Zelensky faces dilemma amid weakening Western aid

Zelensky aid

On February 7, The New York Times newspaper published an article titled “Ukraine worries about losing its biggest weapon: U.S. military aid.” The article has become another piece of evidence showing that the Ukrainian leadership's situation has worsened. “Not since the first chaotic months of the invasion has Ukraine faced such a precarious moment in the war,” the article's authors said.

Commenting on America not sending its military aid to Ukraine for several months, US President Joe Biden exclaimed: “What are we doing? Stepping back?”. Despite the fact that the United States hasn’t sent any aid to the Ukrainian Army since December 2023, the European Union is doing its best to support Kyiv. On February 1, the EU approved a four-year 50 billion euro aid plan. On February 23, a day before the second anniversary of the Russian invasion, the EU adopted the 13th package of individual and economic sanctions against those supporting Moscow. Nevertheless, Washington has been making a decisive contribution to Ukraine's defence capability in the face of occupiers.

In such a situation, the Ukrainian leadership tries hard to use all possibilities to restore the interest of its allies in the conflict with Russia and to show that the war for freedom and democracy hasn’t ended yet. One of the key components of Kyiv’s policy is accusing Moscow of using chemical weapons (CW). During one of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation that took place in Vienna on January 31, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to International Organizations Natalia Kostenko stated that "during the war, the aggressor has conducted 626 chemical attacks on Ukrainian soldiers."

The problem of using hazardous combat substances has been arising in almost every conflict since World War I when chemical weapons were used for the first time. In the current Russo-Ukrainian war, Russia, like Ukraine, has been trying to accuse its enemy of using prohibited types of weapons. However, neither party has been able to provide the international community with sufficient evidence of that.

In the XXI century, the CW is more about psychological warfare than combat actions. Even in the XX century, during World War II, neither Hitler nor Stalin dared to use it despite the hardest situation. And there is an explanation. First of all, the fact that you are using it makes you an international agreements violator (the Hague Convention, 1899; Geneva Treaty, 1925; Chemical Weapons Convention, 1993) and undermines the international credibility of your country. Secondly, and this is the main thing, it gives the opposite side the moral right to use the same methods of warfare against you.

Nevertheless, the use of chemical weapons could be the best topic for both Kyiv and Moscow to demonise each other. Perhaps it would benefit Ukraine more than Russia since it depends on international support and faces real problems due to a shortage of Western weapons and ammunition. War crimes of Russian soldiers that took place in the Kyiv region in March 2022 have already served as an impetus for the US and Europe to increase the volume of military supplies several times. Irrefutable evidence of CW use by Russians could once again become such a turning point, after which even the Kremlin’s reliable partners like China and Iran would turn against it.

Two years after the beginning of the unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine, Kyiv faces a dilemma due to a lack of weapons, military vehicles, etc. There are only two ways for the Ukrainian leadership: either the young democracy will continue to play the game by the rules and thereby jeopardise its independence, or it will apply the ancient principle of “there are no rules in war” to preserve its statehood. The time will show what President Volodymyr Zelensky will choose.

Kamran Mamedov is a Tbilisi-based Azerbaijani journalist who focuses on South Caucasus issues.

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