Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Kyiv’s strongest allies against President Vladimir Putin have been the nations that know his Soviet playbook best: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, all invaded and brutalized by the Soviet Union and historically wary of Russia.
Their warnings about Russian aggression and calls for stronger Western action to deter Putin were long brushed aside by many in Europe, even after Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia and the Kremlin’s 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea.
“One lesson from this war is we should have listened to those who know Putin,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in her State of the European Union speech last month. “They have been telling us for years that Putin would not stop.”
Since February, the Baltics and Poland have repeatedly called for the provision of more and faster military assistance, including more powerful offensive weapons, only to be rebuffed by the United States and Western European allies who wanted to make clear that they were not in a direct conflict with Russia.
Slowly, that’s started to change, after Putin proved his wary neighbors right — repeatedly.
The Russian president’s shocking escalation on Monday, firing dozens of missiles at Ukrainian civilian targets including power stations, was strongly condemned around the world. Western leaders are beginning to acknowledge that they may need to take more decisive steps to assure Ukraine’s victory.
Ahead of key NATO meetings in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday, the leaders of Baltic states have called on the West to scale up the supply of weapons to Kyiv, in particular air defense systems. The NATO Contact Group on Ukraine meets in Brussels on Wednesday and NATO defense ministers meet on Thursday.
But in a sign the easternmost allies are already making progress, leaders of the Group of Seven on Tuesday issued a forceful statement endorsing Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for a “just peace” that leaves no room for capitulation to Putin’s demands. The G-7 insisted on the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereign territory, safeguarding Ukraine’s future security and reconstruction financed by Russia. [Continue reading…]