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Updated Jan 31, 2024, 11:33am EST
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Semafor Signals

Top Western leaders push for more aid amid ‘Ukraine fatigue’

Insights from Politico, Semafor, The Atlantic, and the Financial Times

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a joint press conference with Estonian President Alar Karis in Tallinn, Estonia January 11, 2024. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS
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The News

Top Western officials have in recent weeks urged continued support for Ukraine, as its war against Russia nears the two-year mark. William Burns, director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, wrote in Foreign Affairs Tuesday that if Washington fails to support Ukraine, it “would be an own goal of historic proportions.”

Several European leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Danish Prime Minister Mette Fre­deriksen, and Mark Rutte, prime min­is­ter of the Neth­er­lands, co-authored a letter in the Financial Times calling for long-term support for Ukraine in the form of military supplies. And NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg is lobbying conservative lawmakers in Washington, D.C., this week to approve Ukraine aid.

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Public support for the war has waned, and some governments have questioned the continued need to fund Kyiv’s war efforts. There’s also speculation that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is considering replacing his top general following a largely unsuccessful counteroffensive push last spring, but his office denied the rumors.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Western powers with ‘Ukraine fatigue’ can afford to send aid

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Sources:  
Semafor, The Financial Times

Ukraine will only be able to “endure if it receives the wholehearted and timely support of western powers,” the Financial Times chief economics commentator Martin Wolf wrote this week. Around half of Ukraine’s budget is earmarked for defense spending — meaning the nation is reliant on outside funds to keep it afloat. Much of the West is experiencing “Ukraine fatigue,” Wolf noted, but the threat posed by Russia hasn’t dissipated. “The sums to be agreed this year amount to less than 0.25 per cent of the combined GDP of the EU, UK and US,” he wrote. “The argument that this is unaffordable is ridiculous.”

US failure to fund Ukraine would send the wrong signals to allies and adversaries

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Source:  
The Atlantic

If U.S. lawmakers pull their support for the Ukraine aid package, Washington will be seen as an ally who is “unreliable,” “unserious,” and “silly”, journalist Anne Applebaum recently wrote in The Atlantic. The U.S. has military equipment available to send, she argued, unlike European allies who have funded Kyiv, but do not have the same arms production capabilities. If Congress fails to agree on aid, it would signal to Europe that Washington cannot be trusted, Applebaum wrote, and both Russia and China, who are likely watching the debate unfold, would see it as reinforcement for “their frequently stated belief that the U.S. is a degenerate, dying power.”

Washington, other allies pivot to supporting defensive measures in Ukraine

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Source:  
Politico

U.S. and European officials have shifted their goals from achieving a “total” victory over Russia to focusing on defensive measures, with one U.S. official telling Politico, that the “only way this war ends ultimately is through negotiation.” He added that Ukraine wasn’t being discouraged from future offensive pushes, saying, “We want them to be in a stronger position to hold their territory.”

U.S. President Joe Biden’s rhetoric about the war has also shifted in recent months, Politico noted. While he previously said that Washington would support Ukraine for “as long as it takes,” he now pledges to continue for “as long as we can.” That, analysts contend, suggests that the war’s future includes a partial victory for Kyiv, and a truce or ceasefire deal with Moscow.

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