(CNN) — The West has reached its last crossroads with regard to Ukraine.
The upcoming decisions on deepening support for Kyiv in its fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war became even more important as the winter battleground proved more dynamic than the expected stalemate.
Time is running out fast for America and its allies Send more powerful weapons and train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use them before Russia launches a fierce new offensive ahead of the war’s decisive second year.
Meanwhile, the painful humanitarian cost of the conflict and the justification for Western aid were laid bare in the horror of a Russian cruise missile attack on a nine-story apartment building in Dnipro, central Ukraine. At least 45 people were killed, including six children. The tragedy underscored the deterioration of the unprovoked war and renewed calls for Putin to face war crimes charges. He also insisted that any hope of a negotiated end to the war was more remote than ever, which seemed to inject new resolve and unity into the Western alliance at a crucial time.
Western partners are now sending tanks and armored vehicles to Ukraine. Many have joined the U.S. in sending Patriot anti-missile vehicles, an overstepping step early in the war to avoid further provoking Putin.
Ukraine, in its predicament, always wants more. The West’s upcoming elections will ultimately be based on its assessment of its own interests. An atmosphere of agony and courage Ukraine cannot be ignored.
“We are facing the collapse of the world as we know it, as we know it,” Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska told the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday. Try Ukrainian specialist courier.
What the West does will determine the fate of the war
The problems facing the West now are serious, but they are well known.
How far should NATO go to meet Ukraine’s increasingly desperate demands for more and more sophisticated offensive weapons? What is Russia’s red line before Western action triggers a massive escalation, perhaps including the use of a battlefield nuclear weapon, that could usher in a terrifying new era of war and risk US-US conflict? And Russia?
The question remains how long the political foundations of an extraordinary Western effort to save Ukraine in the US and Europe will last, even if a mild continental winter weakens Putin’s fightback efforts. A war of energy against civilians.
US President Joe Biden and Western leaders face a dilemma made more acute by Ukraine’s resistance and its surprising ability to inflict heavy casualties on the Russian military. Is the West committed to expelling the Ukrainian invaders from its entire territory? It is a goal that will ultimately create unpredictable political turmoil in Moscow and threaten Putin’s survival in power. Or is he limiting his efforts to giving Ukraine enough steel to survive?
Retired General Wesley Clark, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Tuesday that the West had more to do, especially after the Dnipro offensive.
“Ukraine must be armed to repel Russia. Russia is not giving up on what it is doing, and Putin is gathering strength. He’s planning another attack,” Clark said. “It’s fantastic that we’re giving them 10 tanks from Great Britain. Ten tanks? Ukraine needs 300, 500 tanks. Better to try sending them some more howitzers. But that is not enough. We have to take this seriously,” he said.
Extreme Western diplomacy on Ukraine escalates
These questions are at the center of extraordinary diplomatic activity on both sides of the Atlantic this week. On Tuesday, Biden spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholes and welcomed Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to the Oval Office by a campfire. A high-level delegation of the US government visited Ukraine. US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley visited Poland to meet his Ukrainian counterpart for the first time. He will attend a meeting of the Ukrainian Liaison Committee in Germany this week, when 50 countries will come together to pledge fresh support to Kiev.
All these leaders talk a great game. But after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s impassioned plea for more help on his Christmas visit to Washington, the question in Ukraine is whether Western leaders’ generosity will match their rhetoric.
“We are stepping up our defense of democratic values around the world, including our toughness with Ukraine,” Biden told Root on Tuesday. In response, the Dutch leader predicted that history would remember his host for saving Ukraine. “I want to personally congratulate him and America on his leadership,” Rutte said.
His remarks were a reminder of Biden’s undeniably historic role in reviving the Cold War alliance against Russia. But it particularly resonated for two reasons. First, Biden’s legacy in Ukraine as the author of one of the most significant and thus far successful U.S. foreign policy initiatives in decades has no end in sight unless Washington continues to fund and arm Zelensky’s forces during a conflict. This means that the inevitable logic of US policy is toward deeper engagement, even if it does not go as Zelensky hoped, and may cause further friction with Moscow and the new Republican majority in the House.
Second, calling out Rutte’s stock shows that despite storm upon storm Discovery of some of Biden’s secret documents Dating back to his vice presidency where they shouldn’t be, the president is playing on a big stage with deep national security implications that will reverberate long after the latest Washington scandal has subsided.
With that in mind, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Tuesday implicitly acknowledged the latest changes to U.S. aid, a commitment that was unthinkable at the start of the war and is already worth billions of dollars.
“As this aggression unfolds, Ukraine has our help,” he told Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Wise at a news conference.
“If you look at the trajectory of the Stingers, the Javelins, the Himars, the Bradley Fighting Vehicles and the Patriot missile batteries, we’ve continued to deliver what Ukraine needs. It’s actually happening. On the battlefield, planning where it might go,” Blinken said.
Following his comments, John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator for the White House’s National Security Council, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that new announcements on weapons and aid would “probably come as soon as this weekend.” He did not say whether the US would also send tanks to Ukraine. Putin, meanwhile, wisely said that Britain had to understand that Britain would have “strategic leverage to stick with Ukraine” until “the job is done”.
“What we’re recognizing now is that they need the ability to push back hard in the east and south,” Wise said in a conversation with CNN’s Kylie Atwood at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has vowed not to stop supporting Ukraine. “Over the past year, your country has moved the world and inspired Europe, and I assure you that Europe will always be with you,” van der Leyen said in Davos after Zelenska’s speech.
Hopes are growing in Europe that Schaalz, who will speak in Davos on Wednesday, will take significant steps to agree to send tanks to Ukraine, a nation that has hated militarism since World War II.
Lithuanian President Kitanas Nausėda said after his visit to Berlin: “I am sure that Chancellor Scholz will decide this, and I see a very important turning point or turning point in Germany’s thinking or mentality.”
Western rhetoric in favor of Ukraine has rarely been more strident. It remains to be seen in the next few days whether promises of military aid will match that resolution.