Two months ago, when Kyiv was still under threat, Boris showed up, without fanfare, to show his solidarity with Zelensky while many other Western leaders stayed away. Thereafter, realizing that “shows” of solidarity were not even enough for the beleaguered countries, he went on to preside over by far the most generous donation of arms and military aid to Ukraine of any country in the world. ‘Europe. Zelensky has repeatedly praised Britain for its real support – military and moral. We didn’t just talk, we marched, tirelessly supporting Ukraine and cutting all ties with Russia.
It’s a shame Boris has bogged us down in so much political nonsense, from the party door to the puzzling Treasury antics. For with each passing day, the moral superiority of Britain over Europe becomes clearer. France, Germany and Italy, the EU’s three largest economies, are dragging their feet on arms supplies while continuing to pour billions of euros into Moscow’s war chest by buying its energy.
This fact does not seem to phase the continental combinations. Indeed, last week we were treated to the irritating sight of the leaders of the very countries that Ukraine was asking for more help arriving in Kyiv in a small group of self-congratulations. Emmanuel Macron, Mario Draghi and Olaf Scholz arrived in the city by luxury night train to purr and pat Zelensky’s hand, and reassure him that his country’s dream of being in the EU will not be in vain (the European Commission made its recommendation on Friday).
But Ukrainians, while happy to be considered for EU membership, are more concerned about the threat to order and security if Russia ends up winning, which these Europeans seem to let happen. . Referring to one of Macron’s many soothing comments, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelensky, observed wryly: “They will say that we must end the war which is causing food problems and economic problems…that we must save face for Mr. Putin. .”
He was, in so many words, absolutely right. Certainly, all the ceremonial and symbolic visits of the world do not compensate for the lack of armament, the real danger of losing Ukraine to a psychotic imperialist regime.
Germany’s bold promises months ago to send large quantities of state-of-the-art weaponry seemed to indicate that this heavyweight and dangerously pacifist power had turned over a new leaf, finally understanding the importance of winning wars against morally bankrupt rogue states.
It was a mirage. Germany dithers and holds back, again – again! – afraid of hurting Russia’s feelings, and petrified – like the rest of Europe – of losing Russian gas supplies and food shortages caused by the war. The weapons systems promised months ago have not arrived: the Iris-T air defense system could take months more, and the rocket launchers should not arrive until August or September. France and Italy have also largely preferred to signal virtue rather than cut all ties with Russia. But it’s a funny virtue. As Mykhailo Podolyak, one of Zelensky’s top advisers, told NPR this week: “How can the country that rapes our women be allowed to save face? What do we need to win this war, for this war to end? We need weapons.
Even Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council and a close ally of Putin, sees things more clearly than Scholz and co. In an openly smirking tweet that sounds legitimate, Medvedev sneered: “European fans of frogs, liver sausages and spaghetti love visiting Kyiv. With zero usage. Promised EU membership and old howitzers to Ukraine, rushed to the gorilka and returned home by train, like 100 years ago. All is well. Yet this will not bring Ukraine closer to peace. The clock is turning.
It is remarkable that with people like this in charge, Europe’s will to avoid offending Russia is as strong as ever. Or maybe it’s not so strange: only 80 years ago, Western Europe was really, really keen not to offend Hitler and keep Stalin soft on the East.
Europe’s panic over gas and food – which came way too late in the day – has led to some remarkable sights, like Ursula von der Leyen visiting Israel last week and speaking to her Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with something approaching real respect, very rare indeed from the Israeli-skeptical EU.
With its technological and agricultural prowess, Israel should be able to help in some way. And I sincerely hope it’s possible; Europe must overcome its obsession with Russian sensibilities – and fast.
As Eastern European sage Anne Applebaum tweeted in May: “Putin doesn’t need an ‘exit ramp’. He needs to lose. And only when he loses – only when he is humiliated – will Russia’s wars of imperial conquest finally come to an end. Letting Russia win does not just mean the end of European peace; this could really signal the start of World War III.