By COLLEEN BARRY and YURAS KARMANAU, Associated Press
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its fourth month, officials in Kyiv have expressed concern that the specter of “war fatigue” could erode the resolve of the West to help the country repel Moscow’s aggression.
The United States and its allies have given billions of dollars in arms to Ukraine. Europe has taken in millions of people displaced by war. And there was unprecedented unity in post-World War II Europe to impose sanctions on President Vladimir Putin and his country.
But as the shock of the Feb. 24 invasion wears off, analysts say the Kremlin could exploit a protracted, entrenched conflict and possible waning interest among Western powers that could lead to pressure on the Ukraine to find a settlement.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has previously chafed at Western suggestions that he should agree to some sort of compromise. Ukraine, he said, would decide its own peace terms.
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“Fatigue increases, people want some kind of outcome (which is beneficial) for themselves, and we want (another) outcome for ourselves,” he said.
An Italian peace proposal has been rejected and French President Emmanuel Macron was met with an angry reaction after being quoted as saying that although Putin’s invasion was a ‘historic mistake’, world powers should not “humiliate Russia, so when the fighting stops, we can build a way out together through diplomatic channels. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said such talk “can only humiliate France and all other countries that require it”.
Even a remark by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that Ukraine should consider territorial concessions drew a rejoinder from Zelenskyy that it amounted to European powers in 1938 letting Nazi Germany claim parts of Czechoslovakia to curb Adolf Hitler’s aggression.
Kyiv wants to drive Russia out of newly captured areas in eastern and southern Ukraine, as well as retake Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and parts of Donbass held by Kremlin-backed separatists over the past of the past eight years.
Each month of war costs Ukraine $5 billion, said Volodymyr Fesenko, a political analyst at the Penta Center think tank, and this “makes Kyiv dependent on the consolidated position of Western countries”.
Ukraine will need even more advanced weaponry to secure victory, as well as Western determination to keep Russia’s economic pain to weaken Moscow.
“It is obvious that Russia is determined to wear down the West and is now building its strategy on the assumption that Western countries will tire and gradually start changing their militant rhetoric to more accommodating rhetoric,” Fesenko said in an interview. at The Associated Press.
The war still enjoys significant coverage in the United States and Europe, which have been horrified by images of Ukrainian civilian deaths in the biggest fighting on the continent since World War II.
The United States continues to help Ukraine, with President Joe Biden saying last week that Washington would provide him with advanced rocket systems and munitions that will allow him to more accurately strike key targets on the battlefield.
In a May 31 New York Times essay, Biden said, “I will not pressure the Ukrainian government — privately or publicly — to make territorial concessions.
Germany, which had come under criticism from Kyiv and elsewhere for its perceived hesitation, promised its most modern air defense systems yet.
“There was nothing like it, even during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union seemed most threatening,” said Nigel Gould-Davies, senior Russia and Eurasia researcher at the International Institute of Science. strategic studies.
While he sees no significant erosion in “emphatic support for Ukraine”, Gould-Davies said “there are hints of different tensions about what the West’s goals should be. Those- these are not yet clearly defined.
Europe’s domestic concerns find their way into the discourse, especially as energy prices and raw material shortages begin to weigh on the economy of ordinary citizens facing electricity bills, fuel costs and higher food prices.
While European leaders hailed the decision to block 90% of Russian oil exports by the end of the year as “a complete success”, it took four weeks of negotiations and included a concession allowing Hungary, widely seen as the Kremlin’s closest ally in the EU, to continue imports. Additional weeks of political tweaking are needed.
“It shows that unity in Europe is declining a bit with the Russian invasion,” said Matteo Villa, an analyst at the ISPI think tank in Milan. “There is this kind of fatigue that is setting in among member states to find new ways to sanction Russia, and clearly within the European Union there are countries that are less and less willing to continue with penalties.”
Wary about the economic impact of new energy sanctions, the European Commission has indicated that it will not rush to propose new restrictive measures targeting Russian gas. EU lawmakers are also calling for financial assistance for citizens affected by rising heating and fuel prices to ensure that public support for Ukraine does not diminish.
Right-wing Italian leader Matteo Salvini, seen as close to Moscow, told foreign reporters this week that Italians were ready to make sacrifices and that his league supported sanctions against Russia.
But he indicated that the support is not unlimited, amid signs that the trade balance under sanctions has shifted in favor of Moscow, hurting small business owners in northern Italy who are part of its base.
“The Italians are very available to make personal economic sacrifices to support Ukraine’s defense and achieve a ceasefire,” Salvini said.
“What I wouldn’t like is to find us here in September, after three months of ongoing conflict. If so, it will be a disaster for Italy. Beyond the dead, and saving lives, which is the priority, economically, for Italy, if the war continues it will be a disaster,” he said.
Barry reported from Milan. Angela Charlton in Paris, Lorne Cook in Brussels, Justin Spike in Budapest, Hungary and Aya Batrawy in Davos, Switzerland, contributed.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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