Is 'Ukraine fatigue' creeping in?

TOPSHOT - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky listens during a meeting with US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on September 21, 2023. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky at a meeting with US president Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Thursday. (AFP via Getty Images)

What's happening? Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine last year was one of the most seismic events of recent times.

It prompted an almost universal outpouring of support for Ukraine, while dozens of countries have provided military and humanitarian aid.

But 19 months on, is "Ukraine fatigue" creeping in?

That was the question put to Grant Shapps on Sky News’ Sunday Morning on Trevor Phillips programme.

The defence secretary - who on Tuesday attended a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, an alliance of 54 countries which coordinates military aid - denied it.

“Certainly within that room we were all absolutely solidly behind Ukraine,” he said.

“The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine. We haven’t forgotten how a tyrant has walked in on its democratic neighbour and if we don’t stop him, we know from history what happens after that. That is why we are continuing our support.”

However, there are instances suggesting wider support for Ukraine is not as strong as it was. Here, Yahoo News UK rounds up some notable examples.

'We're not Amazon'

17 May 2023, Berlin: Ben Wallace, defense minister of the United Kingdom, speaks during an interview at the British Embassy. (to dpa interview with British Defense Minister Ben Wallace) Photo: Christophe Gateau/dpa (Photo by Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Ben Wallace said his comments about Ukraine showing 'gratitude' were 'misrepresented'. (Getty Images)

One of the first cracks actually came from the UK, considered by some to be Ukraine’s biggest ally.

In July, Ben Wallace, Shapps’ predecessor as defence secretary, said the UK and US had told Ukraine that “we’re not Amazon” after being handed requests for new weapons. Wallace called for “gratitude”.

“There is a slight word of caution here which is that, whether we like it or not, people want to see gratitude,” he told reporters.

“My counsel to the Ukrainians… you’re persuading countries to give up their own stocks. And yes the war is a noble war and yes we see it as you doing a war for not just yourself but our freedoms.

“But sometimes you’ve got to persuade lawmakers on the Hill in America. You’ve got to persuade doubting politicians in other countries that it’s worth it and it’s worthwhile and they’re getting something for it.”

Rishi Sunak shut down the comments, saying Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had “repeatedly expressed gratitude”.

Wallace later said his remarks were “somewhat misrepresented” and his point was that “in some parliaments there is not such strong support as in Great Britain”.

On Sunday, Shapps said the UK is providing Ukraine with more ammunition and will have trained 30,000 troops by the end of the year.

“I don’t think the British resolve is wavering in any way shape or form,” he said.

'Never insult Poles again'

KYIV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 24, 2023 - President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy (R) and Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki share a hug during a joint briefing, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine. (Photo credit should read Volodymyr Tarasov / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Volodymyr Zelensky and Mateusz Morawiecki embrace in February. A row between Ukraine and Poland escalated this week. (Getty Images)

Poland had been one of Ukraine’s key allies following the onset of the war.

Poland’s eastern border neighbours Ukraine’s and it welcomed about 1.5m refugees, with many more passing through the country.

And according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Poland had provided £2.6bn in military aid as of August, the sixth highest in the world.

But a row between the two over Ukraine’s grain exports escalated this week.

On Monday, Ukraine filed a lawsuit against Poland to the World Trade Organization over its ban on food imports from the country. Poland claims Ukrainian grain is leaving its farmers out of pocket.

On Tuesday, Zelensky swiped at Poland at the United Nations as he said: “It’s alarming to see how some in Europe play out solidarity in a political theatre, making a thriller from the grain.”

On Wednesday, Poland announced it would stop supplying weapons. Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a TV address: "We are no longer transferring any weapons to Ukraine because we will now arm ourselves with the most modern weapons."

Then, on Friday, Morawiecki said: “I... want to tell President Zelensky never to insult Poles again, as he did recently during his speech at the UN."

How will key US partnership play out?

TOPSHOT - US President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on September 21, 2023. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Volodymyr Zelensky and Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Thursday. (AFP via Getty Images)

The US has been - by far - Ukraine’s biggest benefactor, according to the Kiel Institute. It has provided £36.7bn in military aid. Germany, having provided £14.9bn, is next on the list.

But ahead of next year’s presidential election, candidates for the Republican nomination have questioned future US support. One hopeful, Vivek Ramaswamy, said more military aid for Ukrainian forces would be “disastrous”.

And US philanthropist Howard Buffet told Reuters this week: “I do have concern about whether people can maintain the level of interest in [Ukraine]. Particularly, in the US, one of the drawbacks will be the political campaign that we're going into.”

Zelensky visited the US this week in an attempt to maintain support.

He and Joe Biden shared warm words on Thursday, with Biden promising: “Together with our partners and allies, the American people are determined to see to all we can to ensure the world stands with you.”

And on Saturday, it was reported Biden has agreed to supply long-range army tactical missile systems (ATACMS) following months of lobbying. The weapons have a range of 180 miles. After a taxing week for Zelensky, it represented a major boost.

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