An increasingly bitter diplomatic row over Germany’s reluctance to supply heavy weapons to Ukraine threatened to escalate into a wider dispute between allies over whether they were prepared to accept a peace settlement that would leave Vladimir Putin capable of claiming victory.
A Western official said Western leaders are divided between those who think they can work with Vladimir Putin’s Russia once the war is over, and those who think they cannot.
The row leads to disputes over Ukraine’s arming, the feasibility of enforcing a Russian embargo on oil imports and whether Kyiv will have to accept further loss of territory at the end of the war. war as the price of peace.
The immediate point of contention between Ukraine and some of its allies centers on supplying arms to Ukraine, and the bad weather Germany seems to be having in setting up an elaborate chain that would see the country supply armaments to its eastern neighbors – mainly Poland and the Czech Republic – which in turn would send armories to Ukraine.
Kyiv suffers serious losses due to the lack of long-range weapons. Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi said the delivery of the weapons could not be delayed: “We are in great need of weapons that will allow hitting the enemy from a long distance.”
Citing its NATO sources, the national news agency, Deutsche Presse Agentur, reported that the alliance members had informally agreed not to supply certain weapons to Ukraine, fearing that Russia could see the delivery of tanks and fighter jets as the West enters the war and retaliates. measures. The concrete meaning of this decision is disputed.
There were also reports from a US source that Israel had rejected a US request to allow Germany to send Spike anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. Spike missiles are produced in Germany with Israeli technology under Israeli license. Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, Israel has taken a neutral stance and refused to supply arms to Ukraine.
The disputes arise as some influential American voices, from veteran diplomat Henry Kissinger to New York Timesurged Ukraine to realize that it might have to lose ground to Putin.
In reference to the tensions, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, an ardent war hawk, warned the West against backsliding and appeasement, stressing the urgent need for arms in a speech to Sarajevo: ‘What we can’t have is a lifting of sanctions, any appeasement, which will just make Putin stronger in the longer term. She insists that private sanctions against Russia cannot be lifted Until Putin leaves Ukraine completely and his army is irreversibly weakened, he has strong allies in Eastern Europe and the Baltics, but not in Paris or Berlin.
Truss argued that any backtracking would result in a more protracted and painful conflict.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba struck a wry, almost incomprehensible tone at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week on the slow arms deliveries: “We are pursuing this with strategic patience. I don’t understand why this is so difficult. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy sensed that German reluctance stemmed from a desire to rebuild relations with Putin once the war was over. “No matter what the Russian state does, there is someone who says, ‘Let’s consider their interests,'” Zelenskiy said.
Poland was also highly critical of Germany’s slowness, and in Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz was attacked for appearing unwilling for either side to emerge victorious from the war, a stance that Scholz deny.
Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chair of the Bundestag’s Defense Committee and member of the Free Democratic Party, said: “At the end of the war, the world must not see Germany as a complete brake and losing simply because we are unable to organize and communicate.
At the start of the conflict, Germany offered to quickly supply Ukraine with heavy weapons in a “ring system” – in which Eastern European countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic would supply tanks from the Soviet era to Ukraine, these being replenished by modern German Leopard tanks. It is difficult to determine whether the failure to achieve this was due to bureaucratic inertia, cynical procrastination, or a reflection of the exhausted state of the German armed forces. If you’re on the front line, it probably doesn’t matter.
In a speech in Davos, Scholz tried to dismiss claims that he did not understand the scale of the issues at stake. He said the February 24 invasion came like a thunderclap.
He described Putin’s war as “imperialism” that “tries to bombard us at a time when war was a common tool. It is not just Ukraine’s statehood that is at stake, but a world order that binds might and law”. He claimed that Putin had already missed all his strategic goals. “A capture of all of Ukraine by Russia seems further away today than it did at the start of the war. More than ever, Ukraine is emphasizing its European future.
He added that “our objective is clear. Putin must not win this war”. His remarks, insisting that there can be no Putin-dictated peace, contrast with those of Boris Johnson, who has always insisted that Putin must lose the war and be seen as losing the war.
Truss was one of the first European figures to echo Ukrainian claims that it cannot lose territory in the war, but must regain lands lost to Russian separatists since 2014. Polish President Andrzej Duda, in Kyiv this week said: “Only Ukraine has the right to decide its future. No decision can be made on its future without it. Although there are different voices in the Ukrainian diplomatic landscape, the public position of Zelenskiy appears to be broadly the same. He said at a meeting in Davos that he joined by video link: “When Ukraine says it is fighting to regain its territories, it means that Ukraine is will fight until it returns all its territory. That means nothing else. It is about our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our independence.
He added: “This state of ‘hot’ hostilities, of bloody war, can only move to diplomatic negotiations with the genuine participation of the Russian and Ukrainian presidents, supported by our strategic partners, when we see that the Russian Russia is showing a real will and desire to move from bloody war to diplomacy, and this will only be possible when Russia concedes at least something, such as the withdrawal of troops to the borders as they were on February 24.
At present, there does not appear to be any likelihood of Russia signaling such a retreat. Rather the opposite.
But this does not mean that countries do not offer their mediation services. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, for example, drew up a complex four-point plan that was officially presented to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
The first stage of the plan would involve a supervised ceasefire and a “demilitarization” of the front line. It would be a multilateral negotiation during a conference on the future status of Ukraine, resuscitating the proposal of a future Ukrainian neutrality backed by security guarantees provided by the major powers. This could give Ukraine a security umbrella before the end of the peace process and replace Ukraine’s unique aspiration to NATO membership.
The next step would be a bilateral treaty between Ukraine and Russia on “border issues”. The wording of the proposal refers to the free movement of people and economic life, de facto autonomy for the occupied territories and a single economic zone, as well as civil guarantees for Russian minorities, including in terms of language. It would be very close to the Minsk agreement, a format that France and Germany have overseen and the Ukrainians have never liked.
The final step would be a big bargain over EU/NATO-Russia relations, the relaunch of talks on strategic stability, a new role for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and a re-examination of some of the other issues in under discussion between the United States and Russia last summer.
Russia seemed to take great pleasure in ridiculing both the plan and its promoter. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev blasted Draghi’s proposals: “It seems that he was not prepared by diplomats, but by local political scientists who read provincial newspapers and only operate with fake Ukrainians”. Still, other voices in Russia believe that some aspects of the plan could be adopted later, when the two sides have fought to a standstill.