Biden and Zelensky in Kyiv
More than a year into the war, there are growing differences behind the scenes between Washington and Kyiv on war aims, and potential flashpoints loom on how, and when, the conflict will end, writes POLITICO.
Publicly, there has been little separation between Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, an alliance on full display last month when the American president made his covert, dramatic visit to Kyiv.
But based on conversations with 10 officials, lawmakers and experts, new points of tension are emerging:
- the sabotage of a natural gas pipeline on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean;
- the brutal, draining defense of a strategically unimportant Ukrainian city;
- a plan to fight for a region where Russian forces have been entrenched for nearly a decade.
Senior administration officials maintain that unity between Washington and Kyiv is tight. But the fractures that have appeared are making it harder to credibly claim there’s little daylight between the U.S. and Ukraine as sunbeams streak through the cracks.
Meanwhile, an assessment by U.S. intelligence suggested that a “pro-Ukraine group” was responsible for the destruction of the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines last fall, shedding light on a great mystery. The new intelligence, first reported by The New York Times, was short on details but appeared to knock down a theory that Moscow was responsible for sabotaging the pipelines that delivered Russian gas to Europe.
Intelligence analysts do not believe Zelenskyy or his aides were involved in the sabotage, but the Biden administration has signaled to Kyiv that certain acts of violence outside of Ukraine’s borders will not be tolerated.
There has also been, at times, frustration about Washington’s delivery of weapons to Ukraine. The United States has, by far, sent the most weapons and equipment to the front, but Kyiv has always looked ahead for the next set of supplies.
Though Biden has pledged steadfast support, and the coffers remain open for now, the U.S. has been clear with Kyiv that it cannot fund Ukraine indefinitely at this level. Though backing Ukraine has largely been a bipartisan effort, a small but growing number of Republicans have begun to voice skepticism about the use of American treasure to support Kyiv without an end in sight to a distant war.
Among those who have expressed doubt about support for the long haul is House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has said that the U.S. would not offer a “blank check” to Ukraine and rejected Zelenskyy’s invitation to travel to Kyiv and learn about the realities of war.
For now, Biden continued to stick to his refrain that the United States will leave all decisions about war and peace to Zelenskky. But whispers have begun across Washington as to how tenable that will be as the war grinds on — and another presidential election looms, writes POLITICO.
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