Last week, President Joe Biden traveled to Kyiv as an act of defiance meant to mark the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine. This week, back in Washington, grimmer realities are setting in.
Biden will host German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House on Friday in what will be, on the surface, another display of Western unity with Ukraine as it repels Russia’s punishing invasion. But the show of solidarity comes against a backdrop of growing strain as the trans-Atlantic alliance works to remain in lockstep while grappling with the fact that the war has no end in sight.
A renewed and brutal Russian offensive is making incremental progress along the front, and Moscow may be poised to receive assistance from China. As Ukraine prepares for its own spring counteroffensive, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s pleas for help have grown more desperate, raising the stakes for Biden to keep the weapon supply flowing, while also managing ties to both Kyiv and the capitals of a suddenly, violently reshaped Europe.
“It may well be that 2023 is the best chance Ukraine has,” said Liana Fix, a fellow for Europe at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Biden can say the U.S. will support Ukraine ‘as long as it takes’ if he can keep getting Congress to approve funds, and the idea with that rhetoric is to send a clear message to Moscow. But there’s also a U.S. election in 2024, and a German election in 2025, which will make things far more complicated.”
Scholz’s meeting with Biden — scheduled to be just one hour — will largely highlight both the transformation of Europe and the challenges for the U.S. president to hold it together to resist Russia. Two days after Russia’s invasion, Scholz vowed in his “Zeitenwende” speech that Germany, long wary of militarization in the postwar WWII era, would take steps to boost defense spending. It was an immediate recognition of how Putin’s invasion of Ukraine had shattered the existing security architecture of Europe. [Continue reading…]