The U.S. has so far failed to fully commit itself a Ukrainian victory in the war against Russia, with the assistance provided by Washington only sufficient to keep Ukraine in the fight, retired U.S. general Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of the United States Army Europe, told ERR show "Välisilm."
The U.S. government has consistently stressed that it will support Ukraine until the war is won. For Ukraine, victory means retaking all of its internationally recognized territory, bringing war criminals to justice and receiving reparations. However, the U.S. has so far refused to definitively outline what that might mean from its perspective
"That is how Ukraine currently defines victory. I'm not sure that that's how they will always define victory. I think that there is a lesser possibility, which could also be considered victory, but this will be for both Ukrainians to decide and, for that matter, for U.S. officials to decide," said John Herbst, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
In recent months, there has been an increasing amount of coverage in media outlets around the world, suggesting Ukrainians are gripped by a sense of doom as another winter approaches. Preparations are being made for additional Russian attacks on Ukraine's critical infrastructure, while less Western military aid is arriving than before, and is routinely delayed.
"There is still this huge hesitation to give Ukraine weapons that have long-range ground-launch fires and could actually reach places in Crimea to suppress Russian air defense, Russian command and control and Russian fuel depots," said Debra Cagan, a former White House adviser.
"Our willingness to commit to Ukraine actually winning is the key and so far, we have not done that. I am proud of what the U.S. has provided but it has only been enough to keep Ukraine in the fight," said retired U.S. general Ben Hodges.
According to Hodges, there have been some within the U.S. Department of Defense, who are critical of Ukraine's counter-offensive, which is viewed as a partial failure that has led to a stalemate in the war.
"We would never send American soldiers to do that attack without having already achieved total air superiority and having provided an immense amount of breaching engineering equipment and so on," he explained.
Political analyst John Mearsheimer is convinced Russia's invasion was motivated by the West's focus on Ukraine's membership of NATO and the European Union. In his view, it is impossible for Ukraine to win the war, as he believes it will drag on for a long time.
"We will continue to support Ukraine. We will continue to look for opportunities to screw the Russians and the Russians will continue to look for opportunities to screw us. You'll have this nasty security competition in Eastern Europe. There's no end in sight to the trouble that we are now facing in Ukraine," Mearsheimer said.
According to political analyst Niall Ferguson, it comes as no surprise that there is increasing talk of the need for peace talks.
"We've gone from a glad, confident morning in 2022, when victory seemed attainable, to a war of attrition that is extremely costly, to both sides. And, they're beginning to hear, predictably, voices, not only from European capitals, but from Washington, saying now we need some kind of negotiation," said Ferguson.
One of those calling for peace talks has been former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who believes Ukraine could make territorial concessions to Russia in return for being granted NATO membership. However, retired U.S. general Ben Hodges does not see Ukraine sitting down at the negotiating table with Russian leaders after everything that has happened so far.
"Who in the world thinks that you can make a peace settlement with President Vladimir Putin in power, and, number one, expect them to live up to it? And, number two, that life would get any better for anybody?" Hodges asked.
According to historian Stephen Kotkin, it all comes back to the definition of victory. In his view, Ukrainians have to decide what is most important to them in the long term and what they are prepared to compromise on.
"My definition of what victory might be has not changed during these whole 19 months. It's Ukraine inside the EU, which is required to transform their domestic institutions and it's some sort of security guarantee, which is not likely to be NATO in the short term, but could be bilateral plus and then a rebuilding of Ukraine," Kotkin said.
"We've got to help Ukraine rebuild, and they will never be able to rebuild as long as Russia sits on top of Crimea," said Hodges.
"Ultimately, the most reliable and most effective deterrent against any future Russian aggression is to bring Ukraine into NATO. That would complete the integration of Europe that was so rudely interrupted by Mr. Putin with his full-scale invasion," said Alexander Vershbow, former NATO Deputy Secretary General.
Editor: Michael Cole