For each of the three European leaders traveling to Ukraine on Thursday, the trip posed a different challenge.
President Emmanuel Macron of France has positioned himself as the world’s chief negotiator with the Kremlin, a role that has caused friction with the Ukrainian government. He has been at loggerheads with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine over the French president’s repeated comments that Russia must not be humiliated, in order to preserve a diplomatic “exit ramp” to the war. On Wednesday, speaking from Romania, Mr. Macron said that France and Europe would continue to help Ukraine with financial, military and humanitarian aid, but also wanted peace.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany upended decades of his country’s policy when he announced in April a €100 billion ($104 billion) plan to arm Germany, send weapons to Ukraine and end his nation’s dependence on Russian energy. He has since faced criticism that Germany has been slow in supplying weapons.
Although Germany has promised a number of heavy arms in coming months, none have arrived. No new weapons deliveries will be announced on Thursday, said two German officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
Christine Lambrecht, Germany’s defense minister, said on Thursday that three multiple rocket launching systems the country had previously pledged would be sent to Ukraine by the end of July. Ms. Lambrecht, who made the comments before meeting other NATO defense ministers in Brussels, said that Ukrainian soldiers had nearly completed training on self-propelling howitzers and that seven of those systems would be delivered to Ukraine shortly.
Mr. Scholz, whose Social Democratic party has a long history of being soft on Russia, has been ambiguous about his desired endgame of the war, saying that Russia must not win and that Ukraine must not lose. He has not said that Ukraine must win.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, who has taken a hard line against Russia in traditionally Moscow-friendly Italy, said economic pressure was important to bring Moscow to the negotiating table. Mr. Draghi called last month for a cease-fire in Ukraine “as soon as possible” to enable a negotiated end to the war.
Formal peace talks have long stalled between Ukraine and Russia as the war has shifted to a grinding artillery battle in which Russia appears to have an edge. Many in Kyiv have come to regard European talk of peace, however far in the future, as covert pressure to compromise at a cost of territory.
A broad poll in 10 European countries by the European Council on Foreign Affairs, published Wednesday, showed that a majority of Europeans wanted Ukraine to make peace with Russia immediately, even if that meant losing territory. A smaller percentage of people believed that only Russia’s military defeat could bring peace.