Vladimir Putin was counting on this winter — with its potential for cold weather and high energy prices — to fracture the West’s alliance over Ukraine. He hoped that Americans and Europeans would ask: Is refusing Russian oil and gas really worth it?
But the Western alliance has held up far better than Putin and many analysts expected, even as the rest of the world has largely taken a more neutral approach to the invasion.
Today, on the first anniversary of the war, the unity of Ukraine’s allies is a crucial reason that Russia continues to struggle. In just the past couple of weeks, the Russian military surprised analysts again by failing to capture the city of Vuhledar despite an aggressive offensive.
This newsletter will explain how the West has hung together. It will also give you an overview of rich coverage from Times journalists.
The West’s initial condemnation of Russia’s invasion was widely anticipated. The depth of support for Ukraine — including harsh sanctions on Russia and a huge influx of weapons to Ukraine — was another matter. Ukraine is not a member of the E.U. or NATO. It is on the edge of Europe; its capital is much closer to Moscow than to Berlin.
And Western support has persisted even though energy prices have soared and no end to the war is in sight. Why? There are several explanations, experts said.
The first is American leadership. The Biden administration has managed to keep its typically rowdy European allies united by building consensus through diplomatic back channels and staving off potential divisions.
Those efforts preceded the war itself: By warning the world early last year that Russia was planning to invade, the U.S. prepared its partners to impose sanctions on Russia and send military equipment to Ukraine. When any new fractures appeared, the U.S. worked closely with allies to resolve them — and usually in favor of Ukraine, such as when the U.S. and Germany jointly agreed to send tanks.
A second explanation is the genuine shock to Europe. In the decades after World War II, war between the continent’s major powers and invasions on European soil seemed to be in the past. Russia’s invasion changed that, resurrecting fears of a continent decimated by great power struggles, world wars and nuclear conflict. Images of Russia’s attacks on civilians — the bombed-out buildings, dead bodies and Ukrainians on the run — have turned war from a historical horror to a present threat.
“For much of Europe, the war ended decades of living in paradise,” said Liana Fix, a fellow for Europe at the Council on Foreign Relations.
A third explanation is Ukraine’s success on the battlefield. Ukrainians’ ability to hold back Russia — and actually push it out of conquered territory — has kept Western unity afloat. Without it, there would be no war effort for the West to rally around.
An uncertain future
For all of Ukraine’s successes, continued unity is far from guaranteed.
Public support for the war effort may not last as fighting drags on. Some polls show it has already dipped, though not as much as Putin would have liked to see this winter, perhaps because Europe has been unusually warm. Some Republicans, including Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, have already suggested they would like to reduce support for Ukraine.
Europe’s internal differences could also fracture the alliance. Germany, France and other Western European countries have generally taken a less aggressive stance on the war effort, particularly with cutting-edge weapon deliveries, than Britain and several Eastern European countries. Those divisions have already slowed some aid to Ukraine. They could eventually lead to bigger problems.
The bottom line
The implications of Western unity extend beyond Ukraine. Between the rise of China and Western failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, the West looked in recent years like it was on the decline. The alliance over Ukraine has demonstrated that Western powers can still stand up for other democracies, even at great risk and cost to themselves.
But the ultimate impact hinges on the West’s continued support for Ukraine.
Consider this all from China’s perspective: If the West does not remain united to defend a democracy on its doorstep, is it really going to do much for distant Taiwan? That is the lens through which others will look at what the West has done.
More Times coverage
One of the West’s failures: It has not isolated Russia from the rest of the world. These graphics tell the story.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen confronted Russian officials at a G20 meeting, saying they were “complicit in Putin’s atrocities.”
President Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky didn’t always have a convivial relationship. Their wartime partnership has become important to the international order.
Russian opposition groups in dozens of countries are protesting the war today.
“We will do everything to gain victory this year,” Zelensky said in a speech to Ukrainians this morning.
Fear, anger, love: Read the texts that Ukrainians sent one another in the first hours of the invasion.
Times photojournalists reflect on the images that they can’t forget.
A stalemated war may be preferable to the alternatives, Sergey Radchenko argues in Times Opinion.
DeSantis’s shimmy toward Trump and Tucker Carlson shows the Republican divide on Ukraine, David Brooks writes in Times Opinion.
THE LATEST NEWS
Politicians in both parties have used the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, to further their own agendas.
Biden nominated Ajay Banga, who focused on climate change as Mastercard’s chief executive, to lead the World Bank.
Prosecutors have asked a judge to force Mike Pence to testify before the Jan. 6 grand jury.
Arizona’s Democratic attorney general released a report — buried by her Republican predecessor — that refuted claims of voter fraud.
The first Republican presidential primary debate is set for Milwaukee in August.
A winter storm will intensify over Southern California today, after dumping almost a foot of snow on Portland, Ore.
In Michigan, snow and wind gusts have caused widespread power outages.
Other Big Stories
“Woodstock” for Christians: Tens of thousands of people, many of them young, have made a spontaneous pilgrimage to a small college chapel.
Alex Murdaugh, the South Carolina lawyer charged with killing his wife and son, testified that he had lied to the police but denied committing murder.
The founder of the troubled digital media start-up Ozy was arrested on fraud charges.
R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein, both already in jail for sex crimes, were each given additional long sentences.
Children — especially girls — are in terrible anguish. Blame technology, not politics, Michelle Goldberg says.
Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” speech helped sink his presidency. It was also profoundly prescient, David French argues.
Grueling sprints: This cycling champion doesn’t have to win to be satisfied.
A.I. vs. sci-fi: Chatbots won’t be filling sci-fi magazines any time soon — the writing is “bad in spectacular ways.”
Extreme wealth: Elizabeth Koch, the right-wing billionaire’s daughter, knows what you’re thinking.
Modern Love: He wanted children. She didn’t. What happened next was unexpected.
Advice from Wirecutter: Buying carbon offsets for your flight doesn’t help.
Lives Lived: Rick Newman opened an Upper East Side nightclub that drew crowds and helped make the careers of Robin Williams, Jay Leno and other comedians. Newman died at 81.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
A no-good year: Why did the Denver quarterback Russell Wilson endure the worst season of his career? A labyrinth of dysfunction by both the organization and Wilson.
Moving quickly: Atlanta has zeroed in on Quin Snyder as its new head coach, two days after the team fired Nate McMillan.
Quick thinking: The S2 Cognition test — different from the Wonderlic exam — could be the best predictor of N.F.L. success yet.
ARTS AND IDEAS
A bear on a binge
The movie “Cocaine Bear” is in theaters today. Though the premise may sound far-fetched — a bear gets into a cocaine stash that fell from a smuggler’s plane — it’s based on a true story. (The bear’s bloody spree in the movie is fictional.)
Bears will eat almost anything they can get their paws on, especially as winter approaches, when they need to gain weight. “Essentially, they’re an eating machine,” a biologist said. “They’re constantly searching out easy, calorie-rich foods.”
Related: Whether it’s a stoned raccoon or a skunk in a McFlurry cup, animals have a habit of getting in trouble with human trash.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Try this comforting weeknight squash stew.
What to Watch
An apparition haunts a family’s home in the supernatural Netflix comedy “We Have a Ghost.”
What to Read
Joseph Earl Thomas’s debut, “Sink,” is an extraordinary memoir of a Black American boyhood.
Test your knowledge on this week’s headlines.
Now Time to Play
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was payment. Here is today’s puzzle.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Savory taste (five letters).
And here’s today’s Wordle.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — German
P.S. Matt Richtel won an award from the Association of Health Care Journalists for his reporting on adolescent mental health.
Here’s today’s front page.
“The Daily” is about the war in Ukraine.
Matthew Cullen, Lauren Hard, Lauren Jackson, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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