Ukraine faces a ‘make or break’ year on the battlefield, as another Trump presidency looms


Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Yusuf Tuggar also said his country had been “emphatic in condemning the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but I think it’s gone beyond that now,” he added.

Elsewhere, countries like China — which in March released a 12-point peace proposal aimed at ending the war that was dismissed by the U.S. and its allies as too favorable to Russia — and India have taken a more neutral stance, while stepping up their purchases of Russian energy trading at a discount on world markets as Western countries buy less. 

“I call them the abstainers,” said Karin von Hippel, the director general of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a London-based think tank. “Countries that are playing both sides, supporting Ukraine while doing energy deals with Russia.” 

After shifting Russia’s economy to a war footing, Putin has ramped up production of military hardware and arranged supplies of weapons and other support from Iran and North Korea.  

Without funding from the U.S. and its Western allies, Ukraine’s ability to fight over the long term is uncertain.

“A Russian conquest of all of Ukraine is by no means impossible if the United States cuts off all military assistance and Europe follows suit,” the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said last month in a report: “The High Price of Losing Ukraine.”

“Such an outcome would bring a battered but triumphant Russian army right up to NATO’s border from the Black Sea to the Arctic Ocean,” it said, adding that Russia could “pose a major conventional military threat to NATO for the first time since the 1990s.” 

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has previously vowed that Ukraine “will reclaim its territory and its people,” including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and the eastern Donbas region, where his forces began battling Moscow-backed separatists the same year. The Kremlin annexed the region last year. 

Any negotiations could prove politically difficult for the once feted world leader, whose country has garnered a lot less public attention since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October.  

Speaking to journalists at Davos, Zelenskyy warned that cutting funding would be “a terrible, terrifying experiment,” with Russia. “I wouldn’t advise any experiments with this,” he said. 

Although he said “Ukraine will work with whoever is elected” in the U.S., he added that “radical voices really scare the society in Ukraine,” and noted that these voices formed a “significant part” of the Republican Party including Trump.  

Perhaps his best hope would be for Biden to secure a second term. Also speaking at Davos, Biden’s campaign co-chair Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said: “We’re not going to say, ‘Zelenskyy you need to negotiate.’ We are committed to Ukraine’s security and sovereignty. We will support Ukraine to hold the territory they have and to make progress where they can.”

For von Hippel at RUSI, “America’s stance remains a deciding factor.” If there was a deal, it “would need to include security guarantees,” she said.  

“This is going to be a big year for Ukraine,” she added.


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