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James Forsyth

Biden’s Ukraine policy should bolster the Western alliance

Biden's Ukraine policy should bolster the Western alliance
Joe Biden (Credit: Getty images)
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After the confusion about what weaponry the US would supply to Ukraine and growing talk of divisions within the Western alliance, Joe Biden has a piece in the New York Times trying to clarify what US policy is. Biden makes clear that he, like Zelensky, accepts that the war will end through diplomacy rather than total victory for one side or the other. He says that the US will supply Ukraine with weaponry, including longer range artillery, to ensure that it enters those negotiations in the ‘strongest possible position’. He is also adamant that the US will not pressure Ukraine to cede territory to try and bring an end to the conflict.

I think the best way to read Biden’s column is that he is saying he will support Ukraine in pushing the Russians back to where they were before the most recent invasion on 24 February.

Biden argues that the US is supporting Ukraine to bolster European security, deter future Russian revanchism and show others that territory cannot simply be seized by force. Previously Biden has suggested that if Russia succeeded in Ukraine, it would make China more likely to try and seize Taiwan.

Biden's piece undoes some of the confusion caused by his comments about not sending Ukraine long range weapons. It also makes clear that Washington will carry on supporting Ukraine until Russia has been pushed back to where it was before 24 February. In public, nearly all other Western leaders could sign up to the Biden position – Scholz just praised it in the German parliamentary debate on Ukraine – even if in private there are some differences. But if the US is determined to lead, that will strengthen the resolve of the Western alliance.