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While Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan is currently stealing all the foreign policy headlines, there is still a war going on in Eastern Europe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to drag on, with both sides settling for small gains in different sectors. That’s obviously making some in Washington, who were certain they’d come out big political winners in all this, nervous as to where things could go.
On that note, the White House has decided to throw Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky under the bus. That revelation comes via The New York Times and its Chinese-loving stenographer Thomas Friedman.
According to the article, which is mostly about Pelosi and Taiwan, there is “deep mistrust” between the White House and Zelensky, causing US officials to fret about the state of things. Further, there’s even a formerly taboo mention of “corruption” in Ukraine being a factor in the nation’s stumbles during the war.
Wow. The White House just threw Zelensky under the bus and ran him over, via NYT stenographer.
— Jordan Schachtel @ dossier.substack.com (@JordanSchachtel) August 2, 2022
My read on this is fairly simple: As so often happens in Washington, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, the smart set’s expectations have failed to match the realities on the ground. When the White House moved to sanction Russia and arm Ukraine early on, it did so under the naive notion that Vladamir Putin would take too many losses, get bored, and go home. Proclamations were made within weeks of the invasion starting that Russia was on the brink of collapse in Ukraine, with foreign policy establishment hubris reaching a fever pitch after Kyiv was secured.
But that hasn’t happened. Instead, perhaps because Putin feels he has too much to lose in backing down, Russia has consolidated its position in the east while settling in for a long war of attrition. Meanwhile, the economic costs on Russia have yet to really materialize, with the ruble not collapsing as predicted.
In regards to Zelensky’s leadership, the fact that the war has moved to more of a stalemate is hardly a failure. Ukraine is a smaller, weaker nation than Russia, and the fight that’s been put up in its defense has been valorous. Stopping Putin from taking Kyiv and other regions further west is a major victory. But while Western nations continue to pump in mostly lower-tier weaponry, you need soldiers to use those weapons, and Ukraine doesn’t have the manpower to extricate Russia from its borders.
That’s not good enough for a White House that was counting on the full-scale embarrassment of Putin being a key political issue heading into 2024. With Russia not playing along, someone has to go under the bus. That’s where these leaks claiming Biden is losing faith in Zelensky are coming from. You’ll never hear the president himself say it publicly, but the White House is prepping its excuses for when things are still at a stand-still a year from now.
You see, it wasn’t that Biden miscalculated and set expectations far too high for what could be accomplished. Rather, it was Zelensky just not being good enough. It’s all very convenient, right?