Ukraine Threatened By Democracy’s Enemy Within – OpEd

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By Mohamed Chebaro

These are difficult days for Ukraine, and for the West as a whole. As Ukraine is about to start the third year of the Russian-imposed war against its people and territories, the fight for its survival as a nation — threatened by a larger, more superior and relentless neighbor — hangs in the balance.

Will the democratic world, which claimed in February 2022 that Ukraine was defending freedom and its core values, such as adherence to the international rule of law, abandon Ukraine to its fate? Will it let all the efforts unravel due to those same values of freedom and democracy being employed by policymakers in the US and some EU countries to block the continued flow of crucial weapons and funding for Ukraine?

Well, the calls from the likes of US President Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and UK Foreign Minister David Cameron demanding the quick release of funds to keep the efforts to stop Russia on track should be heeded immediately, if the Western world is to prevent its imminent slide into isolationism and fragmentation, which would be quickly capitalized on by its few but very capable enemies.

I am minded not to be inclined to believe that the Gaza war and its distracting dynamics of potential escalations has anything to do with the Western world teetering on the brink. It is surely a question of domestic democratic processes and problems that are at play in the US and some EU countries in an election-charged year. Many national players are maximizing their brinkmanship in an effort to win power, even if this comes at the expense of their nations fulfilling their obligations, causes damage to their geostrategic postures and loses them face on the world stage as they renege on their promises.

And it all hangs on the whims, desires and calculations of the likes of Republican US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, who continues to prevent the chamber from voting on the Ukraine assistance package. He seems to be playing into ex-President Donald Trump’s partisan hand to corner the White House and at least hurt Biden’s chances of reelection later this year. That is if we do not believe those who say that this is happening because Trump is a Russian appeaser.

On the ground, the Ukrainian army is increasingly on the defensive against the more numerous and better-armed Russian forces, two years on from the start of the Russian invasion. After last year’s failed counteroffensive, Zelensky has named a new army chief, claiming that 2024 could be successful if Kyiv makes effective changes in its approach to its defense.

But the second full winter of war is heralding semi-static front lines, with soldiers’ morale taking a hit, especially when they feel short of consistent ammunition supplies, as well as fighting personnel, but above all due to their inability to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Today looks so different from the end of 2022, when the supply of arms and men saw morale riding high, yielding successful offensives that returned Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson in the south.

Last year produced a series of disappointments and, after the fall of Bakhmut in May, the Russian noose started to slowly but surely tighten, leading to the fall of Avdiivka in the last few days. The only good news for Ukrainians in recent months has come from the Black Sea, where Kyiv has succeeded in pushing back Russian naval forces to carve out a vital maritime corridor for cereal exports.

Ukraine’s withdrawal from the city of Avdiivka has no doubt handed Vladimir Putin a major symbolic victory ahead of Russia’s presidential election next month. It has also further exposed Kyiv’s critical shortages of weapons and soldiers.

Avdiivka was even tougher than the battle for Bakhmut, according to the Ukrainian military, which pointed to Russia’s massive deployment of heavy equipment and air power, with Soviet-era combat vehicles supported by drones and planes.

The scale of Ukraine’s losses — in terms of both territory and troops, with an estimated 70,000 killed and 120,000 injured — is not the major downside, despite its gravity and unsustainability. The problem is the wavering support, mainly from the US and some countries in the EU.

In terms of arms, the situation is uncertain because of friction in Washington over continuing aid against the backdrop of the forthcoming presidential election. The EU has unblocked its latest aid package of €50 billion ($54 billion), but not without difficulties, while it remains way behind on pledges of ammunition deliveries. Without assistance and with its own defense industry badly depleted, Ukraine will not be able to confront Russia, which has mobilized its economy for war.

The losses have also been heavy on the Russian side. But unlike Kyiv, Moscow appears to be able to fill its ranks with a mix of patriotic propaganda, coercion and financial incentives, on top of having a bigger population. The cost of its invasion is estimated at $1.3 trillion in previously anticipated economic growth to 2026, while about 315,000 Russian troops have either been killed or injured so far, according to US officials.

The onus is clearly on the US and the EU to deliver on their promises to Ukraine. But how to do that with an increasingly polarized population and diminished outlook on shared values such as democracy, which the Russian invasion of Ukraine had an objective to undermine? History is never fair and, even though the Ukrainians have paid in land and blood to hold on to the democratic ethos through which they wish to ensure the future of their hard-earned independence, a Trumpian speaker in the US House of Representatives — ironically, through an expression of his democratic right — is stalling the approval of the US aid package.

The democratic world could seem to be losing not only its moral compass and its national security interests, but also squandering Eastern Ukraine in a way that shows that the lessons from the Second World War about the price of appeasement have not been learned. Two years on, it seems that Ukraine is at the mercy of the democratic enemy within.

  • Mohamed Chebaro is a British-Lebanese journalist with more than 25 years’ experience covering war, terrorism, defense, current affairs and diplomacy. He is also a media consultant and trainer.

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One thought on “Ukraine Threatened By Democracy’s Enemy Within – OpEd

  • February 22, 2024 at 3:48 am
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    Ukraine is not Threatened by Democracy’s Enemy within but Western media and Leaders continue to hype the “Russian threat” to garner public support for the Russia-Ukraine conflict to continue. “The war could have ended in the spring of 2022 if Ukraine had agreed to neutrality by not to be part of NATO. “ Boris Johnson visited Kyiv and said that we should not sign anything with the Russians and ‘let’s just fight’.” And Biden’s hatred for Putin. The UN has failed to intervene to prevent or end the Russia-Ukraine War: “A War which should not have Happened” the combine blame goes to US-NATO. Negotiations are the only way out to give Ukraine Peace a Chance. Ukraine from within I’m sure is sweating for peace!

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