Four European leaders – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian PM Mario Draghi, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis – visited Kyiv on Thursday, June 16. With air raid sirens going off in the early morning and Russia’s former President Dmitry Medvedev describing the leaders of France, Germany, and Italy as “European fans of frogs, liverwurst and spaghetti”, it was clear Moscow was not only aware of the visit but prepared to respond accordingly.
So, was Kyiv.
Almost immediately after the quartet arrived in Kyiv, Ukrainian officials took the EU leaders to war-damaged Irpin, the site of Russian atrocities in Kyiv Region, with Chancellor Scholz underscoring that he was taken aback by the “pointless and audacious” violence of the Russian army.
Meanwhile, Macron praised Ukrainians for their heroism and Iohannis called on the world to hold Russian criminals accountable.
The Euro-4 then proceeded to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and give interviews to the press, sending multiple positive signals to Kyiv.
The biggest and most important outcome was that all four leaders supported granting Ukraine unconditional EU candidate status.
For Ukraine, this is an enormous victory as there were grounds to believe that the EU would refrain from granting EU candidate status despite voicing big words and promises. Macron has been continuously trying to promote his pet project, the European Political Community, criticized for lacking substance and being a subtle way of saying “no” to Ukraine’s EU aspirations, while Scholz preferred to stay quiet on the topic, and in so doing encouraging the skeptical Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, and Sweden.
Yet, the firsthand sight of the Russian atrocities coupled with the mammoth communications efforts of the Ukrainian government, civil society and the media, as well as the fact that 91% of Ukrainians support the EU membership bid, seemed to have impacted the key EU players, prompting them to make the announcement on the spot.
Now, that France and Germany have officially voiced their stance, it is almost certain that EU countries will not try to obstruct Ukraine’s bid to become an official EU candidate during the upcoming summit in Brussels set to take place on June 23-24.
Denmark has already voiced its support.
But this overwhelmingly positive outcome was marred by several circumstances: the absence of a clear stance on the supply of critical arms and an unclear agenda on peace accords.
The Euro-4 visit comes at a time when the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the East continue to fight off the Russian army in the embattled city of Severodonetsk and counterattack in half-occupied southern Ukraine – with mixed success.
Ukraine has regularly emphasized that it has received too few heavy weapons to be able to launch a massive counteroffensive and stop the Russian army’s gradual advancement, a circumstance that the Euro-4 group, France and Germany foremost, seems to accept.
While Macron underlined that there is a consensus among NATO countries not to send jet fighters and tanks to Ukraine in order not to become a party to the war, Scholz has effectively downplayed the whole issue once again, underscoring that Germany is already helping Ukraine a great deal.
It is, indeed, true that Germany is helping Ukraine in some respects. For example, by taking in a substantial number of refugees and sending certain types of defensive weapons. Yet it is also true that it, in effect, assists Russia much more than it does Ukraine.
Recent calculations have shown that Germany, alongside China, in effect sponsors the bloodshed, having spent $12.5 billion on fossil fuels in the first 100 days of the war. It is also bailing out Gazprom Germania instead of nationalizing it, and seems to have in part submitted to the gas-for-ruble demand set by the Russians despite saying it will not do so.
However, the absence of a clear-cut approach on when and which heavy weaponry will be delivered to Ukraine raises questions about Kyiv’s ability to not just halt the Russian army in the east and south, but also recapture the temporarily occupied territories.
More so since German media outlets report that Scholz, Draghi, and Macron, who advocated them a day before arriving in Kyiv, have once again asked Ukraine to initiate peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite Draghi saying during the press conference: “We want the atrocities to stop, and we want peace. But Ukraine must defend itself if we want peace, and Ukraine will choose the peace it wants. Any diplomatic solution cannot be separated from the will of Kyiv, from what it deems acceptable to her people. Only in this way can we build a peace that is just and lasting.”
With Moscow doing little to hide the fact that it wants to seize the entire country or destroy it altogether, daring to show the map of a fully dismembered Ukraine at the ongoing St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, and Kyiv not receiving the weapons it needs to repel the enemy, there are more questions than answers.
How much longer will the war last? How will it affect Ukraine’s EU negotiations process? Which ultimate price will Ukraine have to pay to stop the bloodshed? And when exactly will
Germany, which is one of the largest arms producers in the world, send all of its promised weapons?
Still, there is a lot for Ukraine to be content with Euro-4’s visit, given that Kyiv had not expected much from the leaders of France and Germany due to their unclear agenda and opaque relations with Moscow.
Even more so it seems like Macron might finally stop ringing Putin.
“Taking into account how many hours I spent talking with him [Putin], and the eye-opening experience of visiting Irpin and Bucha, the word ‘disappointed’ fails to describe what I feel after seeing what this man’s actions resulted in,” Macron admitted.
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter