Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Western allies Friday to quicken their military support for Ukraine, warning at a major international security conference that delays would play into Russia’s hand as the invasion approaches its first anniversary.
“There is no alternative to speed, because it’s speed that life depends on,” Zelenskyy told the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
Ukraine is depending on Western weapons to thwart Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambition of securing control of large areas of the country, in what has become a test of foreign governments’ resolve amid increasing financial costs.
About 40 heads of state and government, as well as politicians and security experts from almost 100 countries, including the United States, Europe and China, are due to attend the three-day gathering.
In his plea for more Western weapons, Zelenskyy compared Ukraine’s struggle against the Russian invasion to the biblical fight between David and Goliath, saying his country had David’s courage but needed help in getting the sling.
Zelenskyy vowed that his country would ultimately prevail over Moscow’s aggression but warned that Russia “can still destroy many lives.”
“That is why we need to hurry up,” Zelenskyy said. “We need the speed.”
Zelenskyy portrays Ukraine as defending Western values of freedom and democracy against tyranny and argues that his country needs to be properly provisioned to fend off Russia’s much bigger force. Western countries have sided with him, but at times they have been slow to meet his requests.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has been one of Ukraine’s main backers, though at times hesitantly, renewed pledges to help but also insisted Kyiv’s allies must not be hasty.
“For all the pressure to act that there doubtless is, in this decisive question, care must come before rushing, cohesion before solo performances,” said Scholz, whose prudence on Ukraine has been noteworthy.
Berlin agreed last month to deliver German-made Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine and grant others licenses to do the same. German officials, who faced heavy pressure to take that step, have since indicated that they’re disappointed other countries haven’t come along with more.
Strain on Ukraine’s Allies
The need to supply Ukraine with billions of dollars’ worth of military aid has at times placed strain on allied countries. Kyiv, after receiving Western pledges of tanks and more ammunition, is now hoping for fighter jets, but some countries have balked at sending them.
French President Emmanuel Macron endorsed Zelenskyy’s appeal.
“We must collectively be credible,” Macron told the gathering, “because it’s the only way to make Russia come back to the negotiating table in an acceptable manner and build a sustainable peace. That is: at a time and under conditions to be chosen by Ukrainians.”
For the first time in two decades, conference organizers did not invite Russian officials to Munich. It was the latest snub as Western countries seek to isolate Russia diplomatically over the invasion of Ukraine that began on Feb. 24, 2022.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Russia’s war in Ukraine would overshadow the proceedings. Western officials and analysts say the conflict is approaching a critical phase as it enters its second year next week.
The war is “not merely a European conflict” but has implications far beyond the continent, Pistorius said. Economies around the world have reeled from the war’s impact on grain supplies, energy prices and inflation.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris was set to join the leaders of France, Germany and the U.K. at the Munich conference.
At the same conference last year, held just days before Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine, Harris shared U.S. warnings that Russia was about to attack its neighbor, saying: “Not since the end of the Cold War has this forum convened under such dire circumstances.”
In a speech scheduled for Saturday, the vice president will lay out what’s at stake in the war and why it matters, to bolster the case for maintaining U.S. support for Ukraine for as long as it takes, the White House said.
Frans Timmermans, the executive vice president of the European Union’s executive commission, said the 27-nation EU so far has maintained unity on the issue.
Timmermans also expressed hope that China could exert pressure on Russia to end the war.