The West must sustain support for Kyiv, keep NATO solid, and spurn Putin’s effort to divide us.
By Olaf Scholz
February 7, 2024
The Wall Street Journal
Make no mistake: A Russian victory in Ukraine would not only be the end of Ukraine as a free, democratic and independent state, it would also dramatically change the face of Europe. It would deal a severe blow to the liberal world order. Russia’s brutal attempt to steal territory by force could serve as a blueprint for other authoritarian leaders around the globe. More countries would run the risk of falling prey to a nearby predator.
This possibility is why the U.S. and Europe support Ukraine’s fight for freedom. President Biden’s leadership has been critical to ensure that Vladimir Putin’s aggression is met with a united and successful response. So far, Mr. Putin hasn’t achieved any of his war goals. He thought that he could take the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, within two weeks. After two years, he still is far from accomplishing this, and Ukraine is bravely withstanding the Russian onslaught. This is due to the heroic fighting of the Ukrainian people, but it’s also a result of the West’s fiscal and humanitarian support and the delivery of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine.
The European Union and its member states have been Ukraine’s largest financial supporter, having contributed more than $91 billion since the beginning of the war, followed by the U.S. and Germany. Germany’s military support is second only to America’s. Since the war began, my government has earmarked, procured and delivered military equipment, including tanks, artillery and high-value air-defense systems, worth more than $30 billion. This has come on top of Germany’s nonmilitary support, including welcoming over one million Ukrainian refugees, and our share of the EU’s support.
Our message is clear: We have to do our utmost to prevent Russia from winning. If we don’t, we might soon wake up in a world even more unstable, threatening and unpredictable than it was during the Cold War. Despite our support, Ukraine could soon face serious shortages in arms and ammunition. Some financial commitments have already run out, and others need to be extended. The long-term consequences and costs of failing to stop Mr. Putin’s aggression would dwarf any of the investments that we are making now.
So, what needs to be done?
First, we must sustain our support. On Feb. 1, the European Council decided to commit an additional $54 billion in fiscal aid to Ukraine over the coming four years. This must be complemented by additional military assistance, and I have called on my European colleagues to make the necessary budgetary decisions. Like the U.S. and others, Germany stands ready to provide Kyiv with long-term security commitments and arrangements so that Ukraine can deter and defend itself against future Russian attacks. As a highly industrialized country and
prospective EU member, Ukraine will be able to support a well-equipped modern army if it can repel Russia’s aggression. That prospect increases the security of us all.
Second, we must continue to move in a strategic lockstep on both sides of the Atlantic. Mr. Putin is trying to undermine our unity and turn our citizens against supporting Ukraine. Others around the world are watching closely to see whether these divisions can be exploited and whether disinformation campaigns can take hold. We must prove them wrong by convincing citizens on both sides of the Atlantic that a Russian victory would make the world a far more dangerous place. It would also strain our budgets while putting the freedom and prosperity of each of us in peril.
Third, we don’t see ourselves at war with Russia and don’t seek confrontation with Russia. We will resist any attempt to drag the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
Fourth, the collective deterrence and defense of NATO must be credible. Since I took office, Germany has massively ramped up its defense spending to 2% of its gross domestic product. We launched the European Sky Shield Initiative to boost European air-defense capabilities and will base a full German combat brigade in Lithuania, on NATO’s eastern flank.
The sooner Mr. Putin understands that we are in this for the long haul, the sooner the war in Ukraine will end. The only way that we can contribute to a lasting peace is by keeping up our support, unity and resolve. We must stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Mr. Olaf Scholz is Germany’s chancellor.