The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion How the West can (still) be one

Olaf Scholz, Germany's chancellor, during his closing news conference on the final day of the Group of Seven leaders summit at the Schloss Elmau hotel in Elmau, Germany, on June 28. (Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg)

Russia delivered a characteristically brutal message as the leaders of North America, Europe and Japan gathered for their annual Group of Seven summit in the Bavarian Alps this week. The forces of Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a deadly, seemingly random missile attack on a shopping mall in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, which killed at least 18 civilians and injured at least 58 others. Meanwhile, Russia pressed its grinding, artillery-led offensive on Lysychansk, the last major Ukrainian-held city in Luhansk province.

The purpose of all this slaughter, it seems, is to break the will of not only Ukraine but also its Western backers. Fortunately, President Biden and his fellow G-7 leaders responded with an emphatic no. “We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” their June 27 joint statement read.

And they added actions to back those words. There will be a G-7 ban on Russian gold imports, previously a source of $19 billion in annual revenue for Moscow. The G-7 agreed “urgently” to explore imposing a cap on the price they and other countries pay for Russian oil, which could deprive the Putin regime of billions of dollars in revenue between now and the time a European oil embargo can take effect early next year. Shipments of heavy artillery from the United States, France and Germany are finally arriving on the battlefield. And Ukraine has been formally offered membership in the European Union. A NATO summit begins in Madrid on Tuesday, with the alliance having just announced it will expand its rapid-reaction force from 40,000 to 300,000 troops.

To be sure, there are differences and potential divisions among the countries supporting Ukraine. Whereas Russia acts on the orders of a single man, the coalition arrayed against it must operate by discussion and consensus. Each individual member nation is a democracy whose leaders must take public opinion into account. Mr. Putin quite obviously sees this as a vulnerability and is trying to exploit it by manipulating the flow of energy to Europe and food to the world — hoping to freeze or starve the West into submission or, at least, neutrality. As the poor showing of President Emmanuel Macron’s party in the recent French parliamentary elections demonstrated, voters are indeed unhappy at the high cost of living, which is related, in part, to the war Mr. Putin started.

Four months into an invasion Mr. Putin launched on a bet that the West would crack, however, the big picture is that he lost that particular gamble. Transatlantic unity is holding. Even countries Mr. Putin thought he had co-opted via energy supplies — notably Germany — recognized that their true interest lay in thwarting his brazen attempt to destroy the international order. At a NATO meeting Tuesday, Turkey dropped its objections to Swedish and Finnish membership in the alliance.

No one knows how the war will end. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine reportedly told G-7 leaders he wants it over by winter. However, the worst outcome — outright Russian victory — has been prevented, thanks to Ukraine’s steadfast resistance and the West’s firm stance. If both continue, more success will follow.

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