ODESA, Ukraine – It’s late, nearly four months after Russia’s gratuitous invasion of Ukraine, but when the leaders of the European Union’s three largest countries journey to Kyiv, their intentions are clear: dispel any doubt that they will waver in support of Ukraine’s quest for sovereignty, territorial integrity, freedom and membership in what German Chancellor Olaf Scholz calls the “European family.” .
Reassurance, seemingly unaffected by any pressure on Ukraine to negotiate with Moscow, was emphasized. The determination not to give any appeasement to the indiscriminate aggression of Russian President Putin, who has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, is paramount.
Last month, President Emmanuel Macron of France stressed that it was important to never give in “to the temptation of humiliation” towards Russia that angered President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who said the President France should not seek “a way out for Russia.” In Kyiv on Thursday, Mr. Macron pivoted, expressing his strong support for the Ukrainian cause.
We will do everything so that Ukraine can choose its fate.
However, the question remains as to how a war that puts so much pressure on the global economy, with soaring inflation and ongoing food shortages, will ever end. any. The fact that European leaders avoid any public calls for Zelensky to negotiate with Putin almost certainly does not mean that they have abandoned their inclination to favor diplomacy and to prevent, by any means, at any rate, some escalated the war.
In the short term, Europe and its leaders need peace to avoid a downward economic spiral. Soaring energy prices are angering voters. But in the long run, Europe needs to affirm the values of freedom and peace that have served it well since 1945 and are underpinned by NATO and the European Union.
It is this vision, and Ukraine’s part, that the leaders committed to on Thursday.
“Today, it is clear that on Ukrainian soil the security of the European continent as a whole is at stake,” Macron said. “Europe is by your side and will sustain if necessary.”
This is a different tone from Mr. Macron. Tensions have flared between Zelensky and his French and German counterparts over issues including the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine and Macron and Scholz’s willingness to keep the diplomatic avenues open for Putin.
Ahead of Thursday’s visit, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the President of Ukraine, told the German daily Bild that he was worried European leaders would come to Kyiv and said that “we need to end the war that caused the war.” the food problem” and “we need to save Putin’s face”.
If there is any such thought – and the economic problems that war causes day by day for Europe’s hardline leaders – it finds no expression in public. Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, who accompanied the leaders of Germany and France, stated: “Today, the most important message during this visit is that Italy wants Ukraine to join the European Union.”
Better understanding of the Russo-Ukrainian War
This process will take time, but the expression in favor of Ukraine becoming an EU member, echoed by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, the fourth member of the delegation, is the clearest yet. It suggests that European leaders will formalize Ukraine’s status as a candidate to join the union.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Ukraine should live!” Mr. Scholz said, using the expression Ukrainian victory over Ukraine, “Ukrainian in Slava.” For a leader who is always cautious in his expressions of support, that is a passionate statement.
Uwe Jun, a political scientist at the University of Trier, explains Mr. Scholz’s carefully calibrated approach to Kyiv in recent months: “Germany cannot and does not want to be seen as a party to NATO’s inclusion. fight.
Putin believes that Ukraine is convinced that its future of security and prosperity with Europe for many years is unacceptable. Russia decided.
The brutality of Russia’s invasion has only increased Ukraine’s resolve to look to the West, not the East, to secure its own development – one of the many ways the country’s reckless gamble Russia’s leadership has appeared to consolidate results, like a galvanized NATO alliance, which he has sought to undermine.
Petro Obukhov, Odesa City Council member, who is leading a campaign for the removal of street names associated with Russia, the country that founded the city during the reign of Catherine the Great. “We have separated.”
Several European leaders, as well as defense and defense ministers from the United States, went ahead of Mr. Macron and Mr. Scholz to Kyiv. The apparent reluctance of the French and German leaders has increased skepticism in the Ukrainian capital about their intentions – especially since the Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 accords, made by Paris and Berlin. mediator to end the war of secession instigated by Russia in the east. Ukraine started in 2014, has proved very inefficient.
The last thing Ukraine wants is what is sometimes mockingly referred to as “Minsk 3”, some truce staged around mutual concessions that were never made and that put Mr. Putin on hold. Ukrainian territory with the option to apply further brute force whenever he next. option.
Russia poured scorn on the visit. Dmitri A. Medvedev, former president and now vice-president of the Security Council, said “European gourmets of frogs, livers and pasta love to visit Kyiv. Zero benefit”.
This brutal act, from a Russian politician once considered more moderate and pro-European than his boss, Mr. Putin, shows how fierce the confrontation between Russia and the West has become and how elusive peace can be. Earlier this week, Mr. Medvedev suggested, with smug disdain, that Ukraine might not exist in two years’ time.
In recent months, Mr. Macron has made many comments about how long it is necessary to continue talking to Putin’s Russia, a vast power that, he says, threatens the stability of Europe. This country is not integrated in some new security architecture. This has caused psychological insecurity in Ukraine.
Referring to Ukraine’s membership of the European Union, Mr. Macron said last month: “We all know well that the process of granting admission will take several years, and in fact there is no doubt. several decades”.
Although the process is expected to take years, Thursday’s talk in Kyiv was about pushing it, not needing the patience of Ukrainians.
Mr. Macron said that Russia’s invasion was “premeditated, deliberate, groundless and unjustifiable”.
He announced that France would deliver six Caesar long-range self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, in addition to the 12 already delivered. Caesars are prized for their accuracy.
The issue of arms transfers to Ukraine has annoyed Mr. Scholz, and was at the root of the controversy in March when German President Franz-Walter Steinmeier resigned to Ukraine. Tensions have eased since then, but Mr Scholz remains under pressure from some members of his Social Democratic Party to avoid sending too many heavy weapons.
The prime minister appeared visibly emotional during a visit to Kyiv’s ravaged suburb of Irpin. “Things get worse when you see how terrible the violence is,” he said of what he called the “Russian war of aggression.”
Whether the experience will change German policy remains unclear. But it seems unlikely that tensions between Germany and Ukraine over the extent of German support will never be completely dispelled. Germany’s embrace of freedom in the post-war era is rivaled only by the horrors of war.
Any solution to the crisis that has left millions of tons of Ukrainian grain rotting in bunkers on the Black Sea coast also seems far-fetched. Mr. Macron raised the issue, blaming the “global food crisis” on “Russian aggression”. Of course, Russia blames Ukraine, another illustration of the difficult stalemate of the conflict.
Reporting was contributed by Andrew E. Kramer from Kyiv, Erika Sommer from Berlin, Aurelien Breeden from Paris, and Jason Horowitz and Gaia Pianigiani from Rome.