Judy Asks: Will distrust among EU leaders fail Ukraine?

Opinion piece (Carnegie Europe)
16 June 2021

EU leaders exaggerated their unity at the start of this crisis. They should not now overstate their differences or suspect each other’s motives. Wanting the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine to stop now — when even Ukrainian officials admit that they are suffering almost 1,000 casualties (killed or wounded) every day — is a respectable, if unrealistic, aspiration.

But before they promote a policy that will almost certainly involve Ukraine giving up territory, EU leaders should ask themselves two questions. The first is what the Ukrainians themselves want. If they believe that they have no choice but to fight to save their state from a brutal occupier, then the EU should continue to support them with military supplies and sanctions designed to weaken Russia’s ability to wage war.

The second question is whether an early ceasefire is achievable at an acceptable cost and sustainable over a reasonable period, given what European leaders know about Vladimir Putin’s ultimate war aims. Since the Russian president has made clear that he wants nothing less than the elimination of Ukraine’s statehood, the answer is clear: no. Were Putin to offer a ceasefire (which he shows no signs of doing), European leaders would be well-advised to distrust him, rather than each other.

Ian Bond is director of foreign policy at the Centre for European Reform.

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