Ukraine is at odds with Russia on several fronts. And, just as advancement on the battlefield is difficult to achieve, so are diplomatic advances these days.
Western backing for Kyiv has remained essentially consistent since Russia’s incursion last year. However, fissures are appearing in the pro-Ukraine alliance.
By far Ukraine’s most generous sponsor is the United States, which has provided more than $110 billion (£90 billion) in military and economic aid. Nonetheless, in a fierce internal dispute over how to fund the federal government, Congress abandoned plans to grant Ukraine another $6 billion over the weekend.
Some Republicans believe that help for Ukraine should be reduced, while others believe that it should be supplied only if President Biden increases spending on US border security.
Mr. Biden has promised Ukraine another $24 billion in the near future, but this may now be exposed to internal US politics.
Ukraine may be ready to lose another ally on the other side of the Atlantic.
In Slovakia, Robert Fico’s Smer party won the most seats, but he still needs to build a coalition. The populist former prime minister is largely seen as pro-Moscow and anti-Kyiv, having campaigned on a vow to withdraw military aid to Ukraine.
“People in Slovakia have bigger problems than Ukraine,” he stated. That implies that, in addition to Hungary’s Viktor Orban, there are now two European Union nations poised to block future collective EU action to protect Ukraine.
Neighboring Poland is also hosting elections shortly, and misgivings about backing Ukraine have been expressed there as well. The ruling Law and Justice Party has vowed to prohibit the import of cheap Ukrainian grain, which is being opposed by Polish farmers.
Ukraine, according to President Andrzej Duda, is a drowning man pulling down his rescuers. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki declared that Poland will “no longer transfer any weapons to Ukraine,” although this was later changed.
As a result, electoral politics are beginning to erode Ukraine’s support. Other challenges, such as the global cost of living crisis and the climate catastrophe, are also pressing.
At the last United Nations General Assembly, it was clear that Ukraine was no longer automatically at the top of the agenda.
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s first in-person remarks to the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council did not garner the same level of interest as previous ones. Diplomats observed that the gloss had worn off the Ukrainian delegation as leaders from the Global South pushed their own agendas.
All of this is exactly what Kremlin strategists have been waiting for for a long time. Diplomats believe Vladimir Putin intends to keep the war continuing until Ukraine loses international backing and seeks a political solution.
Western policymakers say they have the fortitude to stick to their guns and exercise more strategic patience than Russia anticipates.
Not for nothing, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told the House Magazine last weekend that worldwide fatigue with the war was a “big thing” and “something we have to deal with,” admitting that it was “putting pressure on countries all over the world.”
His counter-argument was that if Western backing for Ukraine waned, the pressures – whether economic or political – would worsen: “This is difficult and unpleasant. But if we falter, it will only be more difficult and terrible.”
To counter that notion, EU foreign ministers met in Kyiv on Monday for the first time as a group in a show of solidarity.
The EU’s foreign policy leader, Josep Borrell, told the BBC that the EU will retain its military support, which has so far totaled more than €5 billion (£4.3 billion).
“One thing is clear: for us Europeans, the war of Russia against Ukraine is an existential threat and we have to react according to that,” he stated. However, he confessed he was “worried” about Congress’ decision to halt additional funding.
The counter-argument made by diplomats is that more than Ukraine’s fate is at stake on the battlefield. They claim that nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are warming to this idea.
Previously, several of these countries viewed the violence as a European regional conflict with little bearing on them. However, Russia’s departure from the Black Sea grain project, as well as its attacks on Ukrainian grain silos, have made it easier for Ukraine and the West to argue that the Global South is involved in the conflict.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, told reporters, “What is at stake in Ukraine is much bigger than Ukraine.” It’s about the world’s stability and predictability.”
As a result, Ukraine is playing a long game. Key government insiders have long predicted that Western backing would wane over time. They were prepared for the ups and downs of transatlantic election cycles.
And they understand that the true test of Western unity will come later, at two critical junctures. First, if Donald Trump is re-elected President next year and reduces US backing, Ukraine will have to make a difficult decision about how long it will fight.
Second, if the fighting is brought to a conclusion, friends may find it difficult to unify around the compromises that may be required to secure a political solution.