NATO allies used the last day of the Alliance’s annual summit to convey a message of unwavering support for Ukraine as the Russian invasion has entered its fifth month, making gains in eastern Donbas for weeks and causing serious global turmoil, especially in terms of escalating energy and food prices. Facing military difficulties on the ground and unrest brewing in many societies, several countries announced increased support for Kiev with new military aid—including the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.
“This war will not end with a Russian victory over Ukraine,” said US President Joe Biden at a press conference announcing that his country is preparing to send additional military aid worth some $770 million. euros. “It will include advanced Western air defenses, new munitions for the Himars multiple missile launcher system, and radars to detect artillery pieces,” said Biden, who specified that his Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, met in mid-June, within the framework of the Group Defense Contact of Ukraine, to representatives of fifty countries willing to provide support to the attacked country. The US has approved military aid to Kiev for some 6.7 billion euros since Biden took office.
The United Kingdom also took advantage of the summit to announce, this Wednesday, the shipment of additional aid worth 1,160 million euros, which will include air defenses, drones, and equipment for electronic warfare. French President Emmanuel Macron said at his press conference that Paris will send another six Caesar artillery systems, in addition to the 12 already delivered. The Caesars have a range of up to 50 kilometers.
More sophisticated training and weapons
Announcements overlap each other, and deliveries often encounter difficulties and run much less smoothly than communication. But at the summit, the political determination to provide Ukraine with heavier and more sophisticated weapons than at the beginning has crystallized. In this sense, the Alliance has expressed its commitment to training the Ukrainian forces to handle weapons with NATO standards. The Ukrainian Army uses Soviet-made weapons, but the meager stocks of such material in the arsenals of some Eastern NATO partners are running out.
The other relevant aspect is the possible emergence of war fatigue in Western societies due to the collateral effects of the conflict, as reflected in inflation data such as the one published on Wednesday in Spain. It is not ruled out that this will end up increasing pressure on the governments of some Western countries so that they project their influence for the sake of a negotiated solution.
But the leaders, both at the NATO summit and at the G-7 summit that concluded on Tuesday, have forcefully reaffirmed concepts far removed from that perspective. “Giving in is giving in on our principles,” Macron said, “which is why we will insist on supporting Ukraine and on sanctions.” “If Ukraine loses, the democracies lose. If Ukraine loses, it will be more difficult to argue that democracy is the most effective governance model,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told the G-7. Asked how long American citizens would have to pay high gas prices, Biden replied: “Whatever it takes so that Russia can’t beat Ukraine and can’t go beyond Ukraine.”
And “for as long as it takes” was the message from the G-7 regarding their readiness to help Ukraine. The leaders made it clear that it is Kyiv who must decide if it wants to talk, and how to start a negotiation that stops hostilities. President Zelensky pointed out at the G-7 that he does not believe that this moment has come.
Another thing is that, even if Kyiv wanted it, Vladimir Putin is ready for it. US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said in a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday that the US secret service community believes the Kremlin maintains its goal of territorially conquering a large part of Ukraine. Due to the weakening of its military force, it is unlikely that it will be able to achieve this objective any time soon, and all these factors suggest that a very protracted war of attrition is likely. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was explicit in Madrid in pointing out that there is not the slightest hint of Putin’s intention to sit down to negotiate.
This scenario raises fears of a lasting projection of the turbulence linked to the war. In Spain, inflation exceeded 10% year-on-year in June, according to data released on Wednesday, the worst record since 1985. On the same day, the US Department of Commerce published data that point to a slowdown in consumer spending in that country, an element that reinforces the harbingers of a path toward recession. Similar statistics play out across much of the western arc and threaten to cause intense social unrest. US stocks post worst first half in decades.
Difficulties and contradictions emerge in multiple ways. One of them, is the symptoms of a setback in the fight against climate change, with the use of coal or the violation, by the G-7, of the promise to avoid public investment in the fossil fuel sector to overcome the problems supply linked to the war. The decision has provoked a resounding rejection among those who support a determined fight against global warming.
Everything points, then, to a prolonged conflict, with persistent turbulence. For now, as Macron pointed out, the bet is clear: firm and growing support for Kyiv and a great effort to alleviate the socio-economic consequences beyond Ukraine. That is the unitary message that came out of the summit marathon of the democratic universe that began last Thursday ―with the EU offering Ukraine the status of a candidate country―, continued with the G-7 in Germany, and ends this Thursday in Madrid. with a NATO summit that paves the way for the expansion of the organization and an ambitious review of its strategy. “Putin wanted a Finnishization of NATO, and he has obtained a NATOization from Finland. I told him that if he invaded Ukraine, NATO would become stronger and more united,” Biden said. At the moment, that is the predominant feature. Time will tell if the socioeconomic turbulence will open cracks in that harmony.