When the Russian invasion of Ukraine broke out on 24th February 2022, NATO countries, whilst initially hesitant to fully support Ukraine militarily, changed their stance after realising that Russia’s plan was to subjugate Ukraine in less than 3 days. This led to a global condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a large supply of military aid sent to Ukraine, and countries such as Germany introducing historic decisions; such as its decision to spend more than €100 billion on the defence budget, and sanctions to be imposed on Russia for invading Ukraine. However, cracks are beginning to show in the West’s approach to supporting Ukraine.
Countries such as Poland, the Baltic States of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, and the UK, have been actively championing Ukraine’s demands for more weapons; especially weapons such as Anti-Aircraft weaponry, Anti-Tank weaponry, guided heavy propelled artillery and infantry fighting vehicles. The UK, Poland, the Baltic States’ leaders were the first to visit President Zelensky in Kiev to show their unwavering and ironclad support, and both Poland and the UK visited Ukraine more than twice to reassure Zelensky that they both condemned Russia’s aggression seriously and wholeheartedly.
Oleksiy Danilov, called Macron’s comments identical to appeasing a “terrorist and killer state”
This contrasts with other European countries as Ukraine was consistently requesting more advanced and dangerous weapons from Germany, and attacking Macron for France’s hesitations to support Kiev. For instance, on 4th June 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that Russia should have its security guarantees addressed. Macron’s comments were seen as “Calls to avoid the humiliation of Russia [which] only humiliate France and every other country that would call for it,” as Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, put it. The secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, Oleksiy Danilov, called Macron’s comments identical to appeasing a “terrorist and killer state” by providing security guarantees and overtures to Russia.
Germany was accused twice in 2022 and 2023, for showing hesitation and weakness by not providing Marder Infantry fighting vehicles and German Leopard Tanks, which Ukraine wanted very badly in its counter-offensive against the Russian occupied territories in Ukraine. Former German Defence Minister, Christine Lambrecht, responded to those allegations by saying “It’s not so simple just to say: I’ll just risk that we won’t be able to act, the defense of the country, by giving everything away. No, I won’t do that”. This only resulted in more backlash from Germany’s opposition parties, and Boris Johnson, former British Prime Minister, claimed “The German view was at one stage that if it were going to happen, which would be a disaster, then it would be better for the whole thing to be over quickly and for Ukraine to fold”, to which the German government dismissed it as “utter nonsense”.
It is widely believed that if Trump was president, Ukraine would never have been invaded
Lastly, Hungary and the US have been attacked for being soft or suggesting that Ukraine should concede to Russia. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, didn’t endorse or support any sanctions, claiming that “the European economy has shot itself in the lungs, and it is gasping for air” in a speech to the EU. In response, Ukraine reminded Hungary that sanctions are effective at punishing Russia, as Russia was finding it difficult to produce advanced military equipment, was facing an economic recession, and had to rely on older Soviet equipment, even as old as using 60-year-old Soviet tanks and rifles.
The US, being the biggest Western arms supplier to Ukraine, faced growing opposition to not only supporting Ukraine, but also directed at President Joe Biden’s handling of the war. US Republicans, including Former US President Donald Trump, have accused of Biden of allowing Russia to just invade Ukraine without a hard line, tough response from the US. It is widely believed that if Trump was president, Ukraine would never have been invaded, but under a Democrat such as President Biden or Former President Barack Obama, Ukraine would have been attacked. When US Republicans assumed the majority in the US House of Representatives officially after being sworn into office in 2023, there were fears that support for Ukraine would fade, but future House Speaker Kevin Mccarthy stated that he was going to support Ukraine but with conditions and not write a “blank check”, as he put it.
In conclusion, there is Western unity towards confronting Russia and ensuring unconditional support for Ukraine, but at the same time there has been a rather divided approach amongst Western countries to confront Russia. It appears for now that Western unity hasn’t completely collapsed, but it remains to be seen if NATO countries continue to be united into their response towards supporting Ukraine as the military conflict drags into 2023.
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