The United States supports Ukraine, albeit constantly, but is actually very cautious. Columnist The Guardian Timothy Garton Ash President Joe Biden is calling for more determination, and now is the time!
If the United States doesn’t take bolder leadership on Ukraine’s long-term security at this week’s NATO summit in Vilnius, historians will one day ask, “Who lost Ukraine?” he may ask. And their shocking response may be: President Joe Biden.
I say this after speaking to a wide range of people in Kiev last week before leaving Ukraine on Saturday, the 500th day of the biggest war in Europe since 1945. There is still an extraordinary fighting spirit that I discovered on my last visit in February. But in five months, some people seem to have aged five years. They’re out of stock. Casualties between the military and civilians continue to rise.
Along with other members of our European Council on Foreign Relations fact-finding mission, Ukrainian author Victoria Amelina’s St. I witnessed prayers being recited on his coffin at Michael’s Abbey. While visiting Kramatorsk to record Russia’s war crimes, he himself became the victim of a Russian war crime. While the Biden administration worries about escalation at every turn, Vladimir Putin continues to climb, especially with the eruption of the Kakhovka dam, which destroyed large areas of Ukrainian territory. Ecocide completes the genocide.
In a recent survey, 78% of Ukrainians said that close relatives or friends were injured or killed after the all-out Russian invasion last year. The pain is partially masked by the adrenaline of resistance, but after the war the country will face a great trauma. The priest told us about a soldier who returned after several months at the front but could not sleep. The house was too quiet.
Senior Ministry of Defense officials have sincerely acknowledged that the counteroffensive was advancing too slowly this summer, particularly against the Russian minefields and the numerous anti-tank defense lines in the south. A large Western-trained and equipped brigade attack has yet to come, but in this type of war the advantage lies in fortified defences. The important thing is that Russia is stronger in the sky. That is why Ukraine has been making constant calls to increase the number of air defense systems and F-16 warplanes.
In a survey conducted in May of this year, 87% of Ukrainians said they were optimistic about their country’s future, but their mood had become more sober in their personal lives. We were told that every five Ukrainian children are now out of the country. Tymofiy Mylovanov, Head of the Kiev School of Economics, shared with us that with current trends, the workforce will decrease by a third over the next few years. Providing jobs, housing and schools that millions of Ukrainians will not return from abroad is a challenge.
Therefore, “Who lost Ukraine?” When I say I don’t mean defeat in battle. I mean the loss of peace: the country is exhausted, devastated, traumatized, some of its land is still taken away, the country is in limbo. Because this is now Putin’s ruthless, vengeful goal: if he can’t reintegrate Ukraine into the Russian Empire, he will try to destroy it.
US military support is essential for Ukraine to win the war. Long-term security is essential for Ukraine to maintain peace. Without security, there will be little investment, less return, and no successful restructuring. This ultimately means that NATO membership is crucial for Ukraine.
While the US military and economic aid to Ukraine has been enormous and indispensable, Europe is now ahead of the US in its strategic position for this country. The EU did what NATO did not: it made a firm commitment to join Ukraine. As elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe since 1989, it is already having a transformative impact. After all, everyone in Ukraine now has a big common goal of “joining Europe”. Civil society experts and activists have told us that what they really want is tougher EU conditions to fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law and improve governance. The EU’s four-year €50 billion support package is shaping an agenda for internal restructuring and reform.
Europeans are also ahead in demanding a strong statement from the Vilnius Summit on Ukraine’s future NATO membership. And it’s not just the inhabitants of Central and Eastern Europe. President Emmanuel Macron demonstrated what a Kiev expert called a “magic transformation” in France’s position. Germany is more unstable, but Kiev’s biggest problem is now in Washington.
Ukrainians are realistic. They know they can’t join NATO while the war is on. They just want a “political invitation” to take place under favorable conditions. To bridge this point, they seek security commitments from major NATO powers such as the US, UK, France and Germany. These are sometimes called “security guarantees,” but as one expert explains, a more accurate description would be “security assistance guarantees.” These forces undertake to continue the delivery of military vehicles necessary for Ukraine to fight the aggressor. This will be something the US has done for Israel, but with multiple partners and a clear path to eventual NATO membership.
At the time of writing, Biden was still out. On Sunday, CNN correspondent Farid told Zakaria that Ukraine is not ready for NATO membership and that “if there is a ceasefire, if there is a peace deal”, Israeli-style security measures must be taken. He underlined the word “if”. When we compare this to the public and private statements of senior US officials, we can find it quite a difficult position. NATO membership looks like a future reward for Ukraine negotiating for a better world, and it could possibly get it by accepting a significant loss of territory.
If this had been the result of the Vilnius summit, there would have been a great disappointment in Ukraine. (The morally dubious gift of American cluster bombs does not replace long-term security commitments and only muddies the discussion.) We have already heard signs of growing anger against the West in Kiev. Left to fight alone for another 500 days, it will be difficult for even the bravest to rebuild their shattered, exhausted and traumatized country, with no firm promises of future security.
But if the West gives Ukraine the military tools to win this war and adds a firm promise of future NATO membership when it ends, then the United States will have a much more capable Europe to defend itself against a weakened Russia. Then the US will be able to channel more of its own resources to fight the geostrategic threat from China.
The final decision will only be made this week at the leaders’ table in Vilnius. Come on, Mr. President, do the right thing boldly, really strategically. History is watching you.
Alfred Hart is an accomplished journalist known for his expert analysis and commentary on global affairs. He currently works as a writer at 24 news breaker, where he provides readers with in-depth coverage of the most pressing issues affecting the world today. With a keen insight and a deep understanding of international politics and economics, Alfred’s writing is a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the world we live in.