Ukraine fears war fatigue in the West – for several reasons

International attention has shifted from the Ukraine war to the Middle East conflict. At the same time, exhaustion is spreading among Ukraine’s Western supporters. Is the country being abandoned?

They want to support Ukraine “for as long as necessary”. US President Joe Biden said this. This is also what it says in the final communiqué of the most recent NATO summit. And that is also the promise of Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

But since the terrorist Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, a new international crisis has captured the world’s attention. And it could tie up forces, including and especially the forces of those who particularly support Ukraine, for example those of the USA.

The laughing third party would be Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently urged NATO countries not to let up on their help because Russia would try to exploit the situation in the Middle East.

The USA could certainly deal with both crises at the same time, Biden answered a journalist’s question and added: “If we don’t do it, who will?” However, Biden is at home in a clinch with the Republicans, who want to cut aid to Ukraine. Due to the current chaos in Congress, no more fresh money is flowing into Ukraine for the time being.

Political scientist Johannes Varwick from the University of Halle believes that the tide in the USA regarding Ukraine support had already changed before the most recent Middle East crisis. There is “competition for attention and resources. I don’t think major players will stop supporting Ukraine now, but the priority will shift,” Varwick told DW.

Support is also crumbling in Europe

Solidarity with Ukraine is also crumbling in Europe. The Polish government temporarily threatened to restrict arms aid out of anger over cheap Ukrainian grain imports. In Slovakia, which has also been a major supporter of Ukraine, the election winner Robert Fico said during the election campaign that under his leadership Slovakia would not deliver “one shot of ammunition”.

At the same time, he called for better relations with Russia. And Hungary has never taken part in the Russia sanctions and continues to purchase Russian gas. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is trying to thwart further EU financial aid for Ukraine.

For the West as a whole, CDU defense politician Roderich Kiesewetter told DW: “Support for Ukraine has already waned, cohesion is crumbling, voices are getting louder calling for a ‘dictated peace’.” And so does Roman Goncharenko from the Ukrainian editorial team Deutsche Welle recently said on the DW program “On the Point”: “There is disillusionment in Ukraine that the West has become tired.”

Is a military victory for Ukraine possible?

In addition, despite Western arms support, Ukraine has repeatedly reported limited military successes in its counteroffensive, but so far there has been no breakthrough.

The Ukrainian military portal Deep State recently sobered: “The summer has shown that the war in 2024 will not end on our terms.” “Our terms” would be a complete reconquest of all occupied territories, including Crimea.

President Zelensky is once again calling for Western weapons such as fighter jets. What he now particularly wants from Germany is Taurus cruise missiles. Chancellor Scholz has long since sent battle tanks to Ukraine, but he refuses to deliver the Taurus. And as a survey by the opinion research institute YouGov showed, a majority of 55 percent of the Germans surveyed support this decision.

But the constant hesitation is precisely the problem, believes Kiesewetter: “The liberation offensive is being hindered by the West itself because too little and too late is being delivered.”

Russia is hoping for election winner Trump in the USA

Opinions as to whether massive arms deliveries will determine the outcome of the war vary widely in the discussion in Germany, including between Johannes Varwick and Roderich Kiesewetter. Varwick says of Taurus: “Of course such weapons make a difference (…), but I don’t expect this to change the strategic constellation.”

Russia has staying power in this war of attrition and can put massive pressure on Ukraine. Kiesewetter, on the other hand, says: “Air superiority and precision standoff weapons like Taurus in sufficient quantities could be the turning point.”

Meanwhile, the Kremlin is playing for time and hopes that Donald Trump will win again in the 2024 US presidential election and an end to US support for Ukraine. The fact that the Europeans would then step in “is simply not possible on this scale,” says Johannes Varwick, pointing out that the USA alone has provided almost 50 billion euros in military aid, and Germany, as the second most important supporter, has provided around twelve billion. “If the Americans stop or massively reduce their support, then Ukraine will have a problem that cannot be solved by the Europeans.”

Ukraine rejects land for peace

War weariness in the West is putting pressure on their politicians to seek a negotiated outcome to the war. The political scientist Johannes Varwick believes that this is inevitable anyway. There must also be negotiations “about territorial changes in Ukraine, about Ukraine’s neutrality”. “All of this should be on the table and should happen today rather than tomorrow. It really should have happened yesterday. But now is the time to start such initiatives.”

According to Roman Goncharenko from Deutsche Welle, a solution based on the formula “land versus peace” would have no chance of being accepted in Ukraine: “Too much has happened, the suffering is too great. That would be a reward for Russia.”

The CDU politician Roderich Kiesewetter, on the other hand, believes in a military victory for Ukraine through Western weapons, so the strategy must be: “Deliver everything, as quickly as possible. (…) Hesitation costs lives and increases the risk that Russia will win and Ukraine will collapse. That is also our shared responsibility.”

Jean Harris

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