the Donbas and Crimea are lost permanently to Russia. There is the danger that as the Ukrainian military in the Donbas collapses, that the rest of military resistance in the rest of Ukraine will follow suit and collapse like a house of cards, as the saying goes. Quite a different narrative than the one spoon-fed to the American public. Nothing less than American global prestige is at stake
  • While the U.S. media has tried to downplay the neo-Nazi influence in the Ukrainian military and intelligence apparatus, this particular denial is wearing thin, especially as the crimes committed by the Azov Battalion and like outfits become more obvious. Many of those Azov Battalion elements that surrendered from the Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol, in an embarrassing gesture, kept videos of the tortures and killings they committed on their cell phones, now all in Russian hands. Even without that, the level of the terror these (mostly U.S. trained) elements perpetrated on the Russian speaking people of Eastern Ukraine over the past eight years cannot be hidden or denied. It’s a little embarrassing, no? that the U.S. trained and armed the same elements it fought so hard to defeat in World War II.
  • Some here in the USA might not think this particularly dramatic but the revelations that the United States was operating and funding a series of biological and chemical weapons laboratories in the Ukraine which were toying with developing pathogens specifically targeting Slavic people will be, I suggest, nothing short of a political nuclear bomb going off. Nothing less. The Russian government has already released damning documents on this subject, but these document releases are just scratching the surface.
  • Although during the first few days of the Russian Ukraine invasion, Europe “stood strong” with Washington, we are seeing that unity tear some especially over the issue of the sanctions placed on Russian oil and natural gas. Major German corporations are in conflict with the German government over this. Poland and Norway are in a spat as Norway refuses to supply Warsaw with any of the moneys it is earning from high oil and gas prices; Hungary finds itself at odds with a furious European Union leadership – Budapest will veto any EU attempt to extend sanctions against Russia to oil. And then there is the growing antagonism between Turkey on the one hand and Sweden and Finland on the other over Turkey’s refusal (at least to date) to permit Finnish and Swedish entry into NATO. Is Western unity over Ukraine falling apart? No, not yet, but the tensions continue to grow especially as, to dates, Western sanctions have hurt Europe far more than they have Russia.

It is with all this in mind that readers should consider the NY Times editorial (the link is here), full text below for those who do not subscribe:

The War in Ukraine Is Getting Complicated, and America Isn’t Ready

Editorial Board – May 19, 2022

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board is a group of Opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

The Senate passed a $40 billion emergency aid package for Ukraine on Thursday, but with a small group of isolationist Republicans loudly criticizing the spending and the war entering a new and complicated phase, continued bipartisan support is not guaranteed.

Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, warned the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that the next few months may be volatile. The conflict between Ukraine and Russia could take “a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory,” she said, with the increased likelihood that Russia could threaten to use nuclear weapons.

These are extraordinary costs and serious dangers, and yet there are many questions that President Biden has yet to answer for the American public with regard to the continued involvement of the United States in this conflict.

In March, this board argued that the message from the United States and its allies to Ukrainians and Russians alike must be: No matter how long it takes, Ukraine will be free. Ukraine deserves support against Russia’s unprovoked aggression, and the United States must lead its NATO allies in demonstrating to Vladimir Putin that the Atlantic alliance is willing and able to resist his revanchist ambitions.

That goal cannot shift, but in the end, it is still not in America’s best interest to plunge into an all-out war with Russia, even if a negotiated peace may require Ukraine to make some hard decisions. And the U.S. aims and strategy in this war have become harder to discern, as the parameters of the mission appear to have changed.

Is the United States, for example, trying to help bring an end to this conflict, through a settlement that would allow for a sovereign Ukraine and some kind of relationship between the United States and Russia? Or is the United States now trying to weaken Russia permanently? Has the administration’s goal shifted to destabilizing Vladimir Putin or having him removed? Does the United States intend to hold Mr. Putin accountable as a war criminal? Or is the goal to try to avoid a wider war — and if so, how does crowing about providing U.S. intelligence to kill Russians and sink one of their ships achieve this?

Without clarity on these questions, the White House not only risks losing Americans’ interest in supporting Ukrainians — who continue to suffer the loss of lives and livelihoods — but also jeopardizes long-term peace and security on the European continent.

Americans have been galvanized by Ukraine’s suffering, but popular support for a war far from U.S. shores will not continue indefinitely. Inflation is a much bigger issue for American voters than Ukraine, and the disruptions to global food and energy markets are likely to intensify.

The current moment is a messy one in this conflict, which may explain President Biden and his cabinet’s reluctance to put down clear goal posts. All the more reason, then, for Mr. Biden to make the case to American voters, well before November, that support for Ukraine means support for democratic values and the right of countries to defend themselves against aggression — while peace and security remain the ideal outcome in this war.

. Putin “cannot remain in power,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s comment that Russia must be “weakened” and the pledge by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, that the United States would support Ukraine “until victory is won” — may be rousing proclamations of support, but they do not bring negotiations any closer.

In the end, it is the Ukrainians who must make the hard decisions: They are the ones fighting, dying and losing their homes to Russian aggression, and it is they who must decide what an end to the war might look like. If the conflict does lead to real negotiations, it will be Ukrainian leaders who will have to make the painful territorial decisions that any compromise will demand.

The United States and NATO have demonstrated that they will support the Ukrainian fight with ample firepower and other means. And however the fighting ends, the United States and its allies must be prepared to help Ukraine rebuild.

But as the war continues, Mr. Biden should also make clear to President Volodymyr Zelensky and his people that there is a limit to how far the United States and NATO will go to confront Russia, and limits to the arms, money and political support they can muster. It is imperative that the Ukrainian government’s decisions be based on a realistic assessment of its means and how much more destruction Ukraine can sustain.

Confronting this reality may be painful, but it is not appeasement. This is what governments are duty bound to do, not chase after an illusory “win.” Russia will be feeling the pain of isolation and debilitating economic sanctions for years to come, and Mr. Putin will go down in history as a butcher. The challenge now is to shake off the euphoria, stop the taunting and focus on defining and completing the mission. America’s support for Ukraine is a test of its place in the world in the 21st century, and Mr. Biden has an opportunity and an obligation to help define what that will be.


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