Espreso. Global
Interview

Ukraine can gain frontline advantage even before NATO summit — U.S. expert Fried

25 February, 2024 Sunday
20:10

Daniel Fried, former coordinator of the U.S. State Department's bailout policy and diplomat with over four decades' experience, tells Anton Borkovskyi, who hosts the Studio Zahid program on Espreso TV about U.S. assistance and strengthened sanctions pressure on Russia.

In Ukraine, we are watching the internal American political situation with great pain. We have our interests, but this is the selfishness of people who want to survive. When can a positive decision be made? Or will the Congress and the Chairman of the Congress continue to play their political game?

Almost all Democrats and many, if not most, Republicans support continued US military aid to Ukraine. However, a small but determined number of Republicans, including former President Trump himself, have so far opposed this assistance, leading to a tremendous fight within the US Congress. It is a dangerous policy to follow those Republicans who oppose aid to Ukraine. They are wrong.

I believe this fight will end with the assistance being sent, but I cannot say when. I have no excuse for Ukrainians except to say that our politics is repeating mistakes made many years ago during the rise of Hitler when we were slow to intervene. For that, I have tremendous regrets. This political fight in the United States is serious and ongoing."

Perhaps the US president or the US administration has additional tools or levers of influence? After all, it is urgent to look for additional mechanisms - it is a matter of life and death.

There may be supplemental or additional instruments the administration can use to provide some military assistance to Ukraine, but these are not going to be enough nor fast enough.

For example, I would like to see the G7 take and use the Russian money from its Sovereign assets that has been immobilized in G7 countries, mostly in Europe, and use that money for Ukraine. However, that process will not be fast enough.

The fight is still ongoing in Congress, and I am not pleased to be in the position of telling you that our politics are blocking the assistance Ukraine needs; it is shameful that Americans cannot do what is right.

But my job is not simply to condemn; it's to explain to Ukrainians what our situation is. I believe that Biden will ultimately succeed, and Congress will vote for the funds, but I cannot say that with certainty.

It took a very long time to make extremely important decisions, including the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine and ATACMS missile systems. According to American journalists, such decisions depended entirely on the president. Joseph Biden has some internal doubts, most likely he received additional information from CIA Director Burns. Perhaps it is about some additional threats. But this decision was not made even when the appropriate funds were available.

The US could provide additional ammunition for Ukrainian artillery, additional means for Ukrainian air defense, and equipment such as Abrams tanks for offense. Especially crucial would be longer-range ATACMS to allow Ukraine to attack targets in Crimea, putting the Russian forces there in a vulnerable position.

All of these are important factors in a credible theory of Ukrainian success. However, for this theory to be realized, additional weapons are required, particularly ATACMS, so that Ukraine can go on the offensive with long-range strikes.

Ukraine's friends in the United States, including in the Biden Administration and Congress, are aware of this. The question remains: can we overcome the opposition from some, but not all, Republicans?

What should Ukrainians do to help the Biden administration convince Congress? We were shocked when American lawmakers went on almost a month-long recess.

I think that members of the Ukrainian Rada coming to Washington and meeting with their Republican counterparts may be able to help. I believe having Ukrainians appear in person would be important. Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova is active and effective; people respect her, and they are right to do so. But having Ukrainians actually here in Washington would be helpful.

I don't want to consider this a bad scenario, but, God forbid, if we don't get authorization from Congress, what should our friends do? Will the European Union be ready to take on the financial burden of the war? Will the United States be ready to use European funds to help us with powerful weapons?

Countries in Europe, particularly those in the European Union and NATO, are going to do more to help Ukraine. They're already taking action. They will produce more ammunition and provide Ukraine with weapons to the best of their ability. However, they cannot fully compensate for the shortfall or the gap caused by the slowness of the American Congress to decide. They will be helpful.

The Polish Foreign Minister is already pushing hard, and the Polish President, President Duda, and Prime Minister Donald Tusk will be in Washington in the first half of March, where they will advocate strongly for support for Ukraine. The Polish government is very committed to supporting Ukraine. Your European friends are doing what they can. It is up to the United States to do the right thing. I hope we do.

As the former US Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Poland, you have a deep understanding of Polish politics. Additionally, your knowledge extends to Ukrainian politics. While there seem to be no obstacles to further integration and cooperation, there are various challenges that Ukraine is addressing with utmost seriousness.

Many Polish farmers are concerned about the impact of Ukrainian food appearing in Polish markets. They worry that the availability of less expensive Ukrainian food will drive them out of business. So, there is a genuine concern in Poland. You are correct that part of the solution lies in the European Commission working to find a resolution, including ensuring that Ukrainian agricultural produce passing through Poland is not sold in Poland but rather goes on to places in the world where it is needed.

At the same time, it appears that the Russians are exploiting this situation among Polish farmers. There has been some evidence of Russian interference, and I believe that Polish authorities are going to react strongly to prevent further Russian interference. It is a complicated issue. The Polish government is doing what it can, and I think a solution will require Poland, Ukraine, and the European Union to work together

Powerful sanctions have been levied against Russia. However, there may be additional measures to further unsettle the Russians. The trade in oil products with India seems impractical, as it has helped stabilize Russia's domestic economy. While this stability might falter in the future, there could be immediate actions to impact the Russian economy.

President Biden has stated that additional US sanctions against Russia will be announced on Friday. I don't know the specifics of these sanctions, but hints from the administration suggest that they will target the Russian military industry. This likely means going after networks of sanctions evaders that provide Russia with the equipment necessary for its military production. We may also target Chinese companies and hopefully dismantle networks of third countries that facilitate the re-export of Western products to Russia, thus evading sanctions.

I would like to see even stronger measures included in the sanctions, such as a decision from the G7 and the US's G7 partners to utilize Russian Sovereign assets to aid Ukraine. While I don't expect this to happen immediately, I believe we will see a package of measures aimed at curbing Russian sanctions evasion.

Iran and North Korea have started supplying Russia with ballistic missiles that end up on our territory. Additionally, there are states openly aiding Russian aggression by laundering Russian money or providing Russians with dual-use goods

Ukraine has every right to be concerned about North Korea's and Iran's provision of military supplies to Russia. This morning, on American television, I heard Radek Sikorski, the Polish Foreign Minister, outline a credible scenario for Ukrainian success in this war. This scenario involves the US allocating funds to help the Ukrainian military. With these funds, the Ukrainian military would hold back the Russians on land. However, if we provide them with ATACMS missiles, they would be able to strike Russian logistic and other military targets in Crimea and occupied Ukraine, positioning themselves much better militarily, perhaps by the time of the NATO Summit this summer. This is a credible theory of success.

At this point, if the Ukrainians are holding off the Russians on land as it has successfully attacked the Russian Black Sea Fleet through longer-range strikes, you could see time starting to work against Russia. The Russian economy is already under stress. If we can increase that stress and make it clear to Putin that he cannot win his war, then the chances of a more favorable end to this war, more on Ukraine's terms, will rise. That is a credible theory of Ukrainian success that much depends on the United States, but this war can yet be won by Ukraine, helped by its friends in the West.

Tucker Carlson's visit to Putin isn't just about journalism; it's a multi-layered story. The first layer is the message Putin conveyed to the international community through Carlson. The interview likely underwent analysis by the State Department and in Europe because Putin sent clear signals about his aggressive intentions towards Ukraine.

The second aspect involves Roman Bezsmertnyi, a prominent Ukrainian politician and diplomat, who suggested to me that the documents attributed to Bohdan Khmelnytsky and his correspondence with Alexei Mikhailovich, the Moscow tsar at the time, which Putin presented to the American audience, may contain something different. However, no one has verified the contents of these documents or the intentions behind them.

What can I say about Tucker Carlson's visit to Moscow? Let's see. First of all, his interview was disgraceful because he had no idea what Putin was saying. He clearly was out of his depth. He was almost incapable of challenging Putin's historical falsifications. It was as disgraceful as interviews with Stalin by well-meaning but ultimately ignorant Westerners on the left.

There used to be a trend where Western Europeans and Americans would go to Moscow ignorant of reality, imagining that they were seeing some version of a socialist paradise. They projected their fantasy onto Moscow and imagined that they were witnessing a good social system. That didn't work.

Tucker Carlson was doing something similar, but from the right. He was going to Moscow and imagining that he was seeing some kind of right-wing nationalist or even fascist utopia. It was a disgusting display of Western ignorance. Tucker Carlson had no idea what he was actually looking at; his visit to a Moscow supermarket was laughable in its naivete. It reminded me again of Western leftists who used to go to Moscow and claim that the Moscow Metro was proof of the superiority of the Soviet system — laughable now, but also ugly. It was a disgraceful episode.

You are a staunch supporter of Ukraine, having not only done a lot for the country but also going above and beyond in your efforts. Putin is essentially signaling to the Western nations: allow me to seize parts of Ukraine, and in return, I won't initiate World War III or instigate further aggression against NATO members like Estonia, Finland, or Lithuania. However, this doesn't simplify the situation for us because we realize that Putin's stance, as conveyed through Carlson, boils down to his desire to continue encroaching upon Ukraine.

Putin is attempting several things at once. He is threatening the West and trying to convince a certain type of American that Ukraine cannot win. Therefore, he believes we in the West must push Ukraine to settle immediately on terms favorable to him. Putin probably calculates that he is winning at the moment due to the failure of the US Congress to vote money for Ukraine.

However, two years after he launched his full invasion of Ukraine, it is clear that he has failed in his principal objectives, which included conquering all of Ukraine quickly and reducing it to the status of a puppet state under the Kremlin. He has failed in this, and if the US does the right thing, he will continue to fail. However, he will also continue to threaten the Baltic states, Moldova, and even Poland, hoping to intimidate us in the West into forcing Ukraine to settle. This we must not do. We must find a way to help Ukraine because Ukraine can still succeed in this conflict, and that would benefit all of us. Of course

Is there anyone else besides Putin who has a plan? Maybe Erdogan or Scholz? What should we do in a dire situation, considering our limited resources? Our resource capacity is what enables us to safeguard the lives of our soldiers. It's quite an extraordinary scenario overall - engaging in conflict with Russia without access to aviation and other essential assets.

If we can find the resources to help with training this year, Ukraine's prospects will start to improve. Weapons production in the West will grow, providing us with more weapons to send to Ukraine.

Energy production in the West will also grow, making Russian natural gas and oil less important to the world economy and giving us more room to restrict it. There is a reasonable chance that Ukrainian defense production itself will grow, including the production of drones and ammunition, either inside Ukraine or in friendly neighboring countries like Poland or the Czech Republic.

There are various paths ahead for Ukraine to achieve success, but we are facing a particularly difficult moment right now, especially during the American election year. If we can get past this and, especially, if the United States Congress votes to allocate funds for Ukraine, Ukraine's prospects will look better, not worse

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