It's Biden's War. And a Failed Counteroffensive By Ukraine Would Mean a Failure For Biden Too

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

In the summer of 1969, there was a moment in time when the Vietnam War stopped being “Johnson’s War” and became “Nixon’s War. On June 27, Life Magazine ran a story — a six-page spread featuring the photographs of American dead from May 28 to June 2: “The Faces of American Dead in Vietnam” was a searing indictment of the war, and it was perhaps at that point that the American people understood that it would be no easy task extricating America from the mess Kennedy and Johnson had put America in.

The American people won’t have any problem assigning blame if things go south in Ukraine. This is Joe Biden’s war from end to end, from top to bottom. The wisdom of propping up a corrupt kleptocracy can be debated after the war is over. But with the coming Ukraine counteroffensive, we’re going to find out very quickly if Biden has gotten in over his head.

It makes sense to oppose Vladimir Putin in his bid to reconstitute the old Soviet empire. But why provoke the Russians unnecessarily? Talking about removing Putin is idiotic, as is announcing that the U.S. will back Ukraine’s efforts to regain every inch of territory won by the Russians in the last decade.

Biden is already making plans to avoid responsibility for defeat If this counteroffensive by Ukraine fails.


There is belief that Kyiv is willing to consider adjusting its goals, according to American officials, and a more modest aim might be easier to be sold as a win.

There has been discussion, per aides, of framing it to the Ukrainians as a “ceasefire” and not as permanent peace talks, leaving the door open for Ukraine to regain more of its territory at a future date. Incentives would have to be given to Kyiv: perhaps NATO-like security guarantees, economic help from the European Union, more military aid to replenish and bolster Ukraine’s forces, and the like. And aides have expressed hope of re-engaging China to push Putin to the negotiating table as well.

But that would still lead to the dilemma of what happens next, and how harshly domestic critics respond.

“If the counteroffensive does not go well, the administration has only itself to blame for withholding certain types of arms and aid at the time when it was most needed,” said Kurt Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine during the Trump administration.

In other words, why didn’t Biden give us F-35s and F-15s? And he could have thrown in a nuke here and there too. If we lose, it will be because Biden didn’t give us the weapons to make us a superpower.

And what of Europe if we lose? Might Biden be forced to get Zelenskyy to the negotiating table?

“European public support may wane over time as European energy and economic costs stay high,” said Clementine Starling, a director and fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, D.C. “A fracturing of transatlantic support will likely hurt U.S. domestic support and Congress and the Biden administration may struggle to sustain it.”

To be honest, Ukraine’s troops are about to walk into a meat grinder. The Russians have had since November to build defenses against the coming offensive.


Russian defenses included, for example, anti-tank ditches near Polohy stretching for 30 kilometers (19 miles), as well as extra fortifications around important towns like Tokmak. This area will be critical should Ukrainian forces try to advance towards the city of Melitopol and split Russian forces in the south.

Maxar’s Stephen Wood says these defenses are replicated across a huge stretch of territory, from Crimea in the south all the way to parts of Donetsk.

A top-secret assessment from early February stated that Ukraine would fall “well short” of its counteroffensive goals. CNN reports that “More current American assessments are that Ukraine may make some progress in the south and east, but won’t be able to repeat last year’s success.”

This means big political trouble for Biden. Sending $80 billion to Ukraine with only paltry results — and a lot of blood — to show for it will give a lot of momentum to Republicans who want to scale back support for Kyiv. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has to see this. We’ve already overextended ourselves, and at some point, Biden is going to have to make it clear to Zelenskyy — if the Europeans don’t get their first — that it’s time to pick up your winnings and push away from the table. Kyiv has already won back most of the territory seized by Russia in the early days of the war.

Biden, running for re-election, may find that very difficult to do.



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