Ukraine faces growing diplomatic headwinds after its summer counter-offensive against Russia's forces faltered, with aid from vital backers in the United States and EU being increasingly called into question.

The latest sign of tensions came when President Volodymyr Zelensky cancelled at the last minute a Tuesday video address to the US Congress, which he hoped would help unblock vital further billions in funding.

No reason was named publicly for the no-show.

In Europe, eyes were on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a staunch sceptic of EU backing for Ukraine's war effort.

While the bloc was looking to open membership talks with Kyiv and is proposing a 50-billion-euro ($54 billion) financial lifeline, Orban suggested dropping these matters from an upcoming Brussels summit.

French President Emmanuel Macron has invited Orban for dinner in Paris on Thursday, hoping to bring him around.

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Hopes that Ukraine could win back occupied territory in its south and east from Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces were dashed in summer.

Western allies, who had supplied more and heavier weapon systems in the preceding months, now appear to be questioning how strongly to keep up their aid.

Ukrainian leaders insist they can make advances at the front if support keeps coming.

Kyiv can point to some recent military gains on the Black Sea, allowing it to successfully export cargoes of agricultural products.

- 'About European security' -

"Even receiving continuing infusions from the West, Ukraine lacks manpower, where Russia doesn't have that problem," one senior European military officer at NATO told AFP.

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Among Kyiv's soldiers sent for training with NATO troops, "these days there are older people, less experienced, who are coming forward."

"Now is the time to manage Zelensky, to reel him in from his somewhat die-hard position.

No-one's saying it officially, but I think that's what's in the pipes," the NATO source added.

A French diplomatic source countered that Ukraine still has "a very low rate of mobilisation" among its population, while Russia's "statistics are being fiddled with".

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While national morale may have been tested, Ukrainian troops at the front still appear determined to see the fight through.

And while the war is costly, "the Europeans won't cast Ukraine aside because they know if Putin takes Ukraine, it would be a very dangerous precedent" with risks for EU members like the Baltic states and Poland, said Tatiana Kastoueva-Jean of the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI).

That was backed up by the French diplomat.

"Backing Ukraine is about European and French security," the diplomat, asking not to be named, told a group of reporters.

Leaders must "counter the idea that one crisis pushes another aside," the diplomat added, in reference to fears in Ukraine that Israel's fight with Hamas militants could distract Europe.

- 'Don't see defeatism' -

"Everyone knows that it's a risky time, but I don't see any defeatism in Brussels or at NATO," the diplomatic source said -- while acknowledging that questions would inevitably be asked after two years of war.

Analyst Kastoueva-Jean said that while "every factor is working towards stasis" at the front, it was vital for European leaders to minimise dissent about their continuing support.

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Staying the course is all the more important for Europe with US presidential elections in November 2024 where Donald Trump and his America-first programme have a real chance of returning to office.

Reassurance from outside was also needed, Kastoueva-Jean said, as "squabbling among the elites is showing up" in Kyiv, where the relationship between Zelensky and his military chief of staff Valery Zaluzhny has grown fraught.

"Could this be the end of national unity behind Zelensky, or is it just an interlude tied to the challenges at the front?" she asked.

French diplomats have been trying to convince allies that aid must be kept up as a signal to Putin that "he can't count on support wearing out" for Kyiv.

For Europe, that would mean accelerating the build-up of its defence industry and improving interoperability of equipment.

Kyiv's forces are currently using more than 200 different weapons systems pieced together from various sources, Ukraine's ambassador to NATO Natalia Galibarenko highlighted recently.

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Comments (2)

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Joseph Swanson
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

Part 2
With exception to WW2 the US needed 50 plus other nations to help it defeat little nazi germany, LOST ALL OF THEM! The greatest military power on the planet, virtually unlimited resources, almost a never ending supply of money, technologically advanced weapons...AND STILL LOST.
Now, yesterday on the 29th anniversary December 5th 1994 signing of the Budapest Memorandum...The US Speaker of the House throws a temper tantrum to find justification to NOT honor a legally binding agreement representatives from his nation's government signed their national word to.
But, this is the way of the white anglo saxon protestant. They profess from the highest mountain tops in the world about their noble wasp concepts of "truth, justice, integrity, ethics, and morality" YET fail every chance they get to practice these concepts.
The wasp has a friend in communist russians...both a culture of criminality. Their histories are littered with examples of breaking laws / international laws, treaties, agreements, and taking the land / resources of others by force and normalizing it.
Let this be a lesson to all...NEVER do business with the wasp OR communist russia.

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Joseph Swanson
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

Part 1
The reality of the offensive is the west especially the US is to blame for my nation's counteroffensive failing. Two of our soldiers were recently executed despite having surrendered to russian soldiers because...they ran out of ammunition. The west has blood of my people on it's hands just as communist russia does and the leaders of the west and communist russia should be put on trial in the Hague for war crimes against Ukraine.
Delay F16 fighter pilot training.
Delay F16 deliveries.
Delay ATACMS.
The US knew when UA's counteroffensive was going to take place and the delays coincided. They deny us the necessary equipment we have been begging for and refuse to give THEN complain how we are not performing any hollywood type miracles where wars are won in thirty minutes or less.
Hey US...how long did it take you to win WW2?
Korea?
Vietnam?
Iraq?
Afghanistan?

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