The first (incorrect) assessments of the Russian victory. Confidence in the Ukrainian resistance and in Moscow’s unpreparedness. The specter of biological or nuclear attack. Now the war at a crucial moment, and Biden has raised the tone (but does not send weapons). What will happen?
Three weeks of war, lived within the Biden administration. How did the Americans move? What should we expect from the president of the United States now? Here we try to reconstruct the essential phases, with the inevitable approximations, on the basis of news and indiscretions collected by the Courier service in Washington, between Congress, diplomatic channels and analysts with direct contacts with government bodies.
The latest news on the war in Ukraine
In February, the invasion and gloomy scenarios: Kiev will fall in 72 hours
The first step dates back to the time of the invasion of Ukraine, the dawn of February 24th. The military intelligence services follow the blitz of the Russian special forces trying to take control of the Hostomel airport, not far from Kiev. The immediate reading that the Putinian military wants to conquer a strategic port of call to bring in other troops. But, shortly thereafter, the Pentagon realizes that there‘main objective of that action was another: capture and possibly even kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The initiative, however, fails. From that moment the State Department begins to put pressure on Zelensky e offers him the famous passage to take him to safety: in Lviv or even in Poland. Zelensky refuses and, although we will find out later, the war takes an unexpected direction. The American generals reason on very dark scenarios: Putin’s advance will be overwhelming, the Ukrainian defense will be swept away. On February 5, Chief of Staff Mark Milley said in a Congressional hearing: Kiev will fall in 72 hours if there is a large-scale Russian invasion. That prediction holds ground in the Pentagon and the White House for several days after February 24. the first mistake of government analysts who until then had predicted the developments of the crisis with great precision. In fact, neither general nor intelligence expected such inefficient military action by the Russians. The Ukrainians’ resilience was also a great surprise.
March, the White House bets on Putin’s strategic defeat
At that point, we are already well into March, the Department of Defense begins to review the initial scenarios. And, inevitably, opinions also crumble. The belief still prevails that in the end the Putinian army will be able to conquer the capital and probably also the whole of Ukraine. At that stage the White House decides to to push above all on sanctions and to aim, Biden’s words on Putin’s strategic defeat. Namely: the Russian leader will seize an ephemeral victory on the ground, but his system will collapse as a result of economic restrictions and international isolation.
The Zelensky factor: the former comedian becomes leader of the resistance
But, little by little, another hypothesis takes hold in the Administration: Putin will not be able to occupy the whole country, indeed I won’t be able to take Kiev either. In parallel, the Zelensky factor rises: the Ukrainian president mobilizes the civilian population and becomes a credible point of reference for military resistance. The weapons begin to arrive more quickly and with more consistent flows. Even Germany moves, overcoming a tab (delivering weapons to a foreign country) that lasted since the end of the Second World War. The United States ships the best of the military arsenal. Anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, high-tech tools.
But beware: the Pentagon and the White House they only provide weapons for defense. Not to organize a possible counterattack. These are the days of the Mig 29 messthe planes that Poland would like to make available of Ukrainian pilots, passing through the American base of Ramstein in Germany. The US defense rejects the operation. Biden announces: it can’t be done, it could be interpreted as an aggressive act and therefore widen the conflict.
The alarm of chemical or biological weapons and the specter of nuclear bombs
The explanation, however, does not convince a large section of Congress. And so here we are in the last week. Between Saturday 12 and Wednesday 16 March, the American president puts on the field other military aid for 1 billion dollars
. But, once again, only bombs to contain, repel the attacks of the Russians. Now the point, the last step of the escalation, is to understand if the Americans will decide to send to Ukraine also means to launch a counter-offensive and that is: heavy artillery, tanks, armored vehicles. Again military considerations are intertwined with political ones. The intelligence it signals with growing alarm that Putin is thinking of using chemical or biological weapons. At this point, even the use of nuclear bombs is not excluded. A clarification is necessary here: the American generals think that the Russians they would not use planetary destruction warheads. The danger that they could use atomic with a reduced range. A source makes a Washington reference: they could destroy an area from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. That is about 1.2 kilometers. But clear that the impact would still be terrifying.
The crucial moment of the war. How does Biden move?
How will Biden move now? Perhaps we are in the crucial moment of the war. The American president has raised the tone, calling Putin a war criminal. In order not to give the green light to send weapons to try to corner him. It is probably believed that a diplomatic solution can still be reached, starting from a stalemate on the ground. The hope that Putin will realize that he cannot break through and, at the same time, run the risk of an epochal defeat. It is the very narrow path that could lead to a compromise.