Europeans are concerned about potential new Cold War with Russia
European leaders are increasingly concerned by the stalemated war in Ukraine, and with allies’ struggles in keeping ahead of new Russian arms production
According to Politico, the year started with expectations of a significant Ukrainian counteroffensive to match the previous year's surprising push into Russian-occupied territory. However, it resulted in minimal territorial gains and a high human cost.
Finnish Defense Minister Antti Häkkänen, during a visit to Washington, emphasized that “Russia has the capability and the ability to go on with this war for years. Many are overestimating that the West is winning this, that Ukraine is winning.”
To address Ukraine's reducing supplies, Häkkänen's government announced a doubling of ammunition production, with substantial funding from the Norwegian defense firm NAMMO and a total investment of $1.3 billion from 2024 to 2030.
Other European officials, such as Belgian Defense Chief Michel Hofman and Czech President Petr Pavel, share concerns about potential future Russian actions in neighboring regions. Belgian Defense Chief Michel Hofman, while visiting Belgian soldiers stationed in Romania this week, warned that Russia has “already shown that they have the will to attack a neighbor,” and “it is absolutely possible that they will also have other ideas later. Either in the south in Moldova or the Baltic states.”
And while visiting the Ukrainian capital on Monday, Czech President Petr Pavel said “we are very likely to see some significant developments” throughout 2024 in the conduct of the war, not all of which will be welcomed in Western capitals.“The indications so far are that it will not be, in the best sense of the word, as we would like it to be,” he said, adding that Russia’s renewed industrial capacity will begin to create “a new situation that we will have to deal with.”
In Washington, the Biden administration faces a funding shortage for supplying Ukraine with weapons, waiting on a $60 billion request stuck in Congress. European Union's $54 billion financial assistance package for Ukraine has been delayed due to Hungarian objections, preventing unanimous approval by the 27-member organization. Some countries, including Germany, have increased military assistance, and British and German defense firms have signed agreements for co-production with Ukrainian companies.
These efforts to rebuild Ukraine's defense industry reflect the recognition that the war will persist, especially with recent territorial gains by Russian forces in the east. Häkkänen notes that the slow acknowledgment of Russia's full-scale invasion has permanently altered Europe's political landscape, signaling the start of a new Cold War era.“I think many Western countries were thinking that this was a short-term problem". But now I think that in the U.S. and in NATO countries, almost everyone knows that this is the end of the last 30 years since the Soviet Union fell. Now we’re going into some kind of a new cold war,” he said.