European leaders stress support for Ukraine at summit in Spain

Almost 50 European leaders have used a summit in Spain to stress that they stand by Ukraine at a time when western resolve appears to be weakening.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that beside maintaining such unity, more military aid to get through the winter is essential.

Despite the political, economic and military support at the event in Granada, the struggle to rid Ukrainian territory of invading Russian forces has ground to a stalemate, and Mr Zelensky insisted it is no time for wavering in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially now questions about continued support are growing in the US.

He said victory or defeat in Ukraine would determine the fate of all of Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron seized on the view and insisted that even if US President Joe Biden had this week reassured everyone that Washington’s commitment remained strong, it was first and foremost for Europe to act.

“Even if we are lucky to have such a committed American partner, we ourselves have to be totally committed, because this is in our immediate neighbourhood,” he said.

Even if the European Union promised to continue its support for Kyiv, it could never replace Washington’s contribution if funds were to dry up there, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said. “Certainly we can do more. But the US is something irreplaceable for the support of Ukraine.”

That was a worry lingering over the third meeting of the European Political Community forum, which was formed after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 that drastically reset the continent’s political agenda and fundamentally undermined long-held beliefs on peace and stability on the continent.

Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron speaks at the summit (Fermin Rodriguez/AP)

Mr Biden called other world powers on Tuesday to co-ordinate on Ukraine in a deliberate show of US support at a time when the future of its aid is questioned by an important faction of Republicans who want to cut off money to Kyiv.

“Everybody is looking at the situation with obviously a lot of vigilance,” said Mr Macron.

Europe also has to deal with its doubters.

Last weekend’s election in Slovakia, where pro-Russia candidate Robert Fico was the big winner, and Hungary’s continued recalcitrance to fully back Ukraine have cast increasing shadows on Europe’s commitment. That counts especially for the EU where many decisions on Ukraine need unanimity among the bloc’s 27 members.

Spain Europe Summit
Volodymyr Zelensky with Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (Borja Puig de la Bellacasa/Spanish Government/AP)

“The main challenge that we have that is to save unity in Europe,” Mr Zelensky said.

On Thursday, the overall mood was supportive. Summit host and Spanish caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stood firmly behind Ukraine and offered Mr Zelensky a new package of anti-aircraft and anti-drone systems and training for Ukrainian soldiers to use them.

The Ukrainian president said after meeting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Berlin “is working on” providing another Patriot air defence system to be operational within months.

After a full day of thanks, he specifically pinpointed Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the UK for commitments, saying: “Our warriors will have more artillery and long-range weapons. There will surely be more justice for Russian evil.”

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