Is the West losing the war in Ukraine? 

Russia invaded Ukraine last year, mistakenly believing it would be a short and glorious war. Its theory of victory now involves prolonging the war, creating a situation that would become financially unsustainable for the Western powers supporting Ukraine. Unfortunately, this strategy may be working.

Clearly, the Russian economy has transformed, and its industrial production has adapted to the war. Despite Western sanctions, Russia is producing more cruise missiles than before the conflict began. The grain blockade will give Russia a significant advantage on the world stage. By 2024, nearly 25% of the world’s production of certain cereals will be produced by Russia. The Secretary-General of NATO publicly suggesting peace in exchange for territory demonstrates that the allies are not naive.

However, upcoming elections in the West are even more promising for the Kremlin. Ukraine’s struggle is increasingly portrayed as a Western cultural war, presented by the far right as a cause of the liberal establishment burdening ordinary citizens. Like Slovakia and Poland, two neighbouring allies of Ukraine, elections may favour far-right parties capitalizing on the cost of supporting Kyiv to gain votes.

Their success is a wake-up call, indicating to European leaders that they need a well-thought-out plan to defeat Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over several years, going beyond the rhetoric of “as long as it takes.” Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive will achieve little and lead to nothing concrete.

Meanwhile, Western sympathizers of the Kremlin can continue to emphasize the burden of hosting some of the 6.2 million Ukrainian refugees still abroad or the 250 billion euros in military, humanitarian, and financial aid, as reported by the Kiel Institute for World Economy, granted to Kyiv between January 2022 and July of this year. They can also highlight rising energy prices in Europe, accelerated by a drastic reduction in Russian natural gas and oil imports.

Another divide is emerging within Europe between Eastern and Western countries. In Slovakia, the populist Smer-SD party of former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who had promised to stop aid to neighbouring Ukraine during the campaign, won the legislative elections. Smer is expected to secure 42 seats out of the 150 in the Parliament and will need coalition partners to obtain a majority. In Poland, the far-right Confederation Freedom and Independence party is leading in the polls with a score of around 12% before the October 15 elections, up from about 7% at the beginning of the year. In a tight competition, this could be enough to push the ruling Law and Justice party, deeply conservative, into a theatrical conflict with Kyiv over cereal sales. Last week, Poland even briefly threatened to suspend military aid.

But most encouraging for Putin is the possibility that the upcoming American elections in November could result in a second term for Donald Trump. An ABC News/Washington Post opinion poll places him ahead of the incumbent President Joe Biden, with a margin of 51% to 42%. In the same survey, 41% of respondents said they thought the United States was doing too much for Ukraine, compared to 33% in February and 14% at the beginning of the war. Trump stated that he could end the Russian war in Ukraine one day.

Meanwhile, Europe has gone from lagging behind the United States regarding the magnitude of its financial and military aid promises to overtake it. War fatigue has become inevitable in a Europe where stagflation looms. In Germany, if elections were held today, the far right would become the second-largest force in the country.
Without a convincing response to Putin’s strategy to outlast the West, the risks of Ukraine being abandoned by an exhausted West will increase. The West is losing the ideological war against an imperialistic and dictatorial Russia, indirectly supported by China and much of the emerging world.

The answer is not more sanctions. Strengthening existing ones can help, but Russia is already subject to one of history’s most extensive sanctions regimes. These sanctions have unintentionally pushed Russia closer to China, bolstering the latter’s power.

Unfortunately, a divided and economically weakened Europe has little to offer in terms of leadership. Olaf Scholz’s geopolitical and economic choices in Germany have led the country into a deadlock. Germany is heading for years of hardship that could cost it a significant portion of its industrial base.
In France, a President without a majority, regularly contested in the streets, has lost significant international credibility. Spain is in search of a government with minimal room for manoeuvre. What can be said about Italy? Giorgia Meloni, which constantly undermines Europe and remains popular despite a dire economic situation?
The United States also has little to offer. As they approach an election that will divide the country, the biggest supporter of Kyiv is President Joe Biden. He struggles in the polls and is wildly at odds with his military leaders.

This chaotic situation should greatly benefit Russia, which is rich in natural resources that the world desperately needs. However, by abandoning Kyiv, Western nations would demonstrate to the rest of the world that the societal choices made by countries like Russia or China are more effective than the values they defend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *