After weeks spent fretting over what would happen if Russia crushed Ukraine, Western European leaders are now worried about what might happen if Ukraine actually wins. Ukraine’s recent success in pushing Russian troops out of some occupied territory has prompted leaders from France to Germany to Italy to conclude that a once-unthinkable Ukrainian victory is now a distinct possibility.
Even as European leaders sympathize publicly with Ukraine’s struggle and in some cases have gone to great lengths to support the country, they also fear that what French President Emmanuel Macron last week called a “humiliation” of Russia could create a whole new set of problems, Western officials say.
One big concern is that a Ukrainian win could destabilize Russia, making it even more unpredictable and putting a normalization of energy links further out of reach. That’s why some western European capitals quietly favor a “face-saving” resolution to the conflict, even if it costs Ukraine some territory.
Even as Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have said repeatedly it would be up to Ukraine to determine the conditions for a halt to hostilities, they’ve recently underscored their preference for a ceasefire, sooner rather than later.