A brutal war has been raging in Ukraine for 100 days, but attention is increasingly turning to other issues. There are signs of a certain war weariness. This is advantageous for Putin.
It’s far from over, according to Volodymyr Zelenskyy. A brutal war has been raging in his country for 100 days now, unleashed by a Russian hero who obviously doesn’t shy away from escalation in order to turn his fantasies of omnipotence into reality. And Zelenskyj never tires of emphasizing this again and again.
In several appearances, the Ukrainian President took stock of the war, which has had no foreseeable end since February 24:
With his regular speeches and daily video messages, the Ukrainian president is trying to keep Ukraine in the West’s attention. It is a constant rebellion against the waning interest in the war.
This is precisely what is of crucial importance for his country, said Zelenskyj at the World Economic Forum in Davos when he again solicited support. “Our task is to ensure that the world does not tire of war and supports Ukraine,” Zelensky said during a panel discussion. He fears that people are increasingly “fed up” with the war, becoming “cynical” and wanting “something new”.
His concern is that if public attention dwindles, the pressure on the heads of state and government to help Ukraine and take a resolute stand against Russia will also diminish.
Against this background, Olena Selenska, the wife of President Selenskyj, recently chose drastic words: “Don’t get used to our suffering,” she said in an interview with the US broadcaster ABC News. She appealed to the United States in particular: “To the people of the United States, don’t get used to this war. Otherwise we risk a never-ending war.”
The Ukrainian government has received more than 28.5 billion euros from countries around the world since January 24, according to the “Ukraine Support Tracker” of the Institute for the World Economy (IfW). By far the largest financial aid comes from the USA: Since the end of January, the United States has sent relief supplies and weapons worth 10.31 billion euros to Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war alone, US military support has been worth more than four billion euros. In short: US aid is essential in the fight against the Russian aggressor. Ukraine cannot afford to lose importance in the public eye.
War fatigue is emerging
And yet the first signs of war fatigue are emerging. As Ukraine’s suffering mounts, interest in the West is evidently waning. The focus shifts to topics apart from the Russian campaign. Did the front page of the “New York Times” of February 25 know only one topic…
… now primarily the domestic political consequences of the Texas school massacre determine the Frontpage on June 3rd.
The war is entering a phase that is much slower, but no less brutal. Events at the front seem less spectacular than they were in the first weeks of the war. This is also reflected in the reporting.
Eyes turn to other topics. According to an analysis by the US company NewsWhip for “Axios”, there has been a 22-fold decrease in social media interactions (“likes”, comments, shares of posts) on news articles on Ukraine published between the first war week and last week: from 109 million to 4.8 million.
The scope of online media reporting has also decreased noticeably. While 520,000 articles were published in the first week, it was only 70,000 in the last week. Alone: Interest in stories about the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial was six times higher than in reports about Ukraine over a period of six weeks (in April and May).
Putin would benefit from disinterest in the Ukraine war
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) recently warned of war fatigue in western countries. “We have reached a moment of fatigue,” she said in Kristiansand after the end of the “Baltic Sea Council”. Nevertheless, the sanctions against Russia and the aid to Ukraine must be maintained. Baerbock believes that the growing skepticism is also related to the fact that the Russian war of aggression is leading to higher energy and food prices. However, according to the Foreign Minister, this is exactly the tactic used by Russia’s President Putin. That’s why it’s so important to keep supporting Ukraine.
Because this has so far been characterized above all by the fact that it was closed and resolutely pushed by the western alliance. However, there are already signs of cracks in the wall against Moscow, for example in the design of further sanctions against Russia. National interests and concerns about further escalation with Russia are playing a role more and more frequently.
The Russian President is demonstratively testing the West’s pain threshold again and again, trying to undermine resolve with threatening gestures (before a nuclear war) and arousing greed (food and energy), thus driving a wedge between supporters of Ukraine. In other words: “Russia is waging its brutal war not only with tanks, missiles and bombs. Russia is waging this war with another terrible and quieter weapon: hunger and deprivation,” as Federal Foreign Minister Baerbock said elsewhere.
War fatigue, also in Germany, would play into Putin’s hands. Almost paradoxically: The growing concern about deprivation in one’s own everyday life is gaining in importance, while the actual cause of this – the Russian war of aggression – is increasingly receding into the background.
SPD foreign policy expert Nils Schmid is still skeptical about the threat of German war fatigue. “As long as Ukraine shows this irrepressible will to resist, the danger is low,” he told Der Spiegel. “However, in the coming weeks the economic consequences of the war will become clear, the ongoing effects of the corona crisis will be noticeable and the structural challenges of climate protection and industrial transformation will become unmistakable.”
Topics aside from the war are already pushing their way into the focus of the debate, with “The Great Tank Chaos” (“Bild am Sonntag”), “The 9-Euro Crash Test” (“Der Spiegel”), “Germany’s Mountain of Debt” (” Süddeutsche Zeitung”) and the rising prices at the supermarket checkout made the headlines.
“We will see a dramatic increase in heating costs”
The war recedes into the background in people’s minds. Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) therefore expressed concern on Thursday evening in the ZDF program “Maybrit Illner” that support for the federal government’s policy could dwindle in autumn and winter when the costs of the Russian war make themselves felt would.
“We will see a dramatic increase in heating costs,” predicted Habeck. “Whether the political measures will then be sufficient to maintain social peace and the feeling that things are fair in this country will be the decisive question of autumn and winter. I’m not quite sure about that,” he explained the question of whether Germany could run out of steam in supporting Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.
Habeck pointed out that the longer the war lasted in this country, the habituation effect could set in. Other topics, including the Bundesliga, could suppress outrage at Russian aggression and atrocities.
Of course Ukraine will try to prevent that. Your ambassador in Germany, Andrij Melnyk, therefore sent a rousing message to the Federal Republic as early as Friday morning and once again criticized Germany’s hesitation in delivering heavy weapons.
Ukraine welcomes the recent announcement by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) on new arms deliveries, Melnyk said on ZDF’s “Morgenmagazin”. “But if we’re honest: 100 days of war – to this day not a single piece of heavy equipment has been delivered to the Ukraine from Germany”.