While many of us started the new year with fireworks, good cheer and the company of loved ones, Ukrainians faced massive Russian aerial attacks, shattered apartments and the murder of loved ones.

Vladimir Putin is determined to defeat and destroy an independent Ukraine. Ukraine is equally determined to resist. But what are the rest of the world’s democracies resolved to achieve in this epoch-defining struggle? The answer we give in 2024 will not only shape the future of Europe. It will also tell us something important about the relative strengths of early 21st-century democracy and autocracy.

For a start, we must be clear where things stand on the ground in Ukraine. There is no stalemate of the kind that might lead to a frozen conflict or negotiated settlement, as some in the west naively hope. Rather, we are in the middle of a long, complex war that will probably last until at least 2025, if not longer. Neither side is giving up; either can still win, but not both.

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Putin is exploiting all his advantages of scale, ruthlessness and dictatorship at home and the support of other such regimes abroad, including Iran, North Korea and China. Ukraine itself faces some big choices, including whether to draft a large number of young men to regenerate its depleted and exhausted forces. But decisive for the outcome of the conflict will be choices made in the next few months by the democracies supporting Kyiv.

At the moment, we are doing enough to stop Ukraine being defeated but not enough to help it win. In 2024, we could provide the tools for Kyiv to regain more territory and convince Russia it can’t prevail. That is the only path to a lasting peace.

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Immediately, in a matter of days, this means more air defences. In a matter of weeks, it means more long-range missiles, notably the German Taurus, but also American ATACMS, so Ukraine can continue to push back Putin’s Black Sea fleet and target his strategic and symbolic stronghold in Crimea.

However, as a recent Estonian defence ministry study explains in compelling detail, the long-term essentials for Kyiv’s victory will be more extensive training of Ukrainian troops and a rapid, substantial increase in industrial production of weapons and munitions. (Of the 1mn artillery rounds the EU has promised Ukraine by March, less than a third have so far been delivered.) 

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Democracies, unlike dictatorships, can’t do this by command. Our political system requires the leaders of multiple national democracies to agree on clear strategic ends and persuade their voters and parliaments to authorise the necessary means. Even before the possible disaster of a second Donald Trump presidency, it’s plain that the US, given the febrile and fragile state of its democracy, is not going to lead this step change.

The responsibility therefore falls on Europe — and at issue, after all, is the defence of a European country. Are Europe’s leaders doing the necessary? Let’s take a look at their new year’s messages.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak did not even mention the war in a boosterish account of his government’s successes, evidently targeted at this year’s general election. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz touched on it only in passing, before proceeding to the sacred subject of the German economy. Poland’s new prime minister, Donald Tusk, devoted his remarks entirely to the restoration of democracy at home. 

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While majoring on the theme of French pride, President Emmanuel Macron did propose a “rearmament of European sovereignty”, including “to stop Russia and support the Ukrainians”. But it was Finnish President Sauli Niinistö who delivered the essential message: “Europe must wake up.” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was also admirably direct: “Ukraine lacks ammunition. Europe has not delivered what is needed. We will press for more European production. It’s urgent. And the Danish F16s will soon be in the air. The war in Ukraine is also a war for the Europe we know.” That’s the language we need.

In discussing wartime leadership, people always mention Winston Churchill’s dictum, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” But in this case, the blood, sweat and tears are entirely the Ukrainians’. All that’s required of the rest of us is clear thinking, sober determination and an entirely manageable reallocation of resources. Moreover, the urgently needed defence-industrial investment will create jobs at home, as well as enhancing our own security. Is this really too much to ask?

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Timothy Garton Ash is a British historian, author and commentator. He is Professor of European Studies at Oxford University. Most of his work has been concerned with the contemporary history of Europe, with a special focus on Central and Eastern Europe. He is the author of, among other books, ‘Homelands: a Personal History of Europe’

This article is reprinted with the author’s permission and first appeared in the Financial Times  © 2023 The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved. See the original here.

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Comments (8)

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pooty russia is broke
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pooty boy joins the long list of failed dictators

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Thomas King
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Potty is a fucking idiot. Fuck you asshole!

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pooty is naughty
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thats it in a nutshell,too many feel good talks and no one making decisions,its the easy road out,do some special feel good meetings,wave a magic wand and hope it all just goes away,in the meantime back at the ranch Ukraine is still being attacked,looks like they are even trying to force a draw here,good luck with that one.time to buy a new magic wand

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Paul Gray
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I read this article with sadness as what you are seeing is Typical Western War Fatigue on top of lame politics. I'm only surprised it's taken so long to get here. It's also the reason why Western armed forces have lost every battle or conflict they claim to have won over the last 20+ years. (Afghanistan ring any bells).

I note the comment about UK's PM Sunak. Politically he and his government are out come the next election so why would he bother fulfilling the promises to keep assistance flowing. I read about Trump. OMG, if he gets back in, God help us all.

Meanwhile, Russia is buying what they need from anywhere that will supply them.
Perhaps Ukraine should be doing the same as lame promises of 'further support' from Western politics will always contain delivery dates of "sometime soon".

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pooty boy the bunker bandit
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putin is a bunker bandit in hiding,he wont achieve anything in Ukraine,36,000 ruskies in the sunflower fields,Ukraine will not stop until all those ruskie soldiers are sleeping in the sunflower fields

pooty boy is idiot
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@pooty boy the bunker bandit, no its 360,000 ruskies having a long sleep,they are not dead they are just having an extra long sleep

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pooty boy is evil
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you are living in fairyland if you think peace is even possible at this stage,putin is still in power,thats one problem,putins troops are still trying to invade Ukraine,next problem putin is still hitting civilian targets because he is a coward and is loosing on the battlefield,wave your magic wand in fairyland and ask for peace,you will get your peace when putin is defeated at Ukraine and all his troops are laying in the sunflower fields,the fastest way to peace would be for russians not to allow putin to rig another election and put himself in power again,meanwhile there is no talk of peace,putins peace talks would only involve tricking Ukraine for the time being just like he did in other places then he would rebuild his army and try to invade Ukraine again,pooty boy must be gone

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pooty boy is a looser
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putin once had a plan and that was a 3 day illegal invasion of Ukraine,putin the war criminal has failed in Ukraine,he achieved nothing in Ukraine,putin helped more countries join nato,putin helped to send russia broke,putin helped the world to unite,putin showed the world what a big idiot he is,just another failed dictator

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John
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Great resurrection in TIMES article today of some Roosevelt quotes from his speech prompting Congress to support democratic Europe during Hitler's evil rampage:

"unhappily necessary to report that the future and the safety of our country and our democracy are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders.”
"the democratic way of life” was “being directly assailed in every part of the world.” not just from military actions but from the “secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace.”

He goes on to say that peace with a dictator “would bring no security for us or our neighbors.” .....“never permit us to acquiesce in a peace dictated by aggressors and sponsored by appeasers.” “that enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of other people’s freedom.”

..hmm why does this this situation and the need for a president to say such things sound so familiar (hint....it addressed the same criminal / immoral deeds being propagated in Ukraine by the Putin MRGA leadership and its supportive 'mini me' organization running amuck in USA).

Now to await troll "jack griffin" and his putin / maga sponsored profane tirade.

pooty boy the bunker bandit
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@John, maybe the trolls are actually russians trying to act as americans,might be part of putins misinformation campain,cant really see why extreme right wing trumpy dumpty supporters would be on here,could be just russian trolls fishing for vital information so we need not to give too much away

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