On Thursday, four European leaders visited Kyiv, Ukraine’s embattled capital, in a dramatic show of support for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky—a meeting at which they pledged to increase the collective flow of weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces and fast-track the country’s accession to the European Union.
French president Emmanuel Macron, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, Italian prime Minister Mario Draghi, and German chancellor Olaf Scholz all visited Kyiv on Thursday, where they met with Zelensky for consultations and a joint press conference. Macron declared at the meeting that he and his three fellow heads of government were “doing everything so that Ukraine alone can decide its fate,” committing France to delivering additional military equipment.
Scholz echoed Macron’s comments, claiming that the leaders had “come here to Kyiv today with a clear message: Ukraine belongs to the European family.”
Amid the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine, the French, German, and Italian leaders have all faced criticism from within the pro-Ukraine camp. Some NATO officials have urged Scholz to increase Germany’s arms deliveries to Kyiv, claiming that the German military promised to deliver certain weapons systems and then failed to. Macron has also been subjected to criticism for his attempts to reason with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and statements that Russia should not be “humiliated” at any potential peace settlement.
However, Macron defended those remarks at the press conference, drawing on French history to warn of the dangers of humiliation. “One hundred years ago, we were at war, and allies helped France win,” the French leader said. “France committed a historic mistake. It lost the peace because it wanted to humiliate Germany. The question of humiliation I always placed in a context to come, not the current context.”
In spite of these cautions, Macron emphasized that France would continue its support for Ukraine and promised that neither France nor Germany would ever “be in a situation where they negotiate on Ukraine’s behalf with Russia,” suggesting that the war’s final settlement would be determined by Ukrainians alone.
“[Only Ukrainians] can decide what is right in terms of an agreement on a peace,” Scholz added, although he observed that the conflict was “unfortunately very, very far away from” reaching peace through negotiations.
In addition to their meeting in Kyiv, the heads of government also visited Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv which saw heavy fighting in the opening month of the conflict. At least 300 civilians were thought to have been killed in the fighting, and much of the city destroyed.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.