European Solidarity Evident from the Fanfare of Eurovision to the Warfare in Ukraine

By Luca Pavoni, Junior Consultant

This weekend Liverpool, birthplace of The Beatles, once again became the musical centre of
attention as it hosted this year’s Eurovision finals. After an evening of glamor and glitz, it was Sweden who once again lifted the crown, with female pop artist Loreen becoming the second contestant in the competition’s history to win Eurovision twice. Sweden’s victory means that the country will host the next Eurovision in 2024, 50 years after ABBA’s landmark win with Waterloo in 1974.

The backdrop of Eurovision’s emblematic, colourful jubilation was the stark legacy of the war in Ukraine. Ukraine won last year’s Eurovision and was therefore entitled to host this year’s competition. Russia’s bombing of the hometown of Ukraine’s contestants, Ternopil, just moments before they performed served as a morbid reminder of why Eurovision was being held in Liverpool and not Kyiv.

Although Ukraine did not win this year’s competition, masses of blue and yellow flags and an emotional rendition of the famous adopted Liverpudlian anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ allowed Eurovision to again be used as a vehicle for demonstrating European solidarity with Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s recent visits to Germany, France, and the UK will have reassured him that this solidarity is not superficial. Zelenskyy landed in Berlin on Sunday for the first time since the war began to cement a record £2.7 billion military aid agreement with German Chancellor Olaf Schulz. Zelenskyy then had a surprise meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris before moving onto the UK on Monday morning, where he was warmly embraced by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Similar displays of solidarity have been expressed at today’s G7 summit, which saw Western powers calling for renewed sanctions against Russia.

Zelenskyy hopes that all these allies will form part of a “jet coalition” that will support Ukraine’s war efforts by supplying sophisticated Western weaponry like fighter jets, as well as the training required for Ukrainian soldiers to operate them. This comes at a crucial time: after a blistering winter froze any sizable military campaign, the conflict in Ukraine is now thawing and the potential of a spring offensive from both sides looms large.

After a series of strategic defeats at the end of 2022, including the loss of Kharkiv, Russia now currently controls an estimated 15-20% of Ukrainian landmass as opposed to the 25% it controlled at the peak of its invasion in March 2022. Yet, as the weather becomes more favourable for advances, Russian President Vladimir Putin is plotting an intensive military campaign that aims to break the stalemate and cripple Ukrainian resistance. Indeed, an embattled Putin used his Victory Day speech at the Red Square last week to again draw comparisons between the threat of Nazi Germany during World War II and the so-called “neo-Nazis” controlling Ukraine, and to revere Russia as a “great invincible power”.

Simultaneously, Zelenskyy’s objectives involve not only halting Russian advances but also reclaiming great swathes of territory that Russia has held for several months. A grisly battle is playing out in the Kherson region of the south of Ukraine. Sitting on the strategic Dnipro River, a Ukrainian victory in Kherson could form the beginning of a campaign to slice the occupied Russian territories in half between the Donbass and Crimea, greatly hampering Putin’s stranglehold on the southern and eastern portions of Ukraine. To be successful in this campaign requires military superiority on the ground and in the air, which is precisely why Zelenskyy is calling for a “jet coalition” of Western powers and an expansion of military aid now.

Such expansions in weapon capabilities would be unnecessary if Donald Trump was still President, according to the former US President in a memorable interview with CNN last week. President Trump proclaimed that he would be able to deliver a negotiated settlement between Russia and Ukraine in 24 hours if he once again had the keys to the White House. Moreover, Trump maintains that Putin would never have had the confidence to launch the invasion of Ukraine in the first place if he was still President.

However, during his grilling by CNN, Trump refused to brand Putin as a war criminal and declined to declare who he wanted to prevail in the conflict: "I don't think of winning or losing, I think in terms of getting it settled… I want everybody to stop dying." This sentiment represents a growing discontentment in the Republican Party over the several billions of dollars being sent to Ukraine with seemingly no end date under President Joe Biden. These criticisms are outweighed by overwhelming bipartisan and public support for US aid to Ukraine, but are nonetheless concerning considering Trump is one of the favourites to take the Republican Presidential nomination for next year’s election.

The United States is by far Ukraine’s biggest benefactor, donating more financial, military and humanitarian aid to Kyiv than all of Europe combined. Ukraine will therefore be monitoring the domestic turbulence across the Atlantic Ocean with unease and apprehension. However, in the backdrop of a potential Trump resurgence in the US, and the urgent need to be on the right side of a Spring Offensive, Zelenskyy can only take comfort in the fact that European solidarity with Ukraine, supported by strategic state visits, record military aid agreements – and yes, a symbolic Eurovision of solidarity and unity – appears to be stronger than ever.  

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