One Year of Brutality and These Europeans Still Won’t Back Ukraine
One year after Russia’s shocking invasion of Ukraine turned into a bloody war, much of the world is rallying around Volodomyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian people. But in some corners of Europe—where support matters most—patience is waning. Continued support in Europe comes on the back of staggering fuel prices after cutting the umbilical cord with
One year after Russia’s shocking invasion of Ukraine turned into a bloody war, much of the world is rallying around Volodomyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian people. But in some corners of Europe—where support matters most—patience is waning. Continued support in Europe comes on the back of staggering fuel prices after cutting the umbilical cord with Russia, the continued threat of nuclear war, and an expensive influx of more than 8 million refugees since the war began.
Emily Channell-Justice, director of the Temerty Contemporary Ukraine Program at Harvard University, told The Daily Beast that Poland’s unwavering support for Ukraine has inspired other countries to follow suit. She says the most notable European detractor has long been Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, who has recently amped up his rhetoric, suggesting that “only Hungary and the Vatican” want peace over war.
The Vatican has vehemently urged an end to sending arms to Ukraine and has previously blamed NATO for “barking at Putin’s door,” essentially baiting him. “The continued pro-Russian position of Victor Orban is troubling, if not surprising,” Channell-Justice told The Daily Beast. “For the moment, I don’t see Orban’s influence spreading, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Russian actors are still trying to find nefarious ways to get pro-Russian leaders into positions of more influence in Europe. This is one of the reasons Putin is committed to prolonging the war—I think he hopes that the longer the war goes on, the more European leaders and citizens will tire of supporting Ukraine.”
Orban recently accused Germany of taking orders from the U.S. over its sudden decision to send heavy tanks “rolling eastward across Ukrainian soil, towards the Russian border,” and says doing so has been a “crucial factor in the war’s escalation to a pan-European level.” And he continues to plead that the conflict is between “two Slavic states” not Europe, calling it “their war, not ours,” at a recent security summit in Munich.
But other fans of Russian president Vladimir Putin have also sparked new controversy. Silvio Berlusconi, whose bromance with Putin is well documented, drew criticism from European conservatives over comments against Zelensky, saying he would not meet the Ukraine leader who he viewed as “very, very bad.”
Those comments drew Zelensky’s ire at a recent press conference in Kyiv with prime minister Giorgio Meloni, during which Zelensky criticized the three-time prime minister. “Berlusconi’s house has never been bombed by missiles, never have tanks come to his backyard, no one has murdered his relatives,” Zelensky said as Meloni grimaced as the translation reached her. “He never had to pack his suitcase at 3 a.m. to escape or his wife had to look for food, and all thanks to the ‘brotherly love’ of Russia.”
Berlusconi’s comments led to the threatened cancellation of the European People’s Party (EPP) planned meeting in Naples later this year, saying they could not attend if Berlusconi were there. Berlusconi contends, instead, that he represents a growing number of voices who question the viability of continuing to send weapons to Ukraine.
Writing in Foreign Policy, Vasyl Cherepanyn, the head of the Visual Culture Research Center in Kyiv, dissected the notion that the world is increasingly reluctantly behind Ukraine despite rhetoric against Russia. “An uncomfortable truth about Russia’s genocidal war against Ukraine, so plainly obvious that it’s usually overlooked, is that it became possible not only because it was conceived and carried out by the aggressor but also because it was allowed by bystanders,” he wrote.
“The biggest blow to democracy on a global scale was not the war itself but the fact that—despite all “never again” claims—European and Western countries in general agreed and accepted beforehand that another European nation might be deprived of its sovereignty, freedom, and independent institutions, and it might find itself militarily occupied.” He justified the comment by underscoring that had they not felt that way, “they wouldn’t have evacuated their embassies in Kyiv.”
And French president Emanuele Macron raised eyebrows last week when he told a newspaper that the aim has to be to defeat Russia, not destroy it or remove Putin. “I do not think, as some people do, that we must aim for a total defeat of Russia, attacking Russia on its own soil,” he told Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper. “Those observers want to, above all else, crush Russia. That has never been the position of France, and it will never be our position.”
Fiona Hill, a former U.S. National Security Council, specializing in Russian and European affairs, has also posed the question about how much the support is for Ukraine or simply against Russia. “We’re constantly, again, always thinking about provoking Vladimir Putin, crossing Vladimir Putin’s red lines,” she told the Associated Press. “But what about ours?”