Ukraine depends on Western solidarity. How reliable is that?

Ukraine has resisted Russia’s invasion more successfully than most people had expected. But now its future hinges on a simple question: how long Kyiv’s Western allies can maintain their unity.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is hoping to defeat the assault as quickly as possible. But Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting that the longer the war goes on, the harder Mr. Zelenskyy’s democratic supporters will find it to withstand the effects of economic sanctions in their own countries, and that their alliance will fracture.

Why We Write This

Western solidarity with Ukraine will last as long as public sympathy holds. Vladimir Putin is betting democracies cannot withstand hardship. Can Europe and the US prove him wrong?

For now, the allies’ motivation to stand firm remains strong, not least because of the evidence discovered over the weekend suggesting that Russian soldiers summarily executed or raped several hundred Ukrainian civilians before they pulled out of the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

Russian strikes against civilians have horrified European public opinion. But if European governments expand sanctions and stop buying Russian gas or oil, they will impose sacrifices on their own citizens that will be hard to make.

Opinion polls suggest that popular anger over what’s happening in Ukraine, and a sense of solidarity with its people, have so far remained strong. The dreadful scenes in Bucha will likely reinforce such sentiment.

London

It feels jarring – almost disrespectful – to write these words as civilian corpses are cleared from the streets of Bucha, Ukraine, after Russian troops retreated from the Kyiv suburb. But Ukraine’s fate may well now hinge on a crude question of international politics.

It is this: How long can Washington and its European partners – governments and citizens – maintain their unity in support of Ukraine?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with his Western backers, is hoping to beat back the Russian assault as quickly and effectively as possible.

Why We Write This

Western solidarity with Ukraine will last as long as public sympathy holds. Vladimir Putin is betting democracies cannot withstand hardship. Can Europe and the US prove him wrong?

But Vladimir Putin seems to be betting that the longer the war goes on, the harder Mr. Zelenskyy’s democratic supporters will find it to withstand the knock-on effects of economic sanctions in their own countries, and that their alliance will fracture.

Which side prevails will likely become clear only in the months ahead. Yet high-level allied discussions over the next few days may well give us some clues about the degree of Western determination.

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