Deep differences over the endgame in Ukraine came into sharp focus Sunday morning, with Biden administration officials saying that Washington wants to improve Kyiv’s position at the negotiating table with Russia as top congressional Republicans argued that the U.S. can help ensure an unmitigated defeat for Moscow.
The dual approaches to the next phase of the Russia-Ukraine conflict come as Moscow reassesses its battle plan after aborting its disastrous campaign to capture Kyiv. Russian forces now are preparing for a major assault on eastern Ukraine, particularly the nation’s disputed Donbas region.
With Russian troops on their heels and with casualties mounting, key Republicans say the U.S. and its NATO allies should dramatically ramp up shipments of offensive weapons to Ukraine, such as tanks and fighter jets.
The goal, they say, isn’t a negotiated settlement but rather a clear defeat for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his forces.
“We want the Ukrainians to win, to win, to defeat the Russians, for the Russians to withdraw from the country. And that ought to be our goal,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told “Fox News Sunday,” going on to criticize the administration‘s approach to the eventual end of the Russia–Ukraine war.
“They still don’t understand the goal,” the Kentucky Republican said. “The goal is for Ukraine to win.”
Administration officials have made abundantly clear they want to see Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine end in failure. But they also seem resigned to the fact that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy may have to make concessions to Moscow in order to permanently end the conflict.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” that U.S. efforts to bolster the Ukrainian military are aimed at giving the country more leverage over the Kremlin.
“Russia retreated [from Kyiv],” Mr. Sullivan said. “And they did so because they faced brave and stiff Ukrainian resistance. But that resistance was armed with American weapons and Western weapons that the United States of America delivered. And we are proud of that. We will continue to do that. And we will continue to take every step we possibly can to help the Ukrainians succeed on the battlefield and to improve their position at the negotiating table.”
‘It’s crucially important that the United States be clear that we are absolutely committed to Zelenskyy’s victory,” Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican, told CNN on Sunday. “We should not be talking about … improving Zelenskyy’s position at the negotiating table. This was about defeating Russian forces in Ukraine.”