The US and Ukraine are increasingly at odds over Kiev’s plans for the conflict with Russia, Politico reported on Sunday. President Joe Biden’s insistence that Ukraine will decide when to seek peace might not remain “tenable” for much longer, Washington officials reportedly believe.
Ukraine’s refusal to abandon the encircled city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut) has caused some Biden administration officials to worry that it is “expending so much manpower and ammunition” that it could be unable to mount a counteroffensive against Russian forces elsewhere, Politico claimed.
Although the Pentagon has suggested that holding the city is not strategically important for Ukraine, “Kiev has, for now, ignored Washington’s input,” the report stated.
The dispute over Bakhmut’s value has been reported by US media already, but it is just one area of disagreement highlighted by Politico. President Vladimir Zelensky’s attitude towards military support from the US is another. While the US has given Ukraine tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons out of a $113 billion fund, Zelensky has repeatedly demanded more.
“There have been grumblings about the constant requests and, at times, Zelensky not showing appropriate gratitude,” Politico wrote, citing two anonymous White House officials.
Biden has repeatedly stated that the US will keep American weapons flowing into Ukraine “for as long as it takes,” and that Kiev alone will decide when to sit down to peace talks with Russia. However, officials reportedly worry that Zelensky’s promise to capture Crimea – which voted to join Russia in 2014 – will only “extend the war,” and could trigger “a dramatic escalation from Moscow.”
Politico’s report is not the first indication that Washington doesn’t back Zelensky’s plans for Crimea. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley warned in January that attacking the Russian peninsula would be “very, very difficult,” while the Pentagon has reportedly been telling Congress that Ukraine lacks the capability to launch such an operation in the first place.
“Biden continues to stick to his refrain that the United States will leave all decisions about war and peace to Zelensky,” Politico wrote. “But whispers have begun across Washington as to how tenable that will be as the war grinds on.”
Ukraine’s decision-making has also been called into question by US intelligence agents, who told the New York Times last week that a “pro-Ukrainian group” was behind the September 2022 attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines. Although the spies stressed that Zelensky’s government was not involved, Politico claimed that the Biden administration has signaled to Kiev that “violence outside of Ukraine’s borders will not be tolerated.”
The New York Times article contradicted earlier reporting by journalist Seymour Hersh, which blamed the explosions on the Biden administration and CIA. Moscow described its publication as a “coordinated hoax” aimed at shifting blame away from the US and toward Ukraine.