The threat of a Russian military invasion in Ukraine has not gone away, but Kiev still has cause for satisfaction: since the start of the crisis in the spring of 2021 and the deployment of 100,000 Russian soldiers on the Ukrainian borders, the country has benefited strong support from its American and European partners. The summit, Wednesday January 12, between Russia and NATO, brought an additional proof of it. The Atlantic Alliance has thus repeated its refusal to grant Moscow the right to scrutinize Ukraine’s possible membership.
The day before, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had welcomed the “the unity and consistency of positions vis-à-vis (…) to the Russian ultimatums”, after talks on Monday in Geneva between Russia and the United States. Moscow “does not have the right to vote” about Ukraine’s possible NATO membership, he insisted.
According to Oleksiy Melnyk, co-director of the Razumkov think tank in Kiev, “Ukraine has many reasons to be satisfied and grateful to its international partners, even if it sometimes complains about some of them. They provide it with enormous military and economic support, almost as much as if Ukraine were a member of NATO”. Since the start of the war in the Donbass and the annexation of Crimea by Moscow in 2014, the United States has granted more than 2.5 billion dollars (2.2 billion euros) in security aid to the former Soviet republic, including $450 million in 2021 alone.
The collapse of Russia’s image
If the summit between Russia and NATO does not yet make it possible to envisage a de-escalation, the sequence of international negotiations – which opened on Monday in Geneva and continues on Thursday in Vienna with a meeting of the Organization for and co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – nevertheless offers Ukraine a brief respite. “While the talks continue, at least Putin does not decide to attack Ukraine”, remarque M. Melnyk.
For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Tuesday for a quadripartite summit with Moscow, Paris and Berlin to “end the conflict” with pro-Russian separatists, backed by Moscow. A request that has remained, for the time being, a dead letter.
The war in the Donbass, which has already caused more than 13,000 deaths in nearly eight years, has in any case profoundly changed the way Ukrainians perceive their big neighbour. Before the outbreak of the conflict, more than 80% considered Russia a friendly country, compared to 8% today, according to a study published in 2021 by the Razumkov Center. At the same time, less than 20% supported Ukraine’s integration into NATO. They are more than 50% today.
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Kiev satisfied with the “unity” of its partners against Moscow