No short-term end in sight of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US and European officials say

Many of the officials who spoke to CNN stressed that it is difficult to predict exactly how long the war may last, but several officials said there is no sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s final goals have changed. and it is unlikely that he will pursue diplomatic negotiations unless faced with a military defeat.

The idea that this could be a long-term conflict represents a marked shift from the early days of the war, when Russia was expected to quickly take the Ukrainian capital Kiev, and underscores Moscow’s failures on the battlefield.

The longer the war lasts, the more brutal the humanitarian burden becomes for the people of Ukraine. And although officials stressed that there is likely to be continued international will to provide high levels of support to Ukraine, they acknowledged that there may be very real practical challenges in terms of weapons to be dealt with as the war continues.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday that fighting in Ukraine is likely to be “prolonged” and will continue “for months or even longer.”

Some members of Congress and their aides quietly compare it to the Korean War, which lasted three years.

Two other European officials said they believe the fighting in eastern Ukraine – where Russian forces are expected to launch a new offensive – could last for four to six months and then result in a stalemate.

Blinken, a senior State Department official, said, “has discussed with his colleagues our concern that the conflict may be protracted, but all of his commitments have revolved around how best to bring it to a halt as soon as possible.”

Doubling of arms support

The British Foreign Office, James Cleverly, said this week that the launch of the new Russian fighting in the Donbas could be weeks away, telling reporters that “there is a window of opportunity and I think that is why “that the nature of our support is so important that we provide weapons, the equipment that Ukrainians need to carry out the work they have to do.”

There is growing public recognition of the links between Ukraine’s success on the battlefield and any hope of a diplomatic solution to the conflict – a performance that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke directly at last week’s NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting.

“It is clear that the positions of the delegations in the negotiations will be defined by the successes of the relevant armies and the impact of sanctions imposed on Russia,” he said.

U.S. officials put the extra military support to Ukraine this week as a continuation, but say that part of what has caused the doubling – and further support – is the Ukrainians’ efforts on the battlefield.

Another senior Foreign Ministry official said that “we have done a lot and therefore we have faith and we have always trusted our Ukrainian partners. But as the fight doubles, our commitment to provide them with weapons and equipment that they can use, “adding that the Ukrainians have used certain weapon systems” with great effect. ”

Blinken said in a statement on Thursday about the new $ 800 million security aid package that the United States is “focused on putting Ukraine in the strongest possible negotiating position by continuing to provide security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself and by increasing pressure. on Putin by imposing serious costs on Russia. ”

“We believe that (the Russians) only have the motivation when they understand that they are facing a strategic defeat,” Estonian Ambassador to the United States Kristjan Prikk told CNN. “As long as it seems that they still have the same goals in mind as they had at the beginning of the war, which are basically destroying the Ukrainian state and having a complete surrender of Ukrainians, it’s hard to see, that they are really getting serious about negotiations. “

Prikk said discussions are underway on how to better coordinate security assistance so that Ukraine has the weapons it needs at the moment it needs them, noting that there are “practical challenges” with regard to to the availability of weapons. Such challenges were raised by other European officials who spoke to CNN, and State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that “there are practical challenges that come with this, supply chain supplies, other elements of it.”

“These are things we are working through,” he said at a briefing from the State Department. The Pentagon this week hosted the executives of the military’s eight largest contractors to discuss faster arms production.

The cost of passivity

Officials also acknowledge that the public may get tired of continued support for Ukraine, and will need to be reminded that passivity would be even more expensive.

“You can’t defend democracy for free. That’s just not how it works,” Cleverly said. “The very visible cost is in human life. We have discussed the number of people who have been killed and injured during this conflict, but it has an economic cost and you know – we will pay it through increased gas prices we” will pay it through general inflation as a kind of ripple effect of this kind of washing all over the world and people will not like it. And it’s quite understandable that people will not like it, but they should also recognize that not acting would come at a much, much, much, much greater price. “

There is also always the risk that divisions in the transatlantic alliance could arise the longer the war wage goes, a European official said. But they and others said that the atrocities Russia is committing in Ukraine are likely to play a role in maintaining the international will to ensure that Russia cannot win.

“I think the world has continued to be shocked by the level of atrocities, the level of violence, the level of brutality that Russia’s forces have committed against the Ukrainian people. I think it will necessarily maintain this level of consensus within the international community, “Price said.

“There is no point in these countries preparing to move forward, to look the other way, and in fact, every time we gather, there is renewed horror, there is renewed condemnation, there is renewed will to continue to make sure our Ukrainian partners have what they need, “he said, adding,” At a political level, at a strategic level, there has been nothing to suggest that we have seen that focus, determination, perseverance will diminish over time. “

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