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The European Commission boosted Ukraine’s hopes of joining the EU by recommending it as an official candidate for membership.
The Commission also recommended Moldova for candidacy – the first step on the route to joining to the bloc; but Brussels said Georgia must pass reforms for its accession to be considered. All three states applied to join the EU after Russia invaded Ukraine. The Commission’s decision followed a visit to Kyiv by France’s President Macron, Germany’s Olaf Scholz and Italian PM Mario Draghi.
After his own visit to Kyiv last week, Boris Johnson warned of the risk of “Ukraine fatigue”, and said the country’s allies must show that they are there “for the long haul”. His remarks were echoed by Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who warned that the war could drag on for years. Russian attacks in the Donbas intensified this week, as Moscow stepped up its efforts to capture the city of Severodonetsk.
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What the editorials said
The EU is right to take this step, said The Times. Ukraine has long coveted membership as it seeks to “escape the yoke of Russian colonialism and join the rules-based European order”. Granting it would be a worthy recognition of its “heavy sacrifices in the war”, and a symbolic blow to Vladimir Putin.
Yet in reality, accession remains “a distant prospect”: joining the bloc is a long process requiring complex reforms – an especially tall order in a country “devastated by war”. EU members are divided on Ukraine’s accession, said the FT, with some fearing that its “chronic institutional weaknesses” mean it isn’t ready. But if the 27 EU leaders were to prevent it from joining, they’d be committing a terrible “geopolitical error”.
Of more immediate concern, said The Daily Telegraph, is Moscow’s warning of “serious” consequences if Lithuania fails to reverse a move to block the transit of EU-sanctioned goods to Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave. Lithuania says it’s just following EU rules. But if Moscow follows through on its threats, the proxy war between Russia and the West could “become a real one”.
What the commentators said
The photos of Western leaders in Kyiv may look jolly enough, said Richard Kemp in The Daily Telegraph – but they cannot disguise Ukraine’s “increasingly precarious situation” in this war. As fighting in the Donbas continues, “Russia has a ten- to 15-fold advantage in artillery” and is firing 50,000 shells a day. Its forces control all of the city of Severodonetsk except the Azot chemical plant, where 568 civilians are currently sheltering, and are advancing towards nearby Lysychansk.
Unsurprisingly, Ukraine’s confidence is now “starting to erode”, said Jamie Dettmer on Politico. About 150 of its soldiers are being killed every day; 800 more are being wounded. Its weapons are no match for Russia’s long-range rocket launchers and missiles. And while Britain and the US have promised to send more rocket systems, Kyiv’s Western allies must “up the ante and supply many more” on top of those if they’re to “equalise the battlefield”, and prevent this conflict from becoming a lengthy “war of attrition favouring Russia”.
Increasing the flow of arms won’t be easy, said The Economist. “Nato countries are clean out of the sort of ammunition needed by Ukraine’s Soviet-era weapons.” Europe’s weapons stocks are low, and demand for new munitions may outstrip manufacturers’ capacity to produce them.
The West simply has to resolve these issues, said Max Boot in The Washington Post. To secure peace, we must help Ukraine inflict “devastating losses” on Russia. At the moment, Ukraine’s allies are sending it “just enough weaponry to avoid defeat – but not enough to win”.
Warnings of conflict “fatigue” from Stoltenberg and Johnson are timely, said Ian Birrell in The i Paper. Putin is banking on attention shifting away from Ukraine as the war grinds on, and for unease over rising food and energy costs to increase pressure for a peace deal on his terms. That cannot be allowed to happen. Yes, there are risks associated with increasing support for Kyiv; but the alternative in this “struggle for supremacy between democracy and dictatorship” is riskier still.
EU leaders were due to meet in Brussels this week to sign off on Ukraine’s candidature for membership of the bloc. None of the 27 member states are expected to try to block it, Reuters reported.
Putin is said to be planning to replace Alexander Dvornikov, the Russian general who was appointed in April to take command of Moscow’s faltering campaign in Ukraine. The Kremlin has lost patience with Dvornikov due to his heavy drinking and a lack of trust in him among Russian forces, the investigative journalism site Bellingcat reports.
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