It had all of the makings of a kind of nightmare EU summits.
A crucially essential assembly that might drag on rancorously late past the tip of the week.
The villain of the piece, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban – whose critics name him Putin’s puppet – had arrived wanting up for a battle.
There was nothing to debate, he mentioned, when it got here to talks on Ukraine’s accession to the European Union.
However by early night a summit shock – striding into the reporters’ corridor, EU Council president Charles Michel had a breakthrough to announce.
It is a big second for Ukraine. Ukrainians have an opportunity now to satisfy the future they set themselves nearly a decade in the past after they rose as much as throw off Russian domination.
And it offers them much more to battle for.
It will likely be an enormous enhance to morale as they put together for an extended onerous winter, with their infrastructure set to be pummelled time and again by armadas of Russian drones.
And never a second too quickly. As EU leaders had been assembly in Brussels, in Moscow, their antagonist, President Putin, was sounding as belligerent as ever.
He spelt it out once more: his struggle is about destroying Ukraine as a rustic.
Ukraine’s cities, he mentioned, had been Russian – the battle is a civil struggle as a result of Ukrainians are actually Russians.
If he prevails, in the present day’s diplomatic victory for President Zelenskyy will probably be irrelevant; there will probably be no Ukraine to hitch the EU.
And that’s not out of the query now.
For all its Western-supplied tanks, Western coaching and Western strategising, Ukraine’s counteroffensive has resulted in failure – casting appreciable doubt over what occurs subsequent.
Russia has realized from its errors and is being armed sooner by autocratic allies than Ukraine is by the West. And Putin has time on his aspect.
There’s discuss of fatigue setting in in Western capitals. Divisions in Washington and Brussels may jeopardise future Western help.
There will probably be many extra levels in Ukraine’s years-long effort to hitch the EU, each with the prospect of undoing its probabilities.
However make no mistake. It is a huge deal for Ukraine – one other main step westwards and away from Russia.
And make no mistake both about Vladimir Putin’s dedication to do no matter it takes to thwart it.