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Biden reaches vital new tipping point on Ukraine



CNN

The West has reached its final fateful crossroads on Ukraine.

Looming decisions on deepening support for Kyiv’s fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s onslaught have been made even more critical by a more dynamic winter battlefield than the expected frozen stalemate.

Time is also running out for the United States and its allies to send more powerful weapons and to train Ukrainian soldiers in their use ahead of the possibly decisive second year of the war, which could see Russia launch a fierce new offensive.

The painful humanitarian cost of the conflict and the justification for Western aid have, meanwhile, been laid bare by the horror of a Russian cruise missile attack on a nine-storey building in Dnipro, central Ukraine, which killed 45 people including six children. The tragedy has exacerbated the depravity of an unprovoked war and renewed calls for Putin to be charged with war crimes. He also pointed out that any hope for a negotiated end to the war is more distant than ever, a fact that appears to have injected new resolve and unity into the Western alliance at a critical time.

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‘I just hate them’: Ukrainians tearfully react to Russia’s latest deadly strike

Partners are now sending tanks and armored vehicles to Ukraine. Several join the United States in sending Patriot anti-missile missiles – measures that would have been banned at the start of the war to avoid provoking Putin further.

Ukraine, given its desperate situation, will always want more. And while the West’s future choices will ultimately be based on an assessment of its own interests, the context of Ukraine’s agony and courage is impossible to ignore.

“We are facing the collapse of the world as we know it, as we are used to it or as we aspire to,” Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska said Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in the latest heartbreaking and the timely intervention of Ukraine’s expert courier effort.

The questions facing the West now are serious, but they are also familiar.

How far should NATO go to respond to Ukraine’s increasingly desperate pleas for more and more sophisticated offensive weapons? What is Russia’s red line before Western action causes a massive escalation – possibly including the use of a nuclear weapon on the battlefield that could usher in a horrific new era of war and risk of conflagration American-Russian?

Then there is the question of how much longer the political foundations for an extraordinary Western effort to save Ukraine will hold, in the United States and Europe – even if a mild continental winter has weakened Putin’s efforts to save Ukraine. waging an energy war against civilian populations.

President Joe Biden and Western leaders face a conundrum that has only been made worse by Ukraine’s resistance and surprising ability to inflict heavy casualties on the Russian military. Has the West pledged to help Ukraine expel the invader from all of its territory? It’s a goal that could eventually cause unpredictable political unrest in Moscow and even threaten Putin’s survival in power. Or is he limiting his efforts to giving Ukraine enough steel to survive but not to win?

Retired General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Tuesday that the West needed to do a lot more, especially in the wake of the Dnipro attack.

“We must give Ukraine the weapons to eject Russia. Russia is not slacking off on what it is doing, Putin is mobilizing more forces. He’s planning another offensive,” Clark said. “It’s great that we’re giving them 10 British tanks. Ten tanks? Ukraine needs 300, 500 tanks. That’s great, we’re trying to send them a few more howitzers. It is not enough. We have to be serious about this.

These issues are at the center of an extraordinary flurry of diplomatic activity on both sides of the Atlantic this week. Biden spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday and welcomed Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to the Oval Office, alongside a roaring log fire. A high-level US government delegation visited Ukraine. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley traveled to Poland to meet his Ukrainian counterpart for the first time. And he will attend the next meeting of the Ukrainian Contact Group in Germany this week, when 50 nations come together to pledge fresh support for Kyiv.

All of these leaders are talking about a big game. But after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s emotional pleas for more help during a Christmas visit to Washington, the question in Ukraine is whether the generosity of Western leaders will match their rhetoric.

“We are strengthening our protection of democratic values ​​around the world … including standing strong with Ukraine,” Biden told Rutte on Tuesday. In response, the Dutch leader predicted that history will remember his host for saving Ukraine. “I want to personally commend you and the United States for your leadership,” Rutte said.

His comment was a reminder of Biden’s unquestionably historic role in reinvigorating the Cold War alliance against Russia. But it was also particularly resonant for two reasons. First, Biden’s legacy in Ukraine — as the author of one of the most significant and successful US foreign policy endeavors to date in decades — will mean little if Washington doesn’t continue. not to fund and arm Zelensky’s forces as long as an endless conflict in sight lasts. That means the inexorable logic of US policy is moving toward deeper involvement, even if it doesn’t go as far as Zelensky hopes and risks further friction with Moscow and the new House GOP majority.

Secondly, the invocation of the stake by Rutte shows that despite the storm on the discovery of some of Biden’s classified documents going back to his vice presidency where they shouldn’t be, the president is playing on a grander stage with profound national security implications that will reverberate long after Washington’s latest scandal is over.

With that in mind, Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday implicitly acknowledged the latest impending shifts in US aid already worth tens of billions of dollars in a commitment that would have been unthinkable at the start of the war.

“As this aggression has evolved, so has our aid to Ukraine,” he told a press conference with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

“If you look at the trajectory from Stingers to Javelins to HIMARs to Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Patriot missile batteries, we have continuously delivered what Ukraine needs and we do so in a way that makes sure that it responds to what is actually happening on the battlefield, as well as projecting where it might go,” Blinken said.

Following his comments, John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that further announcements on weapons and assistance could be coming “perhaps as early as the end of this week.” He did not say whether the United States would also send tanks to Ukraine. Cleverly, meanwhile, said Putin needed to understand that Britain would have “the strategic stamina to stay” with Ukraine until “the job is done”.

“Now what we recognize they need is the ability to push back hard east and south,” Cleverly said in a chat with CNN’s Kylie Atwood at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. in Washington.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, meanwhile, has promised not to relax her support for Ukraine. “Last year your country moved the world and inspired Europe and I can assure you that Europe will always stand by your side,” von der Leyen said in Davos after Zelenska’s speech.

Amanpour Ursula von der Leyen 1

President of the European Commission: Western allies must “intensify” their military support for Ukraine

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– Source: CNN

And there is growing optimism in Europe that Scholz, who is due to speak in Davos on Wednesday, will take an important step for a nation that has abhorred militarism since World War II by also agreeing to send tanks to Ukraine.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said after his visit to Berlin: “I strongly believe that Chancellor Scholz will make a decision on this and I witnessed a very important breaking point or turning point in thinking or Germany’s mentality.

Western rhetoric in favor of Ukraine has rarely been so strident. The next few days will show whether the pledges of military aid correspond to this resolution.

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