Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Cracks Show in Western Front Against Russia's War in Ukraine

Yeah, I'll bet. 

Problem is Ukraine won't make it without Western help, so if "the West" wants to preserve Ukrainian independence and sovereignty, it'll be the United States that makes it happen. 

Congress just approved $40 billion, against the wishes of just about everyone on Twitter, if that matters. I can't disagree with them. We have so many needs at home, and here we are sending tens of billions of dollars across the pond. For what? How U.S. national security is tied to Western Europe's is not very well defined these days, and I can't for the life of me see how the country will support more "endless wars" via the national checkbook when we just bailed out of Afghanistan most disgracefully and at great risk not only to those we left behind --- Americans and our Afghani allies --- but to international security on the whole. 

Biden's doing extremely poorly, not just in the polls, but among people in his own party and administration. And to think, we've still got to bear two and a half more years of him. *Grunts.*

At the Wall Street Journal, "Allies are increasingly divided on further heavy-weapons shipments to Kyiv":

Cracks are appearing in the Western front against Moscow, with America’s European allies increasingly split over whether to keep shipping more powerful weapons to Ukraine, which some of them fear could prolong the conflict and increase its economic fallout.

At the center of the disagreement—which is splitting a group of Western European powers from the U.S., U.K. and a group of mostly central and northern European nations—are diverging perceptions of the long-term threat posed by Russia and whether Ukraine can actually prevail on the battlefield.

The first bloc, led by France and Germany, is growing reluctant to provide Ukraine the kinds of offensive, long-range weapons it would need to reclaim ground lost to Russia’s armies in the country’s south and east. They doubt Russia would directly threaten the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

On the other side, Washington, London and a group of mainly central and northern European nations, some of them former Soviet bloc members, see the Russian offensive as a harbinger of further expansion by Moscow, making Ukraine the front line in a broader war pitching Russia against the West.

The differences between the two groups—which European officials said have been building in recent weeks, as Ukraine lost ground in its Donbas area—are getting aired more loudly in public this week, as the European Union’s heads of government hold a summit on Ukraine.

Collectively, European governments have been able to agree on measures to isolate Russia’s economy that once would have been unthinkable, including an embargo on most of the crude oil Russia sells to Europe. But opinion is sharply divided on the stakes of the war and Ukraine’s chances.

Public statements by the leaders of France and Germany and comments by those countries’ officials suggest they are skeptical Kyiv can expel the invaders and they have called for a negotiated cease-fire, triggering complaints from Ukraine that it is being pushed to make territorial concessions.

Leaders in the Baltic States, Poland and elsewhere argue instead that supplying Ukraine with increasingly sophisticated heavy weapons is critical to not just hold the line, but reverse Russian advances and deal Moscow the kind of blow that would deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from any further military action in the future.

“This is an unprecedented attack on Ukraine,” said Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks. “Our understanding, which is based on a long history of interactions with Russia, is that we cannot rely on Russian mercy and we see the Russian attack on Ukraine as simply the prelude for further Russian imperial expansionism.” Some Western European nations are losing appetite for sustaining a war they think is unwinnable and has reached a bloody stalemate that is draining European resources and exacerbating a looming recession. By contrast, Poland and the Baltic countries, who once lived under the Kremlin’s boot, see themselves as next in line for Russian imperialist expansion.

The flow of millions of Ukrainian refugees into those countries has brought the war much closer to citizens’ ordinary lives, while for Germany, Austria and Italy, the conflict is primarily felt through higher energy costs.

“Every phone call, ministers from the north of Europe and central Europe are getting more and more angry,” said a senior Czech official. “This is destroying the unity. It’s precisely what Putin wants and what the French and Germans are giving him.”

Unlike the leaders of Britain, Poland, the Baltic nations and several central European countries, French and German leaders have yet to visit Kyiv. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly warned that the conflict could lead to a third World War and nuclear annihilation. The goal of Western engagement, Mr. Scholz has said, was to keep Russia from winning.

Germany hasn’t sent tanks to Ukraine and agreed to ship seven pieces of heavy artillery. So far, Europe’s largest economy, with a population exceeding 83 million, has sent military aid worth about €200 million, according to government estimates—less than Estonia, with a population of just over one million. France has sent 12 howitzer-type cannons to Kyiv and no tanks or aerial defenses.

Poland has delivered more than 240 Soviet-designed T72 tanks to Ukraine, alongside drones, rocket launchers, dozens of infantry fighting vehicles and truckloads of ammunition. The Czech Republic has shipped helicopter gunships, tanks, and parts needed to keep Ukraine’s air force flying. Ordinary citizens in Lithuania and the Czech Republic have donated tens of millions of euros to crowdsourcing campaigns to buy Turkish drones and Soviet-era weapons for Ukraine.

“We’re sending whatever we can, whatever we have, and whenever we’re able to,” said Polish President Andrzej Duda, who has visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky twice and speaks to him most days. “Why? Because we believe that this is a war on civilization. This is about a war for the defense of Europe.”

Germany also has yet to replace the Polish and Czech tanks that had been sent to Ukraine with German-made hardware, as it agreed to do as part of a swap. A spokesman for the German government said this was due to lengthy procedures including maintenance, while some Defense Ministry officials decried a lack of political will to act with greater expedience.

“It is very disappointing that neither the federal government nor the Chancellor personally have the courage to speak about a victory for Ukraine and act accordingly in supporting Ukraine with modern, heavy weapons,” said Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin...