President Biden was reportedly unhappy with the defense and state secretaries earlier this year after we publicly declared that the United States wanted Ukraine to defeat Russia in its brutal invasion that began months earlier.
Biden expressed his disapproval in a conference call with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after the duo’s April visit to Kyiv, Several administration officials familiar with the conversation told NBC News.
during the tripwhere they met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Austin told reporters, “Ukraine clearly thinks it can win, and so does everyone here.”
in addition to, Austin said the United States He wants to see “Russia is so weak that it can’t do the things it did in invading Ukraine.”
“I think the secretary said it very well,” Blinken agreed when pressed.
Austin’s assertive comments appear to have been the first hardline stance taken by a senior Biden administration official in support of Russia’s defeat — but for the president, he went too far.
When the two secretaries traveled home, they were consulted on a call with Biden, who asked them to tone down the comments, Several officials told NBC News.
“Biden wasn’t happy when Blinken and Austin talked about winning in Ukraine,” said one official. “He was not happy with the speech.”
Officials revealed the president’s concern that the comments might set unrealistic expectations about the war and might increase the risk of direct US involvement.
During the call, Austin and Blinken reportedly told Biden that the comments had been misunderstood and provided the president with full context.
One official told the outlet that in the end, Biden did not blame the two secretaries and that the US goal was still to see Ukraine defeat Russia.
The White House and the National Security Council did not immediately respond to Washington’s requests for comment.
Russia began its brutal invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and has repeatedly failed to gain control of major cities such as Kyiv and Odessa. With the war raging for nearly four months, some European officials began suggesting that Zelensky negotiate with the Kremlin.
However, the United States did not waver in its position that this decision is entirely up to Ukraine.
We do not pressure them to compromise, as some Europeans do. “We will never ask them to cede territory,” a US official told NBC News. We are planning a long war. We are intent on preparing the American people for that, and we are ready to ask Congress for more money.”
On Wednesday, Biden announced another $1 billion in security assistance and $225 million in humanitarian aid to the Eastern European country after speaking with Zelensky by phone.
“This morning, I spoke with President Zelensky to discuss Russia’s brutal and ongoing war against Ukraine,” Biden said after the call. “I have reaffirmed my commitment that the United States will stand with Ukraine as it defends its democracy and upholds its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of unjustified Russian aggression.”
Earlier this month, the president told reporters he would not direct Ukraine on what it should do to end the horrific war, but warned that negotiations may be necessary.
“From the beginning, I said — not everyone agreed with me — nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. It is their territory. I will not tell them what they should and should not do,” Biden He said. But it seems to me that at some point along the line, there has to be a negotiated settlement here. And what it entails, I do not know. “
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