Just two weeks ago, President Biden again likened Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hamas. In a November 18 Washington Post op-ed titled “The U.S. won’t back down from the challenge of Putin and Hamas,” he made this comparison and said America will stand against these aggressors to prevent them from wiping neighboring democracies off the map.
I have major concerns about how committed Biden is to Israel in its war against Hamas after its barbaric October 7 terrorist attack, given his lecturing to the Israeli government on how it should conduct the war and increasing anti-Israel pressure against Biden from his progressive supporters. I expressed my concerns about Biden going wobbly on his support for Israel in an October 27 American Greatness article. Unfortunately, this problem is now getting worse.
But let’s talk about Ukraine, a conflict that has been pushed off the front page by the Israel-Hamas War. You know that President Biden’s Ukraine policy is in trouble when MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show hosts panels, like one held on November 21, to discuss why the war is unwinnable, explain why Ukraine needs to change its strategy to protect the 80% of the country it controls, and encourage Ukraine to pursue a cease-fire with Russia.
Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough and his guests also reluctantly admitted what many members of Congress have long realized: the Biden strategy to arm Ukraine “for as long as it takes” but not send the weapons it needs to win is not a strategy.
Although Scarborough and others in the mainstream media won’t admit it, they now recognize something else about the Ukraine War: that the highly vaunted 2023 Ukrainian counteroffensive that was supposed to turn the tide of the war failed to reclaim a significant amount of territory and may have lost ground to Russia.
As a result, many experts on the right and left have concluded that this conflict has become a stalemate and a war of attrition that Ukraine will eventually lose because Russian forces are dug in and Ukraine is running out of soldiers.
The New York Times reported in August 2023 that Ukraine’s war casualties were estimated at up to 70,000 killed and 120,000 injured. Russia’s estimated casualties of up to 120,000 killed and 180,000 injured were significantly higher, but Russia can more easily absorb these losses since its population is three times larger.
Resistance to the Biden Administration’s Ukraine policy is especially strong in the House of Representatives, where many members have demanded the Biden Administration provide a clear strategy for ending the conflict and reaching a cease-fire instead of just sending weapons to Ukraine. Many House members are also concerned that the Ukraine conflict is consuming advanced weapons that the U.S. cannot quickly replace that may be needed elsewhere, such as to defend Taiwan.
So far, these developments have not deterred the Biden Administration, which increased its request for additional military aid to Ukraine from $24 billion last August to its current request of $61 billion.
The $61 billion for Ukraine is part of a larger $106 billion aid package that also includes more than $14 billion for Israel, $9.15 billion humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, Israel, and Gaza, and $7.4 billion for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region. This aid package also includes about $14 billion for border security. Some members of Congress have criticized the border security request as inadequate and lacking any serious measures to secure the U.S. southern border.
The House passed a bill providing aid only for Israel on November 2. The Senate refused to take up this bill. Senate and House negotiators currently are trying to craft a new supplemental bill similar to President Biden’s request but with more robust border measures.
Regardless of whether President Biden and his congressional allies succeed in getting Congress to pass a new military aid package for Ukraine, with his media allies throwing in the towel and Congress increasingly resistant to sending weapons to a war that has become a stalemate, it will become more and more obvious next year that President Biden’s Ukraine policy is not sustainable.
This will be a major theme in the 2024 presidential campaign, especially with former President Trump promising to quickly end the war by holding talks with Putin and Zelensky if he wins the election.
President Biden should get ahead of the new realities of the Ukraine War by making a major shift in his Ukraine policy. Instead of providing weapons to Ukraine for “as long as it takes,” the U.S. should pursue ways to help Ukraine “win the peace” by pressing for a cease-fire and beginning efforts with its allies to massively arm Ukraine to protect and fortify its current borders and rebuild the country.
But even if Russia does not agree to a future cease-fire or abide by one, Ukraine shifting to a defensive/win-the-peace strategy would significantly reduce its war casualties and enable it to invest in rebuilding the country.
Under such an arrangement, Ukraine would not give up any claims to regain its territory or refrain from holding Russia economically responsible for the war’s devastation. Instead, it would put these claims on hold to negotiate with a future post-Putin Russian government.
The Ukrainian government, its supporters, and the Biden Administration will resist such a policy shift because they are clinging to the faint hope that Ukraine can still “win” the war and expel Russia from all of its territory. This is a fantasy. Acknowledging this will enable the U.S. and its allies to work toward the best possible post-war arrangement for Ukraine that ends the killing and enables Ukraine to emerge as a strong democracy with a vibrant economy.
Fred Fleitz is vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council chief of staff, CIA analyst and a House Intelligence Committee staff member.