Macron, Scholz and Draghi in Kyiv: gestures, symbols and facts

It has been nearly four months since Russian forces invaded Ukraine. This week, the three most powerful men in the European Union finally made it to Kyiv: Chancellor Scholz of Germany, President Macron of France and Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy.

It was high time they left. Olaf Scholz had insisted he would not travel to Ukraine’s war-torn capital simply for a “photo op”, but the three EU leaders made the most of symbolism for their domestic audiences. The European media was filled with images of the triumvirate of EU leaders crossing the continent by train, chatting amiably (in English, Of course) and meet President Zelensky, their tailored suits contrasting with his signature battle fatigues. In a symbolic gesture to the most directly threatened nations in central, eastern and northern Europe, President Iohannis of Romania (not a Slav, but a German-speaking Transylvanian Saxon) was also invited – a snub to the Poles, whose humanitarian and military contributions to Ukraine have been heroic.

Photos of Zelensky and Macron kissing will do no harm to the French president’s party in Sunday’s tight legislative election. (As head of state, campaigning is constitutionally prohibited.) Scholz will welcome some publicity for change, after months of pressure to do more for Ukraine from his partners. of the Green Coalition and the Christian Democrat opposition. Former central banker Draghi, who leads an interim coalition of pundits, has Italy’s hard-right Brotherhood, led by the glamorous Giorgia Meloni, snapping his heels. All three leaders have reason to look tough and statesmanlike. Ukraine has done a lot for them, but what have they done for Ukraine?

Here, the answer is much more vague. On the diplomatic level, the troika brought Zelensky positive news: an invitation to the next G7 summit and confirmation that Ukraine will be accepted as a “candidate” for EU membership. But it can take decades for a candidate to be accepted (Turkey has been one since 2005, still with no prospect of membership), and the Three Musketeers have made no commitments regarding NATO membership. Meanwhile, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has just openly wondered whether Ukraine will still exist in a year or two. No wonder Zelensky seemed disappointed with his visitors’ promises to do something. What he will have heard is: this year, next year, one day, never.

Sanctions news was more important. And here there was nothing new to say. In the first 100 days of the war, Putin raked in nearly $100 billion from fossil fuel exports – and, although China and India grabbed Russian energy at a discount to world markets, Europe continues to be by far its largest market. Pledges of an EU oil embargo have been scaled back to exclude fuel from pipelines – a huge concession that was blamed on Hungary but from which Germany and other countries continue to benefit. The United States has just been forced to extend its exemption from the EU of harsh sanctions for violating sanctions, on the grounds that it is gradually reducing its energy dependence. But that process looks likely to stretch at least into next year. With energy prices still at or near historic highs, Russia will be able to finance its war at its current rate of over $800 million a day from these exports alone for the foreseeable future.

The EU has been equally lax on sanctions beyond the energy sector: European names such as Lacoste, Armani and Benetton, as well as thousands of smaller fashion houses, continue to trade in Russia , using subsidiaries, franchises and other loopholes. The oligarchs may be poorer, but they still enjoy the creature comforts of European luxury exporters.

The most crucial issue is of course that of arms exports. Macron took advantage of his visit to Kyiv to promise six more Caesar 155mm howitzers to add to the dozen already delivered. They are powerful weapons, although French public broadcasters have exaggerated their impact on the war. But Ukraine asked for 1,000 pieces of heavy artillery just to balance the scales, which currently favor the Russians up to 20 to 1. The French Caesars (worth around 100 million euros) only represent only one percent of a single category. on the Ukrainian shopping list. Scholz’s record is much worse. Despite numerous promises, his government has so far delivered no heavy equipment. Germany, Italy and France all provided less military hardware than Poland, Norway, Estonia and Latvia, all of which have much smaller economies than the EU’s big three.

These facts are readily available. Ironically, a German think tank, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, has tracked all forms of support for Ukraine from the start.


. A table shows the discrepancies between the promised and delivered armaments. Unsurprisingly, the United States leads by a mile, although according to the most recent figures from June 7, it had promised twice as much as it had actually delivered (about 2 billion euros) . Poland comes next, followed by the United Kingdom (1 billion euros) and Canada. But Germany, France and Italy are far behind, having each sent less than 250 million euros in military aid. All of these numbers are dwarfed by the amounts of gear this Attrition War is currently consuming. The human cost is, of course, incomparably higher: every day Ukraine loses 100 to 200 soldiers killed and four or five times as many wounded, mainly from artillery. They die for Europe; the least Europe can do is prevent them from being hopelessly underarmed.

It is to be hoped that all this was aired in the private discussions between Zelensky and his guests from Western Europe. Against these indisputable life and death facts, however, stands a new opinion poll from the Berlin-based European Council on Foreign Relations, which suggests that across most of Europe, a plurality of voters think the Ukraine should give up territory in exchange for peace. . Overall, the “peace” camp outnumbers the “justice” camp by 35 to 22%. The only exceptions are in Britain, where the numbers are delicately balanced between those who prioritize peace (22%) and justice (21%), and Poland, where 41% favor punishing the Russians. The poll didn’t include most of Central and Eastern Europe, but its most striking finding was in the big three: 52% of Italians, 49% of Germans and 41% of French favor giving Putin of the land he claims.

While Zelensky can hardly be expected to accept the dismemberment of his country, Macron, Scholz and Draghi will have left little doubt that public opinion in their backyards demands a ceasefire. fire, even if it meant perpetuating the occupation of a fifth of his country. It’s a bitter message, made no less unpleasant by the verbal support offered by the European trio. Macron may tell Zelensky he wants Ukraine to win the war – Scholz doesn’t even go that far – but his actions belie his words. These three leaders have spoken to Putin at length in recent weeks; we don’t know exactly what was said, but it’s unlikely he was as intransigent as the cameras in Kyiv this week.

As in the Second World War and the Cold War, it is the English-speaking peoples on whom the freedom of Europe depends. The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada will support Ukraine for as long as it takes to win this war, no matter what the sirens of Paris, Berlin and Rome say.

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