European countries are starting to realize that they could be next on Vladimir Putin’s hit list
January 22, 2024
On New Year’s morning, my friend and Ukrainian political leader Kira Rudik woke up to a massive bombing attack on her residential neighbourhood. Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the New Year by launching large-scale attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine. “No one talks about stopping after this happens,” Kira said in a phone interview. “The sanctions aren’t working. The West must stop procrastinating with ammunition, air defence and financial support, or what we are getting here will come to their countries. Do you want Russia on your borders? Do you think they will stop?”
Renewed Russian attacks and Washington’s dithering over military aid to Ukraine has focused minds across Europe, as leaders realize that Putin won’t stop, and their countries could be next on his conquest list.
This has caused European leaders to significantly up their game, with data from the German-based Kiel Institute showing that European aid to Ukraine is now more than double what is being provided by the United States.
In December, Europe’s nuclear powers, Britain and France, jointly reaffirmed their pledge to defeat Russia. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said the economies of the West are at least 25 times larger than Russia’s. “What we have to do is make that economic strength and that commitment pay,” he said. “I have no doubt that we can make sure that Putin loses and it’s essential that he does lose.”
Earlier this month, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Kyiv, where he announced a 2.5-billion pound (C$4.3-billion) support package. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that his country will deliver more military aid to Ukraine, including 40 long-range cruise missiles and hundreds of bombs.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also recently announced plans to double military aid to Ukraine in 2024. “I therefore call on our allies in the European Union to also step up their efforts in support of Ukraine. The arms deliveries for Ukraine planned so far by the majority of EU member states are by all means too small,” he said. “We need higher contributions.”
Last year, the Baltic states and Norway punched above their weight, delivering the equivalent of over one per cent of their economies to support Ukraine, according to Kiel Institute figures. Europeans have also pledged to deliver fighter jets: last summer, the Netherlands and Denmark pledged to supply Ukraine with up to 61 F-16s in the coming years; Belgium is on track to deliver over 50 jets, as new replacement models arrive; and Norway will donate upwards of 10 F-16s.
Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey also signed off on a new trilateral initiative to improve maritime safety in the Black Sea and help Ukraine keep shipping lanes open by clearing Russian mines.
In Brussels, members of the European Parliament are initiating efforts to strip Budapest of its veto powers, to prevent it from blocking aid to Ukraine. “My personal priority is to have an agreement by 27 (countries). And if this is not possible, we are prepared for an agreement by 26,” pledged European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The war approaches the two-year mark on Feb. 24, a date when the G7 will decide whether to confiscate some $300 billion in frozen Russian assets to finance the war. Europeans realize that they must help Ukraine defeat Russia, or they could be the ones waking up one New Year’s morning with Russian bombs destroying their homes and neighbourhoods.
Kira warned that, “The war is not over and Putin’s getting stronger and won’t stop. Why would he stop? He must be defeated.”
Diane Francis is an expert on Canada, the United States, Canada-US relations, Silicon Valley, future technology, geopolitics, the Ukraine-Russia conflict, Putin, energy, business, and white-collar crime. Always provocative, her direct and forceful writing has established her international reputation in covering the personalities, trends, and financial backstories that affect companies, individuals, governments and societies. Her popular twitter feed on tech and corruption has more than 240,000 followers around the world. An award-winning columnist, bestselling author, investigative journalist, speaker, and television commentator, she is Editor-at-Large at Canada’s National Post and a columnist for American Interest, Atlantic Council’s Ukraine Alert, and Kyiv Post. . In 1991, Francis became Editor of Canada’s Financial Post, the first woman editor of a national daily newspaper in Canada, a position she held until the paper was sold in 1998. She is the author of ten books, including Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country (2013, featured in a cover story in Foreign Policy), Who Owns Canada Now?: Old Money, New Money and the Future of Canadian Business (2008), and Immigration: The Economic Case (2002).