By Ateet Sharma
New Delhi, May 25: Two significant observations - one by a leading American daily and the other by a 98-year-old US foreign policy guru - in the last few days suggest that the Biden administration could soon be wracked by increasing internal divisions over its stance on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
In Davos, during his virtual interaction with Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger suggested that Ukraine should agree to cede parts of its territory to Russia and reach a peace agreement with Moscow to end the hostilities which entered its 91st day on Wednesday.
The Cold War veteran and realist warned that Western forces should not attempt a total defeat of Russia in Ukraine as any such outcome and escalation could destabilize Europe for a long time to come.
"Negotiations need to begin in the next two months before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome. Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante," said Kissinger who was the 56th Secretary of State of the United States from 1973 to 1977 and later founded Kissinger Associates, an international consulting firm, of which he is chairman.
"Pursuing the war beyond that point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself," he added.
Kissinger's comments came barely a week after The New York Times highlighted the "extraordinary costs" and "serious dangers" facing Washington due to its continued involvement in the ongoing conflict.
On May 19, in an opinion piece titled 'The war in Ukraine is getting complicated, and America isn't ready', the newspaper argued that "there are many questions" that the US President Joe Biden has yet to answer for the American public with regard to the situation in Ukraine.
"As the war continues, Mr. Biden should also make clear to President Volodymyr Zelensky and his people that there is a limit to how far the United States and NATO will go to confront Russia, and limits to the arms, money and political support they can muster. It is imperative that the Ukrainian government's decisions be based on a realistic assessment of its means and how much more destruction Ukraine can sustain," the editorial opined.
It further said that the current moment is a "messy one" which may explain President Biden and his cabinet's reluctance to "put down clear goal posts" even as the US aims and strategy is becoming "harder to discern" with the parameters of the mission appearing to have changed.
"Is the United States, for example, trying to help bring an end to this conflict, through a settlement that would allow for a sovereign Ukraine and some kind of relationship between the United States and Russia? Or is the United States now trying to weaken Russia permanently? Has the administration's goal shifted to destabilizing Vladimir Putin or having him removed? Does the United States intend to hold Mr. Putin accountable as a war criminal? Or is the goal to try to avoid a wider war -- and if so, how does crowing about providing US intelligence to kill Russians and sink one of their ships achieve this?" the newspaper questioned.
While cracks may have begun to emerge in the international alliance against Russia due to the ongoing energy and food crisis, the Ukrainians have reacted sharply to the comments made by Kissinger and The New York Times' editorial piece.
"A veiled manifesto of appeasement from a newspaper known for its stellar coverage of Russia's horrific invasion has disappointed many," The Kyiv Independent wrote in its editorial "Response to the New York Times editorial board" today.
The Ukrainian media outlet said that The New York Times editorial has caused "an uproar" in Ukraine as it attempted "to pass off appeasement and betrayal of the free world's values as pragmatic reasoning".
"Western financial and military support for Ukraine is the only way to establish 'long-term peace and security on the European continent' that the New York Times editorial board is rooting for," it said.