Two European officials told reporters that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told European allies that the US believes the Russian war in Ukraine will last until the end of 2022, as US and European officials have increasingly concluded that there is no immediate end in sight to the conflict.
Many officials stressed that it is difficult to predict how long the war will last, but several officials said that there are no signs that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goals have changed, and that unless he faces military defeat, he is unlikely to pursue diplomatic negotiations. The idea that this could be a long-term conflict is a significant shift from the early days of the war, when Russia was expected to take the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv quickly, and it highlights Moscow’s battlefield failures.
The greater the humanitarian toll on the Ukrainian people as the war continues. While officials emphasized that the international community is likely to continue to provide high levels of support to Ukraine, they also acknowledged that there may be very real practical challenges with weaponry that will need to be addressed as the war progresses.
According to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, the fighting in Ukraine is likely to be “protracted,” lasting “months or even longer.”
Some members of Congress and their aides are quietly drawing parallels to the three-year-long Korean War.
Two other European officials believe the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces are expected to launch a new offensive, will last four to six months before coming to a standstill.
“He has discussed with his counterparts our concern that the conflict could be protracted,” a senior State Department official said, “but all of his engagements have revolved around how best to bring it to a halt as quickly as possible.”
The start of the new Russian fighting in the Donbas could be weeks away, according to British Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly, who told reporters that “there is a window of opportunity, and I think this is why the nature of our support is so important, that we are providing weapons, the equipment that Ukrainians need to do the job they need to do.”
There is a growing public recognition of the link between Ukraine’s military success and any hope of a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, which Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba addressed directly at the NATO Foreign Ministerial last week. “It is clear that the success of relevant armies and the impact of sanctions imposed on Russia will define the positions of delegations in talks,” he said.
US officials have characterized this week’s increase in military aid to Ukraine as a continuation, but they do acknowledge that the Ukrainians’ battlefield efforts have prompted the doubling down — and additional support.
According to a second senior State Department official, “We’ve accomplished a lot, so we have faith in our Ukrainian partners, which we’ve always had. But, as the fight intensifies, so does our commitment to provide them with weapons and equipment they can use,” he said, adding that the Ukrainians have “greatly benefitted” from certain weapons systems.”
Blinken said the US is “focused on putting Ukraine in the strongest possible negotiating position by continuing to provide security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself and by increasing pressure on Putin by imposing severe costs on Russia” in a statement Thursday about the new $800 million security assistance package.
According to a European official, the longer the war goes on, the more likely it is that divisions in the transatlantic alliance will emerge. They and others, however, believe that Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine will play a role in maintaining international resolve to ensure that Russia does not win.