A third year of war on European soil

Internally, President Zelensky faces the challenging decision, as commander-in-chief, of shouldering the responsibility for reinforcing the front. Fighters and their families have publicly voiced concerns about the lack of rotation, with some men enduring months in trenches and sporadic rest days in the rear. Zelensky has cautiously entered this controversial issue; for instance, on February 23, Ukraine enacted a law altering the rules of military service for regular conscripts, limiting their front-line deployment time but not that of contract soldiers and older men mobilised during martial law. The situation of men under 25 (previously 27), who typically constitute the majority of forces in any armed conflict, and the return of refugees of serving age, remain unaddressed.

Internal Deliberations

The matter of mobilisation and demobilisation is a politically precarious issue, leading to Zelensky’s hesitancy despite mounting pressure from his commanders. This reluctance has prompted renewed calls for more sophisticated weapons. Zelensky has succeeded in rallying Western media and mainstream political circles around the argument that Ukraine’s war is pivotal for Europe’s future. While advocating for defensive and offensive weaponry since 2022, he contends that the population’s resilience and the soldiers’ courage can halt, and even repel, invading forces.

Peace negotiations remain a taboo for Zelensky, viewing any political settlement at this moment as a reward for President Putin’s adventurism. However, as the war enters its third year, Zelensky has reintroduced his 10-point Peace Plan, recently directing it toward leaders from the “Global South,” whom the West attempted in vain to influence for them joining its sanctions. For example, on February 27, he visited Saudi Arabia to discuss the exchange of prisoners and mediation. While his wife toured North America, he traveled to Albania to attend a Balkan security summit, emphasising the connection between security in the Western Balkans and that of Ukraine and Moldova. Much attention has surrounded the European tour of the Chinese special envoy Li Hui, scheduled for March 2, covering Kyiv, Brussels, and Moscow.


This Chinese involvement has received more positive acknowledgment in the West than before, even with lingering fears about China’s influence on the continent and in world affairs. In fact, contradictions have marked the days around the “anniversary,” such as Emmanuel Macron’s peculiar demonstration of  his “strategic ambiguity” concept on February 27. Despite initiating a discussion among 20 heads of government and ministers to accelerate the expedition of arms deliveries to Ukraine, including purchasing outside the EU, he failed to garner support. Then, unexpectedly, during a press conference, Macron mentioned that sending troops to Ukraine was “not excluded.” In a matter of hours, the division among allies became evident when EU leaders and the NATO secretary-general reiterated that it was out of the question. Macron, aspiring to be the chief negotiator by maintaining open channels with Putin long after others ceased, missed his conversion to the head of a joint armed coalition against the Russian invasion.

President Putin seized this opportunity during his February 29 annual address to the Russian parliament, warning of “tragic consequences” if NATO were to deploy troops against Russian forces in Ukraine. He dismissed any suggestions of a Russian attack on Europe as “nonsense” and cautioned that the West’s “threatening” rhetoric posed a real danger of nuclear war. Once again, he emphasised the nuclear potential of his country and portrayed it as a victim of NATO expansionism, adopting a bellicose tone that blurred the lines between aggressor and victim.

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