Start / Publikationer / If Ukrainian Victory Is Existential for Europe, the EU Member States Must Step up Military Support

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The UK recently announced that it will send tanks and self-propelled guns to aid the Ukrainian offensive. Germany has agreed to join the US and France in sending armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine to help in the war against Russia.

With the upcoming Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting (the so-called Ramstein format[1]) taking place on 20 January, the pressure on Germany to take the long-awaited decision to send Leopard tanks, and to give green light to its partners for re-export of German-made weapons, is higher than ever. The Leopard 2 tank is used by 13 European armies: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.  Together, those 13 armies have more than 2,000 Leopard 2 vehicles “across different variants and levels of readiness”, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Ahead of the Ramstein meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised the latest weapons deliveries pledges, said that he expected more in the near future, and underlined that “it is important that we provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs to win”.

So far, weapon deliveries to Ukraine have enabled its self-defense, but have not been sufficient to lead to any decisive change on the battlefield. Supplying Ukraine with tanks would enable it to defend liberated areas, counterattack, retake territory and regain the momentum. It would also be critical in view of an anticipated Russian offensive.

To quote Kurt Volker, “the future of European security depends on the future of Ukraine. If Putin’s war continues, the rest of Europe is at risk. But a Ukraine that defeats Putinism on the front lines, and defends freedom, democracy, and security for its own people, will in fact assure those values, and the security, of all of Europe.”

This week, Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson received President of the European Council Charles Michel in Stockholm. At the press conference, Prime Minister Kristersson made an encouraging statement:

Ukrainian victory is existential for Europe. Unity is our greatest asset. And during the Presidency we will continue to support the European military assistance mission to support Ukraine. So, no other single task could be more important for the Swedish Presidency than this one. The fate of Ukraine is also the fate of Europe.”

No doubt that the EU and its member States have reacted swiftly and in full solidarity with Ukraine. The support provided – political, military, economic, financial, and humanitarian – is unprecedented. Furthermore, the EU has put pressure on Russia via sanctions and made continuous efforts to isolate Russia and holding those responsible for crimes in and against Ukraine to account. Still, to make an effective change on the ground, the EU and its Member States must do more.

“The European Union will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.” This has been stated on several occasions, including in the European Council conclusions from October 2022. The question is when the European Council will be ready to speak out the rest of the sentence, namely that the EU will help Ukraine win the war – and win the peace. This is what EU support is all about- building a strong, democratic, prosperous Ukraine that is fully integrated in the EU and the Western security architecture.

Firstly, speaking out about helping Ukraine win the war would send a strong signal to Ukraine and all its citizens that the EU is in for the long run – that is until Russia is defeated, and Ukraine wins the peace. This is intertwined with Ukraine’s future recovery and reconstruction, where all efforts must be closely linked to a speedy EU accession process.

Secondly, it should be clear to all 447.7 million EU inhabitants what is at stake, and why supporting Ukraine is, and will remain, the EU’s priority for a long time ahead. This should not be understood as costs and burdens but as an investment in the future of Europe, both in terms of its security and economy. A lack of commitment at this point would only result in increased costs later.   

Thirdly, it would help dispel doubts in Washington about the EU’s willingness to assume responsibility for Ukraine’s, and ultimately all of Europe’s, security, and thereby counteract any lessened US enthusiasm for supporting Ukraine.

A consistent messaging of all EU institutions and EU Member States that the EU will help Ukraine win the war matters.

And it is time to put words into action. More specifically, into military action. The outcome of the Ramstein meeting will decide whether EU Member States, inside or outside the group, will step up their military support and demonstrate that Ukraine’s victory really is existential for Europe.

The EU must stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes – with as much as it takes.

[1] The Ramstein format meetings were initiated in April 2022 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to collectively support Ukraine and meet the defense needs of the Ukrainian army in the face of a full-scale Russian invasion. The upcoming meeting is hosted by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, and will focus on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the related security issues facing NATO Allies and partners.

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