A Revision Of ‘As Long As It Takes’ Concept In Context Of Ukraine War And The World Order – OpEd


Recently, Kurt Volker, a former U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations rised public concern about the well-known statement of President Biden that US will support Ukraine “as long as it takes”. It seems that having went to the third year, the war in Ukraine makes this statement a bit questionable. 

“That’s the question. That’s exactly the question. What do you mean when you say “as long as it takes?” As long as what takes? What are you trying to accomplish? And you never get an answer to that. We need to change that. We need to say: “We are here for Ukraine’s victory and the defeat of Russian forces in Ukraine.” We’re not talking about defeating Russia. No one’s invading Russia. No one’s trying to take Russian territory. But Russia has to be defeated in Ukraine”, said Kurt Volker. 

President Biden’s statement “as long as it takes” toward the 2022 Russia invasion of Ukraine is not accidental as it is echoed from Senator Biden’s statement with reference to the 1979 Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan. 

After the Soviet Union began its 1979 invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, Joe Biden supported some of President Jimmy Carter’s responses, including an embargo on grain shipments to the Soviet Union. “This should be an indefinite program, and we go back to the Cold War as long as the Soviets remain in Afghanistan,” Biden said in January 1980.

In response to the Soviet intervention, President Jimmy Carter withdrew the SALT II agreement from consideration by Congress. The treaty, which had been signed in June 1979, was designed to establish parity in nuclear delivery vehicles between the United States and the Soviet Union. 

In contrast to President Carter’s decision to withdraw the nuclear deal with the USSR in 1979, President Biden did not withdraw the US from the New START Treaty, signed by President Obama in 2011 and prolonged by President Biden in February 2021 just a few weeks after his inauguration. 

Instead of withdrawing from the nuclear deal from Russia, President Biden does his utmost to start negotiations with Russia related to the next Treaty as the recent New START expires in February 2026. The US administration security advisor Jake Sullivan was certain about it addressing his statements to the public in 2023.

Probably, this nuclear issue makes Biden’s room for maneuver narrow and Biden missed to issue more certain statements about Ukraine and Russia, using much less ambiguity, like those declared by Volcker where words “victory” and “defeat” are prevailing and word “victory” is precisely attributed to the restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine dated by 1991.

This nuclear issue prevents US administration to recognize Russia a country sponsoring terrorism. As Biden and Blinken responded accordingly in September and July 2022 they would not support this to avoid closing the door to communication room with Russia. It seems US administration thinks that though exploiting this statement “as long as it takes” with uncertain war outcome and its terms US geopolitical tactics will be more flexible.

At the same time, the nature of this statement dissonates to the word order itself. It seems to be effective and responsible in building the new world order one should avoid such indefinite statements like “as long as it takes”, in particular when the world and regional security is uncertain, and the nation in the center of Europe is bleeding and calling for the effective and responsible decisions of the world leaders.

In 2015, Henry Kissinger said: “The United States has not faced a more diverse and complex array of crises since the end of the Second World War. Therefore, recently there should be a space just for certain decisions and no space for geopolitical procrastination in decision making. In this context Biden’s “as long as it takes” is far from contributing to the world order. Look at Afghanistan and assess the tragedy of the long-war and impact of the long-war on the regional order there. Both are disastrous. So, in the case of war in Ukraine one needs something more effective and responsible, where the historical mistakes are properly analyzed by the world leaders and all decisions are certain, i.e. effective and responsible. 

More recently, Americans addressed a certain advise to Biden what they think about statement “as long as it takes”. Roughly 70% of Americans want US administration to be more certain and push the war toward peace, according to a new survey from the Harris Poll and the Quincy Institute, which publishes Responsible Statecraft. So, a majority of Americans want US administration get from war talks to peace talks and transform Biden’s “as long as it takes” from the war to the post-war context. 

Does this correspond to the US administration attitude or not? At least, more precisely and practically, US administration should finally provide Security Guarantees to Ukraine described by Biden on July 7, 2023 and already provided to Ukraine in 2024 by nine partners of the US, including the UK, Germany, France, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada and others, and take a leadership toward the post-war architecture of the regional security where the future of Ukraine would be secured too. On April 20, 2023 President of Ukraine Zelensky made a public statement that once the US to Ukraine is approved by the US Congress, Ukraine expects to see the green light to the US Guarantees of Securities. The aid to Ukraine has just been approved by the US Congress, therefore the rest is on the US president Biden. 

Ukraine should not turn to “European Afghanistan”. It is very dangerous for long-term nuclear power opponents – US driven NATO and Russia, to be separated by a hot battlefield “as long as it takes”.

Strobe Talbot, advisor to President Clinton, recalled Condoleezza Rice, in a number of conversation he had with her at Stanford, remarking casuistically that “the namelessness of the nineties bespoke the amelessness of American policy in that period – i.e. the Clinton administration’s policy”. Now we are all witnessing that the aimlessness of American policy in the nineties, with a plethora of deferred security problems, including those around Ukraine, is emphasizing the role of dynamic, powerful and forward-looking US diplomacy in systematically addressing complex geopolitical challenges, such as the war in Ukraine, Western relations with Russia, cooperation and competition with China, the conflict in the Middle East and controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world. To achieve all above, a responsible foreign policy should avoid such thesis as “as long as it takes”. The world is waiting for strategies incorporating the certain terms but not the infinity symbol.

Alexander Kostyuk

Alexander Kostyuk is currently a Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Corporate Ownership and Control journal and Director at Virtus Interpress, Virtus Global Center for Corporate Governance (Ukraine)

One thought on “A Revision Of ‘As Long As It Takes’ Concept In Context Of Ukraine War And The World Order – OpEd

  • May 26, 2024 at 7:05 am

    Biden’s ‘Concept for the Ukraine War; “As long as it takes.” Does this correspond to the US administration attitude or not? And YES it does. Roughly 70% of Americans and majority global citizens want US to push the war toward peace. So, majority wants US off from war talks and supply of weapons to peace. NATO or the West is NOT keen to end this proxy war any time soon and Weapon supplies to Ukraine as a threat to peace and security by the US-NATO combine will continue. Heading towards a dangerous situation of turning Ukraine to “European Afghanistan” with this attitude of “As long as it takes.”


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