LONDON – The West has united against Russia’s war on Ukraine more quickly and firmly than almost anyone expected. But as the war enters a protracted conflict that could last months or even years, it is testing the resolve of Western nations, with European and American officials questioning whether rising economic losses will weaken their unity over time.
Differences so far have mostly been superficial: Hungary’s refusal to sign a deal on Russia’s oil embargo hampered EU efforts to impose a continent-wide ban; Biden administration militarily undermined Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s ambitions Booming target sparks uproar in Paris; embattled President Biden blames Putin’s price hikes for high food and gas prices.
In addition to those tensions, there were further signs of unity: Finland and Sweden moved closer to joining NATO on Wednesday, and Britain offered both countries security guarantees against the Russian threat.In Washington, the House voted 368 to 57 on Tuesday Nearly $40 billion aid package for Ukraine.
However, just 76 days ago, Russian tanks rolled over the Ukrainian border, a blink of an eye in history’s eternal war plan. As the battle continues, the cascading effects on supply chains, energy pipelines and agricultural harvests will be more pronounced on gas stations and supermarket shelves.
Some experts say Mr Putin is calculating that the West will be weary ahead of Russia’s long twilight battle for Ukraine’s contested Donbass region, especially if the West’s continued support comes at the cost of soaring inflation, energy disruptions, public finances Exhausted and exhausted crowd.
Avril D. Haines, the Biden administration’s director of national intelligence, cleared up those concerns on Tuesday, warning senators that Mr. Putin was working on a prolonged siege and “may count on the determination of the United States and the European Union to follow suit.” Shortages are made worse by food shortages, inflation and energy problems.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Biden Head to a farm in Kankakee, Illinois.to justify Mr Putin’s war on food shortages and cost-of-living pressures on American households, a tacit sign that his firm support for Ukraine – a policy that has won bipartisan support in Washington – could bring political cost.
Mr Putin faces his own domestic pressure, evident in the calibrated tone he uses in a speech On Monday in Moscow’s Red Square, there were neither calls for mass mobilization nor threats to escalate the conflict. But he also made it clear that he falsely called Russia’s campaign to eliminate “abusers, death squads and Nazis” from its neighbors without end.
On the ground in Ukraine, the fighting showed signs of a protracted war. A day after the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russian troops withdrew from a group of towns northeast of the city of Kharkiv, and the region’s governor said Wednesday that Ukrainian efforts had pushed Moscow troops “further away” from the city, allowing them to “fire” There are fewer opportunities” in the regional center. “
Ukraine’s apparent success in repelling Russian forces outside Kharkiv, the second-largest city about 20 miles from the Russian border, appears to have helped reduce shelling there in recent days, even as Russia gains ground on parts of the Donbas front. Progress in Eastern Ukraine.
It’s remarkable that Ukraine is even locked in an ongoing battle, nearly three months after Russia launched a full-scale invasion. Analysts have pointed out that a protracted war will drain the resources of the Russian military, which has already suffered severe human and mechanical losses. Given this, some argue that the West should play to its advantage by tightening the economic stranglehold on Moscow.
“I’m worried about Western fatigue,” said Michael A. McFaulFormer U.S. Ambassador to Russia, “That’s why the leaders of the free world should do more now to hasten the end of the war.”
He said the U.S. and the European Union should immediately impose tough sanctions across the board, rather than rolling out one wave after another as they have so far. He said the West has come close to this comprehensive strategy through military aid, which has helped the Ukrainians stop the Russians.
But negotiations over a European oil embargo have stalled, showing the limitations of this approach in terms of Russian energy supplies.EU ambassador Another fruitless meeting In Brussels on Wednesday, it failed to break a fierce resistance from Hungary, a single member of the European Union.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is on good terms with Putin and has been at odds with Brussels, turned hopes of showing solidarity into chaos when he blocked the latest measures, arguing that a ban on Russian oil would be the equivalent of The “atomic bomb” of the Hungarian economy.
Mr Orban continued to resist, even with concessions to give Hungary more time to get rid of Russian oil and intense lobbying by other leaders. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen flew to Budapest to try to shake President Emmanuel Macron when he called him.
“We will only support this proposal if Brussels proposes a solution to the problems made in Brussels,” Hungary’s foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said, adding that modernizing Hungary’s energy sector would cost “several amounts of money”. billion euros”.
In Washington, Biden has had less trouble securing support for military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The House vote on a massive aid package shows how the brutality of the war has overcome resistance from both the left and the right to America’s involvement in military conflicts overseas.
However, the war, fueled by rising food and fuel prices, poses a real threat to Mr Biden. Food prices rose 0.9% month-on-month in April, according to data released on Wednesday. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the government was “very concerned about the global food supply”, adding that 275 million people face hunger globally.
“Putin’s war has cut off a vital source of food,” Mr Biden told Illinois farmers. “Our farmers have helped on both fronts, lowering food prices at home, expanding production and feeding a world in need.”
It remains to be seen whether the U.S. can increase agricultural production enough to alleviate the shortage. But the visit to the farm comes as Biden is under pressure from the fastest rate of inflation in 40 years as he seeks to reassure Americans that the White House is taking rising prices seriously.
The Russian-Ukrainian War: Key Developments
on the ground. A sort of Ukrainian counteroffensive near Kharkiv Seems to have contributed to a sharp reduction in Russian shelling in eastern cities. But Moscow’s forces are making progress in other parts of the front.
While Mr. Putin faces arguably more pressure — from rising fighter casualties to economic pain from sanctions — he is playing on nationalist sentiments, which some analysts say will keep him in power.
The Kremlin said Wednesday It could annex the strategically important Kherson region in southern Ukraineas the occupying authorities say, they will be ready to make a formal request to Mr Putin to annex their region to Russia.
“They are motivated by strong nationalism,” said Francis Fukuyama, a political scientist at Stanford University, “and they are willing to suffer huge economic losses for it.” Still, he added, a hard-line response from the West could be “ A moment of transformation in the self-confidence of democracies”.
For some Europeans, the US may have gone too far. French diplomats with ties to Macron have described the evolving U.S. policy as essentially arming Ukraine and maintaining sanctions on Russia indefinitely. They say France wants to push ahead with talks with Mr Putin because there is no other way to achieve lasting European security.
Other analysts believe the threat to Western unification is overdone. The moves by Finland and Sweden to join NATO not only show that the alliance is uniting, but that its center of gravity is shifting eastward.
Even before he invaded Ukraine, Putin warned the countries they would face “retaliation” if they joined NATO. During a visit to Stockholm, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK-Sweden joint security declaration – a pledge between the two countries to assist each other in the face of military threats or natural disasters – would address such threats.
“Sovereign nations must be able to make these decisions freely without fear, influence or threat of retaliation,” Mr Johnson said along with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. The announcement “will allow us to share more intelligence, enhance our military exercises, and facilitate our joint development of technology,” he said.
While Germany is ambivalent about cutting off Russian gas, it seems highly unlikely that it will change its landmark pledge to increase military spending. On Wednesday, Germany began training the first Ukrainian gunners in western Germany to use self-propelled howitzers. The German military plans to donate seven heavy weapons to Ukraine.
“The Russians, because of their barbarism, are constantly producing images and news that help the cause of Western solidarity,” said Eliot A. Cohen, a political scientist who served in the State Department during the George W. Bush administration. . Cohen) said. “If the Ukrainians continue to be successful, I think people will cheer them on.”
reported by Martina Stevies-Grineve from Brussels, Roger Cohen from Paris, Matthew Mpock Bigger and Cora Engelbrecht from London, Anna Swanson and Alan Rappport from Washington, Ivan Necheplenko from Tbilisi, Georgia and Christopher F Schutz from Berlin.