Support for Ukraine is Slipping; Epic Trump-DeSantis Battle Has Begun

ARE UKRAINE’S ALLIES WAVERING? As the temperature plunges in Kyiv, the country’s leaders are feeling a chill from allies who are growing increasingly impatient with Volodymyr Zelensky’s adamant refusal to negotiate. Vladimir Putin surely is paying attention to this.

THE WASHINGTON POST reported this weekend that U.S. officials have told Zelensky and his top aides that Ukraine needs to send signals that it is willing to negotiate a deal to end the war. That would make Ukraine’s allies more likely to continue generous military and economic aid, officials in Washington believe.

THROUGHOUT THE WEST, THERE’S GROWING OPPOSITION to massive aid to Ukraine, especially in the U.S., where Republicans are making this closing argument in the election campaign: why should the U.S. spend billions more? And in much of Western Europe, there’s growing opposition to making sacrifices this winter if Ukraine won’t negotiate.

UKRAINIAN TROOPS ARE MAKING MODEST PROGRESS as a major battle looms in Kherson, but with winter approaching, a military breakthrough appears less likely. Can the Ukrainians prevail through the winter? Probably. The legacy of Russian atrocities has stiffened their backbones.

OUR TAKE IS THAT BY LATE WINTER, Putin and Zelensky will have to concede that a total victory by either side is unlikely. A truce followed by lengthy negotiations is likely by spring, with Kyiv getting most of the Donbas and eastern Ukraine. The key issue, of course, is who gets Crimea; Zelensky will have to compromise on this.

DONALD TRUMP REPORTEDLY WAS URGED by his advisers not to announce his candidacy this past weekend, which would have stepped on the GOP’s election message. Trump is itching to run and will announce before Thanksgiving. So we’re looking at a two-year campaign, even though many Republicans in this town feel Trump will be an unwelcome distraction as the party focuses on new initiatives.

TRUMP REPORTEDLY HAS BEEN WORKING on nicknames. mocking his GOP challengers; he began this past weekend by calling out “Ron DeSanctimonius.”

FLORIDA GOVERNOR DeSantis has a huge war chest and solid backing from the party’s base. He has told people we’ve talked with that he won’t wait until 2028 to run; DeSantis is running in 2024. Thus the next campaign will begin hours after this campaign ends.

IT’S FAR TOO EARLY TO MAKE A PREDICTION in this epic battle, especially with two huge wild cards: Trump’s age (76 now) and the indictments he faces soon, probably starting with his handling of top-secret documents. He will blame a witch hunt against him, a tactic that he employs adroitly.

NOT JUST REPUBLICANS FACE DIVISIONS: The likelihood of grim election returns tomorrow night will intensify calls from Democrats that Joe Biden has to go. His detractors in the party point to Biden’s feeble performance in the past few weeks, and his endless gaffes (ripping into the coal industry this weekend with the Senate race tied in coal-rich Pennsylvania).

ARE WE HEADED FOR A TRUMP-BIDEN rematch two years from now? Unlikely, in our opinion. The country wants fresh faces but Trump and Biden will offer more of the same — and the weary electorate doesn’t want more of the same, as will be apparent tomorrow night.

Related: The Most Controversial Issue in Washington

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