Condemnation for condemnation’s sake - recent international developments in relation to the Ukraine
“If the US sees Ukraine in NATO, they have to say it and do it, not words” - Volodymyr Zelensky
Since Ukraine submitted its NATO application on September 30th, the international arena seems to have largely failed to follow the pleas of President Zelensky. In the recent weeks, the country has seen power outages, gas shortages and continued bomb-attacks. The city of Zaporizhzhia has been almost completely cut out from any source of electricity. All residential buildings in Kyiv have a limit on daily power usage, most taking advantage of it in the early morning or late evening. The Soviet-era heating system across the country has become increasingly vulnerable - in October the Russians destroyed over 30% of Ukraine’s power plants, which poses a great threat with the arrival of winter. The strategy is to cut down on gas and electricity usage in case of leaner times, when electricity and gas will be vital in transporting vehicles to the front, communication, or even delivering food across the country.
On top of the rising struggles in this everyday aspect of life, Russian units appeared to be making moves into the Bakhmut and Donetsk region. What acts as the Federation’s self-inflicted Achilles’ heel is the make-up of their army at its current state. Baby soldiers and recently-drafted men, all with little to no experience, have been forced into the region, failing in their mission of effective occupation.
Successful or not, the presence of Russia on foreign ground still poses a great threat not only to the wellbeing of Ukraine, but to the entire world order. The international arena has recently attempted to elaborate their anti-Russian efforts, however most of it appears to be motivated by the need for upkeeping good appearances. President Macron was hosted by President Biden in Washington DC on November 29th, where grave hyperboles and metaphor-heavy phrases replaced the awaited extensive plans and future methods of delivering help to Ukraine. Presidents Macron and Biden recalled their alliance’s early beginnings during the revolutionary war of 1775 instead of reminiscing the past of Ukraine as a distinct culture and society, largely separate from Russian influences now claimed by Putin. Both presidents reiterated their strong stance of “a united front against Russian aggression” instead of offering new measures of how this attitude would manifest itself. With every word spewed out of the mouths of Western leaders, an entire apartment complex goes dark in Ukraine, and with every false promise, another family struggles to find a source of heat in the midst of winter. The plea of President Zelenskyy to replace words with actions seems to have gone unheard. Macron went as far as to say that Ukraine should find ways of negotiations with the Russians themselves and resolve the conflict swiftly. The only question remains, why would Russia begin conversing with a leader of a country they fail to recognise is sovereign. Meanwhile Biden recalled the already-forgotten prisoner-swap with Russia this year, and, whilst an important element of foreign policy, is somewhat irrelevant given Ukraine fighting for its existence.
From the other side of the Atlantic, other countries battle Russia with economic warfare strategy. The UK recently announced further sanctions on Russia, whilst Switzerland admitted to freezing over 7.5 billion Russian-owned dollars. This type of response comes perhaps from countries which can deliver it best - both the UK and Switzerland were hubs of Russian oligarchs' business. From hiding their assets in Swiss banks to sending their children to British boarding schools - Russians were no strangers to either British tea or Swiss cheese. It seems fitting for both countries to undermine Russian power through reaching this soft underbelly, which they both have perfect access to. Closer to the front, the Polish defence minister - Mariusz Błaszczak - asked the German government to deliver US patriot missiles destined for Poland to Ukraine instead. The weapon was initially sent to Ukraine’s western neighbour to protect itself from a potential repeated attack, similar to that we’ve seen on November 16th. The Polish plea was met with a wall in Berlin - a strict denial and assertion that the missiles are to remain on NATO territory came from the German defence minister - Christine Lambrecht.
The entirety of NATO, with only some exceptions, seems to have perhaps not turned their back, but at least their shoulder, to Ukraine. The initial UA membership application requires a unanimous consensus from its current residents, meanwhile only 10 voted in favour so far (Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.) With the significant block that is NATO’s Article 5, any hasty movement on the part of the Organization could mean a total world war. Excessive help from current members could, whilst needed, be met with Russia turning against all countries of the western hemisphere. Perhaps empty words and false hope is all the US and its allies are capable of doing at present.
Ukraine’s leadership isn’t completely faultless, however. Zelensky was recently hosted by David Letterman as a guest for the My Next Guest Needs No Introduction show, which will air later this year. Critics call his actions irresponsible and claim that Zelensky is returning to his old acting days, trying to develop his personal brand on the ongoing conflict, all the while his constituents struggle to light and heat their homes. The idea that he is merely promoting the Ukrainian cause, trying to reach a further audience is greatly limited, considering that all major and minor news outlets have a section dedicated to developments on ground. Overall, there are multiple challenges to the good wishes of both Ukraine and its allies, however one element preserving the Ukrainian cause no matter what response comes from its defenders is the Russian weakness. Freshly drafted soldiers failing to fulfil their missions are a major contributor in delivering Ukrainian success.