How to win in Ukraine and take back Crimea

How to win in Ukraine and take back Crimea

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Guten Tag and welcome to this Wednesday’s edition of Global Insider! I’m Matt Karnitschnig, POLITICO’s chief Europe correspondent, bringing you the latest European and global news from Berlin.

We’ll delve into Western powers’ fraught Ukraine strategy and why Crimea is crucial to the war’s outcome with Ben Hodges, the former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe.

But first off, the latest on Sudan.


U.K. nationals evacuated from Sudan are pictured at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center at Larnaca International Airport.

U.K. nationals evacuated from Sudan are pictured at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center at Larnaca International Airport on April 25, 2023 in Larnaca, Cyprus. | Alexis Mitas/Getty Images

A BROADER WAR? As a three-day truce brokered by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia wobbled, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned late Tuesday that the conflict was “lighting a fuse that could detonate across borders, causing immense suffering for years, and setting development back by decades.”

Get out while you can: With no end in sight, massive queues were building on Sudan’s borders with Egypt and Chad and the U.N. refugee agency predicted at least hundreds of thousands would flee the country, the Guardian reported.

Evacuation winding down? The U.S. and European countries continued to airlift their citizens as well as other nationals out of Khartoum, but with fighting flaring again, it’s not clear how long the operations can be sustained. Germany, which evacuated hundreds of its own and other nationals in recent days, said Tuesday evening it was suspending flights. However, according to a statement from the French government Tuesday, “evacuation operations from Khartoum are continuing. Four new rotations were carried out by means of the Air and Space Force, between Khartoum and Djibouti on the night of 24 to 25 April.”


DEFINING ‘AS MUCH AS IT TAKES’: As the Ukraine war grinds on into its second year of intense battle, the oft-heard Western pledge to undertake whatever it takes to help Kyiv deserves more precision, Hodges, the former commanding general of U.S. Army in Europe, told POLITICO’s Joshua Posaner in an interview we will air next week on our EU Confidential podcast.

“We have to decide if we want Ukraine to win,” Hodges said. “The U.S., U.K., Germany, and France have not said, ‘we want Ukraine to win’; They haven’t laid out a clear strategic objective. We say, ‘we’re with you for as long as it takes.’ That’s not an objective. Or we want Russia to lose. What does that mean?”

‘V’ FOR VICTORY: Only when the West resolves to help Ukraine achieve victory — and not just to defend itself — will the paralysis that has seized the West’s approach to the conflict lift, Hodges argues. “When we do that, all the excuses — ‘oh, we don’t have enough of these; it takes too long to do that’ — fall away and we make sure that they win.”

European vacation: Europe has proved to be a particular laggard when it comes to matching rhetoric with action. While the U.S. has so far delivered more than €43 billion in military aid to the country, the German total is a fraction of that at €3.6 billion. France’s contribution has been even more modest at just €653 million. Critics say the widening transatlantic gap is all the more troubling given that it’s Europe’s security that’s at stake.

THE BATTLE FOR CRIMEA: Many in the West believe, falsely in Hodges view, that Ukraine might be willing to just let Russia keep Crimea, which it annexed in 2014. The Russian navy’s Black Sea fleet is based there and Crimea has served as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” and “the launching pad for everything bad the Russians have done in the Black Sea region,” Hodges said.

That has included blocking Ukrainian ports and ships carrying grain and other goods. That’s why it’s imperative Ukraine win it back. “The Ukrainian general staff recognizes that they will never be safe or secure as long as Russia occupies Crimea. And they also know that their economy will never recover.”

Bottom line: “Ukraine cannot recover as long as Russia occupies Crimea.”

DON’T MISS THE POLITICO ENERGY SUMMIT: A new world energy order is emerging and America’s place in it is at a critical juncture. Join POLITICO on Thursday, May 18 for our first-ever energy summit to explore how the U.S. is positioning itself in a complicated energy future. We’ll explore progress on infrastructure and climate funding dedicated to building a renewable energy economy, Biden’s environmental justice proposals, and so much more. REGISTER HERE.


TOKYO WE HAVE PROBLEM: A Japanese company’s attempt to become the first commercial venture to land on the moon ended in a great ball of fire (figuratively) as the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander crashed into the lunar surface. Takeshi Hakamada, the CEO of ispace, the startup behind the mission, broke down in tears as he announced the failure, but pledged to try again.

#FREEEVAN: There’s a ray of light for Evan Gershkovich, the WSJ reporter taken hostage by Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signaled at a press conference at the U.N. on Tuesday that a channel set up in 2021 by Washington and Moscow to exchange prisoners could be activated. “This is work that is not public in nature and publicity here will only complicate the process,” Lavrov said, the New York Times reported.

‘ERDOGAN WILL LOSE’: That’s what Selahattin Demirtaş, a former presidential candidate and Kurdish party leader, told POLITICO ahead of next month’s Turkish election, which has turned into an uphill battle for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the wake of the recent earthquakes and ongoing economic malaise. Demirtaş is spending his seventh year behind bars on terrorism charges in a high-security prison near the Greek border, but he remains an influential voice in the Kurdish community, which accounts for about one-fifth of Turkey’s 85 million population.

NORDIC SPAT OVER ROGUE ROCKET: A microgravity research rocket launched from northern Sweden crash landed this week … in Norway. That’s sparked discord between the Nordic neighbors, even though there were no reported casualties or damage. “The crash of a rocket like this is a very serious incident that can cause serious damage,” the Norwegian foreign ministry said of the “border violation.” My colleague Josh Posaner has more.



Kitchen Confidential: Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former cook of Russian President Vladimir Putin who parlayed the relationship into a lucrative sideline as chief of the feared Wagner Group private army, has built a considerable empire for himself and his family along the way, the FT writes in this long read.


Joe Biden announced he would run for reelection next year, setting the stage for a rematch with Donald Trump.

Tucker Carlson, Fox News host, and CNN host Don Lemon both abruptly exited their cable outlets on Monday following a series of controversies, marking a seismic shift in the media landscape.

The United States Trade Representative announced Sushan Demirjian as assistant U.S. trade representative for small business, market access, and industrial competitiveness.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the appointment of Manjit K. Misra as the new director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


How America lost the Middle East: Foreign Affairs Magazine reviewsGrand Delusion: The Rise and Fall of American Ambition in the Middle East,” by former National Security Council member and veteran Middle East expert Steven Simon, which attempts to explain how this collapse happened.

A BRICS currency could shake the dollar’s dominance: De-dollarization’s moment might finally be here, writes Foreign Policy.

Why are so many Indian migrants crossing the Channel? The Spectator investigates.


America’s DIY ice bath craze.

THANKS TO editor Sanya Khetani-Shah and producer Sophie Gardner.

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