Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.
A tumultuous political year came to a close this December with a grand, operatic, and, for a democratic state, obscene visit from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to the United States. Zelensky met with President Biden and then addressed Congress in a televised speech to the American people where he asked for more money, weapons, and American involvement in a conflict that flirts with nuclear war.
Zelensky, a comedian prior to his taking the role of Ukrainian dictator, is well-versed in Hollywood-style theatrics. Everything about his visit was staged to drum up sympathy and support for his war. And yet, when Zelensky returned to Ukraine, he went home with precious little for his efforts. This begs the question: Is America, through NATO, wagging the dog in Ukraine, or is it prepared to unleash the proverbial dogs of war and all that entails?
One phrase you constantly hear from Western leaders is, “We will support Ukraine no matter what it takes.” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said this in September. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it in November. President Biden mouthed the phrase in December. But what exactly does “no matter what it takes” mean?
People listening to these hardline comments would think this means NATO will directly engage Russia. Or at least arm Ukraine with every weapon in the Western arsenal. But America isn’t doing anything close to “whatever it takes” to arm Ukraine; Zelensky asked for M1 Abrams tanks, F-16s, hundreds of more artillery systems, Patriot missile batteries, and long-range MGM-140 ATACMS. He received none of them.
After a speech to Congress that no one but the media watched, a speech former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called “One of the finest speeches I’ve ever heard in Congress,” Zelensky returned to Ukraine armed with a single Patriot missile battery and words of support “no matter what it takes.”
But even the Patriot battery might be a mirage. It was announced this week that the Patriots won’t be delivered until 2024 and located in one specific location. The United States also gave written assurances to Russia that no American personnel would operate the battery. Whether or not Ukraine still exists in 2024 is a valid question, and even if it does, it’s easy to see this one Patriot promised over a year ago quietly disappearing during the 2024 election cycle.
Clearly, NATO is falling far short of whatever it takes. There is even a hard red line behind the phrase preventing it from unfolding. Both France and Germany told Biden they’d do “whatever it takes” for Ukraine to win, but were unwilling to engage Russian Federation forces. So, less “whatever it takes” and more “go ahead with the public relations push, just remember our support has very clear limits and we really aren’t going to support a war in Russia if the famous Article Five is invoked.”
This isn’t to say some countries in NATO aren’t so anti-Russian they would go to war. Poland, Britain, and the Baltic States have been the most hawkish of all NATO members. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine Biden pursuing a policy that the majority of NATO is vehemently against.
Selling the war, even if NATO won’t directly engage, remains a high priority. The reason for this is crystal clear; wars are expensive and someone needs to fund them. Ukraine’s economy is shattered, and more and more European nations are tapped out. So, the burden falls on America.
A Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll found that only 48% of Americans support funding for Ukraine “as long as it takes” or “whatever it takes.” This is down 10 points from July. Even more stark, only 33% of Republicans are willing to support Ukraine to this extent.
Zelensky’s visit, for him, was about getting weapon systems, but for Biden it was political theater, the fondant on the cake to pass through Congress a $1.7 trillion omnibus bill that included another $45 billion for Ukraine before Republicans took control of Congress in 2023.
Republican voters are coalescing into an anti-Ukrainian aid bloc. Former President Donald Trump, the de facto leader of the GOP, is against a blank check to Ukraine. Senator Rand Paul blasted his Republican colleagues in the Senate for rubber stamping this spending package.
These are minority moral gestures as there are enough globalists posing as Republicans in the Senate to pass the bill. However, the House is where the will of voters are most directly voiced, and that is where the GOP is shifting. Republican House members like Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, and Paul Gosar have been increasingly vocal about sending US tax dollars to Ukraine.
But there’s a divide among the Republicans, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the vote for speaker of the House. Presumptive favorite Kevin McCarthy wore a Ukraine flag and Ukraine-colored handkerchief to Zelensky’s speech. This is at odds with his statement prior to the 2022 election where he claimed his House would stop unlimited funding to Ukraine.
His antics supported the narrative that he cannot be trusted to follow through on his promises. So far, it’s cost McCarthy. Twenty Republicans have refused to support him, and he’s now lost eleven rounds of voting for Speaker, the most in 164 years. The House had to adjourn twice, and career globalists Karl Rove, Trey Gowdy, and Newt Gingrich took to the airwaves in an attempt to push McCarthy over the finish line.
Even if McCarthy is eventually installed as Speaker, he will have been forced to make deep concessions and it’s crystal clear that a growing segment of the GOP has no interest in supporting Ukraine no matter what it takes.
Ultimately, the direction taken by the United States will depend on Joe Biden. Based on his withdrawal from Afghanistan, a difficult, but correct decision, and his subsequent statement saying he wasn’t going to leave the conflict to another US president, we can tentatively assume Biden means it when he says no American soldiers will fight in Ukraine.
Overtures to peace talks were even floated in the media following the December visit to the White House by French President Macron. The problem is, Russia is winning, and despite ceremonial platitudes that it wants peace, Russia is only going to accept peace on its terms. These conditions likely would involve NATO recognition of Russian annexed regions in Ukraine, a guarantee Ukraine will not join NATO, and total demilitarization of the Ukrainian army.
Neocons and neoliberals within the Biden administration and deep state apparatus would never accept these terms. Besides, neocons likely thought they would’ve pushed public opinion so far toward war intervention that it would be easy to support Ukraine with tanks, planes, and missiles. However, populations in every NATO country, from America to Italy, have grown increasingly tired of the war, in particular the economic ramifications. With no end in sight, the war and support for Ukraine is at an all-time low as the conflict heads into its second year.
Selling the war on the home front may be failing, but it has caused a reaction within Russia. A major military summit was held in Russia during late December 2022 with nearly 15,000 high-ranking officers and administrators attending.
Following the conference, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the Russian Federation was increasing the size of its volunteer contract army by 500,000 men and creating 10 new divisions. They’re also incorporating new military districts. In response to Finland joining NATO, one of the districts will be in Karelia, a Russian republic that borders Finland.
In addition, Russia was amping up production of missiles, planes, munitions, and armored fighting vehicles. This will be the largest expansion of Russian military power since the Cold War. President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia was preparing for a decade-long confrontation with NATO.
Military escalation tends to draw a response. Whatever it takes is an open-ended promise that can have dire consequences. The full impact of Russia’s partial mobilization and the sustained degradation of Ukraine’s infrastructure and the power grid will be seen in 2023. Both the United States and Russia have elections in 2024. Both Biden and Putin will likely be seeking their final terms as presidents of their respective countries. Neither wants a war hanging over them.
Public support for whatever it takes is waning. Republican patience, and more importantly, control of the House from where the money flows, is wearing thin. Energy prices continue to rise both in Europe and America. Inflation appears to have no end in sight with a dozen eggs this week reaching $5 a carton. NATO’s Ukraine war movie is not the public blockbuster it expected. No one wants to see a sequel.
Subscribe to get early access to podcasts, events, and more!