Biden, Zelensky send warning to a defiant Putin

American Age Official

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Washington meeting was covered worldwide, but the leaders also had an audience of one: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The side by side at the White House and Zelensky’s address to Congress came amid warnings from Kyiv that Russia is planning to renew a ground offensive during the winter months.

The visit sought to shore up American support for Ukraine to effectively meet Russia on the battlefield. The expectation is that the 10-month war will continue far into the future, with references to peace or a negotiated solution largely addressed as an afterthought.

Biden committed to help Ukraine “as long as it takes.”

“We both want this war to end … it could end today if Putin had any dignity at all and did the right thing and just pulled out,” Biden said. “But that’s not going to happen.”

And Zelensky’s message to Putin was that in standing next to Biden, he had secured more military support to counter Moscow’s missile and drone attacks on infrastructure — targeting the will of the Ukrainian people by depriving them of heat, water and electricity.

“You said, ‘What’s going to happen after Patriots are installed?’ After that, we will send another signal to President Biden that we would like to get more Patriots,” Zelensky said, responding to a reporter’s question and referencing the highly coveted advanced aerial defense systems being provided by the U.S.

Experts say the point of Zelensky’s visit was both to bolster Washington’s position as the global leader in the defense against Russian aggression and allow for close cooperation between U.S. and Ukrainian officials on the next phase of the fighting.

“The White House wanted to demonstrate that it’s tough, and [Zelensky’s] coming was meant to underscore that,” said John Herbst, former ambassador to Ukraine and senior director of the Eurasia Center at The Atlantic Council.

William Taylor, vice president of the Russia and Europe program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said Zelensky’s goals likely were to prepare for a renewed Ukrainian counteroffensive.

“I would imagine that the Ukrainians would like to preempt that Russian offensive by attacking first,” he said.

“But then the importance of being here is to make the case for continued support, including this financial support,” Taylor, who also served as an ambassador to Ukraine, continued.

The U.S. has provided more than $20 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24. And Congress this week included $45 billion in military and other assistance for Ukraine as part of its spending package for 2023.

Zelensky said that more U.S. military support can hasten the end of the war.

“Your support is crucial — not just to stand in such fights, but to get to the turning point. To win on the battlefield,” he said in his speech to Congress.

But Putin appears to be digging in for a drawn-out battle.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Putin said the delivery of the U.S. Patriot missile battery to Ukraine “prolongs the conflict.”

The United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry said that the Russian military has presented plans to Putin to expand Russia’s fighting forces by about 30 percent, to 1.5 million personnel, but noted that it’s unclear how the Kremlin plans to carry out such a plan.

“This constitutes one of the first insights into how Russia aspires to adapt its forces to the long-term strategic challenges resulting from its invasion of Ukraine,” the British Defense Ministry wrote in its assessment.

The Ukrainians estimate that Putin has prepared about 200,000 soldiers to take part in a renewed offensive, stemming from a September Russian mobilization order for 300,000 men — criticized as a chaotic effort that snatched men from the street and triggered an exodus of potential recruits fleeing the country.

Putin in recent days has described as “extremely difficult” its effort to exert control over territory it has claimed in Ukraine, largely still calling Moscow’s military offensive as a special operation.

And in a press conference Wednesday, Putin acknowledged the military is spending a “high” figure of resources in Ukraine and that some “elements are lacking, like loitering munitions, drones and the like, but we have been working on that.”

Iran has supplied Russia with hundreds of explosive drones that Moscow has used since October to overload Ukraine’s air defense systems, and that have targeted the country’s energy and electricity infrastructure.

U.S. officials have warned that Iranian support for the Russian military is expected to grow in the coming months and that could include the sale of hundreds of ballistic missiles, although the National Security Council has said it has not yet observed such deliveries.

And National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Thursday that the U.S. has confirmed information that North Korea has supplied infantry rockets and missiles to the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company that has deployed 50,000 personnel in Ukraine.

Kirby said the Wagner Group have suffered heavy losses, and described the private militia’s owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, as “willing to just throw Russian bodies into the meat grinder…”

Herbst, of the Atlantic Council, said the message from the White House is that “Prigozhin is trying to establish himself as the effective guy who can serve Putin and Russian interests, but, happily, we can report he’s failing.”

Amidst this, Putin has sought to show unity with his allies, traveling to Minsk for a side by side with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko – who is under U.S. sanctions – and sending deputy of the Russian security council, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, to Beijing to meet with his counterpart.

“The Russian side and the Ukrainian side want to demonstrate that they’re not isolated,” said Yuval Weber, a global fellow with the Kennan Institute.

“Ukraine can call upon the U.S. and its more than 60 allies and partners who are basically providing military equipment, financial support and a sanctions regime” against Russia, he continued. “What is Russia getting from Belarus? Not much. China? Not much.”

China has so-far resisted aiding Russia’s war in Ukraine, analysts say, careful to avoid running afoul of U.S. and Western sanctions on Russian banks or violating blocks on exports to Russia that could benefit its military industry.

And China is reportedly taking advantage of the E.U. and U.S. price cap on Russian oil – meant to further bankrupt Putin’s war chest – by negotiating for steeper discounts of imports of Russian oil.

“Russia has been falling far behind what it originally anticipated it’d be able to do” because of the lack of Chinese support, Weber said, adding that this “is allowing the balance of power between Russia and Ukraine to become much more even than anyone had anticipated before the conflict.”

Still, Weber said Putin has shown no signs of easing off the military offensive in Ukraine.

“Putin is committed to one policy and one policy only, and that policy is ‘victory at any cost.’ And that ‘any cost’ is going to be some couple hundred-thousand of dead Russians.”

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.

Next Post

Ellen DeGeneres urges fans to 'honor' Stephen 'tWitch' Boss this holiday by laughing, dancing and hugging

Ellen DeGeneres shared a video ahead of the holidays talking about Stephen “tWitch” Boss, who died Dec. 13. (Photo: Mike Rozman/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images) Ellen DeGeneres got emotional paying tribute to Stephen “tWitch” Boss ahead […]