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Home World News Washington Post World News Analysis | US and European support for Ukraine continues after midterms

Analysis | US and European support for Ukraine continues after midterms



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European and Ukrainian officials raised eyebrows at the United States in the days leading up to the midterm elections. When polls pointed to a possible anti-incumbent “red wave” that would catapult decisive-majority Republicans back to power in Congress, there were fears that rising right-wing US nationalists who march in the shadow of former President Donald Trump could undermine the Biden administration. plans to support Ukraine’s resistance to the ongoing Russian invasion. Some Republican lawmakers and candidates warned there would be no US “blank check” for Kiev. Others even argued that all funding should stop.

The “red wave” has not occurred. The vote count continues and it appears the nation is muddling toward narrow margins in both the House and Senate. In Europe, the poor showing of Trump-backed candidates led to sighs of relief. Still, as Reinhard Bütikofer, a German MEP, said in a statement, with 2024 on the horizon, “there remains plenty of reason for the EU to prepare for further shifts in its relationship with the United States.”

Weaker-than-expected GOP results calm Europe’s nerves – for now

Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU ambassador to Washington, has a more confident outlook. In an interview the day after the election, he told me that he had “no doubt there would be continuity” in US aid to Ukraine, regardless of the political dispensation of the next Congress. His conversations on the hill have given him the impression of “steadfast bipartisan support for Ukraine, even in circumstances where people in this country are talking about polarization on virtually every other topic.”

Both the United States and the EU’s 27 member states have pledged billions of dollars in military and financial aid to Kiev. There is a degree of senior leadership consensus among both Democrats and Republicans that this support should continue as long as Ukraine withstands Russian attacks. This week, the European Commission announced a proposal for a package of about $18 billion to help the Ukrainian government meet its short-term financing needs by 2023.

‘This is an existential struggle for us’ Lambrinidis said, adding that Europe is committed to Ukraine “for as long as it takes”. This is no small order: the war has imposed a bitter price on Europe; its societies and economies are being hit by the major sanctions their governments have imposed on Russia. A cold winter and skyrocketing heating costs are expected to add to the wider tensions of the war, whose downstream effects have been a catalyst for the collapse of a government in Sri Lanka and the start of a likely famine in Somalia.

The war in Ukraine itself is taking a cruel toll. The Pentagon believes 200,000 soldiers may have died in nine months of fighting — 100,000 Russians and an equivalent number of Ukrainians, in addition to some 40,000 civilians.

Still, Western aid to Ukraine has put the country in a stronger position to regain territory lost to Russia earlier this year. This week, following an apparent Russian withdrawal, Ukrainian troops invaded the southern city of Kherson, a regional capital that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally claimed as part of Russia after staging fake referendums in four so-called republics in areas controlled by the Kremlin and its separatist proxies.

Lambrinidis is aware of the need for this foreign support. Without the help, “the chances of Putin winning are extremely high,” he said. That is not an outcome US or European officials are willing to accept.

Pentagon sends Ukraine new air defenses as Russia defeats key cities

The EU ambassador cited the war and Putin’s brinkmanship over Ukraine as a challenge to be met. “This is an explicit attempt by an extremely dangerous autocrat with nuclear weapons to blackmail democracies,” Lambrinidis said. “And if he were to succeed, the capacity and presence of Americans and Europeans in the world would decline dramatically in the coming decades.”

That’s because the precedent of “a victorious Putin” — who Lambrinidis says is “China’s junior partner” — will lead to “an emboldened China in the coming decades,” he said, provoking potential clashes and conflagration that could fuel unrest. caused by the war in Ukraine in the shadows.

Instead, the current crisis has demonstrated the strength of transatlantic ties. “The indispensability of this partnership was something Putin definitely did not expect,” Lambrinidis said, pointing to how the war has only strengthened European investment in shared security and led to NATO’s imminent expansion to include Finland and Sweden. who are ready to join the military alliance.

The ambassador praised the Biden administration’s effectiveness in organizing a collective response to the invasion. For Americans and Europeans, Lambrinidis said, Putin’s war has made clear how “our security and prosperity are interdependent”.

Meanwhile, amid economic pain and some degree of public unrest, European governments are trying to accelerate a transition to renewable energy while pushing through stimulus packages to help ordinary citizens. “We are rapidly decoupling from Russian fossil fuels at a tremendous economic cost, while supporting our economies and people at a tremendous cost.”

Biden’s Ukraine policy faces two-pronged pressure

Wary of dictating terms to Ukrainians, few Western officials are willing to state publicly how they believe the conflict should end. Through the back door, the Biden administration has urged Ukraine to show that it is open to dialogue, even though the prospect of actual talks is a long way off.

There is also the question of what Russia wants. “Two must tango and Putin has given no indication that he is ready to engage in serious negotiations,” Lambrinidis said. “Our support for Ukraine is absolutely necessary for them to be able to negotiate from a position of strength or at least equality – and not with a Russian gun to their heads.”

Rather than the famous chess grandmasters of the past century, Putin’s strategic impulses seem more like that of an opportunistic poker player, the EU diplomat said, telling an analogy presented to him by Russian dissident (and chess legend) Garry Kasparov.

“Every time Putin tries to raise the bar like a poker player who wants you to fold,” Lambrinidis said. “Are we going to fold? Were not.”

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