Biden urged 2 top officials to tone down Ukrainian rhetoric: report

WASHINGTON

President Joe Biden ordered the heads of the State and Defense Departments to tone down their rhetoric on Ukraine after saying the United States wanted Kyiv to win the war against Russia, according to a report on Thursday.

The directive came after Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin made a surprise visit to Kyiv in April. During that trip, Austin said the United States believed Ukraine “can win” the war Russia started two months before “if they have the right equipment.”

Blinken aligned himself with these statements.

Several unnamed officials told NBC News that Biden called his senior officials shortly after they took off on separate planes from Poland. During the conference call, Biden told Austin and Blinken they had gone too far and ordered them to tone it down.

“Biden wasn’t happy when Blinken and Austin talked about winning in Ukraine,” an official said. “He wasn’t happy with the rhetoric.”

Another official said Blinken and Austin were trying to make it clear that the defense chief’s comments had been misinterpreted, according to NBC News.

Biden’s displeasure reflected a concern within the administration that despite Ukraine’s success in defending against a Russian push for Kyiv, the conflict would inevitably turn into a bitter war of attrition with Kremlin forces advancing slowly but regularly.

This largely became the case during Russia’s offensive on the eastern Ukrainian region known as Donbass and NBC News said US officials are now quietly but increasingly more concerned that the trajectory of the war “is untenable”.

Some are debating whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy should change his stance that no territory will ever be ceded to Russia to end the conflict, seven current and former US and European officials told NBC.​​​​​​​

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