Putin’s attack on Ukraine has plunged the peoples of Europe into a whirlwind of extreme emotions: horror that such a war is even possible. Sympathy for the desperate mothers, the children, the fathers in the bombed-out cities and on the run. Timid hope that Ukraine can resist and that a negotiated peace is close. Extraordinary willingness to help, but also to get used to horrible images.
Faced with this situation, the heads of government of the NATO countries, the EU and the G-7 meet in Brussels to discuss their course of action. After four weeks, the war enters a new phase.
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The Russian army is having a worse time than expected. The Ukrainian resistance is more effective than expected.
And yet, a ceasefire is no longer likely. Putin refuses to admit failure. After heavy losses, he prepares the next offensive, with new material and new soldiers.
Until mid-May, Putin only pretends to negotiate
100,000 experienced recruits complete service on April 1. With pressure and propaganda, how many of them can you commit more time to, given the number of casualties?
The new recruits who replace them must be trained. The Russian air force remains largely on the ground for fear of Ukrainian air defenses. The stockpile of rockets and cruise missiles being used by the attackers instead has been largely depleted.
It will probably be May before it becomes clear what resources Putin plans to use for the new offensive and what the chances of success are. Meanwhile, he only trades on the surface.
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The new situation changes the options for how Europe and the US can help defenders foil Putin’s plans altogether. His failure would be the surest way to restore the order of peace. Even if he doesn’t fall, would he dare start another war to bring the former Soviet republics into his empire?
Strengths and weaknesses of the West
Solo: is a Putin defeat realistic? Absolutely. Politically, economically and militarily, the democracies of Europe, America and Asia, whose heads of government consult in Brussels, are overwhelmingly superior. They represent 60 percent of the world economy, Russia for three.
Of course, they themselves are vulnerable. Economically: Europe has to import energy sources and raw materials, much of it from Russia.
Politically: Putin was surprised by the severity of the sanctions and the great solidarity with Ukraine. But the West is not as united as is often claimed.
Military: Russia is a nuclear power. Therefore, the West must not let Putin do as he pleases. But he wants to avoid a direct confrontation and not corner him. He will provide Ukraine with what he needs to inflict defeat on the Russian army.
Ukrainians defend NATO in Ukraine with Western weapons
However, NATO does not impose a no-fly zone. The West also does not dispute its “responsibility to protect” – an obligation to protect – as in previous cases when brutal warlords fired on defenseless civilians. In exchange, Ukraine will receive air defense systems to keep the sky clear of Russian warplanes. In addition, tanks and artillery to fight in the area.
As bitter as this idea is, the peace plans that are ultimately negotiated depend on who is more militarily successful, Russia or Ukraine.
How much help is necessary, possible, responsible? There are significant differences in these considerations.
Eastern members of the EU and NATO want to do more, just as Britain, France and Germany want to do less. The attempts of Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz to persuade Putin to make peace are sometimes ridiculed and sometimes judged as harmful.
The EU lacks hard power, the US is crucial
The EU lacks hard power. It does not supply weapons, it cannot guarantee the military protection of its members. He offers money if others want to hand over weapons and decides on another 500 million euros, although the first ones have not been used.
It seems symbolic politics. The real test will be whether the distribution of the refugees will succeed this time.
The United States is decisive: they prepared Ukraine for a successful defense in the first phase of the war. They will provide most of what Ukraine needs now.
There is no end to the horror in sight. But hope has grown that Ukraine can assert itself and paralyze Putin’s aggressive will. In any case.