When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.


Good Biden, Bad Scholz, Tail-Wagging Macron: How Ukrainians Really See World Leaders

Ukrainians assess their friends, enemies and frenemies...

photo of Macron, Draghi and Scholz in Ukraine

Macron, Draghi and Scholz assessing the damage near Kyiv

Kay Nietfeld/dpa via ZUMA
Anna Akage

Which of today's world leaders provides the full support Ukraine truly needs? Who plays into Putin's hands? Who's caught in the middle, and lacks the courage to choose sides?

With an overdue visit to Kyiv Thursday by three of Europe’s top leaders, Emmanuel Macron of France, Olaf Scholz of Germany and Mario Draghi of Italy, those questions were whispered far from the photo ops. The question of the solidity of its alliances are life-and-death for Kyiv, facing a much stronger military in an existential war against Russia.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Ukraine has so far received about 10% of the military aid it needs from Western partners to counter Russian aggression, Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said Tuesday during a television fundraising drive.

"To date, Ukraine is using all its capacities and forces to resist Russia. And Russia's capabilities in terms of weaponry, in terms of the number of military personnel, are far superior,” she said. “And no matter what efforts Ukraine makes, no matter how professional our army is, we cannot win this war without the help of partners.”

Building and maintaining political support internationally has been central to most recent Ukrainian presidents. But in wartime, it has transformed into a tangible (and urgent) need for military hardware — and it has become a high-stakes sport of sorts for President Volodymyr Zelensky and those around him to measure the solidarity of world leaders.

For Ukrainian people and politicians alike, this is how the roster of world leaders is looking today.

Joe Biden, the indispensable ally 

The U.S. President is a fully trusted partner, even if Kyiv hasn’t always gotten what it wants from Washington. In the lead up to the invasion in February, the U.S. overestimated Russian forces, and did not seem to trust the Ukrainian army's capacity for active resistance or the utility of sending arms to Kyiv. Some in the Pentagon predicted that the capital would fall within 96 hours.

Joe Biden has won wide praise in Ukraine by calling Putin a war criminal and butcher.

That began to change with the impressive showing of Ukraine’s military, pushing Russia back in the early weeks of the war. But Ukrainian Pravdawrites that the real turning point in the arms issue was the meeting at the U.S. Ramstein base in Germany on April 26. It was there that an agreement in principle was reached to augment the supply of weapons to Ukraine, in both quantity and quality. Heavy armament, such as 155-millimeter M777 howitzer, were first delivered after the adoption of the Lend-Lease. The support continued this week with another $1 billion pledged to Kyiv on Wednesday night.

But beyond the hardware, Joe Biden has won wide praise in Ukraine by calling Putin a war criminal and butcher even while finding ways to keep his distance from his nuclear opponent.

Overall, Ukrainians understand that the U.S. today is the main driver of sanctions against Russia, and by far the leader in overall terms of the number of weapons transferred to Ukraine. Still, and always, even under new circumstances, the U.S. remains what Madeleine Albright called in 1998: the indispensable nation.

Still, Ukrainians understand the world has changed...and one indispensable ally isn't enough to defeat Russia.

Emmanuel Macron, trust issues

Perhaps no other politician in Ukraine is mocked more than the French president. According to his own statements, he has spent over 100 hours on the phone with Putin in the last six months — and is proud to say that he continues to call him regularly.

This seemed to culminate in Macron’s urging allies "not to humiliate Russia."

Still, France continues to supply Ukraine with arms, howitzers, and anti-tank missiles, and train its soldiers. The decision to supply heavy weaponry is still under consideration, as is France's decision to support Ukraine's EU candidate status.

It’s not overstating it to say that Ukrainians don’t trust Macron. The Kyiv weekly Zerkalo Nedeliwrites that the Russian security services have dirt on every French president - whether linked to corruption or their private lives. Russian fake news operations tried to smear Macron during his first campaign in 2017.

Russian political activist Andrei Piontkovsky points out that a week after Macron’s first term began in 2017, Putin was at the Elysée Palace for a press conference, and Macron launched a frontal attack against Putin and the Russian media that had spread rumors about him.

No Western leader had ever spoken to Putin like that. But a month later there was an economic summit in St. Petersburg, where everyone was surprised to see a completely different Macron, “so timid, wagging his tail in the presence of Putin," Piontkovsky said.

Though Macron had strong words Thursday against the Russian invasion, the suspicion remains that he may have something to hide, and can't necessarily be counted on when the going gets rough.

Olaf Scholz, too close to Putin

It was during a recent interview with German broadcaster ZDF that Volodymyr Zelensky decided not to hold back (publicly) any longer.

"We need Chancellor Scholz to assure us that Germany will support Ukraine,” Zelensky insisted. “He and his government must make a decision: you cannot try to balance between Ukraine and relations with Russia, you must choose."

The tensions between Ukraine and Germany are caused not only by Scholz's soft-on-Putin policy but also by persistent delays in the delivery of weapons, tanks, and artillery. The German publication Der Spiegel wrote that the real reason for holding back the arms is fear that Ukraine will become too self-confident and decide to invade Russia.

Doubts about Germany policy on Russia date back to previous administrations, and Angela Merkel was recently forced to justify how she handled Putin during her 16 years in power. But the real suspicions around Scholz are his proximity to another former Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, a close Putin friend before and after his time in office.

Boris Johnson and Andrzej Duda, all in

Since the Russian invasion, the most assured and active political allies of Ukraine have been Britain and, not surprisingly, Poland. While the Ukrainian army has been receiving military aid from its closest neighbors like Poland since 2014, Britain's uncompromising stance was a pleasant surprise.

It is also worth noting, and not forgetting, that it was Poland that took in the bulk of refugees.

Relations with both countries became much stronger during the months of the war, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Polish President Andrzej Duda were among the first to visit Kyiv and assured Zelensky not only of support with arms and finances but also offered to form a military coalition to ensure mutual security even after the war — especially important in the face of the failure of the Budapest Memorandum (Britain, the U.S., and Russia signed a memorandum on protecting Ukraine in exchange for giving up nuclear weapons) and the weakening of NATO.

It is also worth noting, and not forgetting, that it was Poland that took in the bulk of refugees from Ukraine and ensured their transfer to other European countries.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Xi Jinping, looking for an angle

Erdogan and Putin go way back, and have common interests.


The Kazakh editorial board of Radio Liberty writes that it was Turkey and China that turned out to be the two countries most eager to score points during Russia's war in Ukraine.

"Both Turkey and China's activity in Central Asia [since the start of the war] has increased markedly," says Erica Marat, a researcher at the National Defense University in Washington. “Both countries see an opportunity to expand their presence in the region."

Turkey has recently expanded its presence in Central Asia by signing trade and defense agreements, and increasing arms sales to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

China, meanwhile, is pursuing its own security interests in the region and securing access to energy and other raw materials. Yet Beijing’s love is conditional, and Putin has been unable to demonstrate a convincing victory, worrying China's Communist Party, which doesn’t like losers.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during a recent meeting of Chinese and Central Asian foreign ministers in Nur-Sultan, "expressed deep concern about the serious spillover effects of the Ukrainian crisis" and urged Central Asian governments to stay away from geopolitical conflicts by reiterating their economic interests in the region, Radio Liberty wrote.

Separately, it is important to note Erdogan's desire not only to capitalize on the Ukrainian grain trade and strengthen his position by influencing the Northern countries' decisions to join NATO, but also to act as a political moderator between Russia and Ukraine, hoping thus to consolidate his influence on politics and in the region.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest