US, Ukraine aim differently amid ongoing war
Published: Apr 24, 2022 07:25 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin could visit Kiev on Sunday for the first time since the Russia-Ukraine conflict began and hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian leader said on Saturday, however both the US State Department and the Pentagon have not confirmed the visit or provided details. It shows that the US need not disguise it now by sending officials from the backstage to the front to meet its own proxy in this conflict. Blinken and Austin actually represent the US President Joe Biden to appease Zelensky. If the trip comes into fruition, there is not much practical significance, but more of a symbolic visit. 

But Zelensky also doesn't want the two officials to visit Kiev empty-handed, but come with something in good faith. The US announced on Thursday that it will send another $800 million in equipment to help Ukraine defend itself, including 72 M777 155mm howitzers and 144,000 artillery rounds for those howitzers. This comes after the $800 million assistance package for Ukraine announced on April 13. 

The US is also rallying its allies economically and financially to increase sanctions against Russia. Militarily, although the US isn't directly engaging in the crisis, it's providing extensive support to Ukraine, for the purpose of prolonging the conflict and keep Russia-Ukraine peace talks from having positive results. So it is crucial for the US to keep Zelensky steadily as its own proxy to perpetuate this military conflict. The two sides are taking exactly what they want from each other.

Zelensky has hinted multiple times he would like Biden himself to visit Kiev, despite consistent denials from the White House. What Zelensky forgets is that Biden is not Boris Johnson nor is he any other European official, but the director of the entire war. He dictates Zelensky, not the other way around. To take a step back, even if Biden visited Kiev to meet Zelensky, it'll be of no practical significance, but only embolden the Ukrainian leader. 

The key to the visit of US officials to Kiev is not what to provide to Ukraine, but how to provide the promised weapons and equipment to Kiev authorities while ensuring that they will not be sold by some Ukrainian officials or end up elsewhere. These issues need to be negotiated and serve as one of the important goals Blinken and Austin hope to achieve during their visit in Kiev. 

However, whether these weapons and equipment can enter the front line and be used in the military conflict in the Donbas region is still unknown. Even if the military equipment enters the front line, the impact on the Russian military will be limited. This is because the Russian military has achieved air supremacy over Ukraine's entire territory and can attack the military equipment during its transportation and after it is sent to the front line.

Austin will also reportedly hold defense talks in Germany on Tuesday, inviting 40 allies to discuss Ukraine's long-term security needs even after the Russia-Ukraine conflict ends. The US is now trying to sanction Russia through diplomatic efforts, weaken Russia's military capabilities, and call on allies to provide extensive military assistance to Ukraine so that Ukraine can hold out in the conflict. At the same time, they refuse to negotiate and instead set the conditions for peace talks that Russia could never agree to. 

Zelensky should refuse to become a political puppet of the US, give up being a US proxy, focus on peace talks, and ensure that the Ukrainian people can return to their homeland and carry out postwar reconstruction as soon as possible. 

What Ukraine needs most now is not to become a pawn of the US to contain Russia, and make its people suffer. Zelensky should change his practice of completely relying on the US and the West and effectively adjust his mindset so as to bring peace back to Ukraine as soon as possible.

The author is a Chinese military expert and TV commentator. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn