The Biden administration is already looking ahead to a Ukrainian government without a place to call its own, according to a new report.
The report has a plan that assumes Russia will succeed and conquer Kyiv, as well as other major cities, and control large chunks of the nation. That would lead to the establishment of a Ukrainian government in exile in Poland, according to The Washington Post. The Post report was based on leaks from officials it did not name.
“We’re doing contingency planning now for every possibility,” the Post’s source said.
“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would be the pivotal force, officials said, maintaining morale and rallying Ukrainians living under Russian occupation to resist their powerful and well-equipped foe,” the Post reported.
American officials have tried to get Zelenskyy to abandon Kyiv and operate from Lviv, which is closer to Poland. He has refused.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said there is no plan to retreat.
“One can only say that Ukraine is preparing for the defense of Kyiv as purposefully as Russia is preparing for its attack on Kyiv,” Podolyak said.
“This war has become a people’s war for Ukrainians,” he said. “We must win the war. There are no other options.”
But planners are doubtful. The Post quoted what it said was a “senior European diplomat” as saying last week’s U.N. vote supporting Ukraine laid the foundation for recognizing the current government as the rightful government of Ukraine, regardless of where it might be housed.
“We haven’t made a plan yet, per se, but it would be something we would be ready to move on right away,” the diplomat said. “In our experience, it helps to know, generally, you have international support.”
Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts said that supporting Ukraine if Russia controls its territory will mean different tactics for the U.S.
“Think about the kinds of things that would be used by saboteurs as opposed to an army repelling a frontal invasion,” Moulton said.
Although U.S. and Western officials are very leery of drawing the ire of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, they plan to back Ukrainian insurgents because they know the war will go on with or without them.
“Russians cannot occupy all the country and subdue it,” Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said.
“There will be a partisan war, there will be resistance. So even if Kyiv falls, that does not mean the end of the war,” Pabriks said
“I doubt very much that the Ukrainians will not continue an underground resistance campaign even after the Russians establish control,” a senior Western intelligence official said.
Moscow has “grossly underestimated Ukraine’s ability to resist,” the official said. “I’m reminded, especially by my eastern colleagues, about Ukrainians themselves. Ukrainians were some of the fiercest fighters … for the Soviets during World War II.” He went so far as to predict that any resistance in Ukraine could continue for months and possibly years.
Officials said that whatever plan Putin has on paper for how he would like to redraw the boundaries of Ukraine into a small piece of its current land area with the rest in Russian hands might be easier to propose than achieve.
“This is a country of 40 million,” the Post quoted what it said was a European diplomat as saying. Putin “can try to have a strategy. But I think in our strategic calculations we are always forgetting one small obstacle, and that’s the will of the people. Putin has forgotten how to be elected in a democratic way.”