Europe Has to Step Up on Ukraine to Keep the U.S. From Stepping Back

Europe Has to Step Up on Ukraine to Keep the U.S. From Stepping Back
President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen talk to the press about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, March 25, 2022 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The state visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Washington was meant to become a demonstration of trans-Atlantic unity. Instead, Macron bluntly warned that U.S. President Joe Biden’s promotion of trade subsidies could fragment the West.

Trade is not the only danger to trans-Atlantic ties, however. Tensions over the war in Ukraine have relaxed since the U.S. midterm congressional elections but could ramp up again if Europe continues to fall behind the U.S. when it comes to providing financial and military support for Kyiv. Europe cannot afford a rift on this issue while Ukraine’s–and its own—security is on the line. As the U.S. prepares for the 2024 presidential race to begin, Europe should not take U.S. support in this war for granted. The European Union and its members need to increase their own efforts on behalf of Ukraine before a new crisis in trans-Atlantic relations erupts.

Through its diplomatic engagements and financial and military assistance, the Biden administration has made it easy for European governments to follow rather than lead on Ukraine—and so far they have been comfortable doing so. That dynamic has reignited longstanding frustration, especially among Republicans, over perceptions of European free-riding and fueled calls for more equitable burden-sharing. That will be easy fodder for Biden’s critics in the lead-up to the 2024 elections.

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