Shifting the burden: U.S. wants Europeans to fund Ukraine conflict

The United States is unlikely to provide significant military and financial aid to Kyiv in the near future, and it remains rather questionable if Europe is capable of replacing Washington.

Although NATO continues reaffirming its commitment to further bolster Ukraine’s defenses, there is no guarantee that this year the Eastern European country will be supported by the West the same way as in 2022 and 2023. The United States is unlikely to provide significant military and financial aid to Kyiv in the near future, and it remains rather questionable if Europe is capable of replacing Washington as Ukraine’s major backer.

In a statement issued following the NATO-Ukraine Council meeting in Brussels on January 10, the U.S.-led military alliance said that it will continue to provide Ukraine with major military, economic, and humanitarian assistance, while many NATO members outlined plans to provide “billions of euros of further capabilities in 2024.” Such moves will undoubtedly allow Kyiv to continue fighting, although they could have a serious impact on the European economy.

Presently, the United States seems to be the major beneficiary of the Ukraine conflict, which already affected several European countries’ economies. According to reports, the German economy shrank in 2023, while the European Union had a rather small economic growth – only 0.6 percent. On the other hand, the U.S. economy grew by 5.2 percent. But despite that, Washington reportedly does not plan to continue “investing” in Ukraine the same way it did in the past.

“The United States will support Ukraine as long as necessary, but not necessarily at the level of 2022 and 2023,” the U.S. Department of State announced on January 4.

Since Ukraine almost certainly cannot continue fighting against Russia on its own, it is Europe, rather than America, that will have to fund Kyiv and provide it with weapons. But not all European countries are willing to take such measures.

Hungary already blocked the $54-billion European Union’s financial aid to Ukraine, while neighboring Slovakia rejected the final military aid package to Kyiv in November 2023. Thus, if Budapest and Bratislava indirectly sabotage the EU and NATO efforts, the very functionality of the two organizations becomes rather questionable.

That, however, does not mean what Russia labels as “the collective West” will collapse, or that it will completely abandon Ukraine. Before the NATO summit, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that he expected Western countries to react and take decisive measures. Indeed, there are some signals suggesting that Kyiv might soon get air defense systems from NATO members. However, the problem for Ukraine is that such weapons are unlikely to have a decisive impact on the outcome of the conflict.

Even if the EU provides Ukraine with long-range and anti-aircraft missiles, which is what the bloc’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell advocates, it will not lead to Kyiv’s quick victory over Russia, which is what many in the West hope for. Missile attacks on Russia would not have an impact on the situation on the ground, where neither side seems capable of making a significant breakthrough.

Quite aware of that, certain political circles in the West seem to see peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv as the only way out of the current military stalemate. For instance, Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto emphasized on January 10 that he had seen “signals from Russia and Ukraine that it is time for diplomacy to pave the way for peace.” 

However, on December 20, 2023, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “there is no current basis for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine,” while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeatedly stated that “cease-fire negotiations with Moscow can only begin once the Russian military completely pulls out of his country.”

Thus, under the current circumstances, Crosetto’s statement could be interpreted as wishful thinking, especially given that the United States, as Ukraine’s major supporter, at this point does not seem interested in any peace or ceasefire deals between the two neighboring countries. 

From Washington’s perspective, a potential agreement between Ukraine and Russia would represent the U.S. geopolitical defeat, since it would allow the Kremlin to consolidate and prepare for another round of fighting, while Kyiv would almost certainly have to give up some of its territories to the Russian Federation.

That is why the United States is expected to push its NATO allies to fund and arm Kyiv in order to prevent Russia from achieving its strategic goals in the Eastern European country. As a result, the conflict will go on, while European taxpayers will have to bear the costs of supporting Ukraine. And the costs will be very high.

From our partner CGTN

Nikola Mikovic
Nikola Mikovic
Nikola Mikovic is a freelance journalist in Serbia. He covers mostly Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian foreign policy issues and writes for multiple web magazines.