Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s first foreign trip since the beginning of the war did not take the Ukrainian president to Brussels, Berlin or Paris, or even to London. Zelenskyy chose the longer route and flew to Washington. For good reason. Without America, Russia would have won this war long ago.
Zelenskyy did not travel to Washington without a wish list in his luggage. It concerns air defense, drones for fighting and reconnaissance and artillery that can shoot across hundreds of kilometers. Washington will fulfill at least some of Kyiv’s needs. The U.S. hardly has any other choice if they want to prevent Russia from wearing Ukraine down in a long war. Despite their geographic distance, the U.S. is Kyiv’s most important ally. The numbers speak for themselves. America has supported Ukraine with more than $18 billion since the war began. Germany has provided a bit more, and Great Britain a little less than $2 billion.
EU member nations prepared their armies and stores of arms and munitions for a brief, intensive conflict. Our powers of reason left no room for the possibility of a longer-term war in Europe. But that war is now here, and whether we like it or not, we are already in the middle of it. It is visible in the many people from Ukraine who are seeking safe refuge in Europe. It is palpable in the rising prices that are making life more difficult for many people at home. Across Europe, military goods are in short supply following the shipments that have been made to Ukraine. The war in Ukraine is not only exposing the military weaknesses of Russia. Europe’s weakness has become apparent too.
Now, after ten months of war, Zelenskyy traveled to Joe Biden. Europe was not even mentioned during this lightning visit. That is notable and demonstrates that how this war and thus the future of Europe develop is now out of our hands. It is a war at our doorstep, and Europe is only playing the role of spectator.
In Washington, the Ukrainian president predicted a “turning point” in the war next year and said that “Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom — the freedom of people who stand for their values.” Those values should also be European values. But Europe was not mentioned here, either. Those who cede control over their immediate area cannot assume that they will still be taken seriously in the world. Ukraine can be glad that it has the U.S. on its side. And for Europe, Zelenskyy’s trip to Washington can only be a wake-up call.
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