Ah President Zelensky, the Ukrainian leader famed for his remarkable ability to make every foreign summit a joyous one. Almost every summit, that is, until today. But this time he had an awful encounter. At his most recent international gathering things appear to have taken an unforeseen turn.
According to recent reports that properly capture the core of the situation, Ukraine appears to be caught in the crosshairs of Europe’s differences. Throughout the country’s long conflict, Zelensky has always returned from summits with a glimmer of hope, a pat on the back, or even a soothing remark. But, sadly, the tide has turned this time.
Europe’s Divisions Exposed
It appears that European countries’ support for Ukraine is not as strong as one could have thought. A Politico piece discusses how the summit exposed tensions inside the EU. While some countries support Ukraine’s need for assistance, others appear to be hesitant, putting Zelensky in a delicate situation.
The Ukrainian leader came to a major summit in Moldova to ask for ‘security guarantees’ just as France and Germany were diverging on the issue. A few days back European leaders gathered for a historic summit in the ex-Soviet country of Moldova just kilometers from the Ukrainian border.
Despite the fact that over 40 leaders declared their sympathy with Ukraine at the second meeting of the so-called European Political Community, the challenge in sustaining that unity was on display. Before and during the conference, leaders hedged and staked out opposing positions on an increasingly controversial issue: what security guarantees the Western alliance can provide Kyiv to assure that if Russia is ever pushed out, it will never return.
French President Emmanuel Macron set the tone, imploring allies to offer Kyiv “tangible and credible” security guarantees — a shift in the French position. His German counterpart, Olaf Scholz, was more hesitant on the day after, declining to provide any details and indicating it might be a question for after the war.
Against this backdrop, Zelenskyy made a surprise appearance alongside the leaders. He made two unambiguous demands: a “clear invitation” to join NATO — another point of contention among partners — and “security guarantees on the way to NATO membership.”
Both, he said, “are needed.”
The opposing viewpoints highlight the difficult problems that will need to be addressed as the West tries to hold together against Russia as the battle continues. With Russia’s bombing of Kyiv intensifying, Zelenskyy moved quickly to make his case, asking allies to provide Ukraine substantial security guarantees and a commitment to NATO membership at the upcoming NATO summit in Lithuania. NATO agreed in 2008 that Ukraine will eventually become a member, but no specific pledge or date has been provided.
While Zelenskyy is unlikely to get everything he wants during the July meeting, both concerns are already being debated. Macron set the tone on Wednesday with his most forthright words yet about security guarantees. “It will be the topic of collective discussions in the coming weeks,” he said.
Moreover, Scholz, the German chancellor, appeared more gaurded. He said, “We have always said that there must also be guarantees for a peace order after the war. Germany will make a contribution to this.” Scholz then refused to be drawn into the details of the discussion, even as it moved to center stage.
Germany and France: Secretly Juggling Alliances
Even European heavyweights like Germany and France appear to have succumbed to the temptation of secret alliances in the area of clandestine operations. Please don’t tell anyone! Wintershall, a German corporation, was recently found providing gas to Russian tankers actively engaging in the Ukrainian crisis. Isn’t this a wonderful lesson in diplomacy?
From whispers of backroom deals to questionable alliances, it’s no wonder Zelensky returned home from this summit with a heavy heart and a sense of disappointment.
Zelensky’s most recent international summit proved to be a long cry from his previous wins. Europe’s divisions have been exposed, leaving Ukraine trapped amid competing interests and waning support. As Zelensky thinks on his humiliating summit experience, one can’t help but worry what the future holds for Ukraine.