As the situation in Ukraine grinds on and leaders face public discontent over soaring inflation and the cost-of-living issue, there are growing signs that Western unity over the conflict may be fraying.
There are widespread fears about how long the conflict will last, with some strategists claiming that it has all the hallmarks of an attrition war, in which no side “wins” and both sides suffer massive losses and damage over a lengthy period of time.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and Eastern Europe appear adamant that Russia cannot succeed or “win” in Ukraine by carving away (or regaining, as Moscow sees it) large swaths of land for itself, claiming that this would have enormous worldwide geopolitical ramifications.
They’ve also made it plain that Ukraine must determine whether and when it wants to discuss a peace settlement with Russia. Kyiv, for its part, has stated that it is eager to hold discussions but that it has red lines, the most important of which is that it would not cede any territory to Russia.
Nonetheless, a party inside Europe — namely France, Italy, and Germany — appears to be yearning for a peace accord sooner rather than later.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine and his administration will have to engage with Russia “at some point,” according to French President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron, his German and Italian colleagues (all of whom are in Kyiv on Thursday) have all called for a cease-fire and a negotiated conclusion to the conflict, pushing Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with Zelenskyy, but to no avail.
Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to pleading with its Western friends for more armaments, with NATO officials gathering in Brussels this week to discuss Kyiv’s urgent need for more weapons.
It comes as Russia continues to make inroads in eastern Ukraine, owing largely to its persistent artillery bombardment of the Donbas. Russian soldiers are slowly but steadily capturing larger areas of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which are home to two pro-Russian rebel “republics” that Moscow wants to “liberate” from Ukraine.
The West continues to assist Ukraine; US President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that his government will send another $1 billion in armaments and $225 million in humanitarian supplies to Kyiv. The armaments can’t come fast enough for Kyiv.
However, concerns have been raised about how long its military aid will be needed, particularly if the battle continues for years.
On CNN, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby was asked how much money Biden is willing to spend on Ukraine, given the country’s inflation crisis and economic challenges. The consumer price index in the United States increased 8.6% from a year ago in May, the largest increase since December 1981, according to data released last Friday, with comparable increases in Europe (the rate hit a 40-year high of 9 percent in the U.K. in April).
Kirby said the president’s “first concern” is Ukraine, and that the US will “give as much as we can for as long as we can,” repeating that the current arms pledge was only a small part of the $40 billion in aid approved by Congress.
“This is the first tranche announced inside that $40 billion total package. So we still have quite a way to go here … How long can all that last? How long will the war last? Nobody can be sure,” Kirby said.
“We know and predicted that the fight in the Donbas was going to be a slog, that it was going to probably stretch this war out many months. And it seems as if that’s bearing fruit now.”