The ‘Biden Phase’ of the Ukraine War

Zelensky’s visit to the White House this week comes at a defining moment, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar, as the war in Ukraine has intertwined with the problems of the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky during a meeting in Kiev in February with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. (President of Ukraine, Flickr, Public domain)

By  M.K. Bhadrakumar
Indian Punchline

The ground war in Ukraine has run its course, a new phase is beginning. Even diehard supporters of Ukraine in the Western media and think tanks are admitting that a military victory over Russia is impossible and a vacation of the territory under Russian control is way beyond Kiev’s capability.

Hence the ingenuity of the Biden administration in exploring Plan B — counseling Kiev to be realistic about loss of territory and pragmatically seek dialogue with Moscow. This was the bitter message that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken transmitted to Kiev recently in person. 

But President Volodymyr’s Zelensky’s caustic reaction in a subsequent interview with the Economist magazine is revealing. He hit back that the Western leaders still talk the good talk, pledging they will stand with Ukraine “as long as it takes” (Biden mantra), but he, Zelensky, has detected a change of mood among some of his partners: 

“I have this intuition, reading, hearing and seeing their eyes [when they say] ‘we’ll be always with you.’ But I see that he or she is not here, not with us.” 

Certainly, Zelensky is reading the body language right, as in the absence of an overwhelming military success shortly, western support for Ukraine is time-limited.

Zelensky knows that sustaining Western support will be difficult. Yet he hopes that if not Americans, the European Union will at least keep supplying aid and may be open to negotiations over the accession process for Ukraine possibly even at its summit in December.

He also held out a veiled terrorist threat to Europe — warning that it would not be a “good story” for Europe if it were to “drive these people [of Ukraine] into a corner.” So far such ominous threats were muted, originating from low ranking activists of the fascist Banderite fringe.

From left, U.S. President Joe Biden; Zelensky,  NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana in Vilnius in July. (NATO, Flickr, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

But Europe has its limits, too. Western stockpiles of weapons are exhausted and Ukraine is a bottomless pit. Importantly, conviction is lacking whether continued supplies would make any difference to the proxy war that is unwinnable. Besides, European economies are in the doldrums. The recession in Germany may slide into depression, with profound consequences of “deindustrialisation.” 

Suffice it to say, Zelensky’s visit to the White House in the coming days becomes a defining moment. The Biden Administration is in a sombre mood that the proxy war is hindering a full-throttle Indo-Pacific strategy against China. Yet, during an appearance on ABC’s This Week, Blinken explicitly stated for the first time that the U.S. would not oppose Ukraine using U.S.-supplied longer-range missiles to attack deep inside Russian territory, a move that Moscow has previously called a “red line,” which would make Washington a direct party to the conflict. 

[Related: It’s Hard to Think About the End of the World]

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The well-known American military historian, strategic thinker and combat veteran, retired Col. Douglas MacGregor (who served as adviser to the Pentagon during the Trump administration), is prescient when he says that a new “Biden phase of the war” is about to begin. That is to say, having run out of ground forces, the locus will now shift to long-range strike weapons such as the Storm Shadow, Taurus and ATACMS long-range missiles. 

US Long-Range Missiles 

The U.S. is considering sending ATACMS long-range missiles that Ukraine has been asking for a long time with the capability to strike deep inside Russian territory. The most provocative part is that NATO reconnaissance platforms, both manned and unmanned, will be used in such operations, making the U.S. a virtual co-belligerent. 

Russia has been exercising restraint in attacking the source of such enemy capabilities but how long such restraint will continue is anybody’s guess. 

Energy facility in Kyiv Oblast after Russian drone attack on Oct. 27, 2022. (, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

In response to a pointed query about how Washington would see the attacks on Russian territory with American weaponry and technology, Blinken argued that the increasing number of attacks on Russian territory by Ukrainian drones are 

“about how they’re [Ukrainians] going to defend their territory and how they’re working to take back what’s been seized from them. Our [U.S. ] role, the role of dozens of other countries around the world that are supporting them, is to help them do that.” 

Russia is not going to accept such a brazen escalation, especially as these advanced weapon systems used to attack Russia are actually manned by NATO personnel — contractors, trained ex-military hands or even serving officers. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the media on Friday that “we have detected foreign mercenaries and instructors both on the battlefield and in the units where training is carried out. I think yesterday or the day before yesterday someone was captured again.” 

The U.S.  calculus is that at some point, Russia will be compelled to negotiate and a frozen conflict will ensue where NATO allies would retain the option to continue with Ukraine’s military build-up and the process leading to its membership of the Atlantic alliance, and allow the Biden administration to focus on the Indo-Pacific. 

However, Russia will not settle for a “frozen conflict” that falls far short of the objectives of demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine that are the key objectives of its special military operation. 

Faced with this new phase of the proxy war, the form that the Russian retaliation takes remains to be seen. There could be multiple ways without Russia directly attacking NATO territories or using nuclear weapons (unless the U.S.  stages a nuclear attack — of which the chances are zero as of now.)

Already, it is possible to see the potential resumption of military-technical  cooperation between Russia and the DPRK [North Korea]. That could potentially include ICBM technology. And it would be a natural consequence of the aggressive U.S.  policy towards Russia and its support for Ukraine — as much as of the current international situation. 

Putin with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un on Sept. 13 during a visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome. (Artem Geodakyan, TASS)

The point is, today it is with DPRK; tomorrow it could be with Iran, Cuba or Venezuela — what Col. MacGregor calls “horizontal escalation” by Moscow.  The situation in Ukraine has become interconnected with the problems of the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan. 

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu said on state television last week that Russia has “no other options” but to achieve a victory in its special military operation and will continue to make progress with the key mission of mowing down the enemy’s equipment and personnel. This suggests that the attritional war will be further intensified while the overall strategy may shift to achieving total military victory. 

The Ukrainian military is desperate for manpower. In the 15-week “counteroffensive” alone, over 71,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed. There is talk of Kiev seeking repatriation of its nationals of military age from among the refugees in Europe. On the other hand, in expectation of a prolonged conflict, the mobilisation in Russia is continuing. 

Putin disclosed on Friday that 300,000 people have volunteered and signed contracts to join the armed forces and new units are being formed, equipped with advanced types of weapons and equipment, “and some of them are already 85–90 percent equipped.” 

The high likelihood is that once the Ukrainian “counteroffensive” peters out in another few weeks as a massive failure, Russian forces may launch a large-scale offensive. Conceivably, Russian forces may even cross the Dnieper River and take control of Odessa and the coastline leading to the Romanian border, from where NATO has been mounting attacks on Crimea. Make no mistake, for the Anglo-American axis, encircling Russia in the Black Sea has always been a top priority.

Watch the excellent interview (below) of Col. Douglas MacGregor by Professor Glenn Diesen at the University of North-Eastern in Norway:

M.K. Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. He was India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey. Views are personal.

This article originally appeared on Indian Punchline.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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20 comments for “The ‘Biden Phase’ of the Ukraine War

  1. Julian Lobato
    September 21, 2023 at 03:28

    If NATO insists on attacking Crimea from the Black sea with the Air & Sea Drones or other platforms Russia will have no choice but to cut Ukraine off from the sea & take Odessa & the isolated territory to the southwest.

    This doesn’t need to happen unless you’re a USAn profit monger

  2. mgr
    September 20, 2023 at 12:51

    Perhaps the biggest, most pernicious and serious delusion in the whole “Ukrainian Project” of the West is that the US is a rational actor that knows what it’s doing. You see this again and again. Thus Mr. Diesen’s stunned awakening. Col. Macgregor clearly articulated what was perhaps until now Mr. Diesen’s deeply sensed but hidden fear. Everything falls to pieces once you recognize that the Biden admin, in particular Nuland, Blinken, and Sullivan are in effect barking mad. Their egoism and delusion, “legends in their own minds,” is literally a psychosis. Biden, in turn, is a completely corrupt monster, the worst kind of self-serving, me first/me only, chicken-hawk no different from the other “leading light” of the corporate Democratic Party, HRC. In fact, at this point, I can no longer point to anyone in the cDP who is even slightly credible, or even rational.

    If anyone is interested, I have been watching Judge Napolitano’s” Judging Freedom” podcast on youtube over the last year. Each week Col. Macgregor, Scott Ritter, Ray McGovern, Larry Johnson, Alastair Crooke, several other insightful and knowledgeable guests, and now Jeffrey Sachs sit down with Judge Napolitano on various days of the week to discuss the latest events in Ukraine and its military and geopolitical impacts from various angles based on the expertise of the guests, which is truly considerable.

    Judge Napolitano is a libertarian. I am not but that does not interfere with the discussion. He seems to have real heart. He asks questions based on the latest developments and news reports and he lets them talk. Everything that they have revealed has been predictive and completely in line with the excellent reporting you find here at Consortium News and other sites like moonofalabama and Naked Capitalism. Not once in the last year have I been surprised by events unfolding on the ground.

    The discussions are invariably enlightening. If you wish to augment the good understanding you find here at CN, Judge Nap’s discussions are probably the best interviews that you will find on a regular basis and they happen almost every day of each week.

  3. Anon
    September 19, 2023 at 20:19

    Where’s Barry McGuire when we need him?

  4. remo
    September 19, 2023 at 18:46

    This is what world war three looks like.

    Whoever thought we’d see the day a geriatric ‘western rules based order’; grotesque, cross-dressing clowns that we are; march in alliance behind the flags of the murderers of Babi Yar ?

    Not me.

  5. mary-lou
    September 19, 2023 at 15:37

    did the disappeared F-35 end up in Ukraine perhaps? although without its pilot it might be really difficult to use….

  6. Mike
    September 19, 2023 at 14:46

    Is it possible that Russia would open the floodgates and start attacking Ukrainian civilian sites in response? The West keeps blaming them for doing this already, when they have pretty clearly worked hard to minimize civilian deaths. If they did it now, those that cried “wolf” would have little more to say. And what is Russia going to do with the Western pars of Ukraine anyway? Russia clearly doesn’t want it and they don’t want it to be a threat or a big expense trying to keep it from causing them problems. I fear that Russia may let the Western Ukrainians pay for NATO intervention rather than confront NATO directly. For Russia it could very sadly (for Ukraine) accomplish the killing two birds with one stone, i.e. push back on NATO and turn Western Ukraine into a rump state. It would be nice if someone could get a peace process rolling and at least stop the escalation. The West does not appear not to care about any serious possible consequences of their actions on themselves (ourselves).

  7. Randal Marlin
    September 19, 2023 at 13:41

    I see the interview with Col. Douglas MacGregor as highly illuminating. Once again, the road to peace seems to be confession of failure by the U.S., but what person in power is willing to admit that all the money spent, all the Ukrainian lives lost and injured, produced nothing better than what an earlier peace agreement would have achieved? We know that post-Tet the U.S. power holders responsible for the continuing Vietnam War could not admit defeat. Defeat would mean much head-rolling among the power holders. So the war continued until a whistle-blower, the late and lamented Daniel Ellsberg, revealed the truth.
    If everyone could see and listen to Col. MacGregor, perhaps this would have an Ellsberg-like effect.
    But the forces governing media censorship are strong, as Col. MacGregor has noted.

  8. Selina Sweet
    September 19, 2023 at 12:42

    Sending USA long or short range missiles, any missiles, into Russia is completely unacceptable.
    The mediocrity of Blinken, Sullivan and Nuland that is wholly incapable of being in touch with
    reality will surely do us in with its penchant for the gun over intelligent, informed foreign relations
    negotiating – the latter being demonstrably beyond the capacities of these three neocon war hawks.

    • Hegesias
      September 20, 2023 at 22:44

      Blinken Nuland et al are entirely in touch with reality. They know the US is the only country that is morally depraved enough to use nukes.

  9. Pavel Kozhevnikov
    September 19, 2023 at 11:05

    Great article! Thank you! Fake Soros news would never publish it!

  10. Vera Gottlieb
    September 19, 2023 at 10:18

    This guy is a traitor and his corruption is just what the US was seeking…the leaking dike. A European conflict in our future so satisfy American hegemony?

  11. James White
    September 19, 2023 at 10:04

    The arrogance and hubris of Victoria Nuland, Jake Sullivan and Anthony Blinken has been exposed for the paper tiger it is. The delusional mindset of NATO, the E.U. and U.S. is that they need only form an opinion and the world must bend and manifest their will. The problem in Ukraine is that Joe Biden is no military strategist. The feeble Biden’s tough talk is all mere bluster. The Russians aren’t impressed and have called his bluff. That has given us the spectacle of the European vassal states, who willingly traded their freedom for security and are now left with neither. As Benjamin Franklin observed: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” The U.S. has protected Europe and paid for its’ defense since WW2. It was a great racket while it lasted. Europeans lavished costly welfare programs on their populations while the U.S. took on debt to provide their nuclear umbrella. But now Joe Biden, who has a penchant for squandering every opportunity and wasting every hard earned resource has called in Europe’s marker. Europe is learning the true cost of their vassalhood. European heads of state, who long regarded Russia with condescension are no longer so plucky. Merkel is long gone, as is Boris Johnson. Mark Rutte and Macron are both on their way out. Olaf Scholz has never been anything more than Biden’s lap dog. Ursula Von der Leyen is no longer fawning over Zelensky. Anyone who has been paying attention has seen Zelensky threaten ‘the sons and daughters’ of the U.S. and NATO. His latest moment of truth being a call to Ukrainian terrorism in European countries, ostensibly at the hands of ungrateful refugees. It should come as no surprise when you cultivate a rat as your pet, that he would soon bite the hand that feeds him. It was Boris Johnson, sent by the Biden Regime who sweet-talked Zelensky into a suicidal war with Russia. Now that half a million Ukrainians are dead, Zelensky is desperately seeking old men and children to add to the carnage. As Breaker Morant ws said to have observed at his execution: ‘This is what comes of empire building.” Arrogance and hubris will always fail. For as long as it takes.

    • Daryl
      September 21, 2023 at 09:33

      I agree with James White, with one exception.
      His statement the we with our cold war nuclear umbrella and cold war bases made it possible for Europe to foster its humanity and socially oriented states.
      That is just not the case, we generated the cold war, to sustain our war economy, so we could sustain our corporate domination of our state and economy, stifling our impulse to socialize our culture as the Europeans have.
      That cold war madness was at our expense and cultural loss.
      This war is the grand son of that same mistake and thinking.

  12. Greg Grant
    September 19, 2023 at 09:30

    ” In the 15-week counteroffensive alone, over 71,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed.”

    Wow, that’s one death every 12 seconds, for 15 weeks 24/7. Think of all the mourning. When somebody loses a family member it’s hard to convince them it was worth it under any circumstance. So I don’t understand how the Ukrainian people keep tolerating this war of attrition. I mean everybody knew the counteroffensive was suicide. Do they really believe the U.S. narrative so thoroughly that they’ll continue to throw their children into a fire indefinitely?

    • Valerie
      September 19, 2023 at 15:45

      “So I don’t understand how the Ukrainian people keep tolerating this war of attrition.”

      Perhaps Greg, the same way the rest of europe are bombarded with propaganda.

    • Fatoomsh
      September 20, 2023 at 16:52

      There are countless videos to prove Ukrainians are not just tolerating their children being signed up for the meat grinder. Their children are literally being dragged out of their homes and work places and forced into the grinder. They have no say in anything anymore. The banderites answer to nobody.

  13. susan
    September 19, 2023 at 07:46

    F— god damned war mongers!!!

  14. TP Graf
    September 19, 2023 at 06:55

    One of the things I can’t get our of my head with this obsession with Russia, China, Iran,, is the absolute hypocrisy of “champions” of fighting climate change–the Democrats and the EU writ large. The US is quite literally forcing the hands of other countries to divert money from worthwhile internal and partner-based development, into building up war machines to counter our insane buildup of our own war machine. The German “Greens” cheer on the war in Ukraine and give a complete pass to the perpetrators who blew up Nord Stream. The “progressive Caucasus” votes for every increase to “defense and security” spending. They cheer on suppression of free speech. They vilify all dissent against the war in Ukraine. Saint Paul encapsulated it well, we are a crooked and perverse generation.

  15. Robert
    September 19, 2023 at 03:38

    The United States involvement in this war was dumb and unnecessary on Day 1. An avoidable tragedy, especially for the people of Ukraine, but also for the world at large. But the ghoulish Lindsey Graham might be prophetic as the war ends only on the day the last Ukrainian soldier dies (or surrenders/refuses to fight). That would mean that the destruction in Ukraine goes on for several more years and that is a truly depressing thought. A second “winner” in addition to Senator Graham would be Senator Romney whose return on “investment” gets better with passage of time.

    Romney’s statement should have been condemned from far and wide but I heard nary a word from anyone of his colleagues in D.C. or the national news media. It was a perfect moment for Bernie Sanders or AOC to take just a minute to condemn the callous, inhumane remark. If they did I didn’t hear it. We are being governed by war mongers who rely on MIC money to remain in power. This situation is going to be very difficult for the American people to reverse.

    • J Anthony
      September 20, 2023 at 07:11

      No kidding, especially when so many Americans can hardly seem to accept that fact, much less summon the will to actually DO anything about it. Some are still uttering nonsense about our “great democracy” and how we need to save it….

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