Thursday
July 25, 2024

Fissures in the European Union over aid to Ukraine

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By: Aasi Ansari, Research Analyst, GSDN

European Union: source Internet

Introduction

On February 28, 2022 Ukraine requested to become the official member of European Union (EU), just a few days after the full-scale attack launched from Russia. Just a few days after the invasion the members of European Union collaborated with each other to support Ukraine in the area of economy and defence, by supplying arms and humanitarian aid, opening their borders for the refugees and promising to give them jobs. Simultaneously, NATO also increased their defence budget by 2% of their GDP.

As this war has been going on over two years, it has starting to show some major cracks in the aid to Ukraine. Some of the EU countries are now trying to cut off defence supply because of the political and economic reasons. Similarly, many US officials are now voting against additional funding to Ukraine in the ongoing war. The Ukrainians authorities are also worried that the Russian could possibly win this war by simply waiting out the war. 

Cracks in European Aid

Since the beginning of the war, both the US and the EU showed determination towards the fight against Russia. Both have provided humanitarian aid for the civilians and defence aid to military to fight against Russia. However, this determination did not last very long. This war has been going on for so long, that it is now becoming difficult for the European Union to maintain the solidarity towards the aid for the Ukraine.

In the end of 2023, Ukraine asked for more 500,000 new troops for the year 2024 so that they can continue defending the nation. President Volodymyr Zelensky showed cracks in the aid from both EU and USA, that the new troops might not be having any arms and ammunition to fight. Thus, addressing urgent need for defence aid along with the new troops. Furthermore, Europe is facing difficulties in getting their own aid from Hungary, is the main stumbling block. The President of Hungary has also signalled that he will make trouble for Ukraine for joining the European Union. 

Firstly, these fissures are because of the economic crisis, energy crisis, and political elections closing in. Due to the economic crisis, political parties among European Union have exploiting the costs of war to influence public opinion. Some political parties from western European countries believe that Ukraine is far too weak against Russia to fight this war any longer, and Ukraine should consider a peace treaty with Russia. They believe that giving more aid to Ukraine will only give rise to inflation, refugees, bankrupt industries and unemployment to their own people. On the other hand, the bordering countries to Russia, demand the imposition of the most severe sanctions on Russia for the war crimes and increase military support for Ukraine. Simultaneously, growing energy crisis is one of the main concerns for the European leaders, as it could have geopolitical effect in the nation. Because of this conflict European leaders have realized how much they are dependent on Russian energy through oil and natural gas.

Secondly, the war in the Middle East between Palestine and Israel has highlighted the disagreements among the EU members in choosing to support either of the nations, in which some countries have supported the pro-Israel ideology and others want to protect the Palestinian civilians in Gaza. It has shown limitations of influence the EU has in the Middle-East. These difference also have increased incoherence among policymakers at the headquarters in Brussels, resulting in growing tensions to manage more than one ongoing conflict in the world. This growing tensions can risk distracting EU governments from humanitarian and military funding to Ukraine’s war of self-defence.

Both the US and the EU are deeply divided over continuing funding the Ukraine with the defence and humanitarian aid, all while Russia is increasingly getting more aggressive in this war increasing the numbers of casualties and destruction on both sides. Recently, Russia has also increased the defence production with one-third of its 2024 budget. The NATO as a whole with the political parties of the US and the EU should take some serious action in order to end this war.

Why European Aid is essential to Ukraine war

The United States and European Union has aided Ukraine since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war. The EU countries especially the bordering countries to Russia see Russia’s aggression as a threat to their own countries and to treat this crisis as a priority. Since, February 2022, the total of €926 million has been provided to Ukraine for humanitarian aid by the European commission for the civilians for essential services like cash assistance, food, water, shelter, health care, psychosocial support, and protection.

Other than humanitarian aid the USA and EU have also provided military aid through arms and ammunition. Since the full scale invasion of Russia in Ukraine, $44.2 billion has been provided to Ukraine by the USA for defence aid to the military to defend and protection the civilians from the war. The total of €77 billion have been given to the Ukraine by EU for the defence aid. Germany helped with 17.7 billion Euros worth of defence aid, and the European Union facilitated the transfer of arms and ammunition to Ukraine for the first time and in the end of the last year, Germany also delivered second Patriot air defence system with missiles, spare parts and ammunition to Ukraine in new aid package. UK  has given €9.1 billion, Denmark has committed €8.4 billion, Norway €6.6 billion and Finland authorities have promised to double the ammo production by building new factories to help Ukraine.

The difference in opinion within Washington authorities has become a big stumbling block in aid to Ukraine. The White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby stated that “Time is not our friend.” Ukraine backers in Washington are supporting Biden’s request to give $24 billion in new economic and military assistance to Ukraine. John Kirby said “We have enough funding authorities to meet Ukraine’s battlefield needs but we need Congress to act to make sure there is no disruption in our support.”  US military aid is rapidly running out due to the delay in making decisions on a new budget package in Congress drag on.

Ukraine is working to increasing its own capacity to develop weapons that are likely to run out from US and EU military supplies. In attempt to increase the military power, they hosted an International Defence Industry Conference in Kyiv late last year. In that conference, Zelensky mentioned that about 252 military companies and more than 30 countries represented at the forum showed a readiness to help Ukraine. He stated “to build the arsenal of the free world together with Ukraine and in Ukraine. A modern and powerful arsenal that will leave no chance for any aggressor.” 

Beyond the financial and military needs, Ukraine also needs solidarity and diplomatic support in this war. To support solidarity, the foreign policy chief of European Union Josep Borrell held a meeting in Kyiv with representatives of the 27 EU members, including at least 23 foreign ministers. He stated “By coming to Kyiv, the European Union’s foreign ministers sent a strong message of solidarity and support to Ukraine in the face of this unjust and illegitimate war.” President of the European commission vowed to fund Ukraine with or without the help of few European countries being a barrier to Ukraine aid. EU diplomats even increased the pressure on Hungary by threatening to invoke the nuclear option

The solidarity of few European countries have been wavering because of political and economic reasons. For instance, Prime Minister of Slovakia called for cutting off military aid to Ukraine, and suggested for a peace settlement between Moscow and Kyiv. Similarly, Hungary refused to provide military support to Ukraine. Hungary has been taking Ukrainian refugees all-along, while maintaining economic ties with Russia and blocking Ukraine’s approach to join the European Union. Politicians from Poland promoted anti-Ukraine agendas to motivate voters in the election last year, such as blocking Ukraine’s grain shipment in order to protect the polish farmers and not sending defence aid beyond already established agreement. Prime Minister of Poland said that we are no longer transferring any weapons but arming ourselves with the most modern weapon.

Despite Russia and some of EU and US diplomats sees Ukraine as a lost cause and are trying to push Ukraine towards peace negotiations, this year Europe Council decided to give 50 billion Euros to Ukraine from which 17 billion euros via grants and 33 billion euros via loans. This success comes just in time when all hopes of defence and economic aid have dried up. This is a good news for Ukraine and will keep Ukraine in the fight against Russia for next four years for the basic needs such as government salary, humanitarian help, develop arms and ammunition, defend against missile and cyberattacks and carry out military operations.

This agreement has shown that European Union is now spending more than the United States in supporting Ukraine in this war. This is also a signal to US that EU is stepping up and is ready for the upcoming years if the war drags on. The EU will supply this military aid to Ukraine in a ‘timely, predictable and sustainable’ manner. The European Council also acknowledged the shortcomings in defence aid with one million artillery shells that they promised to provide by March 2024.

Conclusion

Ukraine needs as much help as it can get from both EU and US to sustain this fight for future. If Russia manages to conquer Ukraine, its border will extend to more NATO countries like Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania. European leaders should take this Ukraine crisis as their own crisis, since the bordering countries could be attacked next after Russia occupies Ukraine. Therefore, Europe needs to communicate among themselves, keeping their differences in opinion aside and work together in order to increase effectiveness of military power and efficiency of defence technology. The Ukrainians authorities are also worried because the Russian’s vast military power and defence technology, they could possibly win this war by simply waiting out the war. US and EU both needs to double down the supply by working on the fissure in the aid and keep supplying humanitarian and military aid till Ukraine wins the war or the war end up in a peace agreement.

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