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2 Aug, 2023 15:53

US frustrated with Zelensky – CNBC

The Ukrainian leader’s constant demands and unwillingness to heed Washington's advice has reportedly angered officials on several occasions
US frustrated with Zelensky – CNBC

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s conduct is a source of annoyance in Washington, CNBC reported on Wednesday. Zelensky angers his American backers by ignoring their orders and issuing ever-greater demands, anonymous officials told the network.

Zelensky lashed out at NATO leadership before the bloc's summit in Lithuania last month, claiming it was “unprecedented and absurd” that the US-led bloc hadn’t offered Ukraine a timeline for membership. His outburst “did not really resonate well in Washington,” an anonymous source “with knowledge of the matter” told the American broadcaster. “The US administration was very annoyed.”

The incident drew sharp criticism from the normally-supportive UK, and left Washington so “furious” that it considered withdrawing its support for Ukraine’s eventual membership, the Washington Post reported.

CNBC’s source said that the pre-summit incident was one of several clashes between Washington and Kiev that have taken place since the conflict with Russia began last year. 

“So the US is strongly advising Ukraine not to do certain things, but Kiev does them anyway, brushing aside or not addressing US concerns,” the source said. “And [then] they come at the United States, or Washington or the Biden administration, complaining about not being involved in NATO talks.”

The battle for the Donbass city of Artyomovsk (known as Bakhmut in Ukraine) was a source of major tension between Zelensky and the US, pro-Ukraine military analyst Konrad Muzyka told CNBC.

“The Americans were encouraging, to put it mildly, the Ukrainians not to fight certain battles in the way that Russia wanted them to fight, as it could have long-term consequences in terms of manpower losses and artillery ammunition expenditure,” Muzyka explained. However, Zelensky insisted on trying to defend the city in the face of mounting casualties, before Wagner Group fighters declared it captured in May.

“The result is that they’ve lost a lot of men,” Muzyka said. “They expended a lot of artillery munitions, which would otherwise be used for this counteroffensive, and lastly, they burned out a lot of barrels for their guns, meaning they are unable to fully support their forces in the Bakhmut area.”

By the time Kiev did launch its counteroffensive against Russian forces in June, the US knew the Ukrainian military was unprepared. Zelensky first insisted that his troops would penetrate Russian lines and cut Russian forces’ access to Crimea. When the battle began to slow as Washington knew it would, he then lashed out at his Western patrons for apparently not providing enough weapons and ammunition to ensure success. 

“As long as the war continues, nothing can be enough,” Zelensky told Brazil’s Globo News broadcaster last week.