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Kristi Raik: Europe starting to make more effort to support Ukraine

Kristi Raik.
Kristi Raik. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Many European nations are now starting to make greater efforts to provide Ukraine with positive messages about getting more aid, Kristi Raik, deputy head of the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS), says.

This is particularly important given that there is no guarantee of continued support from the U.S., at the same level as has been seen, as that country heads to the presidential elections later this year.

Raik also welcomed the recent U.K.-Ukrainian bilateral agreement and over five-billion-pound aid package presented by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last week.

Nonetheless, such deals should not substitute for work towards full NATO membership for Ukraine, Raik said.

The disputes in the U.S. continue, with the upshot being that aid to Ukraine is being hindered, according to Raik, Europe has moved in the opposite direction and has started to show more that it is ready to increase its support.

Appearing on ETV show "Ukraine stuudio," Raik said: "The Europeans have now started to make more efforts to give the message that Europe is ready to raise its support."

"This is especially important now, as we do not know when a solution will be found with in relation to continued U.S. support. Everyone is also doing this in their own way. Britain now with this bilateral agreement [signed last week] and a very tough military aid package. Germany called on all EU nations to support Ukraine more than they have done, and [Chancellor Olaf] Scholz also wants this topic to be on the table; the next EU summit is set to review these plans," she told the show.

Despite all the criticism over perceived procrastination, Germany has also done more than most other EU nations, Raik added, yet France, whose main goal is to bolster the European defense industry, has done less but been hit with less criticism, too.

In general, however, more positive messages about supporting Ukraine have been heard in the last week, Raik noted.

Concrete examples are the continued talks on a proposed €50 billion aid package to Ukraine, which has been blocked so far by Hungary's opposition but which, Raik said, should see a decision on in early February.

"So, small but positive messages have now arrived, giving cause for hope that the Western countries are not about to give up, but they still see that Ukraine needs to be supported even more and continue to believe that Ukraine can win the war."

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit to Estonia and the other two Baltic states last week sent the strong message that Ukraine itself still believes in its own victory, and that the Baltic states believe in it too.

This is evidenced also by Estonia's call for all Western nations to support Ukraine militarily with 0.25 percent of annual GDP, a strong and concrete, long-term plan which speaks of greater potential optimism in Europe.

"While it may not be realistic to expect any significant turn for the better this year, but if we start making efforts now, that will be viable next year," the expert continued.

Most important recently has been U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's announcement that that country will be providing Ukraine with its largest aid package so far this year, albeit early in the year, totaling £2.5 billion (nearly €3 billion).

Sunak and Zelenskyy also signed an important security agreement, while the British prime minister was in Kyiv, one day after Zelenskyy's visit to Tallinn.

The security deal in particular is key, given its length (for 10 years) and as the first actual concrete evidence of countries living up to the pledges they made in Vilnius last July

The aid package, too, is significant, both in that it is more than Britain has granted over 2023 or 2022 for that matter, and in sending strong signals to other countries

Nonetheless, for Raik, one thing is still missing: "It is no substitute for NATO membership."

The risk here is that other nations may instead see bilateral security agreements such as the one issued by the U.K. as a substitute for NATO membership for Ukraine and other potential new joiners.

"Especially for those countries that have taken a very cautious approach to NATO expansion, led by the USA and Germany, but also many others," including some of the G7 nations, she said.

"But what we can say now about this British agreement is that there is no doubt that Britain will continue to work towards Ukraine becoming a member of NATO in the future," Raik added.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: 'Ukraina stuudio,' interviewer Epp Ehand.

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