The below commentary was originally published in American Purpose.

This past year, Ukrainians have fought bravely for their independence, surprising the world with their willingness and ability to fight and becoming a darling to the West. They’re defending European security, it’s said, fighting for Western values. Washington has led. The United States has provided roughly $23 billion in military assistance–the UK ranks second with an estimated $4 billion–with an additional $10 billion in humanitarian aid. In addition, it has been chiefly American intelligence and US-supplied weaponry that have positioned Ukrainian forces to defend against Russian invaders. American leadership has inspired others. The German Leopards have been freed up. Even French President Emmanuel Macron says his country will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.

The closer one otherwise gets to the front lines—to the menace, the predator—the clearer the threat becomes. Central and Eastern Europeans in particular (with the notable exception of Hungary) have shown unprecedented solidarity. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki organized the first visit of European leaders to Ukraine in March of last year. His remarks at the time were, “We know you are fighting not only for your homes, for your freedom, for your security, but also for ours.”

This resonates deeply across Eastern Europe. But to what extent does it further west? One year into the war, the United States and its closest partners have yet to articulate clear war aims, while Ukraine’s elected government is crystal clear.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, some in the West seemed to think that the project of “Europe whole and free” was a light lift—pushing rocks down a hill. Eastern Europeans were skeptical. We wanted agency. We wanted insurance against Russian revanchism and were often dismayed when our concerns were dismissed as outdated and emotional. We grimaced as one American administration after another tried its Russia reset. Those able to join NATO were relieved.

Of course, it was heartening to hear European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen say last year that Western Europeans should have listened to their neighbors to the east about Russia. But there is yet to be a clear assertion by the EU that we must aim for a thorough defeat of Russia. The war is far from over, and Western allies are still bickering over whether to give Ukrainians the full and proper means to defend themselves.

While some Western leaders fear escalation, some of us closer to the action are more concerned about another frozen conflict, with the Kremlin’s war criminal still at large, European security compromised, and America chastened.

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