Biden and the West face the challenge of a protracted war in Ukraine

WASHINGTON: The United States and its allies have warned that a new phase of the war in Ukraine will continue. And now this poses a serious diplomatic challenge for Joe Biden, who must support the unprecedented mobilization and unity of Western people against Moscow.

“We must arm ourselves for a long struggle,” the US president said during a visit to Poland in late March.

Washington does not hide some satisfaction with the course of the first phase of the conflict after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. While American intelligence expected the rapid fall of Kyiv, Ukrainian troops, increasingly armed with Americans and Europeans, resisted, forcing the invader to retreat eastward.

And the US government has been able to mobilize, in addition to the European Union and NATO, a huge coalition to impose unprecedented sanctions against Russia.

But with the onset of a new battle in eastern Ukraine, American strategists fear that these joint efforts will gradually collapse.

If the war is focused on Donbas, far from Kyiv and NATO borders, the West’s sense of urgency and unity may diminish in the long run, the diplomat said. “It’s a challenge,” he said.

Another high-ranking official fears that some European countries, which have been hit hard by inflation caused by sanctions, could ease the pressure in the long run.

“Lying in horror”

So far this should not be the case.

“The impending battle promises to be fierce,” “between large armies, with tanks,” said William Taylor, a former US ambassador to Kyiv. “We talk about battles, like during World War II,” he said.

“The Russians have shown a willingness to kill civilians en masse (…), so I think the sense of urgency and attention to Ukraine” will even increase, “said the Vice President of the United States. Research Center of the State Institute of Peace.

Marie Jourdan, a French researcher at the Atlantic Council and another think tank in Washington, said the “intensity of the fighting, as well as the risk of escalating terror in the coming weeks” must continue to unite anti-Kremlin.

But if the war drags on and turns into a “frozen conflict,” “some trivialization of images or horror stories risks limiting emotional reactions.”

According to her, the “main challenge” for the West will be to “maintain unity and pressure on Russia in the context of growing disinterest” in public opinion, which may also be tired of the “economic consequences”.

But for now, the United States and several European countries would rather step up the pressure to try to bend Vladimir Putin.

Although they have already hit hard, Westerners do not have many options.

“Pressure from Congress”

The Americans have high hopes for a seemingly ineffective event that they believe will eventually bear fruit: a halt to exports to Moscow of technological components needed for its military industry. In the long run, the Russian military will find it difficult to upgrade its arsenal and missiles, Washington predicts.

But it is, above all, a European embargo on Russian oil or even gas, similar to the one already imposed by the United States, which could change the situation, depriving the Russian economy of significant windfall profits.

So far, the most energy-dependent countries, such as Germany, are resisting. Behind the scenes, US officials say they are confident that this event, which was unimaginable just a few weeks ago, will happen sooner than we think.

The last trap for the American president: to continue supplying more and more heavy weapons to Ukraine, avoiding the risk of a direct confrontation with Russia.

And this at a time when congressmen, both right and left, are pushing him to move on – one of his close allies, Democratic Sen. Chris Koons, even believed that Washington should clearly consider bringing US troops into Ukraine, the red line . for Joe Biden. “If we say we will never do that, we will incite Putin to a new escalation of cruelty,” he warned.

“The pressure from Congress is productive because the Biden administration is doing things it didn’t want to do before,” said William Taylor.

In fact, the Pentagon is now sending heavy artillery and helicopters to Kyiv, overcoming its initial caution. For the American diplomat, the military failures of the Russian military have somewhat reassured the United States, which fears less than before that it sees Vladimir Putin looking for a direct conflict with the world’s first power.

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