The aftermath of the Ukraine war puts the unity of the West to the test

Rising prices, high inflation and fuel shortages are the consequences of the Ukraine conflict, which threatens to destabilize the West in the long term.

When Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine in late February, the West formed a unified bloc to respond with unprecedented speed and determination. But as hostilities enter their third month and threaten to turn into a conflict lasting months or even years, it poses a major challenge to the West’s resolve to do the damage. according to Mark Landler, a veteran commentator for New York Times.

So far, the cracks are mostly superficial. Hungary refused to support the European Union’s (EU) ban on Russian oil, hampering the bloc’s efforts to increase pressure on Moscow. France still disagrees with the US goal of weakening Russian military power. Some controversy has arisen in the West as food and fuel prices have skyrocketed due to the crisis.

On May 5, shelling destroyed a bridge near the city of Orikhiv in south-eastern Ukraine.  Photo: AP.

On May 5, shelling destroyed a bridge near the city of Orikhiv in south-eastern Ukraine. Picture: AP.

Despite these tensions, the West is still showing signs of solidarity. Finland and Sweden are nearing their goal of joining NATO, with Britain providing security guarantees to the two countries to counter pressure from Russia. The US House of Representatives passed a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine by a vote of 368 to 57.

However, the longer the conflict drags on, the clearer its impact on global supply chains, energy markets and agricultural products.

According to some experts, President Vladimir Putin seems to believe that the West will be exhausted from these consequences before Russia achieves the goals of the military campaign, especially if the costs of support have to be paid. Their problems for Ukraine are rising inflation, disturbed Energy supply, exhausted state finances and a tired population.

At a Senate hearing on May 10, Avril Haines, the director of US National Intelligence, said President Putin was preparing for a protracted war in Ukraine, believing US and EU resolve would be weakened if Food shortages, inflation and energy shortages are getting worse.

President Biden visited a farm in Kankakee, Illinois on May 11 to deliver the message that Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine is at the root of food shortages and a rising cost of living in America. However, this is also a sign that US support for Ukraine may have some negative implications.

President Putin must also face his own pressures at home, as illustrated in his watered-down speech at the May 9 Victory Day Parade in Red Square, when he gave no order to mobilize members or threaten to escalate the conflict. But the Kremlin chief also made it clear that Russia sees no end to its military campaign to “demilitarize, defascize” Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers take shelter in a basement near the front line in the Kharkov region on May 11.  Photo: NY Times.

Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers take shelter in a basement near the front line in the Kharkov region on May 11. Picture: New York Times.

Analysts estimate that a protracted military campaign will significantly erode Russian military resources. Some therefore argue that the West should take advantage by tightening further economic sanctions against Moscow.

“But I’m concerned about the risk of the West getting tired,” said Michael A. McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia. “Therefore, leaders must work harder to end the conflict.”

According to him, the US and the EU should impose tough sanctions to cripple the Russian economy immediately, rather than gradually introducing them as they are doing now. Western countries have come close to such an integrated strategy in their military aid efforts, which has helped the Ukrainian military resist Russian forces.

But the EU’s failure to reach consensus on Russia’s oil ban shows the limits of this approach when the biggest challenge is energy supply. EU ambassadors held a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on May 11 to discuss Russia’s oil ban but fell through because they could not persuade Hungary to support it.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said Russia’s oil ban is a “nuclear bomb” being dropped on the Hungarian economy. He continued to resist even after the EU made concessions, promising to give Hungary more time to “wean” from Russian fuel. European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen flew to Budapest to try to influence him. President Emmanuel Macron also called him to persuade him, but was unsuccessful.

“We will only support this proposal if Brussels offers a solution to the problem they have created,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said, adding that modernizing Hungary’s energy sector would cost “a lot of money” in the billions.

In Washington, President Biden did not face too many difficulties in his military and humanitarian assistance efforts to Ukraine. The House’s strong support for the $40 billion bailout shows that the government’s response has met with bipartisan consensus.

However, rising food and fuel prices due to conflict could have a negative impact, Landler said. US food prices rose 0.9% in April versus March. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the government was “very concerned about the global food supply”, adding that 275 million people around the world were at risk of starvation.

The conflict “has cut off vital food sources,” President Biden told Illinois farmers. “Our farmers are helping on both fronts, bringing down food prices in the country and expanding production to feed the world.”

US President Biden (center) visits a farm in Kankakee City, Illinois, on May 11.  Photo: NY Times.

US President Biden (center) visits a farm in Kankakee City, Illinois, on May 11. Picture: New York Times.

However, it remains to be seen whether the US can increase agricultural production enough to offset the deficit. But the visit to the Kankakee farm shows Mr Biden trying to reassure Americans that the White House is paying close attention to the issue of price hikes at a time when US inflation is at its fastest pace in 40 years more rises .

Some analysts say the West can stand the test of solidarity. The fact that Finland and Sweden have announced their intention to join NATO not only shows that the alliance is drawing closer, but also shows that the bloc’s center of gravity is shifting eastward.

Developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as well as resistance from Kiev, are still seen as a driving force to maintain this united front, said Eliot A. Cohen, a political scientist who formerly worked at the State Department under President George W. Bush delivered to the United States. “If Ukraine continues to thrive, I think the West will continue to cheer them on,” he said.

Vu Hoang (Corresponding New York Times)