The Biden administration is preparing for the possibility of Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive failing, Politico reported on Monday.
Pentagon documents allegedly leaked by Airman Jack Teixeira revealed that the US doesn’t believe Ukraine can regain any significant territory in its counteroffensive, which is expected to be launched in the spring. The information in the leaks was based on an assessment made in February.
According to Politico, more current assessments also don’t expect much Ukrainian success. Two Biden administration officials said they don’t think Kyiv has the ability to sever Russia’s land-bridge to Crimea in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.
The report said US intelligence "indicates that Ukraine simply does not have the ability to push Russian troops from where they were deeply entrenched." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in March that his forces need more Western weapons before they can launch a counteroffensive.
The administration is expected to face criticism from hawks who believe Biden hasn’t given Ukraine enough weapons, as well as those who have been calling for the US to push for diplomacy. The US is also worried that many of its European allies will favor negotiations between the warring sides if Ukraine’s offensive fails.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the administration has discouraged peace talks and recently came out against the idea of a ceasefire in Ukraine. The administration has left it up to Zelensky when to pursue peace talks, and he still maintains they can’t happen until Russia is driven out of all the territory it controls, including Crimea.
But now, according to Politico, there is a discussion among administration officials about convincing Ukraine to accept more modest goals and agree to a temporary ceasefire. Possible incentives for Kyiv include giving Ukraine NATO-like security guarantees and more military aid.
The issue with the US plan is that Russia has signaled it won’t settle for a frozen conflict and has stated it can only achieve its war goals by military means. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently reiterated that one of Moscow’s main priorities is keeping Kyiv out of NATO after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine’s “rightful place” is in the alliance.
In the early days of the Russian invasion, Russian and Ukrainian officials were engaged in peace talks, and Moscow’s primary demand was for Ukrainian neutrality. But now Kyiv stands to lose much more as Russia maintains any settlement must include recognizing the areas it annexed in the Donbas and the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts as Russian territory.