Biden to Austin, Blinken: Tone Down Remarks Supporting Ukraine

Joe Biden has told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to tone down their rhetoric in supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia, NBC News reported Thursday.

The pushback came after the Austin said the administration wanted Ukraine to win the war against the Kremlin and that the U.S. wanted a weakened Russia that could not launch another attack. Blinken then publicly aligned himself with Austin’s comments.

We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin said after the Cabinet members visited Kyiv.

During a later conference call, Biden told the two officials he thought their remarks went too far and to tone them down.

One unidentified official told NBC that Biden was concerned that Austin’s words could set unrealistic goals and up the chance Washington could get pulled into a direct conflict with Moscow.

“Biden was not happy when Blinken and Austin talked about winning in Ukraine,” one of the sources said. “He was not happy with the rhetoric.”

After the commencement of a military operation in Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russia in mid-April consolidated its forces in the country’s eastern Donbas region.

Ukraine’s president started begging the West even more desperately for more weapons to beat back the world’s second strongest military power, claiming he did not want to cede any Ukrainian territory to Russia.

U.S. officials are reportedly worried that Ukraine’s views are untenable, saying behind the scenes the comedian should shift his public position.

Experts, U.S. and European officials have voiced a belief that Russian President Vladimir Putin will attempt to claim the Donbas and declare it as Russian territory, with Zelensky then having to negotiate for peace to end the conflict.

The Biden administration, meanwhile, has maintained that it will not pressure Kyiv to end the war on any specific terms and is preparing for a long war.

“From the beginning, I’ve said and I’ve been — not everyone has agreed with me — nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. It’s their territory. I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do,” Biden said on June 3. “But it appears to me that, at some point along the line, there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement here. And what that entails, I don’t know.”

The Biden administration has also continued to send lethal aid to Ukraine, the most recent announced on Wednesday with a $1 billion military aid package.