Why Zelensky's Europe Tour Was So Important — Short And Long-Term
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky succeeded in securing massive stocks of weapons essential to Ukraine's imminent counteroffensive — and, crucially, he laid the groundwork for Ukraine's bid for NATO membership.
KYIV — The Ukrainian president's tour of four European countries has ended, and Volodymyr Zelensky is back in Kyiv with new military aid promises from Italy, Germany, France and the UK, including medium-range missiles, tanks, air defense and artillery shells.
The UK also announced a new training program for Ukrainian pilots, and France has said it is ready to train fighter jet pilots. In addition, the leaders of four European countries supported Zelensky's peace formula, including terms for establishing a special tribunal for those responsible for crimes of aggression.
In Europe, many decisions depend on the position of Germany, France, the UK and Italy. Each influences the implementation of security, economic and political initiatives in Europe, in one way or another.
Ukraine has chosen a bold tactic: to negotiate not with skeptics who oppose the provision of weapons or accession to Euro-Atlantic structures, but with those who can influence them. Zelensky's tour has laid the groundwork for resolutions crucial for Ukraine, which is also dependent on Berlin, Paris, Rome and London.
Preparing for a Ukrainian counteroffensive
The issue of providing Ukraine with weapons was one of the most important during President Zelensky's talks with the four countries' leaders. These talks brought concrete, positive results: new defense aid packages.
Germany has announced the most extensive package, offering €2.7 billion, including 18-wheel howitzers, artillery ammunition, guided missiles for air defense systems, four IRIS-T SLM anti-aircraft missile systems for air defense and 12 IRIS-T SLS launchers. In addition, Berlin will provide 30 Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks and 20 Marder infantry fighting vehicles, more than 100 armored combat vehicles and more than 200 reconnaissance drones.
As part of its latest security package, France will provide Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles. French President Emmanuel Macron did not elaborate on the model, but said Paris would send rockets with a range allowing Ukraine to resist Russian aggression. These will likely be SCALP-EG cruise missiles, the French equivalent of the Storm Shadow missile that Ukraine previously received from the UK.
According to Macron, more air defense systems and dozens of armored vehicles, including AMX-10RCs, will also arrive in Ukraine in the coming weeks. France also intends to train 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers, and nearly 4,000 more in Poland this year.
On the day of the Ukrainian president's visit, the British government also said that it would provide Ukraine with hundreds of air defense missiles and new armed drones with a range of over 200 km, in addition to the Storm Shadow cruise missiles announced last week. This long-range air-launched cruise missile carries a 450-pound warhead and can travel up to 560 km, which brings into range the entire occupied Crimea, including the Crimean Bridge, as well as Russian military airports of Taganrog and Rostov and Russian cities north of Ukraine.
The road to Vilnius
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Elysee Palace on May 14.
"Once we finally resolve the issue of providing aircraft, or rather, when you see F-16s patrolling the Ukrainian skies and see Ukrainian pilots flying them and shooting down Russian aircraft, there will be one fateful decision left in our foreign policy: NATO membership," says Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
One of the main elements of the Ukrainian president's talks with the leaders of Italy, Germany, France and the UK was the issue of Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic movement and support for a new political approach to the membership that Ukraine hopes to receive from allies at NATO's summit in Vilnius, Lithuania this year.
Some countries are not ready to force the issue of Ukraine's membership in NATO.
In terms of bilateral diplomacy, Ukraine is forming a coalition to develop specific mechanisms that would allow it to become a member of NATO. In total, 18 countries have already signed relevant declarations with Kyiv.
In particular, Germany, France and Italy have adopted almost identical documents, which set out their expectations for the upcoming NATO summit. Berlin, on the other hand, has expressed its readiness to support Ukraine's NATO bid, but in a more restrained form than Rome and Paris.
These countries are not ready to force the issue of Ukraine's membership in NATO and are still, to some extent, watching Moscow's reaction. This stereotype has yet to be broken, both on the battlefield and in the minds of Western leaders. But the UK has committed itself to work with its allies on the eve of the Vilnius summit to deepen Ukraine's interoperability with NATO.
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