When America Is Forced To Curb Zelenskyy’s Enthusiasm

When America Is Forced To Curb Zelenskyy’s Enthusiasm

An-Nahar, Lebanon, November 11

The enthusiasm – or perhaps arrogance – of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reached an unprecedented level. He went so far as to raise his preconditions for a cease-fire to an unequivocal refusal to negotiate with Moscow so long as President Vladimir Putin is in power. But the administration of US President Joe Biden quickly put Zelenskyy in his place. This explains the story revealed by The Washington Post last week, according to which US officials recently urged the Ukrainian president to prove his seriousness about a negotiated settlement with Russia, to allay fears of some Western countries that the war will turn into a long-term conflict. These unrealistic Ukrainian conditions clearly did not appeal to the Biden Administration, which fears that the Kremlin may believe Zelenskyy is saying what the Americans don’t want to say out loud. As much as the Ukrainian president’s words are worrying Moscow, they are worrying European leaders, as well. European states aren’t ready to extend their support for Ukraine beyond the demand to expel Russian forces from Ukraine and return to the pre-February 24 borders. Countries such as France, Germany, and Italy, which are suffering heavy consequences because of the war, especially in terms of energy and inflation, are interested in reaching a cease-fire as quickly as possible. There are even politicians in the United States who want a quick end to the war, without getting into the question of political change within Russia. Even when Biden had a slip of the tongue during his visit to Poland a few months ago, saying that a man like Putin “could not remain in power,” the White House quickly issued clarifications in this regard. Apart from Poland and the Baltic states, the European countries do not show enthusiasm for war although they provide a lot of military and economic aid to Ukraine. These countries don’t dare raise their voices by explicitly calling for a political solution to the crisis, on the grounds that Kyiv will consider this insulting and immoral. But when Washington, which bears the bulk of the military and economic aid to Ukraine, asks Zelenskyy to lower his terms and show his interest in reaching a negotiated settlement, Ukraine must oblige. And when US officials talk about compromise, it’s because they also know that a long-lasting conflict will cost them more arms and money. Not only that but there are dangers of the conflict expanding and turning into a global war between nuclear-armed superpowers. It is no secret that there is a real American fear that a long conflict will one day reveal a crack in the wall of transatlantic unity, which proved strong immediately after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As the war approaches its 10th month, signs of cracks are beginning to emerge. The French-German verbal skirmishes are the best evidence that Europe may not be able to withstand the war for much longer in the face of the expected economic disasters brought about by the energy crisis. The long war may very well reshape Europe politically and economically for the first time since World War II. Is America ready to risk this or to undermine the unified Western position on Russia? Only time will tell. –Sameeh Saab (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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