by Raffaele Crocco

After 94 weeks of conflict between Ukraine and Russia, even Kyiv’s supporters appear convinced that the Ukrainians face insurmountable challenges in achieving military victory. Analysts in both the United States and Europe have meticulously assessed the results of President Zelensky’s protracted offensive to regain national territory. While certain objectives have been achieved, including the recapture of some territory and forcing the Russian fleet to seek safer harbours, the overall situation remains stalemated. Ukraine is compensating for Russia’s numerical advantage by exploiting the quality of European and US military hardware.

The current situation is causing Europe and the US to reassess and recognise the need to negotiate with Moscow. As a result, Zelensky faces growing challenges in securing supplies. Although northern European countries have offered a billion euros for various weapons, the US Congress has cut off funding. Even after Zelensky’s visit to Washington, he has been unable to persuade the Republicans to change their stance.

Kyiv faces escalating challenges on the political front as the path to EU membership becomes increasingly arduous. Hungary, led by Orban, who maintains a friendly stance towards Moscow, is placing conditions on its agreement to the integration process. In essence, Orban is using Ukraine as a bargaining chip in the negotiations, seeking concessions for Hungary, arguing that “Ukraine’s rapid accession to the European Union would have devastating consequences for European farmers, the EU budget and European security. It does not serve the interests of Hungary or the EU, so we cannot support it.”

A stance that, on the eve of this week’s European summit, seemed at odds with statements made by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “If effectively implemented,” she said, “the latest Ukrainian reforms can meet three of our four outstanding recommendations. The Ukrainian government has also proposed a new lobbying law to limit the power of the oligarchs and address our last recommendation. Ukraine is showing us how much it cares about our Union and our values. And we should match its determination.”

These political struggles do not diminish the seriousness of the ongoing war. Zelensky stressed the importance of discouraging the occupiers during the winter, when both offensive and defensive operations tend to slow down. According to Kyiv, Russia has incurred a significant toll with 341,500 soldiers lost in Ukraine since 24 February, including both dead and wounded. While this figure is significant, it is, as always, civilians who bear the brunt. In recent days, a Russian rocket attack on Kyiv has resulted in 53 people being injured, with mayor Vitali Klitschko reporting damage to a children’s hospital.