| 7 December 2023, Thursday |

Electoral politics begin to bite into Ukraine support

Ukraine is at odds with Russia on several fronts. And, just as advancement on the battlefield is difficult to achieve, so are diplomatic advances these days.

Western backing for Kyiv has remained essentially consistent since Russia’s incursion last year. However, fissures are appearing in the pro-Ukraine alliance.

By far Ukraine’s most generous sponsor is the United States, which has provided more than $110 billion (£90 billion) in military and economic aid. Nonetheless, in a fierce internal dispute over how to fund the federal government, Congress abandoned plans to grant Ukraine another $6 billion over the weekend.

Some Republicans believe that help for Ukraine should be reduced, while others believe that it should be supplied only if President Biden increases spending on US border security.

Mr Biden has promised Ukraine another $24bn soon, but that may now be vulnerable to internal US politics.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Ukraine may be about to lose another ally.

In Slovakia, elections saw Robert Fico’s Smer party win most seats, although he still needs to form a coalition. The populist former prime minister is widely seen as pro-Moscow and anti-Kyiv, having campaigned on a promise to end military support for Ukraine.

“People in Slovakia have bigger problems than Ukraine,” he said. That means – alongside Viktor Orban’s Hungary – there are now two European Union countries ready to veto further collective EU action to support Ukraine.

Neighbouring Poland is also holding elections soon – and there too, doubts about supporting Ukraine have been aired. The ruling Law and Justice Party has promised to halt the import of cheap Ukrainian grain that Polish farmers oppose.

The President, Andrzej Duda, has described Ukraine as a drowning man dragging down his rescuers. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland was “no longer transferring any weapons to Ukraine”, although this was later reversed.

So electoral politics are beginning to bite into Ukraine’s support. So too are other issues, whether the global cost-of-living crisis or the climate emergency.

At the United Nations General Assembly recently, it was noticeable how Ukraine was no longer automatically at the top of the agenda.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s first in-person speeches to the UN assembly and the Security Council did not command the same attention as before. Diplomats noticed the sheen had come off the Ukrainian delegation as leaders from the Global South pressed their own agendas.

All of this is what strategists in the Kremlin have been long been hoping for. Diplomats believe Vladimir Putin wants to wait out the West, keeping the fighting going until Ukraine begins to lose international support and seeks a political settlement.