More than 19 months into Russia-Ukraine war, the nerves are fraying among Ukraine’s closest friends and allies as fatigue has clearly set in. Ukrainian counter offensive began in June and by all accounts, has made progress but it has been slow and gruelling.
Military experts have been frustrated at the lack of bigger gains and all the while, fatigue with the conflict is growing in the countries that have supported Ukraine with military supplies.
For most of the last year, Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, had acquired something of a cult status with the overwhelming support of the West lead by the United States. But only last month, he came back from a trip to the US and Canada which was mixed in its outcomes.
For one, Zelensky got a $325 million package from Washington but it was not the $24 billion he had hoped for. Politics in DC has crippled functioning of the US Congress which has to sanction the bigger amount.
The Republicans have made no secret of the fact that they want to turn off the tap to Ukraine and are tired of spending American money on it. Zelensky was not even allowed to address a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate as the Republicans push back against the Biden administration’s support of Ukraine.
The US has given Ukraine over $113 billion in aid since the start of the war started and as the country heads into an election year, domestic politics will take precedence.
If the United States actually starts scaling back the quantum of assistance it provides, it will have a knock on effect in other capitals, especially in Europe, which will leave Ukraine in a tight spot. Earlier this month, a Pro Russian politician won the Slovak parliamentary election and has vowed to withdraw military support for Ukraine saying, “people in Slovakia have bigger problems than Ukraine”.
In other countries including France, Germany and Spain, parties weary of continued support for Ukraine command levels of support that make them difficult to ignore. The recent elections in Poland were also dominated by the question of aid to Ukraine.
Time for Zelensky to change track
Ties between both sides had recently plummeted over the import of Ukrainian grain. In fact, the way Poland’s relationship changed with Ukraine has been quite startling. Poland was an ardent supporter of Ukraine earlier, sending them military aid and equipment. The Polish President however recently compared Ukraine to a drowning man who risks dragging his rescuers down with him.
Now, with the world preoccupied with Israel’s war with Hamas, the fatigue with Ukraine looks like it will set in even faster even though some leaders are at pains to say otherwise.
US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen told SKY News that America can “certainly” afford to support wars on two fronts and that “we do need to come up with funds, both for Israel and for Ukraine. This is a priority.”
Germany’s defence minister has said Berlin would do “everything we can to ensure support for Ukraine does not crumble” in light of the recent escalation in the Middle East conflict. But military experts don’t believe this is true and that a protracted war in the Middle East will have ramifications for Ukraine. Much of Zelensky’s counter offensive has also been centred around his use of the world media. That same media today is totally preoccupied with Israel and Gaza.
Therefore the question is: Is it time for President Zelensky to change track and explore the options of a ceasefire with Russia through diplomatic channels?
The current war is simply dragging on with no end in sight. Russia clearly won’t back down and does not seem to care how long this goes on. But Ukraine’s options are more limited especially if military aid starts to dwindle.