As Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine approaches the two-year mark, the government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy finds itself in deep water. The counter-offensive has proved far less decisive than expected, and domestic criticism is mounting. To make matters worse, international support for Ukraine is also waning.
According to a study by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) Western aid to Ukraine has fallen to its lowest level since January 2022. In the last quarter, Kyiv’s allies pledged just over two billion euros – a year-on-year drop of almost 90 per cent. Ukraine, the IfW points out, is now increasingly dependent on a small group of core donors. At its heart are just two countries: the US and Germany.
Berlin’s emergence as one of Kyiv’s most steadfast supporters seems almost paradoxical. Public attention has declined to a level that Germany’s foreign minister has recently bemoaned the apathy as “fatal”. In addition, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly come under international pressure in the past for not providing more of his country’s military arsenal. But the numbers don’t lie: While other major European players have signalled their commitment to Ukraine’s defence, they fall far short of what Berlin is prepared to give.
Last month, Germany announced it would double its military aid to Ukraine from four to eight billion euros in 2024. Conveniently, this extra spending will push the once stingy NATO contributor above its defence spending target of at least two per cent of its annual GDP. But just days later, the government was plunged into a budget crisis. Austerity hawks were quick to single out social spending as the sacrificial lamb, conjuring up images of Ukrainian refugees as undeserving beneficiaries of Germany’s welfare system.
In this anxious political climate, Scholz used decisive words when he addressed his Social Democratic Party’s convention last weekend. “There will be no cuts in social spending,” he proclaimed to rapturous applause. And when it came to Germany’s commitments abroad, he wanted the message to be clear to the Russian president: “Don’t expect us to back down. We will give Ukraine what it needs to defend itself.”