Secretary of State Antony Blinken told European allies that the United States believes the Russian war in Ukraine could last through the end of 2022, two European officials told CNN, as US and European officials have increasingly assessed that there is no short-term end in sight to the conflict.
Many of the officials who spoke with CNN stressed that it is hard to predict exactly how long the war could go on, but several officials said that there are no indications that Russian President Vladimir Putin's ultimate goals have changed, and it is unlikely he will pursue diplomatic negotiations unless faced with military defeat.
The thinking that this could be a long-term conflict represents a marked shift from the early days of the war, when Russia was expected to quickly take the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, and underscores Moscow's failures on the battlefield.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday that the fighting will go on "for months or even longer," while two other European officials said they believe fighting in eastern Ukraine could last for four to six months and then result in a stalemate.
Blinken, a senior State Department official said, "has discussed with his counterparts our concern that the conflict could be protracted, but all of his engagements have revolved around how best to bring it to a halt as quickly as possible."
Doubling down on weapons support: UK Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said this week that the launch of the new Russian fighting in the Donbas could be weeks away, telling reporters that "there is a window of opportunity and I think this is why the nature of our support is so important, that we are providing weapons, the equipment that Ukrainians need to do the job they need to do."
US officials cast the additional military support to Ukraine this week as a continuation, but do say that part of what has prompted the doubling down -- and additional support -- is the Ukrainians' battlefield efforts.
A second senior State Department official said that "we have done a lot and so we do have faith and we always had faith in our Ukrainian partners. But as the fight doubles down, so does our commitment to give them weapons and equipment that they can use," adding that the Ukrainians have used certain weapons systems "to great effect."
Cost of inaction: Officials also acknowledge that the public may grow weary of continued support for Ukraine, and will have to be reminded that inaction would be even more costly.
"You can't defend democracy for free. It just doesn't work like that," said Cleverly. "The very visible cost is in human lives. We have discussed the number of people that have been killed and injured during this conflict, but it has a financial cost and you know -- we will be paying that through increased gas prices, we'll be paying that through general inflation as kind of the ripple effects of this kind of washes across the world, and people won't like that. And it's quite understandable that people won't like that, but they should also recognize that not acting would come at a much, much, much, much greater cost."
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