Time is running out to help Ukraine and defend the West

Friends of Ukraine often say to Western political leaders: The West’s economy is 20-25 times bigger than Russia’s, how could we possibly give Ukraine fewer weapons than Russia has? Let’s do more, it is not such a big deal. But it is a bigger deal than that. I would like to encourage you to take a hard look at the truth and at the urgency of the situation we are facing.

The West is potentially overwhelmingly stronger than Russia and can enable Ukraine to win. But only with an effort, and a speed, that are on a completely different level to current policies of support.

The West’s economy is 20-25 times bigger than Russia’s. But who uses their full strength now? The US and the EU have directed 0.3% and 0.4% of their GDPs, respectively, to supporting Ukraine (including financial and humanitarian aid). Russia spends approximately 40% of its budget on attacking Ukraine, which is estimated as between 6% and 10% of the country’s GDP. This far greater commitment is helping Russia compensate for the West’s much larger economic potential. A smaller fighter who sacrifices everything can overcome a much bigger opponent who does not fight so hard.

But even worse, this is not a fight between the West’s potential and Russia’s potential. Everything depends on what the West gives right now, against what Russia produces right now, plus what Russia receives from Iran and North Korea. These are relatively small economies, but with disproportionately powerful military production.

Russia’s leaders consider this war as existential for them. The Kremlin squeezes everything out of the Russian economy for the war effort. The West does not yet appear to see the war as existential, or fully appreciate the urgency of the situation. This is wrong.

It would be a mistake to think that Ukrainians can continue holding the front for as long as the West needs in order to decide its approach. It would be a mistake to take comfort from the insight that Russia’s economic sacrifices are not sustainable in the long term.

Ukrainians are fighting against a critical threat right now. This threat is ultimately directed against the West. Economic potential alone will not win the war for Ukraine. The West must fight for its own survival by helping Ukraine, and must do so now.

Since the US has stopped giving aid and Europe has failed to make up for it, as things currently stand, Ukraine will lose. Of course, Ukrainians will keep fighting, whatever happens. Of course, Ukrainians will never give up. Yes, Ukrainians will do the impossible. No, Russia cannot ultimately win in Ukraine. But Ukraine can lose in the short term, unless the West immediately increases instead of decreasing its support.

Ukrainians are exhausted and lack the minimum of ammunition. Even worse, Ukrainians currently lack a reliable perspective regarding sufficient support in the foreseeable future.

I often talk to Ukrainian soldiers. They feel that at the moment, North Korea is a more reliable partner to Russia than the West is to Ukraine. They say that if they knew aid was coming in the not-too-distant future, it would give them the strength to reach that point. But right now, they don’t have such a perspective to count on.

If the West wants to turn this around, the most important thing to realize is that there is no time to spare. In 2022, the West waited too long, because some thought Russia would not really launch a full-scale attack, while others thought Ukraine would not survive more than a few days.

In 2024, many are once again waiting too long because they think Ukraine will not really lose. Have you not learned that bad things do happen? That you must act before they do? Unless there are major changes in the West’s approach, you may regret your current inaction even more than you did after February 2022.

As an engineer, I sometimes find simple formulas useful to make a situation clear. 2022 was the year when everyone underestimated Ukraine. 2023 was the year when everyone underestimated Russia. 2024 is the year of truth.

The war will not be decided by the potential of the West versus Russia alone. It will be determined by what the West does right now to support Ukraine, versus what Russia and allies like Iran and North Korea do right now. And don’t forget, whatever losses Ukraine suffers in 2024 cannot simply be undone by ramping up production in 2025.

In war, it does not matter if you did a lot. All that matters is if you did enough. And quickly enough. Europe and the West must switch their logic 180 degrees. Ukraine should not have to ask for weapons. The West should be offering proactively. Instead of Ukrainian requests that the West answers after long deliberations, Western offers should be coming in all the time.

Then, and only then, you will have given Ukrainians what they need to fight back the aggressor and preserve their independence. This will create a chance for peace and security. For you.

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