But I’m a US citizen and I want us to be careful. Ukraine was and still is a country steeped in corruption. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help it. I’m glad we are. I insist we do. But I feel like the Biden team is on a much more tightrope with Zelensky than it first appears – wanting to do everything possible to make sure he wins this war, but in a way that still keep some distance between us and the leadership of Ukraine. That is so that Kiev is not in charge and that we will not be ashamed of the messy Ukrainian politics in the aftermath of the war.
According to my reporting, the view of Biden and his team is that America should help Ukraine restore its sovereignty and beat back the Russians — but not let Ukraine turn into an American protectorate on Russia’s border. We must stay focused on what is our national interest and not stray into ways that lead to exposures and risks that we do not want.
One thing I know about Biden—with whom I traveled to Afghanistan in 2002 when he was a senator who headed the foreign relations committee—is that he doesn’t fall in love with world leaders easily. He has dealt with too many of them during his career. He has a pretty good idea of where American interests end and begin. Ask the Afghans.
So where are we now? Putin’s plan A – take Kiev and install his own leader – has failed. And his Plan B – trying to take full control of Ukraine’s old industrial heartland known as the largely Russian-speaking Donbas – is still questionable. Putin’s newly reinforced ground forces have made some progress, but it is still limited. It’s springtime in the Donbas, which means the ground is still muddy and wet at times, so Russian armor still has to stay on roads and highways in many areas, making them vulnerable.
As America navigates through Ukraine and Russia, trying to avoid getting entangled, one bright spot in the effort to avert wider war is the government’s success in stopping China from granting military aid to Russia. This has been huge.
After all, it was only February 4 when Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted Putin at the opening of the 2022 Winter Olympics, where they unveiled all manner of trade and energy deals, and then issued a joint statement saying that the friendship between Russia and China “has no borders.”
That was then. After the war started, Biden personally explained to Xi in a lengthy phone call that China’s economic future depends on access to the US and European markets — the two largest trading partners — and that if China were to provide military aid to Putin, it would be very negative impact on China’s trade with both markets. Xi did the math and has been prevented from helping Russia in any military way, which has also made Putin weaker. Western restrictions on shipping microchips to Russia are really starting to hamper some of its factories — and China hasn’t intervened so far.