Does Team Biden shed a single tear for the Ukrainians — military and civilian — dying daily in Russia’s brutal invasion?
“U.S. officials believe strategic patience remains the best weapon against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who still thinks he can outlast Ukraine and the West,” The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, Biden administration staff stenographer, reported Sunday.
The line would be laughable if more Ukrainian lives weren’t being lost every day President Joe Biden remains “patient” and delays getting Ukraine what it needs to win the war.
No, Team Biden, “the best weapon” against Putin and his merciless minions is weapons — lots of them.
Ignatius’ piece was a face-saving operation for the administration after “the media reported unnamed senior officials voicing pessimism about Ukraine’s progress” last week.
The columnist’s own unnamed officials said the “summer has been frustrating and, in some ways, disappointing” as Ukraine’s 2½-month counteroffensive slogs on but: “The United States, in their view, cannot be seen to abandon its ally.”
How about stepping up aid to its ally?
Bizarrely, the “bottom line” for the Biden team, Ignatius wrote, is “a continuation of this grueling war into 2024 and beyond, and a continuation of the heavy casualties and emotional trauma for both sides.”
Both sides? What would Democrats and their media flunkies say if Republicans at the highest levels worried about Russia’s “emotional trauma” in the conflict it started?
Ukrainians don’t deny the war won’t be won soon: “And really, it is very tiring and exhausting for Ukrainian society — and also, we can see, for our partners,” Michael Poperechnyuk, an entrepreneur and activist from Nikopol, tells me from the European Forum Alpbach in Austria. “What can speed up the process for our victory is, of course, much more weapons.”
He notes Ukraine’s been waiting for F-16s for more than a year after waiting for tanks for almost a year.
“Many of our people and the partners thought” the counteroffensive “will be so fast and easy. But we have to also understand that we have a lack of resources, not only weapons but also human resources.”
Russia has more of both.
Financial aid hasn’t been an issue, he says — but military aid has, from the beginning.
When I was in the country this summer, I asked almost every Ukrainian I met what the United States and the West could do to help Ukraine liberate its lands. “F-16s” or “weapons” — essentially the same thing — was the immediate answer every time.
“In essence, had the decisions to provide Ukraine with certain types of weapons been faster, of course the pace of offensive operations and their success would have been probably greater as well,” Yuriy Sak, an adviser to the defense minister, tells me.
Sak, like most Ukrainians, is diplomatic, immediately following up: “Now, having said that, of course we are grateful to the United States for being the leader in galvanizing the military support to Ukraine from our international partners and for providing Ukraine with vital military support.”
He’s pleased America finally approved F-16 transfers and recently approved giving cluster munitions, which “have been very efficient on the front lines because they allow Ukrainian armed forces to inflict considerable losses on the enemy without risking so much the lives of our own soldiers. They are useful when it comes to certain demining efforts.”
But “had these decisions,” on cluster munitions and F-16s, “been made earlier, of course, they would have had a positive impact on Ukraine’s progress on the frontlines.”
Still, Sak says, “it’s always better late than never.”
He’s far more generous to the slow-walking American administration than I’d be — an administration that remains reluctant though the war could soon see a turning point.
“There are certain things which, again, probably could and should be approved by the US, and the US government knows that we need them, like, for example, the cluster munitions for the HIMAR systems,” Sak says. “And I know the discussions about providing Ukraine these types of cluster munitions are ongoing.”
The country also needs “the long-range ATACMS missiles, that is also we understand on the table.”
With those, “the Ukrainian army will be able to target enemy ammunition depots and command centers and logistical chains deeper into the temporarily occupied territories. And that, of course, will mean a lot for the success of our military operations.”
But while Ukrainians are risking their lives on the battlefield, holding off a Russian takeover many thought would take just days, Biden administration officials, Ignatius wrote, “have been candidly discussing with Kyiv what they see as ‘lessons learned,’” with plenty of “criticisms of how Ukrainian commanders have conducted the counteroffensive.”
Of course, if it had been up to Biden, Ukraine wouldn’t have put up a fight.
“I need ammunition, not a ride,” President Volodymyr Zelensky scoffed when America offered to evacuate him from Kyiv days after Russia invaded.
Indeed, Sak noted when I talked to him in Kyiv that US military academics teach you mustn’t even think of “offensive operations” if you don’t have “air dominance.”
Ukraine did it anyway — and has seen territorial gains.
Every person liberated from Russian rule — the stories of which would make your eyes water — is a victory.
Team Biden thinks it knows better than the people who have held off a monster for a year and a half.
When in Donbas I asked Oleg Shiryaev, commander of the 225th separate assault battalion and a big reason Ukraine’s seen wins there, about his training, he told me he studied at Kharkiv’s old military universities.
“And I was expelled from each one of them,” he said with a grin.
Kelly Jane Torrance is The Post’s op-ed editor.