LONDON (Bywire News) - Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the West has sought to present a united front against the Kremlin. However, divisions are emerging on what the best approach is. Should Kyiv, as Zelensky asserts, press to expel Russia from their country or should there be a compromise?
The ongoing war
With the war now three months old, and western countries facing damaging inflation and energy costs, some countries such as Hungary and Italy have stepped up calls for a cease fire. In return, they suggest, sanctions could be rolled back, and the Ukrainian ports opened up to allow the supply of food to some of the poorest nations in the world.
Britain and Poland, meanwhile, support Ukraine’s stance that any sort of ceasefire could lead to territorial wins for Russia and encourage future attacks.
A senior Ukrainian official said that Russians have “spread the narrative that this would be an exhausting war, we should sit around the table and seek consensus."
Lloyd Austin, who is the U.S. Secretary of Defence, has added that he wants to see Russia “weakened” and Joe Biden, U.S. President, has called for Putin to be held accountable for his war crimes. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said that Kyiv shouldn’t be too hasty in accepting peace deals and branded the situation in Ukraine as a “must win”.
Germany and France, meanwhile, have been notably softer in their stance. Despite backing tougher sanctions, they have been reluctant to press for the complete defeat of Putin. French President Macron attracted widespread criticism when he warned Zelensky against ‘humiliating Russia.’
"The question being asked is whether we return to the Cold War or not. That's the difference between Biden, Johnson and us," said an ally of French President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron's ally added "We'll have to deal with Mister Putin at some point, unless there's a palace coup. And even more so because this war needs to be as short as possible."
A member of Scholz’s team claimed that Macron’s wording had been ‘unfortunate’ which was followed by French diplomats expressing reservations about Macron’s stance adding that he risked alienating eastern European allies and Ukraine.
Ukraine has questioned whether allies have been diligent in their battle against Russia due to the suggestions that Ukraine should concede territory to conclude a peace deal. Despite remaining grateful for western support.
Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, was rather blunter in his assessment. France, he said, was only humiliating themselves. Kyiv’s relationship with the German chancellor, he said, was frosty.
Ukrainian senior official quoting Winston Churchill said "We don't have a Churchill across the European Union. We do not have any illusions on that."
Russia launched their so-called ‘special operation’ in February, with the stated aim of ridding the country of nationalists and downsizing Ukraine's military. However, they failed to secure the quick victory they had hoped for. With their army suffering mounting losses, they have attacked Ukraine’s allies for extending the war and deterring Ukraine from peace talks.
Russian demands including recognition of Crimea as Russian and independence for the Eastern separatist-held states have been roundly rejected by Kyiv.
However, as war fatigue sets in Ukraine is seeing the resolve amongst allies falter, a development which will favour Russia.
Speaking to CNN Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said: "It was clear from the start it is going to get more and more difficult over time - the war fatigue is coming,"
"There may be differences between those countries who have much better neighbours than we do, and those who have a different history like us, the Baltic countries, and Poland."
France has sought to defend its position. A presidential official stated: “there is no spirit of concession with regard to Putin or Russia in what the president says." The official also made it clear that France wanted a victory for Ukraine with their territory restored and that any dialogue with Putin was in an attempt “not to compromise but to say things as we see them”.
The US, meanwhile, has expressed doubts about whether Putin could be relied upon to stick to the terms of any ceasefire, and has talked about wanting to see the regime ‘weakened’. Although stressing that they have no plans for regime change, US officials would like to see Russia’s capacity to launch similar attacks on Ukraine or any other country, significantly weakened.
However, a German government source claimed that the aims of weakening Russia could prove to be problematic. Concerns are said to exist about the prospect of the West supporting Ukraine and setting unrealistic military goals including the reclaiming of Crimea which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
Baerbock publicly said sanctions would need to stay in place until the Russian troops withdrew from Crimea. Following this, Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany has criticised the state for prolonging the process of sending heavy weapons to Ukraine despite being stern in its record of support for Ukraine.
Mykhailo Podolyak, senior advisor to Zelensky expressed Ukraine’s frustrations. Writing on Twitter he appeared to mock the conflicting messages coming from the West.
“Russia must not win, but we won't give heavy weapons – it may offend Russia. Putin must lose but let's not impose new sanctions. Millions will starve, but we're not ready for military convoys with grain.”
In a stark warning to the west, he continued: “Rising prices are not the worst that awaits a democratic world with such a policy."
(Writing by Samba Jallow, editing by Tom Cropper and Klaudia Fior)