Putin’s brute force must not rule

After the Kremlin withdrew its armies from around Kyiv, many hoped the Ukrainians would achieve a similar triumph in the Battle of Donbass in the east of the country. Their heroism, adoption of new, nimble tactics, and skillful use of NATO-supplied weapons had humiliated the Russians, resulting in the loss of thousands of men, as well as many vehicles.

Ukraine’s bravery has not wavered. But in recent days there have been disconcerting signs that Vladimir Putin is advancing in Donbass after replenishing his forces. If attempts to encircle two key cities, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, succeed, almost all of Luhansk province will be under Moscow’s control.

Boris Johnson yesterday said Putin was making tangible progress and argued it was now necessary for the West to provide long-range rocket launchers to help Ukrainian defence. Nations including the UK, US and Poland continued to maintain arms supplies. However, other parts of the NATO alliance have dragged their feet. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said this week that “Putin cannot win this war”, but that statement does not square with his country’s reluctance to end its dependence on Russian hydrocarbons or wholeheartedly support the Ukrainian war effort. The language of concessions emanating from the Elysée, meanwhile, borders on appeasement.

The Ukrainian president this week asked for more heavy weapons to stop the new Russian offensive. He also exposed the broader issues of this war. What is decided is not just the fate of a country, but whether brute force should be allowed to rule the world. It is alarming that some of our allies seem unable to see clearly.

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