This week came several significant and troubling developments regarding the war in Ukraine.
The latest news is that next week, Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Russia to meet with Vladimir Putin. A Putin adviser told the Russian state media that they plan to discuss the war in Ukraine and will sign documents “attesting to their closer ties.”
China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion — or even to call it such, instead echoing the Kremlin’s stance of blaming it on the advance of NATO. U.S. officials are monitoring the meeting as China considers sending weapons to Russia and are working on getting Xi on the phone with Zelensky.
The Biden administration is also warning that Xi could call for an unconditional cease-fire, which the U.S. says would legitimize Moscow’s hold on the estimated 17% of Ukrainian territory it has taken by force. Meanwhile, the international criminal court issued arrest warrants for both Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights over an alleged scheme to forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia. Russia, which does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction, called the warrants “outrageous and unacceptable.”
This followed on the heels of Tuesday’s Russia-U.S. encounter in international airspace over the Black Sea, in which two Russian fighter jets harassed an American MQ-9 drone. One of the Russian jets dumped fuel on the drone, disabling its cameras, and then hit the drone’s propeller, prompting the drone’s remote operators to bring it down in international waters.
Before that video was released by the U.S., Russia had claimed its jet “did not use airborne weapons or come into contact with the drone.” Then Thursday, Poland announced that it would be supplying four Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine; the first NATO member to do so.
Friday, Slovakia followed suit, saying it was sending thirteen more, thus raising pressure on other member states to do the same.
All this while fierce fighting continues in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, with Russian forces reportedly exhausted and low on munitions. A Ukrainian lieutenant colonel known as Kupol told the Washington Post of his struggles leading a unit composed entirely of inexperienced troops. In Kupol’s battalion of about 500 soldiers, he said, roughly 100 were killed in action and 400 wounded.
The sum total of these developments seems to be a ratcheting up of the conflict that’s now in its thirteenth month. And it comes amidst evidence of a growing divide in the United States as to the level of continued support for Ukraine. According to Axios and Ipsos, just 42% of Republicans say they support sending U.S. weapons and money to Ukraine — compared with 79% of Democrats and 60% of Independents.
And this week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a presumed GOP Presidential candidate, answered a Tucker Carlson questionnaire by referring to the war in Ukraine as a “territorial dispute.”
“While the U.S. has many vital national interests – securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese communist party – becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.”
This earned him a rebuke from even the right-leaning editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. The Journal called DeSantis’ words “his first big mistake” and wrote:
“This is flirting with GOP isolationism that has emerged from time to time in history and has usually been an electoral cul-de-sac. The party’s isolationism in the 1930s consigned it to decades in the wilderness, and that naivete was on national display when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.”
Former President Trump also weighed in with his take:
“Every day this proxy battle in Ukraine continues, we risk global war. We must be absolutely clear that our objective is to immediately have a total cessation of hostilities. All shooting has to stop. This is the central issue. We need peace without delay.”
Former National Security Adviser and Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton opined in the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. and the west are forcing Ukraine to fight with one hand tied behind its back, writing,
“Biden wants Russia to “lose,” but seems afraid of Ukraine actually “winning”….
“today, white house policy is essentially: we support Ukraine’s defending itself, but not enough to be too effective.”