From East Palestine to east Ukraine, Biden’s half steps are killing people while they boost the chances of the fascist connected Republicans in 2024 and help the fascist connected Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
In East Palestine, Ohio, the site of the disastrous train derailment a month ago, the Biden administration has fumbled the ball. His administration has done nothing to make the railroad company – Norfolk Southern – pay for all costs associated with this disaster. His administration has also done almost nothing to make clear that the drive for profits is what is behind this railroad disaster. The result is that Biden is open to attacks from the likes of extreme right wing and pro-corporate Ohio senator J.D. Vance, who called the cleanup effort “a complete disgrace”. Vance is right, but he too shifts focus away from the original criminal in this case – the railroad industry.
Half steps helping Ukraine
Biden’s half steps in helping Ukraine are even more deadly and are also helping his far right Republican competitors at home. His administration has been divided between one wing (centered around the State Department) that advocates going all out for a Ukraine victory and another wing (centered around the military) that focusing on avoiding a direct conflict with Russia and negotiating with Putin. As Biden has done his entire political life, he is steering a middle ground. He’s always a day late and a dollar short on military aid to Ukraine.
For months at the start of Russia’s invasion, Biden refused to give Ukraine the medium range rockets (the HIMARS rockets) it desperately needed. To this day, the long range rockets are being held back. This enabled the invading army to make significant headway in bringing large swaths of eastern and southern Ukraine under their control.
Once Biden finally gave those rockets to Ukraine, it had an immediate effect, allowing Ukraine to push back. But it is far harder to advance than to hold territory, so the Ukrainian advances were more costly than they would have been had they merely been defending territory. Not only that, but Biden insists that Ukraine not use those rockets or any other US-donated weapons to attack Russia over the border. Why not? There is no war in the world where the enemy is allowed to gather its forces just a few miles away, and do so with impunity just because there is a border in between.
Until recently, Biden refused to give Ukraine the US Abrams tanks. This led to Germany putting a block on its Leopard tanks being sent to Ukraine. It is only now that those tanks are going there, and even then in relatively small numbers. In both cases, Ukrainian soldiers will need training before they can effectively use them. This will take months. Biden has flat out refused to give Ukraine the modern F-16 fighter jets, although he has announced he is starting to train a few Ukrainian pilots on those jets – if he decides to give them to Ukraine in the future.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is planning a spring offensive, but with what forces? They won’t have sufficient tanks and heavy artillery. According to a report in the Washington Post, all of this is leading to serious problems in the Ukrainian military. It is worth quoting the Post article at length:
“The quality of Ukraine’s military force, once considered a substantial advantage over Russia, has been degraded by a year of casualties that have taken many of the most experienced fighters off the battlefield, leading some Ukrainian officials to question Kyiv’s readiness to mount a much-anticipated spring offensive….
“”The most valuable thing in war is combat experience,” said a battalion commander in the 46th Air Assault Brigade, who is being identified only by his call sign, Kupol, in keeping with Ukrainian military protocol. “A soldier who has survived six months of combat and a soldier who came from a firing range are two different soldiers. It’s heaven and earth.”
“And there are only a few soldiers with combat experience,” Kupol added. “Unfortunately, they are all already dead or wounded.”
“Such grim assessments have spread a palpable, if mostly unspoken, pessimism from the front lines to the corridors of power in Kyiv, the capital. An inability by Ukraine to execute a much-hyped counteroffensive would fuel new criticism that the United States and its European allies waited too long, until the force had already deteriorated, to deepen training programs and provide armored fighting vehicles, including Bradleys and Leopard battle tanks.”
As all reports indicate, and as the Post also reports, the situation in Russia “may be worse”, but the problem is that Ukraine cannot take full advantage of the invaders’ deterioration.
Continuing with the Post article: “One senior Ukrainian government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, called the number of tanks promised by the West a “symbolic” amount. Others privately voiced pessimism that promised supplies would even reach the battlefield in time.
“If you have more resources, you more actively attack,” the senior official said. “If you have fewer resources, you defend more. We’re going to defend. That’s why if you ask me personally, I don’t believe in a big counteroffensive for us. I’d like to believe in it, but I’m looking at the resources and asking, ‘With what?’ Maybe we’ll have some localized breakthroughs.”….
“We don’t have the people or weapons,” the senior official added. “And you know the ratio: When you’re on the offensive, you lose twice or three times as many people. We can’t afford to lose that many people.”
“Such analysis is far less optimistic than the public statements by Ukraine’s political and military leadership.
“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has described 2023 as “the year of victory” for Ukraine. His military intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, touted the possibility of Ukrainians vacationing this summer in Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed illegally from Ukraine nine years ago.
“Our president inspires us to win,” Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s ground forces commander, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Generally, we all think the same, and we understand that for us it is of course necessary to win by the end of the year. And it is real. It is real if we are given all the help which we have been promised by our partners.”
“On the front lines, however, the mood is dark.”
The post also reports on Ukrainian soldiers in some cases now abandoning their posts. Also, whereas at the start of the invasion there was a rush to join the army, now there are some cases of draft avoidance.
Biden’s reluctant half steps are also contributing to the decline in support for Ukraine here in the United States. As we reported previously, “a recent poll showed 48% support for the US continuing to send aid vs. 29% opposed. That is down from 60% support last May.” This decline in public support is encouraging the Republicans who have similar politics to Putin to start speaking against US aid. A year ago, almost certain Republican candidate for president, Ron DeSantis criticized Biden for “not doing enough to hit Putin where it counts.” Now, he is saying that helping Ukraine is not a “vital” US interest.
All is far from lost, since (1) the deterioration of the Russian forces seems like it’s even worse; and (2) Ukraine may be preserving some of its forces for a spring offensive. It is also far from certain that some far right demagogue like DeSantis or Trump will be back in the White House in 2024. But the half measures that typify the Democrats is helping the forces of reaction at home and abroad.