Jun 4, 2024 - World

Ukraine has "freaking decimated" Russia's military, Biden says

President Joe Biden boarding Marine One in Washington, D.C. in May 2024.

President Biden boarding Marine One in Washington, D.C. in May 2024. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Russia's military has been "freaking decimated" throughout Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, President Biden said in a wide-ranging interview with Time magazine published on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Biden's comments on Russia's invasion come after he and other leaders recently gave Ukraine permission to strike Russian military targets on Russian territory using advanced Western weapons.

  • Western leaders previously refused such strikes over fears that they could escalate the invasion.

Context: With the invasion in its third year, Russia has so far incurred over 300,000 casualties, including a conservative estimate of at least 50,000 deaths, and hundreds of billions of dollars in direct costs.

  • Both Russian and Ukraine have been reticent to disclose how many casualties they've sustained, but official estimates of Russia's casualties dwarf Ukraine's.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier this year that at least 31,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since the start of the invasion.

Driving the news: Biden's remarks came when he was asked whether Ukraine should accept a peace proposal that Russia has floated.

  • The president disagreed and said media outlets have not adequately reported on the casualties and costs that Russia has sustained.
  • "By the way, I don't know why you skip over all that's happened in the meantime. The Russian military has been decimated. You don't write about that. It's been freaking decimated," Biden said.

Between the lines: In fact checking Biden's interview, Time deemed Biden's assessment of Russia's military losses "fair."

Zoom out: Asked what peace looks like in Ukraine, Biden said it would mean "making sure Russia never, never, never, never occupies Ukraine," though he balked at Ukraine officially joining NATO.

  • "That's what peace looks like. And it doesn't mean NATO, they are part of NATO," Biden said. "It means we have a relationship with them like we do with other countries, where we supply weapons so they can defend themselves in the future."
  • Ukraine has long desired to join NATO and both Biden and the alliance have backed indeterminate plans of Kyiv eventually joining after the war ends and other conditions are met.

The big picture: Biden predicted that if Russia is able to conquer Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin would seek to subjugate other countries as well, specifically noting Poland and Balkans countries.

  • Biden brought a copy of a speech Putin delivered in February 2022 to the interview, in which the Russian president explained that invading Ukraine partly stemmed from his desire to revive the Soviet-era Warsaw Pact.
  • "He says this is part of reestablishing the Soviet Union," Biden said of Putin's speech. "That's what this is all about. It wasn't just about taking part of—He wanted, he wanted to go back to the, to the days when there was NATO and there was that other outfit that Poland, everybody belonged to."

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