Ukraine War, April 25, 2022: Finland and Sweden agree to jointly request NATO membership; Trip by Blinken and Austin to Kviv reveals muddled thinking in Biden’s foreign policy team

We are publishing this article as it is being written. Please check back for updates.

To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Dispatches

1) Jon Henley, “Sweden and Finland agree to submit Nato applications, say reports; Two countries could apply for membership simultaneously as soon as mid-May, according to reports,” The Guardian, April 25, 2022 (16.55 BST, updated 20.44 BST);

2) Guilherme Pinheiro, “Suécia e Finlândia coordenam pedidos de adesão à NATO; Suécia e Finlândia enfrentam tom ameaçador da Rússia e concordam em apresentar pedidos de adesão à NATO de forma simultânea e até ao final do próximo mês de Maio, Público (Lisboa), o 25 de Abril 2022 (17:25);

3) Marc Santora, John Ismay, and Rick Gladstone, “U.S. Says It Wants Russian Military Weakened; President Biden nominated a new ambassador to Ukraine after a high-stakes trip to Kyiv by two top U.S. officials. Within hours of the visit, Russian missiles struck at least five railway stations across the country, New York Times, April 25,2022 (11:00 pm ET);

4) David E. Sanger, “Behind Austin’s Call for a ‘Weakened’ Russia, Hints of a Shift,” New York Times, April 25, 2022 (7:06 p.m. ET).

Commentary

Sweden and Finland agree to jointly apply for NATO membership in May

Sweden and Finland have agreed to jointly apply for NATO membership in May. This is a big move on the strategic chessboard of Europe.

Future Russian leaders may see this as a consequence of Putin’s enormous strategic blunder in invading Ukraine.

Blinken and Austin return to Poland from meeting in Kviv with Zelensky

David Sanger in an excellent analytical piece comments on several aspects of the trip by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Kviv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, and their statements at a press conference inside Poland afterwards.

The Secretaries made several mistakes in connection with their trip to Kiev.

First, they failed to prevent and presumably approved Zelensky’s announcement on Saturday that they would be traveling to Kviv to meet with him on Sunday. This violated a cardinal rule of scurity: Don’t announce your movements in advance.

Second, once back in Poland, they let it be known, or leaked, that they had traveled to Kviv by train. It would have been better, certainly for future visitors, to have kept the Russians guessing about their mode of travel.

In the event, Russia launched missiles against railroad terminals shortly after their meeting in Kviv. Whether they were still traveling by train when the attacks occurred is not clear, but according to Sanger’s report it would appear so.

Third, Blinken went out of his way to suggest that Ukraine is winning the war.

“Russia is failing,” Mr. Blinken said. “Ukraine is succeeding.”

This type of commentary by a Secretary of State is puerile. Or worse. Like juggling with a live grenade. Who knows what might set Putin off? Or cause him to redouble his destructive efforts? While Russian forces are killing hundreds and perhaps thousands of Ukrainians each day, it is rather unseemly, and misleading, to suggest Ukraine is winning the war.

Moreover, the statement may have simply enraged Putin, which is not helpful in the present situation. One cannot imagine Henry Kissinger or George Schultz making a similar statement.

Fourth, Austin’s statement that the U.S. is seeking to weaken the Russian army plays into Putin’s narrative that NATO is fighting a war against Russia. “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree it cannot do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin said.

Finally, perhaps the most disturning news in Sanger’s article was the suggestion that U.S. officials are thinking about reaching a negotiated settlement within months.

Sanger writes,

The immediate impetus for Mr. Austin’s carefully orchestrated declaration that the United States wants “Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine,” several administration officials said, was to set up President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine with what one senior State Department official called “the strongest possible hand” for what they expect will be some kind of cease-fire negotiations in coming months.

Moreover, U.S. officials appear to believe that they can affect the course of the war by seizing control of the narrative. Sanger reports,

Mr. Austin’s comments, bolstered by statements by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken about the various ways in which Mr. Putin has “already lost” in the struggle over Ukraine, reflect a decision made by the Biden administration and its closest allies, several officials said on Monday, to talk more openly and optimistically about the possibility of Ukrainian victory in the next few months as the battle moves to the Russian-speaking south and east, where Mr. Putin’s military should, in theory, have an advantage.

At a moment when American intelligence officials are reporting that Mr. Putin thinks he is winning the war, the strategy is to drive home the narrative that Russia’s military adventure will be ruinous, and that it is a conflict Mr. Putin cannot afford to sustain.

At a time when Russian missiles and artillery shells are slamming into apartment buildings and killing thousands of civilians, it is extremely disconcerting to see Biden’s foreign policy team thinking about negotiating a ceasefire in months, crafting  statements in the delusional belief they will strengthen Zelensky’s hand in the negotiations, and driving home a “narrative” that Russia’s military adventure will be ruinous and one Putin can’t afford to sustain.

It sounds like Biden’s foreign policy team, which gave us the Afghanistan withdrawal decision, is now–some two months into the war–woefully inadequate to the task of leading the U.S. and NATO in the current war with Russia.

They are thinking like beltway “narrative” masters, not like cold-eyed realists and seasoned generals who understand the extraordinary threat which Putin and Russian barbarism pose to the international legal order, and our entire civilization.

Instead of talking about driving home a “narrative”, they should be talking about options for using limited force to stop Putin, with conventional forces, and about how, short of abdication and appeasement, they would act to control any escalation of the conflict in a nuclear spiral.

Ukraine is very far indeed from having won this war, which could continue for another five years.

Any ceasefire and withdrawal negotiations that might be undertaken are not likely to lead to agreement any time soon, given the fact that Putin’s territorial demands cannot be met, at least not without abandoning international law and bringing down the U.N. Charter and the entire international legal order.

While Ukraine is very far from having won this war, and any talk of a ceasefire is unrealistic at this point in time, Biden’s foreign policy team also appears to be very far from grasping what is at stake in the war with Russia, and what may may be required to prevail in the conflict.

The Trenchant Observer

***

See also,

Only force can stop Putin

“Ukraine War, April 5, 2022 (II): Force must be used to stop Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, April 5, 2022.

Be the first to comment on "Ukraine War, April 25, 2022: Finland and Sweden agree to jointly request NATO membership; Trip by Blinken and Austin to Kviv reveals muddled thinking in Biden’s foreign policy team"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.