On Ukraine, the West must not falter now

Richard Branson meeting with President Zelensky in Ukraine
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Published on 12 December 2023

Today, US President Biden will host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Washington in an effort to “underscore the United States’ unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s brutal invasion”.

The stakes couldn’t be any higher. I’ve never worried more that diminishing global attention to Russia’s brutal invasion could weaken the West’s resolve to provide further support for Ukraine’s brave and courageous defence. Current developments are troubling. In the US, Congressional Republicans have tied approval for continued military aid for Ukraine to government action on immigration. An emergency aid package was blocked last week, and the White House has warned that US funds for military support could dry up by the end of the month.

Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska didn’t mince words a few days ago when she described the current wavering among Western allies as a “mortal danger” for her country and its people. This is not fearmongering. In the EU, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been lobbying for an end to support and is also trying to block further talks about Ukraine’s EU membership. It’s sad to see the leader of a country that flourished after the fall of the Iron Curtain undermine Ukraine’s fight for sovereignty, freedom, and self-determination. Ukraine deserves the same freedom to chart its own course in Europe without Russian interference. That’s what Ukrainians have been fighting for - bravely, with great resilience, determination, and remarkable success against all odds.

Thankfully, others strike a more supportive tone. I was heartened to hear German Chancellor Olaf Scholz say that Germany must be prepared to do more “when others are faltering,” a sentiment echoed in Paris and in London, too. But actions speak louder than words, and it’s worth remembering that, in 1994, Western powers gave strong assurances for Ukraine’s safety, prompting the nation to give up its nuclear arsenal. As I and many others have pointed out before: Ukrainians are fighting and dying for more than their own sovereignty. They are also fighting and dying for the security and stability of a free Europe. Any wavering now, any slowdown in military support, any attempt to push Ukraine into a dictated peace agreement on Putin’s terms would open the door for further aggressions that could threaten democracy, freedom, and the rule of law around the world. There is no room for short-term thinking. The West must show that it will stand by its word.