It’s often said no one can predict when when hope of a Ukrainian victory against Russia dies… I’ll give you a possible date: 5 November 2024, if right-wing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is elected president of the United States.
He might not become the Republican presidential candidate. But if he doesn’t then his bitter rival and political soulmate Donald Trump will be. And their similar political persuasions were underlined on Monday night when DeSantis declared that if he entered the Oval Office, Ukraine would be left to fend for itself.
Breaking sharply with the stance of traditional Republicans, he declared that protecting the borders of a European nation is not a key US concern and that policymakers should instead focus attention at home.
“While the US has many vital national interests – securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness with our military, achieving energy security and independence… becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis said.
He made the statement on Fox News’s MAGA media bubble Tucker Carlson Tonight. Carlson, an alt-right populist and Putin sympathiser, has called Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky a corrupt “antihero” and who dressed “like the manager of a strip club.”
Trump, for his part, declared during an unhinged speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland this month, that he would resolve the war in Ukraine “in a day”. He has already said he would let Russia “take over” parts of Ukraine in a negotiated deal.
The more traditional Republican 2024 presidential candidates, such as former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, have viewed to continued supporting Ukraine. But if they’re not in power they won’t be able to.
Significantly, among Republican voters, support for Ukrainian aid is dwindling. A January poll by the Pew Research Center found that 40 per cent of Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters thought the US was giving too much support to Ukraine. Last March, a month after Putin invaded, the proportion who held this view was just 9 per cent.
Without America to provide the bulk of arms and aid to Ukraine, it would not be able to resist the onslaught of Putin’s war machine.
It underlines why Biden and the rest of the west must ensure Ukraine secures victory before the US election. And for that to happen, the West must dramatically increase its military support for Ukraine.
Figures from Kiel Institute for the World Economy revealing the US is far and away the biggest donor. Then come the UK and Germany. Eastern European countries punch above their weight. France, the EU’s leading military power, has been stingy in comparison. But even America’s donations are meagre viewed in a historical perspective.
In the 12 months after the Russian invasion the US spent 0.21 per cent of GDP on military support for Ukraine; this is less than it spent in an average year on its doomed Afghanistan intervention. It spent three times more in Iraq.
To support the US-led coalition in expelling Saddam Hussein from the oilfields of Kuwait, Germany gave three times as much as it is offering to Ukraine in bilateral aid.
Europe’s struggle to deliver on the promises it has made to Kyiv – for example to provide a small number of Leopard 2 tanks for use against Russian forces, which are closing in on the strategic eastern town of Bakhmut, underlines how piecemeal – and inadequate – the West’s supply of arms has been.
Deep down, despite its – no doubt sincere – insistence that Ukraine must survive, there is a disconnect between Western rhetoric and actions.
In the first year of the war, the West has, with its drip, drip of arms and imagined (and slowly disappearing) series of “red lines”, shown that it’s afraid to defeat Putin. Nato must lose its fear of winning.
The “red lines’” are a psychological trap, cultivated in Western minds by the Russian President to ensure that Nato does not give Ukraine the arms it needs to defend itself and expel Russian forces from its territory.
It must be braver, ignore Putin’s nuclear blackmail, and give Kyiv what it requires for victory, to end this horrific conflict and curtail the bloodshed.
For hundreds of Ukrainians at risk every day of a violent death, time is always running out. But for the country of Ukraine, which we claim has to be saved, a deadline might also be approaching.