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U.S., U.K. vow to aid Ukraine regardless of counteroffensive outcome

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, left, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hold a joint news conference in Washington on Tuesday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Britain and the United States will continue supporting Ukraine regardless of whether its military can recover territory from Russia in a planned counteroffensive, two senior officials said on Tuesday.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking in a joint news conference in Washington, said they were committed to ongoing aid for Ukraine despite mounting questions about what the spring operation can achieve in the face of intense Russian resistance.

“We need to continue to support them irrespective of whether this forthcoming offensive generates huge gains on the battlefield because until this conflict is resolved and resolved properly, it is not over,” Cleverly said.

Top Ukrainian officials have said they worry the offensive, which aims to recapture areas seized by Russia following President Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion, could fall short of Western expectations, potentially jeopardizing needed assistance in the future. The operation is expected to begin in coming weeks.

While Ukrainian forces have performed far better on the battlefield than many Western partners had expected, Cleverly said, anything is possible in the period ahead as Moscow pours massive quantities of men and firepower into Ukraine.

“This is not a film,” he said. “There are no certainties when it comes to conflict.”

Blinken said the United States likewise would provide indefinite backing to Ukraine, saying that assistance to Kyiv in the war shouldn’t be seen as competing with priorities that have taken a deadly toll at home such as gun violence and the opioid epidemic.

“There is not a zero sum choice between some of the work we’re doing around the world and the work that we’re doing at home,” he said.

Blinken said Americans’ backing for the war remained strong. He pointed to recent comments in support of Kyiv from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), which were seen as a counterweight to skepticism voiced by some other House Republicans about America’s need to defend Ukraine.

While polls show that public support for U.S. aid to Ukraine has waned, especially among Republicans, congressional leaders of both parties continue to back the war. Many have called for more, not less, weaponry donations.

Blinken said the United States would continue to provide Ukraine the weaponry that Washington believes Kyiv needs in its fight. “The focus is on the Ukrainian efforts that we anticipate to try to retake more of the territory that’s been seized from Ukraine by Russia over the last 14-plus months,” he said.

The United States is by far the largest backer of Ukraine. On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced another $1.2 billion in military aid for Ukraine, including air defense systems and artillery rounds.

Leaked U.S. intelligence assessments from earlier this year predicted that Ukraine will have difficulty in recapturing territory due to shortfalls in soldiers, ammunition and equipment.

Those reports intensified questions about whether Kyiv can achieve its stated goal of recovering Russian-held territory, including Crimea, which Putin illegally annexed in 2014, or whether it will have to make concessions to end the violence.

Blinken, perhaps looking to mute any fallout from the leaked documents, said last week that Ukraine’s army is better positioned to make headway in its expected counteroffensive than the leaked U.S. intelligence indicated. “Where Ukraine might have been a month ago, two months ago, three months ago, is not where it is now,” he said.

One year of Russia’s war in Ukraine

Portraits of Ukraine: Every Ukrainian’s life has changed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion one year ago — in ways both big and small. They have learned to survive and support each other under extreme circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed apartment complexes and ruined marketplaces. Scroll through portraits of Ukrainians reflecting on a year of loss, resilience and fear.

Battle of attrition: Over the past year, the war has morphed from a multi-front invasion that included Kyiv in the north to a conflict of attrition largely concentrated along an expanse of territory in the east and south. Follow the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and take a look at where the fighting has been concentrated.

A year of living apart: Russia’s invasion, coupled with Ukraine’s martial law preventing fighting-age men from leaving the country, has forced agonizing decisions for millions of Ukrainian families about how to balance safety, duty and love, with once-intertwined lives having become unrecognizable. Here’s what a train station full of goodbyes looked like last year.

Deepening global divides: President Biden has trumpeted the reinvigorated Western alliance forged during the war as a “global coalition,” but a closer look suggests the world is far from united on issues raised by the Ukraine war. Evidence abounds that the effort to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions haven’t stopped Russia, thanks to its oil and gas exports.