In every conflict it is always about taking a clear position. However, it is not immediately clear after every statement by Joe Biden what the US President wants in the respective situation – i.e. what the position of the American government is.
For example, in the case of Taiwan and the question of what exactly Washington would do in the event of Chinese aggression, Biden recently stated that the United States would defend the island state militarily. The White House immediately put the comments into perspective: Nothing has changed in US policy.
Even after the Russian attack on Ukraine, according to Biden’s statements, there was always room for interpretation as to what the exact goal of American politics is. For example, when he deviated from his speech manuscript during his visit to Warsaw and ended by saying that after all the atrocities, the Russian president could not stay in power.
The White House then rushed to quell speculation that the US was seeking “regime change” in Russia. Nevertheless: The statements have been made and are in the room.
Now, however, Biden has once written what the US government is about in Ukraine. On Tuesday evening (local time), the New York Times published a guest article by Biden. The headline reads, “What America Will and Won’t Do in Ukraine.”
The US President is a key figure in the conflict. Without massive American support, Ukraine would probably have lost the war against the Russian aggressors long ago. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy knows this well.
Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, sees Biden as his main adversary. In this respect, Zelenskyj and Putin are likely to be the most important addressees of the text.
Biden announces that he wants to supply Ukraine with a large number of state-of-the-art weapons. These include rocket launchers, Stinger missiles, helicopters, anti-tank weapons, artillery, radar systems. The weapons are part of a $700 million package.
The rocket systems are particularly interesting in this context. Because this shows where the US government draws the line.
A senior government official in Washington said in a telephone switchboard with journalists on Tuesday evening that Ukraine should get the so-called Himars system (Himars stands for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems), which is mounted on vehicles and can fire rockets with a range of several hundred kilometers.
However, only ammunition with a range of around 80 kilometers should be delivered. Biden officially confirmed the delivery of the Himars systems and ammunition on Wednesday, without elaborating on the restrictions.
The missile systems should arrive in Ukraine in two to three weeks, it said. “These systems are used by the Ukrainians to repel Russian advances into Ukrainian territory, but they will not be used against Russia,” the government official assured.
In the President’s opinion piece it sounds like this: “We don’t want a war between NATO and Russia.” There will be no direct involvement in the conflict, either by sending American troops or by attacking Russian forces – “so long as the United States or our allies will not be attacked”.
Also, the US would not try to overthrow Putin. And: “We don’t want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia,” writes Biden. The red line at which direct US intervention could take place remains a direct attack on NATO partners.
Biden does not define Ukraine’s victory as the goal of the arms deliveries, but rather its strongest possible position at the negotiating table. The US President approvingly refers to a statement by Zelenskyj, whom he quotes as saying that the war can only be ended through diplomacy. Biden’s next sentence says that the facts created on the ground must be taken into account in every negotiation.
Biden expressly does not name any conditions for a negotiated solution, which he characterizes as the only way to end the war. However, the goal is a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine that has sufficient means to deter opponents and to defend itself. In addition, the US President assures that he does not want to push Ukraine to make any territorial concessions, either privately or publicly.
The message to Putin is: Every additional day of war will cost Russia dearly because of American arms deliveries. To Zelenskyj: The United States remains firmly on Ukraine’s side and is doing (almost) everything to ensure that it does not lose the war. But in the end there will be a negotiated solution.