The War in Ukraine and the Way Forward
On 24 February 2022, conventional interstate conflict returned to Europe after Russia
launched an unprovoked war against Ukraine. Although some predicted at the time that Kyiv
would fall in a matter of days, the Ukrainian people continue to fight to defend their homeland
and push Russia out. Their bravery and determination should be saluted, and the international
community should continue to show solidarity towards Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion is a major breach of international law, specifically the principle that the
borders of recognised states should not be changed by the force of arms. Ukrainians voted
overwhelmingly in favour of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and the USSR’s
successor state, the Russian Federation, recognised Ukrainian independence in the 1994
Budapest Memorandum. Allowing Russia’s aggression to stand would weaken this principle
and provide a precedent for other aggressive states to extend their frontiers by force.
It is unclear how much longer the war will last. Russia has remained committed to waging war
against Ukraine, and Ukraine has ruled out any peace that does not involve the return of all
its occupied provinces, including the province of Crimea. Furthermore, the land that Ukraine
is seeking to free from Russian occupation is perceived by both sides as part of their national
identity, but it remains Ukrainian under international law. This means that the chances for a
sustainable peace deal are currently rather slim. The EU must therefore prepare for a
protracted Russo-Ukrainian war, characterised by intermittent periods of escalation and de-escalation.
To deal with such a conflict, the EU needs an action plan. The objectives of this action plan
should be to (1) push Russia to cease all hostilities towards Ukraine and withdraw its forces
as a first step beyond the 24 February 2022 borders, (2) assist Ukraine in recovering and
rebuilding itself, (3) facilitate Ukraine’s accession to the EU, and (4) enhance the EU’s strategic
sovereignty, i.e., its capacity to react and deal with external shocks. To reach these goals, a
set of short, medium, and long-term options are presented below.
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