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Hal Brands

Biden’s Escalation in Ukraine Is About Diplomacy, Not Victory

Massive shipments of sophisticated Western arms are intended to avoid a long stalemate and bring Putin to the table.



Photographer: Sameer AlL-Doumy/AFP/Getty Images

The war in Ukraine is reaching a new phase, and US strategy is undergoing an important shift. Fears of Russian nuclear escalation are receding as fears of a long war featuring unrelenting attrition are increasing. So President Joe Biden’s administration is ramping up support for Ukraine now in hopes of producing an eventual diplomatic resolution — an “escalate to de-escalate” strategy that may prove very difficult to execute.

Nearly a year into the war, uncertainty about its course is greater than ever. For the first six months, Russia had the initiative: The major questions were when, where and with what success it would attack. Over the following five months, Ukraine had the initiative, and analysts tried to divine the location and prospects of its counteroffensives.