Yesterday we looked at the growing push for Ukraine to be allowed to join the European Union and what that might mean for the situation with Russia if it were to happen. By the end of the day, the executive committee of the EU had met and announced a formal endorsement of Ukraine’s application to join. That doesn’t change Ukraine’s status as an applicant, but it’s the first official step in what is generally a very long road for nations seeking to join the union. Somewhat amusingly, President Zelensky received another endorsement from a rather unexpected source. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Kyiv yet again to promise his country’s continued support of Ukraine going forward and seemed to give a thumbs up to Zelensky’s ambitions to join the EU.
The European Union’s executive arm recommended putting Ukraine on a path to membership Friday, a symbolic boost for a country fending off a Russian onslaught that is killing civilians, flattening cities and threatening its very survival.
In another show of Western support, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv to offer continued aid and military training.
The European allies’ latest embrace of Ukraine marked another setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched his war nearly four months ago, hoping to pull his ex-Soviet neighbor away from the West and back into Russia’s sphere of influence.
I’m sure that Zelensky appreciates the continued flow of weapons, ammunition, and other supplies that have been coming from the Brits since the war began. And he clearly values the boost in stature he receives from BoJo’s personal visits. Keep in mind that Johnson was among the first leaders to brave the trip to Kyiv personally, even as shells were still striking the city.
But with all of that said, does Ukraine’s application to join the EU really benefit all that much from the support of the guy who was arguably the chief author of Brexit? The European Union is clearly a club of which BoJo didn’t want his country to be a member. But it’s good enough for Ukraine?
Given the current situation with Russia, I don’t imagine that the leaders of any other EU member nations to raise a fuss over this, at least in public. At the moment, everyone in Europe is standing shoulder-to-shoulder and vying to outdo each other in terms of demonstrating how much they are backing Ukraine against Russia. In the background, however, there are still some hurt feelings between the EU and Johnson over the whole Brexit story.
But all of that support that Ukraine is receiving really misses the mark in terms of what Zelensky has actually been hoping for. All of the rifles, ammunition, and rockets in the world aren’t going to do Ukraine any good if they run out of soldiers to fire them. And the Ukrainians are taking significant losses every day in the Donbas region. The Russians are taking heavy losses also, but they haven’t shown any sign of running out of missiles or cannon fodder to send into the region. Eventually, Ukraine’s fighters may simply run out of steam.
What Zelensky obviously wants and has wanted from the beginning is for some of the western nations to step in militarily and fight the Russian invasion with him. That’s why he was hoping to push through his application to join NATO with lightning speed. (So Article 5 could be invoked.) I’m sure he sees similar hope in the EU charter’s Mutual Defense Clause. But as we discussed yesterday, EU membership usually takes decades to achieve and it would be problematic to let Ukraine jump to the head of the line. And as long as Turkey continues to block the path to NATO membership, Zelenski’s forces will have to keep fighting on their own.