Europe’s economic and military support for Ukraine is in crisis just as President Volodymyr Zelensky is calling for a qualitative leap forward to face the difficult winter ahead and continue the counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory. EU leaders will meet in Brussels in two weeks to discuss the future of aid and Kiev’s accession process, among other issues. It is a hot file, aggravated above all by the obstructions of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who does not want to give the green light to both the allocation of 50 billion euros of economic aid and Ukraine’s entry into the EU. But Germany also has doubts about the financing and functioning of the EPF, the European Peace Fund that provides Ukraine’s military financing.
Orban is becoming less lonely
The most pressing issue is the release of the $50 billion in aid that the Ukrainian government has been waiting for months to put its coffers in order and cover the huge expenses to support the population, especially on energy supplies. Orban does not intend to lift his veto on the allocation of funds. His motivation is that continuing to feed the Ukrainian war machine will only prolong the conflict with Russia, rather than forcing Kiev to come to the peace table with Moscow and stop the war, which, according to the Hungarian leader, is creating serious problems. It will end in complete failure for Europe and Brussels. Orban adds another veto to this veto: No to Ukraine’s accession to the EU. Kossuth said in an interview with Rádió that membership “does not coincide with Hungary’s national interests”. According to him, it would be better to sign a strategic partnership with Kiev that “could last up to 5-10 years (to bring Ukraine closer to Europe), given that the gap is very wide.” An unsurprising position.
It is well known that Orban has close ties with Putin and that Russian gas and oil are an important source of energy for Hungarian companies. It is also known that Orban used his veto power (unanimity of member states is required in summer politics) to pressure the European Commission to release $13 billion of EU funds that Brussels is holding as a penalty for Hungary. Rule of Law. But this is not the only thing behind the Hungarian leader’s obstructionism. Orban appears to be playing a broader game to increase his weight in the bloc’s political balance. He knows that he can now trust Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico regarding Ukraine, and that right-wing leader Geert Wilders’ victory in the Netherlands could bring him another ally at the 27-person table. There is a growing sense of fatigue among citizens and businesses due to inflation, which is seen as an effect of the war in Ukraine. According to Orban, Kiev’s participation risks “the disintegration of the unity of Europe”. This warning appears to have been shared by Brussels, but for other reasons: “We are heading towards a serious crisis,” an EU official told Politico. It’s a crisis that could lead to greater consensus among the European political powers closest to Orban, given the upcoming EU elections in June.
The future of military aid
The Hungarian prime minister plans to block military aid as well as economic aid to Kiev. It should be said that in this regard, he found indirect support from countries that were unwavering supporters of Ukraine on paper. Everything revolves around the EPF, a fund that for Brussels should be the basis of common European defense and no longer divided between opposing national interests. This fund is fed by extra resources from Member States; that is, it is not part of the multi-year budget created every seven years. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wants to increase its allocation. But Germany, the country where he is defense minister, does not seem to share the same view.
Berlin provides a quarter of the EPF’s budget, but the money going to its companies is significantly lower. EPF actually finances military purchases of member states. For example, many are buying new tanks and sending old ones to Ukraine. They are actually using the EPF to modernize their military. Germany does not oppose this, but it seems that German defense industries are not the most popular industries for those using EPF funds. And often these resources go into the pockets of non-EU countries (like the United States).
No exit in EPF
Therefore, Berlin now wants to reduce its contribution to the fund. The problem is that if this happens, other major contributing countries such as France and Italy may follow suit. And the EPF would be evacuated, despite von der Leyen’s dreams of victory and future military supplies destined for Kiev. Paris, on the other hand, demands that EU funds go solely and exclusively to European industries when it comes to joint purchases of military equipment. A proposal that risks repeating the critical problems that have emerged with ammunition: Brussels has committed to deliver 1 million shells to Kiev by March, but currently the supplies sent are less than half. The European industry seems unable to produce enough bullets within the set deadlines, and the only way to keep promises seems to be to buy bullets from suppliers outside the EU. Hypothesis that the French do not like.
The puzzle around the EPF is only one piece of the complex puzzle surrounding Europe’s military spending and support for Ukraine. According to former NATO deputy secretary Stefanie Babst, “Ukraine’s supporters must implement an effective process to coordinate their long-term military assistance to Kiev. What we have now is a dysfunctional patchwork of various multilateral and bilateral structures.” The EPF, the NATO Global Assistance Package, the US-led Security Assistance Group in Wiesbaden, Germany, the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, as well as various ad hoc coalition groups focused on specific military capabilities, such as the F-16 coalition and other forums, do not coordinate their efforts, do not produce copies, and do not defend defense lacks transparency and systematic representation of its industries,” complains Babst in a post on the Carnegie Europe website.
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Source: Today IT
Karen Clayton is a seasoned journalist and author at The Nation Update, with a focus on world news and current events. She has a background in international relations, which gives her a deep understanding of the political, economic and social factors that shape the global landscape. She writes about a wide range of topics, including conflicts, political upheavals, and economic trends, as well as humanitarian crisis and human rights issues.