Ukraine: A Pawn?

Patriot missle
Patriot missles are seen at the Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport, Friday, March 25, 2022,(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The fear of US aid to Ukraine being blocked has been averted with the roughly $1.65 trillion spending bill having been passed by the Senate and the House. The bill includes around $45 billion in aid to Ukraine’s war efforts and NATO allies. President Joe Biden was keen for its passage ahead of Christmas vacation while the Congress remains under Democratic control. With Republicans against massive American aid to Ukraine as well as other aspects of this bill, it had to be virtually pushed through the Congress. In view of Republicans being at command in the Senate during the coming session, passage of this bill was probably viewed as a “now or never” task by Biden.

Notwithstanding the tactics exercised by Biden and not giving in to demand of Republicans to hold the bill till the coming session, its hurried passage certainly suggests the division within the US Congress against not just American aid to Ukraine but also against continuation of this war. With Republicans having won midterm elections, their majority in the House also spells end of its Democratic control in the coming year. While Biden may certainly be credited for probably what he views as a major political and diplomatic victory in having his way regarding this bill as well his stand on Ukraine war, prospects of Washington always retaining this approach – including coming year- may be viewed as fairly limited. This would not have demanded attention if Biden had not recently laid stress on supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression for “as long as it takes.”

Biden made this promise during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s recent visit to United States. Undeniably, the manner in which the visit was planned by itself may be viewed as a major illustration of Biden’s stand towards not simply Ukraine war but more specifically against Russian aggression.  As media reports suggest, efforts were not spared in elaborating upon his visit and help assured to him by US President. At the same time, utmost efforts were made to maintain silence about this visit till Zelensky landed there.

Not much needs be said about cosmetic diplomacy loaded with generosity displayed by Biden in displaying his and Washington’s warmth towards Zelensky.  US President stated that it was “an honour” for him “to be by your (Zelensky’s) side.” Biden also hailed Ukrainians as they “inspire the world.”

What can one infer from these developments apart from US President having exercised probably all aid possible on the Ukraine front? Republicans’ comments against nature of US packages for Ukraine also rests on stand expressed by some of them against continuation of the war. Views expressed by Henry Kissinger, former secretary of State and a Republican, have been quoted fairly extensively on this. In his article, How to avoid another world war (The Spectator, Dec 17, 2022), Kissinger writes, “I have repeatedly expressed my support for the allied military effort to thwart Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. But the time is approaching to build on the strategic changes which have already been accomplished and to integrate them into a new structure towards achieving peace through negotiation.”*

What demands deliberation is not simply the stark difference of views between two rival parties in US regarding Ukraine war, but more specifically their stand on its continuance and/or prolongation. In other words, the issue is not simply whether peace talks regarding the ongoing Ukraine war can take place or not. As recent developments suggest, little more attention needs to be paid to who is/are appear keen for talks and who don’t seem to. Equally significant is how desirous are either/both for bringing war to an end by initiating talks of some nature, bilaterally or through third parties. Of no less significance is the dependence of both countries’ leaders on third parties for either talks or for continuance of the war. It would be wrong to assume that both Russia and Ukraine are not seeking support of other powers, whether openly or tacitly for diplomatic and/or help of other nature, including weapons.

There is no denying that any kind of war cannot be expected to end till involved parties desire so or if either or all involved are not deprived of all means to continue the war. Here, at present, Ukraine and its key supporter- United States seem inclined to continue the war for in Biden’s words, as mentioned earlier “as long as it takes.” Now, with due respect to differences between Russia and Ukraine on several key issues, neither can be expected to be resolved if both do not agree to come to a negotiating table after bringing their military activities to a suspension or agreeing to a ceasefire. If the key third parties from both sides desire and encourage both countries towards this crucial diplomatic move, this cannot be viewed as impossible. Here it may be noted, China and also India may not have talked about the need to bring Ukraine war to an end and initiation of peace talks if Russia was totally against the same.

President Vladimir Putin has reportedly stated that Russia is ready to negotiate with all parties involved in the conflict in Ukraine, but Kyiv and its western backers have refused to hold talks. True, credibility of this stand may be doubted. At the same time, the hard reality of those not appearing interested in ending the war cannot be ignored. It is possible, the latter’s key purpose is to ensure collapse of Russia or as expressed by Kissinger “Russia rendered impotent by the war.” If this is the case, several hard hitting realities are being side lined. These include sufferings –whether of Ukrainians, Russians and/or others. Prospects of US aid for Ukraine not being permanent or long-lasting also implies Kyiv’s diplomatic stand in possible talks with Moscow may weaken and not remain as strong as it seems at present. The same cannot be said about Moscow’s diplomatic standing. Notwithstanding all the criticism showered at it from several quarters, the fact that China is a strong power and has not refrained from voicing its support for Moscow cannot be ignored. If and when US chooses to step back or even reduces nature of its support for Ukraine, other western allies may be expected to follow suit. In contrast, prospects of China changing its stand towards Russia may be viewed as practically non-existent.

Irrespective of whether Putin stays in power or not, neither Russia nor Ukraine can gain from continuity of this war. But yes, if Biden has set his eyes on it for targeting Russia, some attention should be paid to Ukraine apparently being used as a pawn!


Nilofar Suhrawardy is a senior journalist and writer with specialization in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. She has come out with several books. These include:– Modi’s Victory, A Lesson for the Congress…? (2019); Arab Spring, Not Just a Mirage! (2019), Image and Substance, Modi’s First Year in Office (2015) and Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp, In the Name of Indian Secularism (2006).


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