Salem AlKetbi: America’s Insistence on “Defeating” Russia


Although the American desire to defeat Russia in the war in Ukraine has been clear since the beginning of the crisis in February 2022, it was not as clear as the American positions and behavior reflected after a year of the war. President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, where he announced from there that “Kyiv is still standing,” considering this situation a defeat for Russia, and affirming the continued support for Ukraine in confronting the “Russian invasion.”

Prior to this visit, US Vice President Kamala Harris, in a stern tone, affirmed at the Munich Security Conference that allowing President Vladimir Putin to achieve victory in his war against Ukraine would have serious consequences, and would encourage other “authoritarian powers” to follow his lead. The signals, meanings, and implications here are clear, and the messages are also understandable.

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It is also noteworthy that there is an increasing NATO insistence on empowering Ukraine to win the war. Seven former senior NATO leaders recently published a letter urging the United States to intensify its efforts to achieve a victory for Ukraine. The most important argument they cited in their letter is also the concern over China reproducing Russia’s experience in Ukraine and applying it against Taiwan, as if China, with all its history, cultural, and civilizational depth, is waiting for the Ukraine war to take advantage of it in building a strategic decision that could affect its future as a major international power.

The most important implication is that Washington is fully convinced of the necessity of continuing the war in Ukraine until Russia is defeated or the Ukrainian army’s ability to confront is collapsed. This is a major American strategic goal that cannot be overlooked, despite the preconceptions surrounding the opportunities for achieving it, which make it a scenario that is unlikely to happen in reality.

The dilemma in the American approach is very dangerous, as Russia is not a second-rate power or a state that can be completely defeated militarily, but rather a nuclear power that possesses weapons and equipment that can cause immense damage to the other side. Therefore, it is not rational to seek a humiliating defeat for its army. There are many warnings about this zero-sum approach to the conflict, the most prominent of which is the warning of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at Davos about the danger of seeking a decisive victory over Russia, which would have serious long-term consequences on the stability of Europe, and cautioning against forcing Russia to enter into a permanent alliance with China.

Kissinger (above) also published an important article in The Spectator magazine at the end of last year that included important advice on the need to search for a turning point in the Ukraine war and to exploit it to stop the war. He suggested that winter could be this turning point, and that important strategic changes had been achieved, such as Ukraine becoming a major country in Central Europe for the first time in modern history, thwarting the Russian offensive, and officially joining NATO, and discussing political options in the disputed areas, such as conducting self-determination referendums. He warned of the critical issue for Europe, which is the disintegration of Russia and the destruction of its strategic capability, turning it into conflict zones that include 11 longitude lines, igniting new dangerous wars due to the presence of nuclear weapons and strategic missiles.

The Biden administration realizes well that President Putin will not accept a complete defeat for his army in Ukraine, and also realizes that achieving this goal seems difficult in light of the realistic data and balance of power. However, it is likely exerting maximum pressure on the Kremlin to retreat. But here it is not skilled in reading the mentality of the Russian President, who cannot accept the idea of complete withdrawal from Ukraine without compensation in light of what his country has lost economically, militarily, and humanely in this war, not to mention his personal loss at the political level and erasing all the significant achievements that Russia has made since he took power.

The truth is that the United States should not continue to test Russia’s patience to a further extent. Here we point out that the Kremlin has dealt with great wisdom with Biden’s recent visit to Kiev, where the US President made a surprise visit to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and announced from there that “Kiev is still standing,” considering this situation a defeat for Russia, and confirmed the continuation of supporting Ukraine in its confrontation with the “Russian invasion.”

Biden took a ten-hour train journey from the Polish border to the Ukrainian capital in a trip that can only be described as extremely calculated, especially in the absence of any American or NATO air cover to protect his convoy, which means that Russia, which was officially notified of it hours before, completely avoided involvement in any incident that could lead to the outbreak of World War III if the convoy of the US President was subjected to any danger or even remote shelling.

There is a dangerous aspect to the American stance, which is President Biden’s personal desire to achieve a historic qualitative achievement beyond traditional calculations. His trip to Ukraine was described as bold due to his appearance in a war zone that is regularly targeted. He actually took photos despite the alarms. The White House described it as an “unprecedented visit in modern times.” The spokesman said that previous presidential trips to Iraq and Afghanistan during wartime were supported by a large US military presence, which did not happen this time. But he probably made the visit to protect against Russian silence and caution.

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield described Biden’s visit to Kyiv with all its symbolism as “a risk that should leave no room for doubt in anyone’s mind that Joe Biden is a leader who takes his commitments seriously.” Here, the issue of running for a second presidential term supported by the mental image of the “leader” jumps to the observer’s mind, which Democrats will undoubtedly work to market to the American voter in the face of any potential Republican candidate.

UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate. He can be followed on twitter at @salemalketbieng

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