American and European officials now assess that time is on Russia’s side in Ukraine, according to the Wall Street Journal. Washington and its Western allies transferred billions of dollars in weapons to Kiev under the mistaken belief it would force Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiate.
“Officials in some capitals now fear the Kremlin…could gain the upper hand in any lengthy war of attrition,” the outlet reported on Sunday, adding that there is “a worry in some Western capitals that time might be on Russia’s side.”
The Journal spoke with Western officials who believed the massive weapons packages sent to Ukraine by members of the NATO alliance would break the Kremlin’s resolve. However, Moscow has weathered Western economic sanctions and a fall counter-attack by Ukrainian forces, with Russian soldiers now on the offensive.
Given the bleak assessment of the Western-backed war effort, many officials are urging for even more advanced weapons for Kiev. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis argued that continuing the flow of military aid ensures more Russians will die on the Ukrainian battlefield. “The longer we give them, the more people…they can throw at the Ukrainians,” he said.
The Journal also noted that some Western leaders are skeptical about sending more aid given the risk of escalation, fearing open conflict between NATO and Russia. Others who voiced opposition to additional military aid argued it was unlikely to change the outcome of the war, a view frequently expressed by Moscow itself.
The Kremlin has long insisted that Ukraine is a core security concern for Russia, and that it would not tolerate NATO membership for Kiev given its proximity to Russian territory. US officials have acknowledged that position in the past, with then-State Department official – now CIA director – William Burns penning a memo in 2008 stating that “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all red lines for the Russian elite (not just Putin).”
Even with Burns in his cabinet, President Joe Biden has treated Ukraine as a de facto member of the NATO bloc, stepping up the flow of US military aid and reiterating assurances that Ukraine would eventually receive formal membership. However, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pressed Biden to offer a more concrete commitment last September, Washington has refused to give specifics, apparently preferring to antagonize Moscow with Kiev’s potential membership without actually granting it.