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19 Feb, 2024 18:38

Optimism on Ukraine conflict was ‘premature’ or ‘delusional’ – NYT

Western speculation that Kiev was on the verge of victory has reportedly given way to “despair and hedging”
Optimism on Ukraine conflict was ‘premature’ or ‘delusional’ – NYT

The mood among Ukraine’s Western backers has reportedly turned from sanguine and hopeful to “anxious and unmoored” in the past year, as Russian forces make gains on the battlefield and doubts rise over continued US aid to Kiev.

The turnabout in disposition was apparent as leaders from Ukraine and its benefactors gathered at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend, the New York Times reported on Monday. The attendees assessed “confrontations they had not anticipated” when they held the same event in February 2023.

“The dourness of the mood contrasted sharply with just a year ago, when many of the same participants – intelligence chiefs and diplomats, oligarchs and analysts – thought Russia might be on the verge of strategic defeat in Ukraine,” the newspaper said. “There was talk of how many months it might take to drive the Russians back to the borders that existed before their invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.”

Now that optimism appeared premature at best, faintly delusional at worst.”

This year’s Munich gathering came right at the time Russian troops were liberating Avdeevka, a key Donbass stronghold that Kiev’s troops had used for nearly a decade to shell residential areas in nearby Donetsk. Against the backdrop of that hard-fought victory, Western media outlets fretted about reports of a nuclear anti-satellite weapon that Russia is allegedly developing.

Growing fears over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s capacity to “strike back at his adversaries” were compounded by worries that Washington, Ukraine’s largest supplier of weapons and cash, might abandon its European allies, the NYT said. US House Republicans have declined so far to approve President Joe Biden’s request for $60 billion in additional aid to Ukraine. Biden’s likely opponent in this year’s presidential election, Donald Trump, has called for ending the conflict by forcing Ukraine to the negotiating table.

“Barely an hour went by at the Munich Security Conference in which the conversation did not turn to the question of whether Congress would fail to find a way to fund new arms for Ukraine, and if so, how long the Ukrainians could hold out,” the NYT reported. “And while Donald Trump’s name was rarely mentioned, the prospect of whether he would make good on his threats to pull out of NATO. . . hung over much of the dialogue.”

There was little discussion of what Western governments could do, given that they have already imposed “almost every available sanction” on Russia, the outlet said. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba lamented that Kiev’s Western allies could not produce weapons fast enough. “We will pay with our lives throughout 2024 to give your defense industries time to ramp up production.”

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