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Nov 20, 2023, 12:27pm EST
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Semafor Signals

Will Western support for Ukraine hold up?

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arriving in Kyiv
REUTERS
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The News

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Kyiv on a surprise visit Monday to allay concerns that American support for Ukraine is dwindling.

“I’m here today to deliver an important message – the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine in their fight for freedom against Russia’s aggression, both now and into the future,” Austin wrote on X.

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Austin’s second trip to Kyiv comes after U.S. President Joe Biden reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to Ukraine, writing in a Washington Post op-ed that supporting Kyiv today “prevents a broader conflict tomorrow.”

The U.S has so far sent over $40 billion in funding to Ukraine, but Biden is struggling to rally political support, particularly among House Republicans, to back Kyiv’s continued fight against Russia.

In September, Congress blocked billions in aid to Ukraine in a government spending bill — with GOP lawmakers arguing that taxpayer money should only be spent at home. Congress also omitted funding for Kyiv last week after the House passed a bill for assistance to Israel and not Ukraine.

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SIGNALS

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European allies have been determined to fill the shortfall in U.S. aid by supplying additional weapons to Kyiv, too little too late, the New York Times reports, particularly as the winter months have stalled Ukraine’s counteroffensive. The EU appears to have failed an early test of its ability to back Ukraine, as a pledge to donate a million rounds within a year is expected to fall short, the Times reports. “We Europeans, who have the necessary means to do so, have to be willing politically and materially to help Ukraine and to continue to do so, even to take over from the United States if, as is perhaps likely, its support diminishes,” the E.U.‘s top diplomat Josep Borrell Fontelles said recently.

Even as Europe attempts to fill a gap left by the U.S., a “comprehensive reappraisal of the current strategy” is necessary, Richard Haass and Charles Kupchan from the Council of Foreign Relations argue in Foreign Affairs. The experts say that with the current circumstances, Kyiv’s aims of restoring territorial integrity in places like Crimea and expelling Russia from Ukrainian land are ”legally and politically unassailable.” Ukraine’s partners need to “sweeten” a bitter pill for Kyiv, by accelerating the country’s path to NATO membership, providing sustainable long-term economic and military help, while continuing to enforce sanctions against Russia until its forces leave Ukraine. Helping broker a ceasefire between Kyiv and Moscow is also “worth a shot,” Haass and Kupchan write, as a rejection from Russia could remind the American public of why the U.S. needs to continue to support Ukraine.

The moral argument for the U.S. to support Ukraine is clear, argues Michael McFaul, the director of Stanford University’s Institute for International Studies. McFaul writes in Foreign Policy that a victory for Ukraine will dramatically enhance the perception of the U.S. around the world, as it would diminish Russia’s threat to the West. It would also inadvertently benefit U.S. security interests in Asia, as a U.S.-supported Ukrainian win could undermine Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s view that Washington’s global power is in decline. “If Ukraine wins, the momentum for democrats around the world will grow,” McFaul writes. “Those in Congress who cherish international law, human rights, and democratic values should not find it hard to pick a side,” he adds.

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