US urged to cease fanning the flames in Russia-Ukraine conflict amid Zelensky’s visit
Published: Dec 21, 2022 08:40 PM Updated: Dec 21, 2022 08:35 PM
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Photo:VCG

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Photo:VCG


Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is on his way to the US on Wednesday, where he will meet with US President Joe Biden with the aim of strengthening resilience and defense capabilities of Ukraine. Analysts believe that Zelensky's first known foreign visit since the Russia-Ukraine conflict started in February aims to rally more military support from the US, and that as battlefields in certain areas may become more intense, the prospect of ending the confrontation and reaching a peaceful settlement becomes slimmer.

The White House announced Zelensky’s visit in a statement on Wednesday, noting that Biden planned to meet with Zelensky at the White House. Zelensky confirmed in a tweet that he was on his way to Washington and would be speaking before Congress, as well as conducting a number of bilateral meetings.

This is Zelensky's first overseas tour since the Russia-Ukraine conflict started, and his goal is to mobilize more US support as different voices emerge in the US following the mid-term elections, with many Americans opposing additional help for Ukraine. Corruption scandals involving US assistance to Ukraine have also caused alarm in the US, Cui Heng, an assistant research fellow from the Center for Russian Studies of East China Normal University, told the Global Times. 

Zelensky will also address Congress, a move that will strengthen the "politically correct" trend in the US, and under such a trend, opposition voices to support Ukraine will be temporarily pressured – this is significant to stabilize the US' support for Ukraine, said Cui, noting that Zelensky will also promote his own influence through this visit to cement his status in Ukraine.

Apart from greater aid from the US, Zelensky believes the US can coordinate its European partners to provide more support for Ukraine, not just militarily but also in terms of reconstruction, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.

Criticism of the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine has increased with more Americans calling on the government to focus on domestic messes, such as inflation. Also, a poll released by Pew Research in September showed that Americans are less concerned about Ukraine than they were in the spring.

The White House statement noted that during Zelensky’s visit, Biden will announce a new package of security assistance to help Ukraine. US media noted that the new aid would include nearly $2billion of security assistance including a Patriot missile battery. Work is also currently under way in the US to push through a bill that would give Ukraine more than $40 billion in extra funding heading into 2023.

Military experts noted that currently, the military equipment the US and some Western countries sent to Ukraine are mostly light and medium weapons, with the heaviest ones being the likes of armored vehicles, M142 HIMARS and M777 howitzers. Large and heavy weapons and equipment have not been provided. 

Patriot missile systems are among the most sophisticated air defense weaponry in the US. According to military analysts, supplying Ukraine with such modern weapons demonstrates that the US' involvement in the conflict had reached a new and more dangerous level. However, due to the complexity of the Patriot system, it may take some time for Ukraine to deploy this weapon on the battlefield.

US media cited US officials as saying that US forces will train Ukrainians to operate and maintain the system in a third country, probably Germany. But it will take time and it is unlikely that the air defense system will arrive in Ukraine before spring.

Zelensky will finally receive more military support from the US, which will boost its confidence in confronting Russia while also complicating peaceful negotiations, said Cui, noting that when there is no hope for negotiations, Russia may declare war to make more preparations, including mobilizing more resources to the battlefield. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold an expanded meeting of the Russian Defense Ministry Board on Wednesday and the meeting at the National Defense Control Center will summarize the Russian Armed Forces activities in 2022 and will set goals for the next year, the Kremlin press office said.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict will continue for a long time, and clashes on some battlefields may get more intense as heavier weapons are used, said Li, noting that the prospects for the Russia-Ukraine conflict are not promising.

Not only will people in Ukraine and Russia suffer, Europeans will also swallowing a bitter pill if the conflict continues with a severer energy crisis, observers said, calling for the US to cease fanning the flames and more countries to promote peace negotiations.