Does the West have a sustainable strategy for Ukraine?

At a time when the world's attention is more focused on Gaza, Western public opinion is not convinced that victory in the war in Ukraine is possible

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Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

"No one believes in our victory as much as I do," said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a recent interview with "Time" magazine. She is right.

Faced with the grim reality of the stalled counteroffensive, and after the bloody attack on Israel by Hamas and the strong response to that attack, many observers question whether the West still has a viable strategy when it comes to Russia's war in Europe.

Who realistically believes that in the next year or two, Kiev can regain the territory annexed by Russia when even General Valery Zaluzhnyi, the popular Chief of General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, has made it clear that "there probably won't be a deep and beautiful breakthrough?"

And who, except the most optimistic among us, thinks that President Vladimir Putin is ready for any meaningful negotiations a year before the US presidential election, when his favorite, Donald Trump, is leading in the polls?

Indeed, it seems that both the bellicose and the pacifist regarding Ukraine have dangerously lost touch with reality.

Not surprisingly, public opinion in both Ukraine and the West is turning gloomier. With Republican opposition to additional US funding for Kiev's war effort and a shift in attention to the Middle East, Western support for Ukraine should not be taken for granted.

Europeans are now facing two different but interrelated wars that threaten not only European security but also the political identity of European societies. Both wars involve nuclear powers, and both are of great symbolic importance.

Head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and Volodymyr Zelensky
Head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and Volodymyr Zelenskyphoto: REUTERS

The war between Israel and Hamas has not only refocused public attention on the Middle East and created competition for resources, but also weakened the notion that the nature of Russian aggression is somehow different from anything we've seen so far.

Many commentators fail to see that Putin views the conflict in Ukraine as a kind of "eternal war" with the West. His goal is no longer to establish a pro-Russian Ukraine, but to show that pro-Western Ukraine will be just one failed state and that, in any case, Western support for Ukraine will eventually

When Russia disabled the energy supply of cities in Ukraine, it was accused of committing war crimes. Israel has deprived Gaza of energy supplies and water. Are Ukraine and the West ready to call it war crimes?

A recent study of "geopolitical emotions" by the European Council on Foreign Relations in the run-up to the Gaza war reveals a disturbing, if not surprising, trend. Public opinion in large non-Western countries is more interested in when the war will end than how it will end.

The public believes that the West and Ukraine, not Russia, are the main obstacle to peace. Most in the so-called Global South expect Moscow to prevail in the next five years and see the conflict as a proxy conflict between the US and Russia.

So the question arises: can the West triumph if its population does not believe it should be at war while most others think otherwise?

In the first months of the conflict, the Kremlin deluded itself that its "special military operation" would be completed within a few weeks and that Russian soldiers would be welcomed as liberators in Ukraine. However, the aggressive war that Putin started in 2022 is not the only one that is currently being waged.

Many commentators fail to see that Putin viewed the conflict in Ukraine as a kind of "eternal war" with the West. His goal is no longer to establish a pro-Russian Ukraine, but to show that pro-Western Ukraine will be just one failed state and that, in any case, Western support for Ukraine will disappear over time.

In this new environment, the challenge facing the West is similar to what the US once faced in West Germany (especially West Berlin) at the beginning of the Cold War.

The West needs to prove that Ukraine is a place where investors are ready to invest money - of course protected by "patriot" missiles - before the end of the war. It must also be a country to which a large number of Ukrainians currently living outside their homeland are ready to return. And finally, it must be possible to start negotiations for Ukraine to join the EU even while the war is raging.

However, one of the most striking findings of the European Council survey is that in many non-Western countries that believe that Russia will prevail in Ukraine, they also believe that the EU will not exist in 20 years. This should wake up European leaders and make them aware that not only the sovereignty of Ukraine is being questioned.

Translation: NB

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