Subscribe to the IHARE Blog

State of American History, Civics, and Politics

Does the United States Want to Win in Ukraine?

At least its not the Cuban Missile Crisis (

Once again the conflict between Ukraine with its Western Allies versus Russia with its Resistance Allies has reached a moment of truth. Putin keeps raising the ante thereby forcing Joe Biden to respond. So far neither side has allowed the other side to get too far ahead, but the latest round of cat-and-mouse shows how perilous the confrontation has become.

Part of the problem has been a series of miscalculations about the status of the war. In effect, each side has had to go back to drawing board and recalculate the next step. Consider the following scenario of events and presuppositions which have not worked out.

1. Russia would steamroller over the smaller weaker country in a manner of moments. Victory speeches were already written in anticipation of the rapid collapse of the country.

2. Sanctions would work. When #1 did not work out and the battle was engaged for the long haul, sanctions would deliver a crippling blow to the Russian economy. Combined with the seizure of yachts, the closing of western businesses in Russia, the fleeing of the more educated people to the West, the expectation was that Russia would be brought to its knees. The intercepted messages from Russian soldiers home to their families confirmed the breakdown of the Russian military in the field.

3. The counteroffensive would work. The buildup of Ukrainian forces would enable Ukraine to regain the lands conquered by Russia in the most recent war and, perhaps, dare it be said, the lands taken in the previous war. Instead, Ukraine was barely able to scratch out very minor gains. It turns out, the Russians had learned from their previous failures and was better prepared to resist the Ukrainian assault.

4. Russia was back bigger and stronger than ever and the collapse of Ukraine was a realistic possibility. Despite the hundreds of thousands casualties endured by the Russians, the new Russian army is bigger than the one first unleashed against Ukraine over two years ago. Despite the destruction of all the tanks and all the other armored equipment, the Russian factories with the aid of China in particular, has been able to replenish the military equipment lost in the earlier part of the war.

For Ukraine, the situation remains more dicey. It is running low on manpower. The people in the field are exhausted. Morale is weakening. The soldiers know that a rearmed Russian war machine is aimed at them, poised to be fired.


So far the American response has been carefully calibrated each step of the way.

Based on an interview with an Ukrainian soldier (USA Today, May 20, 2024, print):

… since the outbreak of the war more than two years ago, the Americans had provided Ukraine with sufficient weapons to keep them alive and fight back against the Russians – but not enough to help them win the war. The soldier said he had seen no fresh evidence that this had changed, even with the last round of U.S. aid.

Since then Zelensky has raised the verbal stakes. He has seen the United States and its allies shoot down incoming drones and missiles from Iran aimed at Israel. Why not do the same thing here? Just as there was no risk of Iranian casualties in that defensive action, so there would be no risk to Russians if the same military response was implemented in Ukraine. He sees the Russian forces massing just across the border without a care in the world because of the limitations placed on the use of American weapons. LET ME FIGHT THEM! LET ME PUT THE FEAR OF MISSILES IN THEIR HEARTS.

This time the plea seems to be working. The situation on the field has become so dire that to continue as usual is to hand victory to Russia just as if its asset was in the White House. Both other countries and members of Biden’s own administration have been urging the President to lift the limits on the Ukrainian use of U.S. arms. Allies may act on their own to alleviate the bind Ukraine finds itself in. They may even station military troops in Ukraine to assist with the training of Ukrainian troops. In effect, they are like the American troops in the DMZ in Korea. Would Putin risk attacking areas where he knows NATO troops are stationed?


Biden stands at a moment of truth. Russian success on the battleground has upped the ante.

On the one hand, he does not want Russia to win. On the other hand, he does not want Putin to use nuclear weapons. Here is where China may be a constructive constraint on Putin. Helping rebuild the Russian forces to fight and drain American forces is one thing; nuclear weapons are quite another. China has a big stake in European trade and does not want that to be jeopardized.

Now finally Biden has acted. On the same day as the 34-0 verdict hogged all the headlines, Biden decided to unleash Ukrainian forces to deploy American weapons against Russians in Russia. The military bases and command centers inside Russia that have been free and clear of military attack, suddenly are free and clear no more.

Although the decision has been phrased in narrow terms, the long term consequences should not be overlooked. Now that the red line has been crossed, it will be easier and easier to do so in the future. With China and India restricting Putin’s possible response, there are new rules to the game to be considered. Anytime Russia appears to be on the verge of victory, the United States, at least until January 20, 2025, will raise the stake and not permit it to happen. Biden is signaling Putin that as long as he is President of the United States, he will not allow Putin to win in Ukraine. Whether or not Putin realizes that decision has been made is another matter. That is the ultimate meaning Biden’s decision to greenlight the use of American weapons by Ukraine against targets inside Russia means. At some point, Putin should think of the 500,000 troops massed against Ukraine as hostages who will never be able to return home since every bridge, supply depot, and train tracks have been destroyed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.