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WAR IN EUROPE

Europe cannot save Ukraine alone – it needs the United States, says Norway

Europe cannot save Ukraine alone – it needs the United States, says Norway
Illustrative image, from left: US President Joe Biden. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images) | Former Norwegian foreign minister Ine Eriksen Søreide. (Photo: Andrey Rudakov / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | War in Ukraine. (Photos: John Moore / Getty Images | Daro Sulakauri / Getty Images)

The deeply polarised political landscape in the US, as it heads into presidential elections, is ‘devastating’ for Ukraine, says Norway’s former defence and foreign affairs minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide.

Europe cannot save Ukraine from Russia on its own. It needs the US, says former Norwegian defence and foreign affairs minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide.  

But the vital $60-billion aid package proposed by the Biden administration for Ukraine is unlikely to be approved by Congress before the US elections in November, she fears.

Søreide, of the main opposition Conservative Party, now chairs the Norwegian Parliament’s foreign affairs and defence committee. She says the divisions in the US over support for Ukraine are “devastating” for the embattled country which is entering its third year of trying to fend off Russian forces.

For this, Western weapons are critical, she told Daily Maverick in an interview in Cape Town.

The European Union recently passed a $54-billion aid package to Ukraine – over Hungary’s objections. Norway agreed last year on a five-year support package of more than $7-billion for Ukraine. 

“The challenge now, though, is that the Ukrainian needs are so great that Europe cannot fill the gap if the US pulls out. Russia continues its brutal attacks on Ukraine, and Ukraine has to continue to defend its people and itself. 

“This is not a financial and money issue; it’s first and foremost an equipment issue – it’s about materiel. Much of the equipment Ukraine needs has to be produced both in Europe and in the US. 

“It’s not going to be possible to do it alone, in Europe. So I’m very concerned about the polarised situation in the US.” 

She visited America with Nordic and Baltic counterparts last week to meet lawmakers, including the Republicans who are blocking US support to Ukraine. 

She saw first hand how much the issue of funding Ukraine was affecting the US election campaign, particularly the nomination process in the Republican Party. 

“I am very concerned whether or not it will be possible to release the US package now before the election. I’m hopeful that it will be possible. But I’m not sure entirely what will happen next.  

“And that’s not only a question of who wins the presidential election. This has now become an issue that is also difficult for Democrats because of the political situation in Congress.” 

SA government tightrope

The Ukraine issue is also difficult for the ANC government which has tried to navigate between not criticising its political ally Russia and not alienating the West with which it has much stronger economic ties.

Constitutionally, SA has more in common with the West since both share democratic ideals.

Søreide said she had met her counterpart, Supra Mahumapelo, the chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on International Relations, and members of the committee, as well as DA leader John Steenhuisen and the IFP’s Narend Singh.

europe ukraine mahumapelo

Supra Mahumapelo, the chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on International Relations. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Alaister Russell)

europe ukraine steenhuisen

DA leader John Steenhuisen. (Photo: Victoria O’Regan)

europe ukraine singh

The IFP’s Narend Singh. (Photo: Ziyanda Duba)

She had told them that Russia’s war against Ukraine was devastating not only for Ukraine and for European security, “but also for the signal it sends to other authoritarian leaders around the world if it turns out that you can win by using military force to change borders in today’s world”.

She reiterated that Norway would have liked to see South Africa join about 140 countries which had voted in support of Ukraine in the UN General Assembly in 2022.  

In an increasingly polarised world, one of the most important things was to uphold the international rules-based system which was threatened from many sides.

Putin in particular was trying to tear that system down and replace it with one where might goes before right.

Søreide said Norway felt that South Africa was its partner in upholding that rules-based international order, including at the United Nations. But she expressed concern that South Africa’s preoccupation with its membership of the BRICS group – which last year became BRICS-Plus with the addition of five new members – might “come at the expense of working with the UN and other organisations”.

But she said Norway and South Africa were working, with other countries, at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva, to try to restore the trade dispute appeal mechanism which the US was opposing.   

Without the appeal mechanism, the WTO’s trade regulation system would “more or less collapse and that would have serious consequences for all of us if there were not joint guidelines on trade.”

More broadly, she said Norway’s support for South Africa, including financial support since the anti-apartheid struggle, had been strong.

Israel genocide charges

On the other major conflict currently absorbing the world’s attention – the war between Israel and Hamas – Søreide said the good thing about South Africa referring Israel to the International Court of Justice on charges of genocide in Gaza “was that it used the international mechanisms and systems”. 

She noted that Norway did not decide politically on whether a situation was genocide or a war crime but left it to the courts to decide. So she also saw it as positive that Israel had engaged seriously in the ICJ case because it was important to strengthen the authority and the legitimacy of the international judicial system.

She noted that Norway “condemned the horrible terrorist attack by Hamas immediately.

“We have also been equally clear that Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorism.

“But they also have to exercise that defence within the boundaries of international law. And they are overstepping those boundaries clearly.” 

She also noted that Norway was one of the few countries that had not suspended its aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) as many – particularly Western countries – recently did after Israel alleged that 12 UNRWA staffers had participated in the attack by Hamas on Israel on 7 October last year.

Søreide said last year Norway had provided around $150-million in support to the Palestinians. It was also providing political support, including by chairing the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) on behalf of the international community for the past 30 years.

“The situation now in Gaza is horrible, and devastating to see. And there are still around 120 hostages being held by Hamas who need to be released immediately.

“But what Israel has to do in addition to following up on the court rulings and give a report now within a month of the ruling, is also to take serious steps to separate civilian and military targets, to protect civilians and to let aid flow in and to also act proportionally. And this was also the very clear message from [US Secretary of State] Antony Blinken during the Munich Security Conference.

Two-state solution

“And there is no other solution than the two-state solution and one has to continue to work on that. It’s not something you pull out of the hat and say this is going to be solved in the next month or so.  

“But there is no other viable way either for the Palestinians or the Israelis. For Israel to enjoy security they have to have borders to live within. For Palestine to establish a real state, they have to have land and borders.

“They have to have solved the outstanding issues, everything from Jerusalem to borders, water, and the refugee issue. All the issues that have been on the table but not negotiated or discussed between the parties for the past seven to eight years, with no direct negotiations.

“That is why the AHLC format has been so important because that’s the only format where the parties have met around the same table to discuss practical issues, to discuss tax revenues, to discuss everything that can lead to more security for both parties.” 

She noted that an agreement had just been finalised for the taxes which Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians to be channelled through Norway to the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. 

Søreide acknowledged that the question of governing Gaza when the current war ended was still unresolved. But whatever was decided, there would have to be a two-state solution, not only for Palestine, but also to address Israel’s legitimate security demands.

She said countries in the region had to engage more strongly in resolving the conflict. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    Balanced article. Norway takes the High Road morally and is number 4 best on Corruption Perception Index. Naledi please listen to Norway but I suppose you have had your farewell retirement party already with the ICJ case and facilitating entry to BRICS of Iran, and signing agreement with them for “TEHRAN, Aug. 25 2023(Xinhua) — Iran has reached an agreement with South Africa to “develop and equip” five refineries in the African state, said Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi. President Ramaphosa mentioned this in his big speech in Durban. Iran is 149/180 on the same Corruption Perception Index for comparison of integrity of Country.

  • Richard Owen says:

    the voice of reason

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    If Ukraine falls without US aid the fall of US world status and respect is next.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Ukraine cannot win under the current support it gets from allies, when the supply and funding falters Russia digs in, it’s evident in the previous spring counteroffensive.
      It’s difficult for Africa to intervene if the European union and allies have taken the matter into their own hands.
      Dialogue with Putin is tricky at this stage because of the losses he has suffered, he will negotiate on where he stands, the more territory he takes the further he will stand.
      Ukraine never had the artillery and the man power to fight Russia.
      Putin observed the impunity Europe was unleashing on international laws in the middle east.
      China is keenly studying the response of Europe to the Israel war and the impunity Israel is showing to international organisations, fortunately some Taiwan leaders are showing an interest of normalizing relations with China after observing the type of poor support to Ukraine.
      There is no protection of the powerless against the powerful.
      The Ukraine and Palestine wars has proven that international law can never function as long as powerful states hold veto powers.

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