“I want Russia to be defeated in Ukraine,” French President Emmanuel Macron publicly told the media. But it’s not what he privately told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He also said that now is not the right time for dialogue with Moscow and that France is ready to sustain “a longer conflict.” That’s not what he told Zelensky either.
“America…will stand with you as long as it takes,” President Biden publicly promised Ukraine in his State of the Union Address. But it’s not what his administration privately told Zelensky.
“The war I know about is not the war you are reading about,” investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said recently.
Managing public perception about the war to control the narrative and maintain support seems to have required a divorce between what NATO officials are telling Ukraine privately and what they are telling the public they are telling Ukraine.
Biden’s public mantra has been “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” and “will stand with you as long as it takes.” Privately, neither seems to be true.
Contrary to the public message of as long as it takes, as long as it takes has a private expiration date. “We will continue to try to impress upon them that we can’t do anything and everything forever,” a senior administration official said. CIA Director William Burns secretly communicated to Zelensky that “at some point assistance would be harder to come by.”
Contrary to the public message that the U.S. supports Ukraine’s aspirations to reclaim all of its territory, the private message to Ukraine is that that is not going to happen. After the war, Ukraine will be a divided nation.
On February 17, U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland publicly said that Crimea should be demilitarized and that Washington supports Ukrainian attacks on military targets in Crimea. Crimea, though, is heavily militarized by Russia. Demilitarizing it would mean forcing Russia out and reclaiming it for Ukraine.
But that is not what the U.S. is saying privately. When Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked in a private virtual meeting if the U.S. is willing to support Ukraine’s goal of retaking all of the territory held by Russia, Blinken answered that, “A Ukrainian attempt to retake Crimea would be a red line for Vladimir Putin that could lead to a wider Russian response.” He added that the U.S. “isn’t actively encouraging Ukraine to retake Crimea” and that such an attempt would not be “a wise move.”
Despite Nuland’s public assurance, privately the U.S. intelligence’s “sobering assessment” that retaking Crimea “is beyond the capability of Ukraine’s army” has been “reiterated to multiple committees on Capitol Hill over the last several weeks.”
At the recent Munich Security Conference, a senior French official said that “no one believes they will be able to retrieve Crimea.” Petr Pavel, president-elect of the Czech Republic and a former NATO commander told the allies in attendance that “We may end up in a situation where liberating some parts of Ukrainian territory may deliver more loss of lives than will be bearable by society…There might be a point when Ukrainians can start thinking about another outcome.”
And that other outcome is the biggest betrayal of “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” that is privately being communicated to Ukraine.
At a February meeting at the Élysée Palace in Paris, while the three leaders privately dined together, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that “he needed to start considering peace talks with Moscow.” They praised Zelensky for being a “great war leader” but said he would eventually have to transform into “political statesmanship and make difficult decisions.”…