(CNSNews.com) – A State Department diplomat told Congress on Thursday that Putin’s war has to end here,” in Ukraine, “to ensure that Putin can’t reconstitute and come back…not just for Ukraine, but for other territory,” she said.
Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland also told Congress it’s a “fair statement” to say that the U.S. goal is to help Ukraine, as long as it takes, to “regain lost land that Russia has taken in previous offensive moves.”
However, Nuland sounded cautious when Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) asked her, “Do we believe that Ukraine can win the war?”
“Would it be fair to say, in this unclassified discussion, that the administration’s policy is, or the position is, that Ukraine can win this war against Russian aggression?” Sen. Rounds (R-S.D.) asked Nuland during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
“Senator, I think a year ago, none of us would have believed that we would be sitting here, and Ukraine would still be standing as she is,” Nuland said:
“That said, a third of her territory, as you know, is now held by Russia illegally. So if we didn’t think this investment could push back Putin and turn back this tactic that is lawless and creates a world that none of us wants our children live in — that you can just take a piece of your neighbor’s property by force, and that’s okay — we would not be asking you, we would not be asking the American people for this support.
“And so, we have seen the gains that the Ukrainians were able to make through September…They want to push again very hard as the spring comes. And that is why you see these new forms of equipment that will help them, we believe, to push Russia back further this spring.”
Rounds asked Nuland: “So in terms of the administration’s position, our goal is one of, on the ground, seeing Ukraine regain lost land that Russia has taken in previous offensive moves. Is that a fair statement?” he asked.
“That’s a fair statement,” Nuland replied.
“So longer term, would the position be that we continue to fund Ukraine as long as Russia has those ill-gotten gains in their possession?” Rounds asked.
“Senator, I think we’re going to have to ensure that Ukraine has the defenses, not only to continue to try to push Russia back, but to ensure that Putin can’t reconstitute and come back.
“So, you know, one scenario, what one could see and one that some think that the Russians favor is a pause in this war now on these lines. Because that would give Putin time to rest and refit, rebuild his own military.
“And as we saw between 2014 and 2022, he will just be back, and he will push further. And he will come, not just for Ukraine, but for other territory, other countries around him. So that’s why it has to end here.”
“It may be semantics,” Rounds said, “but what we’re really talking about is whether Ukraine can win this episode, this war. And part of what you’re telling me is, within the administration, it is a matter of taking back land from Russia and putting them in a position where they will not be able to come back and attack again.
“That suggests to me that we really do believe that Ukraine can win this war. Is that a fair statement? I’m trying to get you to either say yes, we believe Ukraine can win the war; or we are not really making that statement. Do we believe that Ukraine can win the war?”
“We believe that Ukraine can regain the sovereignty to survive and thrive and it can push Russia back further, yes,” Nuland said.
“Does that mean they win the war?” Rounds asked again.
“Ukraine will define what winning is, right? But yes, I believe so,” Nuland said.
“So the administration has a belief that if we continue to fund their needs — and those needs have yet to be defined — it is based upon what the current requests are. Do we know what the next requests are that would give them the ability to retake this land?” Rounds asked.
“So, Senator, you and the American people have been very generous for FY ’23. We are assuming that what you’ve given us for 2023 is what we will have through September. As we saw, a year’s an eternity in Ukraine,” Nuland said.
Rounds noted that the Biden administration recently relented on sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine “after a lot of foot-dragging.”
“Are there other items out there that in the near future that we intend to expand on, that we have simply not talked about yet? he asked. (Press reports say Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky is now requesting F-16 fighter jets and “fourth generation aircraft.)
“In this setting, I would simply say that we are working in particular now on speeding more air defenses, speeding more artillery, speeding more ammunition to the Ukrainians,” Nuland said.
“You’ve given us the ability in the financing that we already have to do more between now and September. And we are working with Ukrainians as they proceed with their battle plans to ensure that what we’re giving meets the needs on the ground.”
Rounds said he thinks it is important for the American people to understand the aid to Ukraine has not been given “one step at a time without knowing the directions we are trying to go. And that there really is a plan in place — if not, there should be a plan in place — with strategies in place to be ahead of the game, rather than simply waiting for the next request in line,” he said.
Nuland noted that the U.S. “worked intensively” with Ukrainians on the kinds of equipment, support and training they needed for their successful Kherson offensive in August-October. (Russian troops withdrew from the regional capital of Kherson in November, as Ukraine forces successfully liberated the city.)
“They did that,” Nuland said, “and now they have plans for a spring offensive, and that’s what we are focused on, both in terms or training and equipment.”
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