LONDON — The West rallied against Russia’s war against Ukraine more quickly and forcefully than almost anyone expected.
But as the war spirals into a protracted conflict, which could drag on for months or even years, it is testing the resolve of Western countries, with European and US officials questioning whether the mounting economic cost will erode your solidarity over time.
So far, the cracks are only fragmentary:
Yuri Emets walks near his damaged home in the village of Vilhivka, Ukraine, on May 11, 2022. Photo Finbarr O’Reilly / The New York Times.
Hungary’s refusal to sign an embargo on Russian oil, thwarting the European Union’s effort to impose a continent-wide ban; unrest in European capitals, with the ambitious goal of the Biden administration to militarily weaken the Russian president, Vladimir Putin; a beleaguered president Joe Biden blaming soaring food and gasoline prices on a “Putin price hike.”
Alongside those tensions are more signs of Western solidarity:
Finland and Sweden on Wednesday they moved closer to joining NATO, and Britain offered both countries security guarantees to protect against the Russian threat.
In Washington, the House voted 368-57 Tuesday in favor of a nearly $40 billion for Ukraine.
Russian tanks crossed the Ukrainian border 76 days ago, a blink of an eye in the scheme of eternal wars in history.
As the fight continues, the cascading effect on global supply chains, energy pipelines, and agricultural crops will be felt more directly at gas pumps and on supermarket shelves.
Putin, some experts say, is calculating that the West will will tire ahead of Russia from a long twilight struggle over Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, especially if the price of Western support is accelerating inflation rates, energy disruptions, depleted public finances and fatigued populations.
The Biden administration’s director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, crystallized those doubts Tuesday, warning senators that Putin was preparing for a long siege and “probably counted on the determination of the United States and the EU to weaken as food shortages, inflation and energy shortages worsen.”
On Wednesday, Biden traveled to a farm in Kankakee, Illinois, to demonstrate that Putin’s war was to blame for lowering the cost of living for American families, an unspoken sign that his staunch support for Ukraine, a policy that has won bipartisan support in Washington—could come at a political cost.
Putin faces his own internal pressures, which were evident in the calibrated tone which he delivered during a speech in Moscow’s Red Square on Monday, without calling for a mass mobilization or threatening to escalate the conflict.
But Putin also made clear that there is no end in sight to what he falsely called Russia’s campaign to rid its neighbor of “torturers, death squads and Nazis.”
On the ground in Ukraine, the fighting shows signs of turning into a protracted battle.
A day after Ukraine’s counteroffensive toppled Russian forces from a cluster of towns northeast of the city of Kharkiv, the region’s governor said on Wednesday that Ukrainian efforts had driven forces “further” away from Moscow. of the city, giving them “even less opportunity to shoot at the regional center.”
Ukraine’s apparent success in pushing Russian troops back from Kharkiv, its second-largest city some 20 miles from the Russian border, appears to have helped reduce bombing there in recent days, even as Russia moves to along parts of the front line towards the Donbas. region in eastern Ukraine.
That Ukraine even found itself in such a position, nearly three months after Russia launched a full-scale invasion, is remarkable.
Analysts pointed out that a prolonged war would stretch the resources of a Russian army that has already suffered heavy losses in men and machinery.
Given that, some argue that the West should press its advantage by strengthening andl economic strangulation from Moscow.
“I am concerned about Western fatigue,” said Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, “which is why the leaders of the free world should do more now to hasten the end of the war.”
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