Euroviews. Two years on, can we truly afford to forget Ukraine?

Two years ago, Russia invaded Ukraine. It anticipated rapidly overthrowing the Ukrainian government, but the brave Ukrainians had other ideas. 

Russia subsequently decided that it would rather destroy the country than allow it to exist independently. 

Since then, it has launched thousands of missiles, drones, and ballistic rockets at civilian infrastructure. It has starved, beaten, castrated, and murdered Ukrainian prisoners of war. 

In places like Bucha and elsewhere, it has tortured, raped, and murdered Ukrainian citizens.

Marking the second anniversary, Ukraine’s new commander-in-chief, General Oleksandr Syrsky, said: “When thousands of columns of Russian invaders moved from all directions into Ukraine, when thousands of rockets and bombs fell in our land, no one in the world believed that we would stand. No one believed, but Ukraine did.” 

For many in the West though, memories are short and others simply quickly tire of conflict, even if this means surrendering to tyrants like Russia’s Vladimir Putin. 

The world is now dilly-dallying

The recent murder of the dissident Alexei Navalny is a reminder of the evil we are facing, but unless there is a serious course correction, this is likely to be only a brief shot in the arm for those demanding greater Western support of the embattled country.

In the United States, the Republican House speaker Mike Johnson refuses to take the Senate-approved $95 billion (€86.8bn) bill, most of which is meant to assist Ukraine, to the House, where it would probably pass. 

His excuse? “The mandate of national-security supplemental legislation was to secure America’s own border before sending additional foreign aid. Now, in the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will.” 

Petty internal politics over an issue that has remained unresolved for years is preventing the delivery of urgently needed assistance to Ukraine. Putin is surely watching with delight.

Firefighters extinguish a fire after a Russian attack on a residential neighbourhood in Kharkiv, March 2024

In other words, petty internal politics over an issue that has remained unresolved for years is preventing the delivery of urgently needed assistance to Ukraine. Putin is surely watching with delight.

In Europe, there is greater support for assisting Ukraine, but there are practical issues still to be resolved. Europe sends more total aid for near-term delivery than the US, but less military equipment. 

By March, the EU will only have delivered around half of the one million artillery shells it has promised the Ukrainians. Russia is currently producing more shells than Western countries, and it also receives ammunition from the North Koreans.

Despite it all, Ukrainians keep resisting

Given these circumstances, it is unsurprising that Ukrainians are despondent. They still believe they can win, but they acknowledge it might take years, or as journalist and former senior official Oleksandr Martynenko recently said: “We will be holding off the Russians all this year. The only question is whether we can.”

Russia, meanwhile, is massively increasing its defence production. As the Ukrainian proverb goes, “While the fat man shrinks, the thin man disappears.”

Yet, with the right support, the Ukrainians can win. By late January 2023, with Western weapons, Ukraine had liberated more than half the territory illegally captured by Russia since February 2022. 

The Ukrainians have demonstrated qualities that many in the West have forgotten: steadfastness, will, commitment, and bravery … All they ask is for the military support they need to win this war.

A Ukrainian officer from The 56th Separate Motorized Infantry Mariupol Brigade fires a multiple launch rocket system, near Bakhmut, March 2024

It has developed cheap and effective drones, including long-distance devices that can now take the fight into Russian territory. In the air, it has recently shot down two Russian A-50 early warning and control aircraft, relieving pressure on frontline troops. 

Ukraine has also sunk one-fifth of the Russian Black Sea fleet, forcing Russia’s remaining vessels to keep their distance from Ukraine’s coast, creating a strategic corridor for grain and other exports.

To boot, Ukraine is taking the fight to Russia, as seen for example in a recent drone assault on one of Russia’s largest steel plants. Meanwhile, as of 31 December 2023, the Russian death toll from Putin’s pointless war was 66,000-88,000 and may be as high as 120,000.

The only thing Ukraine needs is support

The Ukrainians have demonstrated qualities that many in the West have forgotten: steadfastness, will, commitment, and bravery. 

They are not asking the US or Europe to fight for them or to endanger themselves in any way. All they ask is for the military support they need to win this war.

If they believe they can, we all should be backing them all the way. Whatever the isolationists may think, it is not just Ukraine that is in danger. 

If Ukraine loses, then the Baltics and beyond will also be at risk, and tyrants everywhere will be emboldened, jeopardising the way of life we take for granted. 

The time for action is now: in the US, the bill to support Ukraine must pass the House, while Europe must ramp up its support to help Kyiv deal with a tough year. 

“Any evil can be defeated, and Russian aggression is no exception,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said to mark the second anniversary. The free world must now follow suit.

Ross Burley is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Centre for Information Resilience in the UK.

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