On Monday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief led a delegation of top diplomats on an unannounced visit to Kyiv. During this visit, concerns about political tension within the EU regarding its long-term support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia were dismissed.
While the meeting held symbolic significance, it emphasized the EU’s unwavering commitment to Ukraine throughout its 19-month-long conflict with Russia, as stated by Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief. He affirmed that the EU remained united in supporting Ukraine, with no member state wavering in their engagement.
This gathering marked the first occasion where EU foreign ministers met outside the EU, especially in a war zone, according to Borrell. The meeting occurred following the recent election victory in EU member Slovakia by former Prime Minister Robert Fico, whose pro-Russian stance raised questions about the EU’s ongoing support for Kyiv.
The potential for increased tension within the EU regarding Ukraine was also noted, similar to Hungary’s at-times reserved approach towards Kyiv due to its close ties with Moscow. Budapest has opposed supplying arms and economic assistance to Ukraine, while Slovakia is crucial in transporting Western military equipment to Ukraine via a key rail line.
The EU, the United States, and the United Kingdom have been providing substantial military and financial support to Ukraine, essential for its struggling economy. However, there is growing uncertainty about how long these allies will continue to provide aid worth billions of dollars (euros).
President Joe Biden reassured allies of continued U.S. financial support for Ukraine’s war effort, but there have been challenges in gaining approval for Ukraine assistance in Congress as the conflict persists.
Borrell emphasized the EU’s commitment to sustained engagement with Ukraine, listing ongoing and proposed obligations, including military aid, troop training, and potential joint arms industry ventures. Other forms of support include cyber defense, demining programs, and law enforcement reforms to combat corruption. The most robust security commitment is the potential EU membership for Ukraine, although this may take years, given the ongoing conflict.
Both Ukraine and the EU expressed determination to move forward as quickly as possible, taking into account ongoing reforms in Ukraine. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also assured that discussions were held with representatives from both parties in Congress to ensure continued support from the U.S.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed confidence in continued U.S. involvement in the conflict while banking on the eventual decline of international support for Kyiv. UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps reaffirmed the British commitment to support Ukraine.
Borrell highlighted that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace proposal remained under discussion by international leaders. The plan calls for Russia’s complete withdrawal from Ukrainian territory, establishing a special tribunal to prosecute Russian war crimes, and creating a European-Atlantic security architecture with guarantees for Ukraine.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, suggested that the path to peace required inflicting an unequivocal military defeat on Russia and then rebuilding Ukraine, an effort that would need sustained Western support.
Associated Press writers Raf Casert made contributions to this story in Brussels, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, Jill Lawless in Manchester, England, and Josh Boak in Washington.