War in Ukraine: what does the US actually want?

For three months now, Ukraine has withstood the Russian attack.

War in Ukraine: what does the US actually want?

For three months now, Ukraine has withstood the Russian attack. The Russians had to lower their targets further and further. But what are Ukraine's goals? And above all: what does the USA want?

How bravely the Ukrainians fight, how clumsily the Russians act, how united the West reacts - these are the surprises of three months of war in Europe. In March, Ukrainians burned with determination not to give up their homeland. Now the hope glimmers that they can actually defeat the Russians. The question is what that actually means - victory.

For Ukrainians, the answer is simple. They want the Russians out of the country altogether and want Crimea and Donbass to themselves again. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have said so several times. Although Zelenskyy would probably be satisfied if Russia retreated behind the lines from before the attack. Then Ukraine would have to give up Crimea and the "People's Republics" of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Although it is often said that Ukraine must decide its own fate, the allies in the West naturally exert influence. First and foremost the USA, which is sending the most money and weapons. But what does the US actually want? Last Friday, the New York Times urged President Joe Biden to formulate his war goals more clearly. Ironically, the Times, the voice of liberal America, turned against the president. But the editors-in-chief didn't want their comment to be understood as criticism - rather as a warning. Tenor: If you don't say what you want, you risk the approval of the Americans.

That put the finger in the wound. In fact, there are conflicting signals from Washington. As security expert Carlo Masala said in an interview with ntv.de, there are several possible victory scenarios. Masala considers the idea that Ukraine could drive the Russians out of the country to be "sporty". Because if the Russians concentrate on defending their positions, they will have an advantage again. For the professor at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, a realistic scenario is the compromise variant, a withdrawal by the Russians to the level they were in before the start of the war.

The Times now says that it is a "dangerous assumption" that Ukraine will drive back the Russians if only they get enough weapons. Unrealistic expectations could only drag the US further into the war. Russia still has great destructive power. Not only, but also nuclear. The US government should engage in negotiations.

The newspaper criticizes something that Chancellor Olaf Scholz is also accused of: unclear communication. Arms shipments and cash payments paint a picture of determination, but it remains unclear what the US government actually intends to do with them. Biden keeps finding clear words, calling Putin "murderer" and "butcher" and saying a few weeks ago in Warsaw that he could not remain in office. The echo was nervous and Biden was therefore annoyed: that did not mean that he wanted to drive Putin out of the Kremlin, he asserted. He was only expressing his moral outrage. But was it really just a communication breakdown?

Visiting Kyiv, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Russia must be weakened so that it could never launch an attack like this again. That in turn would be a different goal than driving Russia out of the occupied territories. It would go much further. When the top Democrat elect, Nancy Pelosi, traveled to Kyiv, she said aid should continue until victory is achieved. What all this means remains unclear. Biden must now show Selenskyj the limits of American aid, the Times demands. It is the duty of governments "not to chase illusory victories".

The newspaper's comment received a lot of attention, also in this country. Because it also raises the question of whether American aid to Ukraine is really as set in stone as it seems. It is a blessing for Ukraine, but also for the rest of Europe, that Biden is someone in the White House who understands the problems and supports the country wholeheartedly. Just imagine if Donald Trump were in his place. Almost casually, Biden managed to keep NATO together and close the ranks of the EU. The USA in her favorite role: leader of the free world.

But even if Biden is a rock - there is a surf at home. The midterm elections are due in November, in which part of the Congress will be re-elected. It looks like Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate as well. Then some Trump fans are likely to move into Congress, for whom Biden is a devil worshiper. You would rather do anything than work with him.

Polls still show a high degree of approval of Biden's course in Ukraine policy. Forty-five percent agree, according to a May 10 poll by the Pew Research Center. Almost 60 percent are at least concerned that Russia could attack other countries. At the same time, almost a third say the US is not doing enough to help Ukraine. But: More than 80 percent more or less fear that the aid could lead to a war against Russia. Still, the numbers look good for Biden, even if his personal popularity ratings are "under water." Only 41 percent consider him a good president, according to the number portal "Fivethirtyeight". Less than Trump at that point.

And a Pew poll also confirms the obvious: That high inflation is the number one problem for Americans. 70 percent see it that way, there is no other problem. The prices of petrol, gas and food have been rising since the Corona crisis, but the war exacerbated the problem. It's already hard to explain to the people of South Dakota or Oklahoma why a stretch of land called Donbass in far-off Europe needs to be defended. Should inflation continue to eat away at incomes, sentiment could turn around Ukraine as well.

Experts assume that the war will last for months, maybe years. Seen in this light, it makes sense for the Times to call for moderate war targets and negotiations. Because it would be nice to settle the matter before others in Washington are in charge again.


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