US philanthropist Buffett warns against Ukraine fatigue
US philanthropist Buffett warns against Ukraine fatigue

US philanthropist Buffett warns against Ukraine ‘fatigue’

KYIV (Reuters) – U.S. businessman and philanthropist Howard Buffett said on Wednesday Western public interest in the war in Ukraine could wane in the coming year, and that he may step up his own support for Ukraine to set an example.

Buffett, whose foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion and who is the son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, cited the U.S. presidential campaign as one of the possible reasons why public interest could flag.

“I do have concern about whether people can maintain the level of interest in (Ukraine). Particularly, in the U.S. one of the drawbacks will be the political campaign that we’re going into,” he told Reuters in an interview in Kyiv.

The United States holds a presidential election in November 2024 and several Republican candidate hopefuls have questioned the vast military and financial aid supplied to Kyiv, calling into question Washington’s future stance.

Buffett said the idea that Ukraine “fatigue” could set in among the public in the West showed that Kyiv’s allies should double down on their support.

“It’s a tougher fight, but I think it goes to the point that letting the war drag on is a huge mistake. I think the U.S. and Europe have to step up even more and help Ukraine win this war and put it to end.”

Ukraine is three and a half months into a Western-equipped military operation to recapture tracts of Russian-occupied land in the east and south, but has not made significant ground with the weather set to turn in the coming weeks.

In some Eastern European states there are signs of more critical views over the extent of foreign military support for Ukraine, and anger among farmers who say Ukrainian food imports hurt their prices. Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have banned Ukrainian grain imports.

“People have to understand that we’re committed to Ukraine, we’re not going anywhere, we’re not slowing down, we’ll step the pace up if that’s what we have to do,” Buffett said.

Buffett, who has visited stricken areas of Ukraine on a series of wartime trips, said he expected his foundation’s support to reach around $500 million by the end of this year.

His foundation has helped farmers, humanitarian mine clearance efforts, and with the distribution of generators needed for mass power cuts, pontoon bridges to replace bombed bridges, and meals and food kits along the front line.

Western financial and military support has been vital for Kyiv to hold its own against the army of a nuclear superpower that is the world’s largest country.

Ukraine’s economy shrank by about a third in 2022. Millions of people have been driven from their homes by Russia’s Feb. 2022 invasion and cities have been destroyed. Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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