An Analysis on Dimensions of European Support for Ukraine

2024/04/07 | Note, political, top news

Strategic Council Online – Opinion: In the wake of the war in Ukraine, which has affected the international community, especially Europe, the leaders of the three EU member states, France, Germany, and Poland, recently agreed to increase efforts to purchase and produce weapons in Ukraine. Hossein Sayahi – International Researcher

Recently, the German chancellor announced that Kiev’s allies in Russia’s war would form a coalition aimed at supplying long-range artillery to Ukraine. In addition, Olaf Schulz stressed that interest from Russia’s frozen assets in Western countries would also be used to equip and purchase weapons for Ukraine. However, Europe’s support for Ukraine in the war with Russia is a complex and multifaceted equation, and one cannot be optimistic about its future solely based on the agreement reached in Berlin. On the one hand, in the heart of the European Union and at the core of power, France and Germany differ highly in approaching the Ukraine crisis.

In the meantime, the EU’s decisions on security issues are influenced by Transatlantic relations, and Europe has always depended on the U.S. security umbrella and Washington’s arms and economic support. Thus، the European effort to take any action in the Ukrainian campaign is influenced by various factors.

 

The War Situation in Ukraine

Like a theatrical scene, the Ukrainian campaign results from two different interpretations and field performances. About the former, each side defines their desired situation from the battlefield. The media, to influence public opinion and pressure the supporting governments and, out of necessity, provide a different and often three-dimensional interpretation of the battlefield situation. With the Western government’s inaction in delivering arms aid and economic packages to Ukraine, most Western media outlets are talking about the withdrawal of these countries and allowing Russia to take the initiative.

 

On the other hand, as aid arrives, there is a wave of news that Ukraine intends to launch a massive counteroffensive, advance on the front lines, and retake the lost territory. This is also true for the Russian side, which is trying to show itself in the media and public opinion as the ultimate victor of the war and that it is inclined to peace talks.

 

Thirdly، there are third countries and allies of both sides that pursue their own interests. Europe seeks greater unity by magnifying the Russian threat. Some countries, such as France, seek to use the existing conditions to establish and strengthen the region’s European security community and military independence. On the other hand, the United States and some European countries are considering strengthening NATO and reforming it.

 

However, the real battle is in a different situation. Contrary to the views of some leaders and even the media, the battle fronts have never been deadlocked. The war in Ukraine is clearly in a dynamic state. Russia is advancing in certain strategic areas of Copianesh, Kormina, and even Avdiouka. Moscow’s goals are to capture the entire Dundek and Luhansk provinces، but the country tends to extend its dominance westward to the eastern part of Kharkiv province. Despite these relative successes, Russia remains in a situation similar to the Winter War with Finland (1939–1940). In the Soviet war with Finland, the fierce resistance of a small country such as Finland, despite the inequality of all effective power components, took a heavy toll on the war machine of the great Soviet power. In the Ukraine campaign, there are no more significant, massive counterattacks. However, the country has been successful at sea. Kiev’s aggressive actions at sea have challenged Russia’s naval blockade and made the way for grain exports to some extent. This case shows that Ukraine’s war front is dynamic and not dependent solely on ground operations. Still, that invasion, resistance, and, in general, any movement on the battlefield, especially in the face of the great power of Russia, requires support.

 

Independent European support for Ukraine

Since the beginning of the Ukraine war, Europe has sent billions of euros of military aid to Ukraine. The EU recently approved a €50 billion support package aimed at increasing Ukraine’s capabilities on the battlefields with Russia. This will be a loan of low interest and grants for four years. In addition, European defense ministers have pledged to provide Ukraine with at least €21 billion in military equipment in 2024.

 

The aid aims to support Ukraine and increase its defensive and offensive capabilities. However, there is another goal for some actors, and that is to show that the United States is unreliable for Europe. In this regard, statistics show that the volume of European aid to Ukraine has surpassed that of the United States in the past year. The US Congress has repeatedly failed to approve $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, and even its approval cannot guarantee future deliveries. Along with this, Europeans are well aware that if Trump wins the next election, U.S. support for Ukraine will be more and more ambiguous. Thus, the increased European aid to Ukraine compared with the United States demonstrates the bloc’s determination to achieve minimal independence from the United States. A topic that could be raised in the future on broader and more vital issues, such as the security umbrella of the country and even NATO. However, it is clear that EU members do not take the same position.

 

France-Germany, with strategic differences despite efforts to take a united stand

Ideas such as a Western European military presence in the Ukraine campaign, strengthening the nuclear umbrella, a single European army, and sending strategic arms to Ukraine may seem utopian at first glance. Still, they suggest significant differences between EU members, especially Germany and France. The Great War in the heart of Europe has led to different discourses on security and non-security issues in Europe. Germany, while supporting the full mobilization of Ukraine in the fight against Russia, is managing the war, balancing the fronts, and trying to use or strengthen NATO’s current capacity.

 

The country’s geopolitical reasons are somewhat clear. Berlin has economic and energy interests in relation to Russia. In addition, post-World War II Germany prefers diplomacy and economic relations over military action. As such, it is trying to balance the two options of pushing for military support for Ukraine and managing the current complex relationship with Russia.

 

France is also reaffirming its full support for Ukraine، and the UK. Yet the country remains faithful to de Gaulle’s idea of a united Europe independent of the United States. Paris has always been interested in strategic autonomy and maintaining an independent position in the global geopolitical landscape.

 

In addition, France is trying to use Ukraine’s campaign to create a unified military structure for European unity, making the bloc an effective and powerful player rather than just a business-political bloc in the global power distribution structure.

In general, it can be inferred that although a united European stance vis-à-vis Ukraine is comprehensive support for Kiev,  the strategic differences that the Ukrainian issue has created in this union cannot be ignored.

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