A Year In, Europe Is Preparing for a Long War in Ukraine

A Year In, Europe Is Preparing for a Long War in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he gives his annual State of the Nation address in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 21, 2023 (Sputnik photo by Dmitry Astakhov via AP).

Capitals in Europe are observing a grim anniversary this week. Tomorrow marks one year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed this continent overnight into a new reality. With no end to the war in sight, the big discussion in European capitals now is how to sustain Ukraine’s war effort over the long haul.

In a defiant State of the Nation speech Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear that he is not going to pull back from the invasion anytime soon. The future of Russia itself is on the line, he told the country’s lawmakers and elite. “This is a time of radical, irreversible change in the entire world, of crucial historic events that will determine the future of our country and our people, a time when every one of us bears a colossal responsibility,” he said. Putin blamed the West for provoking the war by expanding NATO eastward and aiming to encircle Russia, and he told Russians that the alliance represents a direct threat to all of them.

Though Putin’s reading of the war conveniently leaves out the fact that he started it, his “back against the wall” rhetoric is remarkably similar to the messages coming from Western leaders at the moment. “NATO is being tested—all democracies are being tested,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a speech in Warsaw later that same day. Though the timing was coincidental, Biden used the opportunity to rebut Putin’s speech. “President Putin’s craven lust for land and power will fail, and the Ukrainian people’s love for their country will prevail,” he told his predominantly Polish audience, which included the country’s prime minister. The message certainly resonated in a country where many believe that if the West and Ukraine accept any territorial concessions to Russia, Putin will come for Poland next.

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