DANIEL VAUGHAN: Ukraine Is Losing The War - Biden Must Find A Way Forward

February 9, 2024

In the summer of 2022, there was great optimism that Ukraine could deliver a severe blow to Russia. The great offensive from the Russian military had collapsed, and Ukraine pushed the Russians back across the entire front. A little over eighteen months later, the total opposite is true: Ukraine is losing the war, and things are bleak.

In January 2023, I wrote that the Biden administration had wrongly passed up that moment. They should have used Ukraine's surprise reversal of Russia's advance to reach a settled agreement in the region and end the conflict. Instead, we got the foolish euphoria in the West that Ukraine could somehow topple Russia itself.

We've gone from that mindset in Washington DC to the very real crisis that Ukraine is losing the war as the conflict enters its third year.

John Schindler lays out the situation on the ground, where it's a simple math equation. Russia has more men and resources than Ukraine, and the West's support is waning. The West's belief that Ukraine could beat Russia has faded, and now, no one knows what to do.

Russian President Vladimir Putin knows the situation has shifted. In his interview with Tucker Carlson, Putin threw around the idea of negotiation like a bragging right. Putin holds the upper hand in such negotiations because he has leverage. When Ukraine scored a series of victories in the summer of 2022, they had leverage over Russia.

But now, the West is constrained by a losing Ukraine, a growing conflict between Israel and Iran, and an ever-increasing threat of war with China. At this point, the only thing that could halt the Russian advance into an eventual takeover of Ukraine is a change of leadership.

As Schindler points out, there's precedent for that. WWI spread into Ukraine, and the front there ended in 1917 with the communist overthrow of Tsarist Russia. But banking on Putin leaving power, while a great event when it happens, is not a plan.

A few days after Christmas 2023, Politico reported that the Biden administration was finally admitting this reality. The White House was pivoting towards finding a negotiated settlement in Ukraine instead of an overall victory.

But it's fair to ask, where does Biden try to get any leverage over Russia? Does he try to amp up sanctions more? Those have largely failed to deter Russia. Putin respects neither Biden nor the Obama lackeys that comprise Biden's administration.

The first invasion of Crimea happened on Obama's watch. And the full-on Ukraine war was launched on Biden's watch. At every step of the way, both misread Putin and haven't been able to deter Russia militarily.

Asking a small country like Ukraine to bear the physical brunt of Russia's attacks is a hard request. Asking Ukraine to do that indefinitely with no clear plan is borderline evil. We're asking Ukraine to continue dying while the White House tries to position its new-found belief in a negotiated settlement.

The uncertainty there emboldens gridlock in Congress. Biden wants to send more support to Ukraine, which is fine in theory. But for over a year, he's made this request while providing no roadmap toward ending the conflict.

Ukraine didn't choose this war. I get that. They deserve far better than what they've gotten in this conflict. But asking them to continue shouldering a war, even until the brink of total destruction, is not feasible. We're supposed to find an end to the conflict, so there's an actual Ukraine to return to.

If it seems America's enemies are emboldened these days - they are. We're led by a President who can't name one foreign leader correctly. The Department of Justice says Biden's memory isn't worth anything, and they can't even prosecute him because it's so bad.

Without a clear leadership structure at the top, it's unclear what actual leadership America has. We get these bursts of Biden ordering attacks in the Red Sea, but there's no strategy to end that either.

The lesson from Ukraine has been clear to everyone: Biden may respond at first, but all you have to do is continue pushing forward. There's no attempt to end a conflict through negotiations or force. Everything continues as before.

That's all Putin has done for the last three years. If you keep pushing forward, eventually, the resistance fades away, and you gain leverage. That's turned a war Russia was losing into a grind-it-out path to victory. Russia isn't escaping unscathed from this. Putin has run the Russian military and economy into the ground to accomplish his ends.

But he's getting what he wants at the end of this. In the process, millions of Ukrainians are staring at a conflict where they've given all and received the short of the stick.

American Presidential leadership has led that process. It says all the right things while doing none of the things to bring about an end to this.

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