Why the United States Seeks to Prolong the Conflict in Ukraine

It is impossible not to see that the prolongation of the military crisis in Ukraine is fully in line with American military-political interests. Narratives created with the help of Western media that Russia is close to defeat, albeit far from reality, nonetheless form the impression the West needs, forcing many countries, even those that are neutral towards Russia, to take a wait-and-see attitude, writes Valdai Club Programme Director .

Despite the growing number of casualties and the destruction of the military structure in Ukraine, the excitement for warfare on the part of NATO member states has not faded in either Kiev or Washington. Many international experts rightly call Washington the key player in the large coalition of military supporters of hostilities in Ukraine. Over the course of the military crisis, which has lasted nearly a year, Kiev has exhausted its own military resources and means of their reproduction, conducting military operations mainly at the expense of external military and financial assistance.

The US has been a key player in guiding, coordinating and strategizing the Western community to support Ukraine. However, it would be wrong to equate the interests of Ukraine and those of the United States. The latter retains the freedom to determine its own goals and continues to verbally support the political demands of Ukraine. However, Washington is carefully analysing the appropriate moment when it could be possible to initiate negotiations. Representatives of the American military leadership are increasingly talking about the need for diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. In particular, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley. The idea continues to circulate in the British media that the US tactic is to escalate the conflict to further de-escalate it: to put pressure on Russia with a wave of massive military shipments and to get Kiev into a better negotiating position.

At the same time, it is impossible not to see that the prolongation of the military crisis in Ukraine is fully in line with American military-political interests. In total, there are eight arguments in favour of the fact that the United States intends to prolong this conflict.

First, this means the relative weakening of Russia, which is forced to allocate significant resources to eliminate the source of military threats in Ukraine, as well as for its political goals in ensuring it an equal status in the structure of European security at the post-war stage. Narratives created with the help of Western media that Russia is close to defeat, albeit far from reality, nonetheless form the impression the West needs, forcing many countries, even those that are neutral towards Russia, to take a wait-and-see attitude. The absence of a clear military victory for Russia leads to the formation of the opinion that Ukraine is winning.

Second, the US is interested in breaking up Russian-European energy cooperation. It has evolved over many decades since the Cold War era. The sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which appears to have been precipitated by a NATO state, was the culmination of a long-term American strategy to dismantle the massive ties between Russia and Europe’s key economies. The Americans mean to replace Russia’s role in European energy consumption, creating more difficult conditions for European industry so that American goods experience less competition from them and strengthen their own American production.

Third, the US seeks to eliminate any impulses of strategic autonomy from the states of the European Union. The Ukrainian crisis has provided a golden opportunity for this, as the United States and its allies in Eastern Europe have managed to create a moment of moral panic in the information space, in which there is no way to soberly comprehend the causes and consequences of this crisis. Strategic decisions regarding the supply of arms are made under enormous pressure from the media and the opinion of the radicalised segment of the public, and are not accompanied by an analysis of the consequences. Leaders and elites who would be able to detachedly and soberly consider the consequences of Russian-European relations sliding into a deep crisis are now in the minority and, in fact, have no voice.

Fourth, the United States does not want to allow a symbolic defeat for Ukraine, in which a lot of financial, political and symbolic capital has been invested over the past year, and Ukraine appears in the eyes of the West as a “champion of the struggle” with the East. Here, an old plot of the struggle of European civilization with the barbarian East is played, dating back to the times of Ancient Greece and its confrontation with the Persian hordes. The defeat of Ukraine would be regarded as a sensitive symbolic defeat for the West and would leave a “wound that never heals” in the minds of many intellectuals who now actively advocate for it.

Fifth, the US has not backed down from the ideological imperative to defend what it interprets as “freedom”. In the situation around Ukraine, there is a Manichaean understanding of the struggle of “freedom against non-freedom.” The United States sees a manifestation of this ideological imperative in the internal situation in Ukraine, which, of course, can be postulated if one turns a blind eye at what is really going on in Kiev. It is by playing along with this narrative that the Zelensky government seeks to present itself in the eyes of the West in such ideological categories, as “the free world against the unfree.”

The sixth goal of the United States is to encourage Europe to activate its own military industry and remilitarise it. The United States recognises that a prolonged military rivalry is impossible if solely attempted by American forces. Moreover, the United States understands the growing threat from China and that in the near future its resources will be diverted to confrontation in the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, in the European theatre, Washington is looking for ways to activate the military-industrial complex of the EU, so that the defence budgets of states would be brought to at least 2% of GDP.

Seventh, the United States is striving for a general consolidation of European allies on the platform of combating such “growing” opponents of the United States as Russia, China and Iran. Here the US is trying to show the ingenuity of coalitions ready to sell expensive, high-tech and ultimately one-time use weaponry.

Finally, eighth, the goal of the United States in Ukraine is to kick-start its own reindustrialisation. An important goal is to scale up the military-industrial complex of this country. After the Cold War, it was switched to solving the problems of producing a limited number of high-tech products, while modern conventional warfare requires the large-scale production of standard artillery, tanks and aircraft systems, which are relatively cheap, but need more mass production.

Now the United States is solving this problem, not only based on the need to contain Russia, but also for a future potential confrontation with China.

These reasons make the United States extremely uninterested in efforts for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The United States believes that time is on its side. In general, strategic planning in Washington cares little about the end of the Ukrainian crisis: whether Ukraine remains within its current borders, loses its territories, or disappears altogether. These eight goals will be achieved no matter what happens to Ukraine, which makes the US strategy quite flexible and shows the containment of Russia as a priority rather than the future of Ukraine’s security and welfare.