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Europe, not America, is now Ukraine’s largest backer?

Commitments from the EU and its member states are worth almost twice as much as those from America

IN AN INTERVIEW with The Economist on September 8th Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, said he had sensed a change of mood among some of his country’s backers. Promises of support for “as long as it takes” were beginning to ring hollow; some allies might see Ukraine’s sluggish counter-offensive as a reason to push for negotiations with Russia. A day after the interview, leaders at the G20 summit in Delhi issued a joint declaration in which language about the conflict had been watered down.

Still, rather than finely tuned statements, what Ukraine really needs from its allies is financial and military aid. The latest analysis from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German think-tank that tracks international backing for Ukraine, finds that donors pledged some 237.9bn ($256bn) of support between January 24th 2022, one month before the war began, and July 31st 2023. The vast majority came from America and the institutions and member states of the European Union. However, the balance between those donors is changing (see chart).

For much of the war America has been Ukraine’s most generous backer. But aid from the EU, including long-term pledges, has grown to almost double America’s sum, at 131.9bn since January 2022 compared with 69.5bn. Add non-EU European countries like Britain and Norway, and the gap grows yet wider.

The discrepancy results from a difference in approach. America’s and Europe’s short-term commitments—support for one year or less—are roughly equivalent. Yet European donors are increasingly pledging multi-year aid packages. For instance, the EU’s “Ukraine Facility”, a 50bn budgetary-support programme, lasts until 2027. Germany has pledged 10.5bn of military support, to be delivered between 2024 and 2027. And Norway has set up a 6.5bn fund to provide military, humanitarian and economic help to Ukraine for the next five years. Pledges are different from delivery—and some European promises are conditional on Ukraine’s government meeting certain obligations.

America remains vital. The amounts totted up by the institute cover financial, humanitarian and military aid. All are crucial. But when it comes to the weapons and munitions that make a difference on the battlefield, America still dwarfs its European peers. Its military pledges stood at 42.1bn by the end of July, more than double those of Germany, Europe’s largest military donor (see chart two).

America’s short-termism creates uncertainty. Several nominees in the Republican presidential primary have suggested that America should rethink its support for Ukraine. Mr Zelensky told The Economist that he thought the favourite to win that nomination, Donald Trump, would “never” provide such an obvious boon to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. European partners are less convinced.

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