The West was unified in its condemnation of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.
Although not a member of NATO, Ukraine was provided with an unprecedented level of military support to combat Russian aggression.
However, with the war stagnating, are the strategic objectives of the West and Ukraine still aligned? If not, what next?
Despite political rhetoric, most nations are driven by parochial self-interest.
Wars rage around the world, but the international community rarely intervenes.
So why the support for a non-NATO nation in the immediate aftermath of an international pandemic and amid a domestic cost of living crisis?
Russia has long been identified as a potential threat to Western interests, and defence budgets have been focused accordingly.
Following the humiliating demise of the former Soviet Union, Putin aspired to make Russia great again, to become a global superpower, and to provide a counter to an expanding NATO.
Russia’s extensive natural gas and oil reserves provided economic power, and an increasing Western dependency on Russia’s energy supplies emboldened President Putin.
But nobody anticipated a Russian invasion. Despite Russia’s greater size, Ukrainian resistance was determined, brave and effective.
Having halted Russia’s advance, the West considered its options. Ukraine was not a member of NATO, and there was no Western appetite for a direct conflict with Russia.
However, Moscow’s aggression presented a direct threat to Europe, and if Ukraine failed, where next?
The West could not let Russia prevail; a common sense of purpose galvanised international efforts to provide military support to Kyiv.
The objective? To stop Russia from threatening Europe. But Ukraine’s aim was to liberate its territory.
Different objectives, but sufficiently aligned to create a united front against Russia’s onslaught.
As the war has developed, Russia’s military has been badly mauled and endemic weaknesses exposed – it will take a decade for the Russian military to recover and re-equip.
Western sanctions have decimated the Russian economy, and Russia has become a pariah on the global stage, with the president indicted by the International Criminal Court.
Putin has been forced into unsavoury commercial relationships with Iran and North Korea to maintain its war effort, and NATO has expanded as a direct result of Putin’s aggression.
And, Putin faced the biggest direct threat to his authority with Prigozhin’s ill-fated rebellion.
Russia no longer poses a credible threat to Europe. The western objective of this conflict has been achieved.
But Ukraine is still embroiled in a brutal battle to expunge Russian forces from occupied Ukraine.
Having achieved their strategic objective, Western democratic governments must also address the cost of living crisis, domestic priorities, and re-building national weapons inventories.
Indeed, a recent CNN poll revealed that most Americans oppose Congress authorising additional funding to support Ukraine in its war with Russia.
There is little doubt that publicly, Western political leaders want to support Ukraine ”whatever it takes”.
However, the harsh reality is that Ukraine’s objectives are no longer aligned with their backers.
So where does this leave President Zelenskyy and Ukraine?
There is commitment to support Ukraine’s current counteroffensive, but there will be increasing scepticism whether Zelenskyy’s ultimate objectives are achievable, or supportable.
However, the West does need to ensure European security – so objectives align around guaranteeing Ukraine’s post-war sovereignty – and Ukraine can capitalise on Western support and resources to rebuild its infrastructure.
President Zelenskyy has proven an outstanding wartime leader, galvanising the international community to ensure Ukraine’s survival as an independent nation.
But now, great statesmanship will be required to create the foundations for a prosperous, free and safe Ukraine.
Many Ukrainians will remain determined to expel all Russians from their territory. That is Ukraine’s right, their fight, their future, and their sacrifice.
The ensuing sacrifices, devastation and suffering will leave a dreadful legacy, but what is the price for peace?