With a media offensive, Ukraine is trying to convince the West of further support. Relations with allies may be strained, but for Zelensky it is clear that unity is the only option. For all allies: ‘If the Russians kill us, they will attack the NATO countries afterwards.’
“Just think about it for a moment,” said Andrii Yermak, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Zelensky, in an interview with Politico, “what if Britain was tired of Poland in 1939? Or what if the United States had grown tired of Britain? Would Poland, Britain or even Europe look the same today?”
With his history lesson about the Second World War, Yermak predicts what the future could look like if the allies abandon Ukraine. He argues that Ukrainians are not only fighting for their own country, but also for the survival of the free West. But now that the war appears to have reached a stalemate and the Western media mainly reports on the conflict in the Middle East, there appears to be less support for Ukraine.
Fatigue is starting to affect Europe and the US. In the interview, Yermak mainly lashes out at Italian Prime Minister Meloni, who even used the word “fatigue” literally. “I think the people who feel this fatigue don’t want to wake up to a world that is less free or less safe,” says Yermak. “The consequences of this will be felt for decades to come.”
The interview with Yermak comes at an important time for the country’s European future. On Wednesday, the European Commission will publish a report on the progress of Ukraine and other countries that aspire to membership. Ukraine has signed agreements with the EU to reform its justice system and tackle widespread corruption.
If the country can show good results, accession negotiations can begin: European leaders will discuss this further at a summit in December. According to committee chairman Ursula von der Leyen, Ukraine’s progress is already “excellent”, she wrote in a tweet this weekend, under which she posted images of her visit to Kiev.
Von der Leyen’s meeting with Zelensky is an important boost, his advisor Yermak also acknowledges. The committee chairman has thus given the signal that the EU will not let Ukraine fall and that it would like Ukraine to join the club. Even though there are still few prospects for new military support and many member states within the union are not eager for Ukrainian accession.
Just how much military support is needed was evident last week from a controversial essay in The Economist by the Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny, who spoke clearly about the difficulties of the Ukrainian army. According to him, to break the stalemate, air superiority and means to eliminate Russian artillery are needed.
So Zaluzhny’s real message to Western allies is: give us more weapons to get the job done. “But I don’t hear many promises in that direction yet,” says military historian Tom Simoens (Royal Military Academy). “There is only talk about F-16s and ATACMS missiles, but everyone knows that the Ukrainians need much more. When I see how the cards are now, I am not so optimistic about the future.”
The Russians have currently taken over the initiative across the entire front line, Simoens notes. From Kupyansk in the north to Kremmina, or the area north of Bachmut: the Russian army is now on the offensive everywhere. At Avdiivka, where battles have been going on for weeks, there is an operational pause to bring in new troops.
Ukraine is talking about territorial gains in the Kherson region, where it crossed the Dnieper River in the summer, and about small successes in the area around the village of Robotyne. But in practice the results remain poor. “At Robotyne we are really talking about the corner of a trench, a shed or a row of trees that have been captured by the Ukrainians,” says Simoens.
There has actually been very little movement on the front line for a year. The major Ukrainian offensive, for which NATO allies released many tanks and other weaponry, has made little difference. According to Simoens, the long duration of the war, coupled with the lack of substantial territorial gains, explains the war fatigue among Ukrainian patrons. “In American public opinion, support for Ukraine depends on battlefield success”, says Simoens. “But success has remained limited.”
On Sunday, Ukrainian President Zelensky himself gave an interview to the American channel NBC, in which he emphasized the need for American support. He also responded extensively to news from the day before: American and European government representatives were already expected to speak with the Ukrainian government about how to put an end to the war.
Zelensky would rather get new weapons to keep fighting than cede territory to the Russians, it was clear from the conversation. “If the Russians kill us all, they will attack NATO countries afterwards,” Zelensky said. “Then you must send your sons and daughters to fight and the price will be much higher.”