Mark Galeotti Mark Galeotti

Is the West losing interest in Ukraine?

(Photo: Getty)

There’s a very different tone coming from Kyiv these days. Speaking to Time magazine, Volodymyr Zelensky had just returned from Washington after failing to make another impassioned public address on Capitol Hill, and not even managing to get on Oprah. The Ukrainian president sounded angry. The constant struggle to maintain international support seems to be taking its toll. ‘Nobody believes in our victory like I do. Nobody,’ he insisted, but added that dragging Ukraine’s allies along with him ‘takes all your power, your energy… It takes so much of everything.’

Meanwhile, in the Economist, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, and another icon of national resilience, acknowledged that the war had become stalemated, ‘just like in the first world war.’ Although he claimed ‘Russia has lost at least 150,000 dead’ – incidentally, this is around three times most western government estimates – he recognised that Moscow shows no signs of coming to terms, and warned that unless Ukraine receives even more advanced weapons, the conflict could bog down into ‘an attritional trench war’ that could ‘can drag on for years and wear down the Ukrainian state.’

In part, and on a very human level, it would be reasonable that both men would be tired, even dispirited. Zelensky has kept up a punishing schedule of foreign travel and public addresses, in his role as Kyiv’s booster-in-chief. Zaluzhny has been managing his side of the largest land war in Europe since 1945, and one in which Ukraine’s capabilities are often determined by how far and how quickly foreign backers want to arm it.

Meanwhile, Zaluzhny’s recognition that ‘there will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough’ is perhaps rather self-evident. The Ukrainian summer offensive, while delivering disproportionate damage to Russian troops and capabilities, has failed to make the hoped for, or even expected, territorial gains.

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