There has been much ongoing debate about the effects of economic sanctions imposed on Russia since the beginning of Putin’s war against Ukraine. Many commentators argue that sanctions are having only limited effects or no effect at all – firstly, because they haven’t forced Putin to change his policies, and secondly, because the Russian economy has demonstrated significant resilience. This paper argues that both assertions are misleading. The latter argument – about the resilience of the Russian economy – is based on a flawed approach focused on just a handful of macroeconomic indicators, which are insufficient to assess the genuine state of the Russian economy. A consideration of more detailed data is necessary to determine the true effect of sanctions. Once that is done, the former argument also collapses: the reason Putin hasn’t changed his policies yet is because the Russian economy has some significant safety margins (most likely specifically developed to withstand the consequences of an aggression against Ukraine), and it takes time for sanctions to produce visible macroeconomic effects, thereby forcing Putin to change his policies.
This paper provides an in-depth analysis of a wide array of detailed economic data, which suggests that such effects are on the way. A look beyond a limited number of widely discussed macroeconomic parameters proves that the economy is already experiencing a wide range of unprecedented difficulties, which are only being contained by policy tricks and Russia’s remaining financial reserves. It is important to understand this comprehensive picture of the effects of sanctions, in order to make adequate policy judgments as to their efficiency.Economy EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine
Beyond the Headlines: The Real Impact of Western Sanctions on Russia
16 Nov 2022
On 17 October, the EU agreed to set up a Military Assistance Mission (EUMAM) in support of Ukraine. It is a response to a request from Ukraine, which has sought EU support for months to help train its armed forces. EUMAM will bring the Union’s military training activities into a new, more geopolitical territory.
Ukraine originally asked the EU for a military training programme in July 2021, at a time when Moscow had partially withdrawn its forces from the country’s border following an initial military build-up in Spring. While some EU countries backed the request, others (e.g., Italy) at the time saw the deployment of a military training mission to Ukraine as an unnecessary provocation toward Russia.
After Russia attacked Ukraine in February 2022, mentalities have changed, and earlier sensitivities have faded. The EU has inter alia agreed to provide Ukraine €3.1 billion worth of assistance through the ironically named European Peace Facility to help the country acquire lethal capabilities and other equipment that it needs to defend its sovereignty. Several EU countries (and partners such as the UK and the US) have also launched national efforts to help train Ukraine’s armed forces and provided weapons to the country.
The agreement to set up EUMAM came after weeks of discussions. The initial political agreement on the mission was reached at the 29-30 August informal defence ministerial meeting in Prague. At the time, the European External Action Service envisaged that EUMAM could start “at the end of September/beginning of October”.
Due to a dispute among EU countries over the mission’s command structure, the establishment of EUMAM was delayed. Hungary did not participate in the final decision, choosing to take advantage of the EU Treaty’s rarely used “constructive abstention” clause (i.e., Article 31(1)). It enables any EU country to abstain from a common foreign, security or defence policy decision, meaning that it will not veto the decision, but neither will it participate in its implementation.
Once it has been launched, EUMAM will contribute to enhancing the military capability of Ukraine’s armed forces. The mission will provide (1) training to Ukraine’s armed forces personnel at different levels, (2) specialised training, (3) training to the military reserve component of Ukraine’s armed forces (i.e., the Territorial Defence Forces), and (4) coordination for EU countries’ existing Ukraine-related military training efforts.
More specifically, EUMAM will train around 15,000 Ukrainian troops in two years to boost the country’s ability to defend itself against Russia. According to officials, 12,000 Ukrainians will receive basic military training, while another 2,800 are set to receive specialised training through EUMAM. These initial target figures, as well as EUMAM’s deployment period, can be increased later if necessary.
Given the ongoing war, EUMAM will not operate in Ukraine itself but within the EU (i.e., in Germany and Poland) until the Council decides otherwise – representing an interesting “first” for land-based EU military operations, which have so far operated exclusively outside the Union. This is because Article 42(1) of the EU Treaty states that the Union may use military and civilian assets in the framework of its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) “outside the Union”, not within it.
In practice, the Treaty requirement for CSDP operations and missions to operate “outside the Union” has been withering for several years. The former EU naval operation Sophia as well as IRINI, its ongoing successor, have operated within the territorial waters of EU countries (e.g., Greece, Italy, Malta) while fighting human smuggling and trafficking and enforcing the UN arms embargo on Libya in the Mediterranean. This shows that CSDP can adapt to Europe’s evolving security environment.
However, training Ukraine’s armed forces will be a new kind of challenge for CSDP. Through EUMAM, the EU will provide military training to a country fighting an active war against a great power aggressor. This is something that the EU as an organisation has never done or experienced before. In the past, EU military training missions have provided training primarily to the armed forces of countries in the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa that have been fighting terrorists and various types of militia groups. The stakes will be higher in EUMAM’s case.
This suggests that CSDP is (slowly) becoming more geopolitical in its character. When the EU first began to deploy CSDP missions and operations in the Western Balkans and sub-Saharan Africa in 2003, the Union was highly selective about the conflicts and crises in which it chose to intervene. Early CSDP operations also served the EU’s interests mainly indirectly by, for example, limiting flows of people to the EU from conflict areas by improving safety and security in their areas of operation.
The EU was also risk-averse, preferring operations and missions that were, in a sense, guaranteed successes. The Union either took over existing NATO operations in the Western Balkans (i.e., operations Concordia and Althea) after the Alliance had already done the hard work of stabilising the countries in question; or the mandates of EU operations were so strictly defined and time-limited (e.g., Operation Artemis, EUFOR RD Congo) that “success” was virtually guaranteed.
Since the late 2000s, CSDP operations have slowly become more interest-driven in their character. The first genuinely interest-driven CSDP operation has arguably been Atalanta, which was launched in 2008 to fight maritime pirates off the coast of Somalia. This ongoing operation contributed inter alia to the security of Europe’s maritime trade at a time when the global financial crisis was already causing turmoil in markets around the world. Another example is Sophia, through which the EU sought to limit the unregulated flow of people across the Mediterranean in 2015-2020.
EUMAM, however, will be neither risk-free nor a guaranteed success. It will further increase the EU’s involvement, as an organisation, in the Ukraine war, which may cause Russia to respond. Existing EU military training missions in Mali and the Central African Republic, where Russia is an influential actor, have already suffered from Russian-led disinformation campaigns. The Union must anticipate that EUMAM might also become a Russian target and ensure that sufficient resilient measures will be in place once the mission is launched. Overall, the EU’s decision to establish EUMAM demonstrated the Union’s continued commitment to Ukraine in its time of need. The remaining military-strategic phase of the operation’s planning process should be wrapped up as quickly as possible to ensure that Ukraine can start benefiting from EUMAM’s training activities at the earliest possible moment.Niklas Nováky Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine
With the new Ukraine Mission, EU Military Training Becomes More Geopolitical
Blog - Ukraine
21 Oct 2022
Welcome to the Migration Update September 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Davide Marcantoni provided material for the Judicial Observatory.
These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at firstname.lastname@example.orgVít Novotný Crisis Migration Ukraine
Migration Update September 2022
30 Sep 2022
At the 29-30 August informal defence ministerial meeting in Prague, EU countries agreed on the idea of establishing an EU Military Assistance Mission for Ukraine. The mission will help Ukraine’s armed forces meet their training needs and boost their capacities as the country continues to defend itself against Russia’s invasion.
This isn’t the first time that the EU has discussed the establishment of such a mission in the framework of its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). In a letter addressed to High Representative Josep Borrell in July 2021, Ukraine’s foreign and defence ministers, Dmytro Kuleba and Oleksii Reznikov, asked the EU for a military training programme to help train Ukrainian officers in response to Russia’s increased military activities along Ukraine’s border.
At the time, EU countries could not agree on setting up such a mission. While some supported the idea, others saw it as an unnecessary provocation of Russia. The Union eventually decided to enhance Ukraine’s resilience and help strengthen the capacities of its armed forces by adopting a €31 million funding measure through the European Peace Facility (EPF).
The EPF initially focused on non-lethal support by financing Ukrainian military medical units and field hospitals; engineering, mobility and logistics units, as well as cyber capabilities. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on 24 February 2022, this funding has broadened in scope to also help Ukraine acquire lethal capabilities and increased to €2.5 billion – half of the EPF’s budget line for 2021–2027.
In the ensuing months, multiple EU countries have launched national efforts to help train Ukraine’s armed forces and to boost the country’s capacity to defend its sovereignty. These include inter alia Germany, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Spain. In addition, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden are participating in a training programme organised by the UK.
The EU itself has significant experience in conducting military training and advisory missions. At the time of writing, the Union is conducting four such missions, each of them in Africa: EUTM Mali, EUTM Mozambique, EUTM RCA in the Central African Republic, and EUTM Somalia. Their mandates range from strengthening their host countries’ defence institutions to training their armed forces.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for EU military training missions. EUTM Mali’s credibility was damaged by the August 2020 coup d’état in the country. Both the Mali mission and EUTM RCA have also been forced to suspend some of their activities due to the increased presence of the Wagner Group, a Russian private military entity, in their host countries.
Despite these challenges, it is generally seen that EU military training missions contribute positively to the effectiveness of their host country’s armed forces, especially when their host countries take political ownership of them. This will certainly be the case with Ukraine, which has expressed very explicitly its desire for an EU military training mission. The challenge is likely to be the unfamiliar context – training soldiers for a country defending its sovereignty against a great power aggressor.
Fortunately, the EU already has experience in dealing with Ukraine through CSDP. Since 2014, the Union has also been conducting a civilian advisory mission (EUAM) in the country. It assists Ukraine in reforming its civilian security sector to weed out corruption and enhance the rule of law in the country. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, however, EUAM has not been able to fully implement its mandate in Ukraine’s territory.
So far, the EU has said little about the mandate and scope of the planned Ukraine mission. In Prague, EU defence ministers simply agreed that the mission ‘should build on the existing bilateral [training] activities’ that EU countries have launched since February. It has been suggested that the mission could focus on enhancing the coherence of these activities and boosting coordination between them.
This means that the EU also needs to coordinate the new mission with key non-EU partners, notably the UK and the US, who are also involved in training to Ukraine’s armed forces. This will be crucial in ensuring that there won’t be unnecessary overlaps between the new mission and the various existing training activities that have been launched since February. The EU mission needs to provide the maximum added value to Ukraine.
For the mission to have this value, it needs to address the most urgent and concrete training needs of Ukraine’s armed forces. Kyiv has specified that it would like the mission to focus on areas such as medical support, sniper training, and sharing de-mining expertise. While medical support is unlikely to be controversial for EU countries, sniper training, in particular, might face opposition from several capitals.
Perhaps with this in mind, Borrell has suggested that—in addition to medical support—the EU could help Ukraine in providing protection against nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Inevitably, the mandate of the new mission will reflect a political compromise between those EU countries that support it the most and those that are less enthusiastic about it. This has always been the case with CSDP missions because the Union decides on their deployment by unanimity.
The EU has also expressed that the mission ‘should work at least tentatively in the territory of an EU member state.’ So far, all past and ongoing EU military missions have operated outside the Union’s territory. Article 42(1) of the Treaty on EU (TEU) also specifies that, in the framework of CSDP, the Union can use civilian and military assets ‘on missions outside the Union’.
The Ukraine mission will therefore require a certain level of creative interpretation of the TEU if it is to become a CSDP mission and if it is to operate from the EU’s territory. The alternative would be to conduct the mission outside the CSDP framework as a type of coalition-of-the-willing or to have it based in a neighbouring non-EU country such as Moldova.
In the case of the former, the Union could still have a role in the mission by creating a dedicated coordination cell for it, which could be based in the EU Military Staff. It would then mirror the EU’s Coordinated Maritime Presences concept, which enables the Union to coordinate EU countries’ national naval deployments in a given maritime area outside the CSDP framework.
Given the urgency of Ukraine’s situation, the EU cannot follow its standard long-form CSDP planning process. The next meeting of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), the foreign ministers’ forum, will be on 17 October. However, the EU would like to establish and launch the mission before then. Borrell noted on 4 September that the Union could launch it ‘in the coming weeks’ if EU members agree. More concretely, the European External Action Service has envisaged that the mission could start ‘at the end of September/beginning of October’.
This would be exceptionally fast for a CSDP deployment. In the case of EUTM Mozambique, the most recent EU military training mission, for example, it took the EU seven months to get from initial planning to the launch of the mission. In the case of most other CSDP missions and operations as well, their deployment processes have tended to take months, not weeks.
To be able to establish and launch the new mission so quickly, the EU will have to use its ‘fast–track’ CSDP planning process. The fast-track process allows the Union to skip certain planning stages to deploy the mission quicker. The EU has already used it to facilitate the deployment of certain CSDP missions and operations. In 2015, for example, the Union used the fast-track process to facilitate the deployment of Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean.
Furthermore, if the EU wants to launch the operation before the 17 October FAC, it has the options of approving the relevant Council Decision in a different Council configuration (e.g., General Affairs Council, Agriculture and Fisheries Council) or using the ‘written procedure’ in which the Council asks EU countries to approve the launch of the mission in writing. Whatever it decides to do, time is of the essence: Ukraine needs support now.Niklas Nováky Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine
The EU Needs to Move Quickly With its Planned Ukraine Training Mission
Blog - Ukraine
16 Sep 2022
War is raging on the European continent. As a result, President Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech of 2022 did not follow the typical script of previous addresses. It was not a follow up to the points emphasised by the Commission at the beginning of von der Leyen’s term, and perhaps cleverly so.
The COVID-19 pandemic, but much more so the war in Ukraine, have changed the EU’s role both regionally and globally. The State of the Union speech was an opportunity to run through Europe’s war-related efforts and re-state the bloc’s support to Ukraine. In the presence of Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine, in Strasbourg and against the backdrop of recent Ukrainian military successes, President von der Leyen had the tools she needed to give a passionate opening to her speech.
The speech then continued with Ukraine-related topics. Though sustainability was underlined often and a proposal for a hydrogen bank was declared, contrary to previous speeches, the Commission Green Deal was not the speech’s red line. This was likely a good choice, given the ongoing sensitive debate on how to rebalance the Commission’s ambitious green transition goals with the current energy crisis, a crisis which no doubt is the priority for Europeans.
Although Ukraine was mentioned various times, Ukrainian EU membership status was not. President von der Leyen made specific remarks about aiming to bring Ukraine closer to the Single Market and her own negotiations in Kyiv on further cooperation. These reflect the opinion shared by many that while EU candidate status has been granted, in reality focusing on immediate, concrete steps for integration rather than on the membership process itself will yield better results.
The State of the Union speech often lists various proposals by the Commission, always with impressive titles but often left wanting in terms of content. Sometimes, those proposals move forward and become a core of the Commission’s policy proposals and EU agenda; other times little happens. Who can recall the “Global Gateway strategy” from last year’s State of the Union speech, for example? While the President referred to it again in her speech, the ambitious proposal from last year has remained limited within the EU toolbox.
The President proposed the Defence of Democracy Act. The plan, she said, would aim to uncover covert foreign influence and shady funding. This plan will no doubt receive support from EU member states, but can quickly become politically sensitive, depending on how it is implemented and by whom.
French President Macron’s proposal on a political community received President von der Leyen’s endorsement. Was this a polite gesture for the French or something more substantive? Despite some draft papers circulating EU corridors, the discussion on a political community has not truly taken off at a higher level. Since Ukraine obtained its candidate status with the support of many EU member states, it is highly unlikely that a substantive discussion on the community’s basic modalities will begin in earnest anytime soon.
But of course, should such a thing happen, most likely an EU Convention of some kind would be needed. The President’s request for the EU convention to begin was received by the European Parliament with enthusiasm. However, those EU member states bearing the brunt of the current extraordinary crisis, will most likely be less enthusiastic. Other touchy topics for the future are the proposals for new fiscal rules. Even if the current rules do not correspond to the current reality, the discussion will be heated between EU member states; and it seems even within the Commission, the vision is not united.
President Ursula von der Leyen finished by referring to the importance of standing strong with the US and on China, with a clear and welcome message. This ending closed the rhetorical circle, which began with the war in Ukraine and ended with the EU’s position globally.
Between last year’s State of the Union speech and this year’s, there is an obvious difference. While a year ago, the EU was aspiring to have a global role and weight, it has obtained some of that through the war in Ukraine. The EU has played an important, even unexpected role, and has been able to break some of the taboos which hindered it previously.
It is a promising start, and the President’s speech played on it. Building on the war in Ukraine and the EU’s role offered the President a possibility which was used. The speech had a more solid structure and was less of a patchwork of different topics and proposals, which it previously was on occasion. And of course, no State of the Union speech would be a true EU SOTU without a human story, which were plenty also this year, from First Lady Zelenska’s visit to the story of two Polish women helping Ukrainian refugees. The latter was also an interesting choice; perhaps a small gesture towards Poland in the sensitive rule of law debate?
Photo Credits: EPP Group FlickrTomi Huhtanen Crisis Democracy European Union Ukraine
From Claiming a Global Role for the EU to Defending it – State of the Union 2022
15 Sep 2022
Much has been written on the economic impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For the European Union, the already visible impacts of rising energy and food prices presage more fundamental economic challenges in the longer term. Coupled with the lingering side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic the global economy is facing unprecedented turmoil.
Unfortunately, the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is also being followed by economic consequences which are already impacting both European and global economies. The uncertainty of this war is eroding confidence and will pose a threat to economic stability should it continue in the long term. As European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni noted, ‘the duration of the war will determine its cost, both humanitarian and economic’.
This In Brief provides a broad overview of the principal macroeconomic impacts of the Ukraine war on the EU. It also provides a set of recommendations designed to guide the EU’s policy actions in the future. Further publications in this series will deal with specific issues related to the impacts on agriculture, energy prices, European security/defence policy and the longer-term effects on the wider European integration process.Crisis Economy EU-Russia Macroeconomics Ukraine
The Long View: A Centre Right Response to the Economic Fallout of War in Ukraine
14 Sep 2022
Welcome to the Migration Update August 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Davide Marcantoni provided material for the Judicial Observatory.
These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at email@example.comVít Novotný EU-Russia Migration Ukraine
Migration Update August 2022
31 Aug 2022
Peter Hefele China Digital Technology Trade Ukraine
Thinking Talks Ep.6 with Ming-Yen Tsai, Ambassador, Taipei Representative Office in the EU & Belgium
Multimedia - Thinking Talks - Ukraine
27 Jul 2022
Don’t miss the answer given during the EPP Congress in Rotterdam by the following European leaders:
– Seán Kelly, EPP Group MEP (Fine Gael)
– Barry Ward, Fine Gael Senator (Ireland)
– Vladimír Bilčík, EPP Group MEP (SPOLU – občianska demokracia)
– Ivan Štefanec, EPP Group MEP (Kresťanskodemokratické hnutie, Slovakia)
– Lukas Mandl, EPP Group MEP (Österreichische Volkspartei)
– Alexander Stubb, former Primer Minister of Finland and Director of the School of Transnational Governance
– David McAllister, EPP Group MEP (CDU Deutschlands)
– Paulo Rangel, EPP VP and EPP Group MEP (PSD Portugal)European People's Party European Union Ukraine
What would be your message to Ukraine?
Multimedia - Other videos - Ukraine
02 Jun 2022
With Aura Salla, Head of EU Affairs, Facebook (Meta) and hosted by Margherita Movarelli, Head of Communications and Marketing, Martens CentreMargherita Movarelli EU-Russia Ukraine
The Disinformation Threat to Europe After the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Multimedia - Other videos - Ukraine
01 Jun 2022
Moderator: Jarosław Pietras, Visiting Fellow, Martens Centre
– Željana Zovko, MEP, HDZ, Croatia
– Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsandze, MP, European Solidarity, Ukraine, former Deputy PM for European and Euro-Atlantic IntegrationJarosław Pietras Enlargment Ukraine
Panel 4 Day 1 – EU Enlargement: A New Approach
Live-streams - Multimedia
31 May 2022
Welcome to the Migration Update May 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum.
These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at firstname.lastname@example.org
Migration Update May 2022
31 May 2022
Europe’s immediate reaction to the invasion and attempted destruction of Ukraine was to impose harsh sanctions on Russia. However, the EU should also think about how to create mechanisms that, in the long term, will involve Russia in financing Ukraine’s recovery from the conflict.
Stopping Russian energy imports so as to reduce the Kremlin’s capacity to finance the war in Ukraine is the most urgent political imperative. There can be no other political reaction to the heinous war atrocities in Ukraine. Reducing imports cannot be implemented simply by closing valves on pipelines. In parallel with strong actions on imports from Russia, Europe must strive to radically reorient the sources of its energy supply. Many additional steps will be needed, such as making use of existing EU energy assets and potentials, including those that were supposed to be abandoned or disposed of. Critical times will come with peak summer demand and preparation for winter, with the requirement to fill gas storage capacities in the autumn.
A recent presentation by the International Energy Agency shows that it is possible to limit dependence on Russian gas, oil, and coal. This would require substantial measures to be taken to reorient the geographical sources of energy supply, as well as changes in the energy mix in each European country. It is unsurprising that there is obvious hesitation in some countries, including doubts as to how fast the EU could move in such a direction without substantially damaging its own situation. The same can even be said of the impact of high energy prices for Ukraine, which continues to import Russian gas.
The daily value of energy imports from Russia this year is in the hundreds of millions of Euros. In other words, EU purchases of Russian gas are four times that of EU aid offered to Ukraine so far. Europe faces the multiple challenges of reducing its energy dependence on Russia, reducing energy bills, and, once the war is over, providing effective support to Ukrainians in rebuilding their country. We rely on political action to resolve this war immediately, but in order to reach long-term economic goals, we should also use market forces. This can be achieved only through several different actions aimed at reducing demand for all types of energy, applying efficient sanctions – or as Bruegel in its paper calls it, “smart sanctions” – and imposing a war-related charge on all remaining European energy imports from Russia.
Another element to bear in mind is that although ceasing Russian energy imports aims to limit Putin’s financial capabilities, the impact of these measures will not be immediate. The reduction and eventual permanent cessation of energy imports will affect Russia with a delay. In the meantime, Europe’s search for new oil and gas suppliers is affecting world markets. Predictably, this drives prices up, and more importantly, it keeps gas prices well above oil, which is rather unusual. Paradoxically, such high prices allow Russia to compensate for the decline in export volumes. Russia benefits from high prices because everyone, not just the EU, is looking for additional supplies. But in the long run, markets deliver change. High prices encourage the global development of new capacities of worldwide supplies of coal, oil and gas, and electricity. Current high energy prices coincide with efforts to speed up the decarbonisation of the European economy. Coincidentally, this might make it easier to ensure a positive start to the green transition and the implementation of the European Green Deal.
As noted earlier, high energy costs mitigate the impact of sanctions on Russia. Europe, together with its allies, should undertake efforts that affect global markets, global supply and demand, and, therefore, push down energy prices on the global market. Their decline will contribute to the effectiveness of the sanctions imposed on Russia.
Already now, the cost of energy for EU countries is excessive, but it should be seen as a justified price to pay for solidarity. Soon, there will be another high bill to pay, as rebuilding Ukraine will require massive financial resources. How could Russia be involved in these reconstruction expenditures? Obviously, seized wealth through sanctions could be tapped for this purpose. But even billions in foreign exchange reserves might not be sufficient. As Russian energy exports continue to flow into Europe, albeit in reduced quantities, the EU could consider imposing a special levy on such remaining imports with the aim of creating a special fund for the reconstruction of Ukraine. A sanction-related charge on imports from Russia would have to be cleared as compatible with WTO rules, but due to the war, its conditions could be more easily defended than, say, US tariffs on steel imposed by the Trump administration. This would generate resources that could be directed to a dedicated fund and used as aid to Ukraine. Such a war-related levy on imported Russian energy would be at the expense of European importers and customers who cannot help but rely on Russian supplies. But over time, current high energy prices would lead to the expansion of other sources, and if global supplies increase, the motivation to import more expensive Russian oil or gas will diminish. Consequently, if Russia will want to continue exporting, it will have to offer energy products at a discount or stop deliveries. This levy on energy imports would eventually be passed on to Russia, indirectly forcing the country to contribute to the funds intended for rebuilding Ukraine.
By increasing the cost of energy imported from Russia by, for example, 1/4 through such a special levy, large amounts could be generated to be used to help Ukraine. They would depend on the extent of residual imports from Russia to the EU. In the long term, Russia will suffer from reduced exports to Europe, sunk costs of infrastructure capacity, and lower energy prices on world markets. And the “Solidarity with Ukraine” levy on energy imports from Russia could continue for years, even after the war ends and until the amounts obtained sufficiently cover Ukraine’s reconstruction needs.Jarosław Pietras Energy EU-Russia Ukraine
Linking Russian Sanctions to Rebuilding Ukraine
Blog - Ukraine
09 May 2022
Tomi Huhtanen Antonis Klapsis Vít Novotný Anna Nalyvayko EU-Russia Extremism Ukraine
Serving Russian Interests in the EU: From Far-Right Parties to GONGOs
Live-streams - Multimedia
03 May 2022
Roberta Metsola Tomi Huhtanen Democracy EU Institutions Leadership Ukraine
Thinking Talks Ep.5 with Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament
Multimedia - Thinking Talks
30 Apr 2022
Welcome to the Migration Update April 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Thanks go to Davide Marcantoni for writing up the ECtHR court case for the judicial observatory.
Migration Update April 2022
30 Apr 2022
Defence EU-Russia Ukraine
The changing realities of EU defence cooperation
26 Apr 2022
As Russian forces regroup ahead of their imminent offensive in eastern Ukraine, now is the time for decisive action to force Moscow to re-evaluate the cost of its unprovoked war and any future attacks. Time is of the essence. Russia must be dealt such insurmountable losses, at home and on the battlefield, that it loses the ability to sustain this war.
As a result of Ukraine’s relative success countering Russian attacks to date, it is estimated that more than 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in just seven weeks, surpassing the death toll of the entire, decade-long, Soviet-Afghan war. Meanwhile, as many as 680 Russian tanks, over 2,000 armoured vehicles, and 150 aircraft have reportedly been destroyed. These significant losses have led some analysists to conclude that Russia’s military is vastly overestimated. This is a misconception. Russian military superiority relies heavily on combined arms warfare, primarily via modernised battalion tactical groups. These formations are designed to take on similarly large battalions, namely those of NATO, combining speed, versatility, and firepower, to effectively steamroll opponents. But they have a major weakness: they lack infantry units to cover their flanks. As a result, hit-and-run guerrilla tactics have proven particularly effective and have played a key role in Ukraine’s ability to inflict heavy losses. This advantage, however, will not last forever.
After failing to take Kyiv, Russian forces will now throw all their might at the already-war-torn eastern portion of Ukraine in a desperate attempt to declare some kind of success. Its military will learn from their mistakes, tighten supply lines and close ranks, with perhaps even more flagrant disregard for civilian lives.
Meanwhile, since the start of Russia’s war, the EU has moved at warp speed, by EU standards, to improve its security and defence capabilities. It has approved the Strategic Compass, a process initiated in 2020, that sets out the EU’s strategic vision and security objectives over the next 5 to 10 years. Among them, its first-ever rapid deployment contingent, of up to 5,000 troops – a building block that should not be undervalued. At the national level, too, many EU members are granting additional attention to their defence policies at staggering levels. Germany, for example, who has remained almost painstakingly pacifist since joining NATO, announced a historic €100 billion defence budget.
NATO has also made substantial progress as of late, developing its own defence capacity. Herein lies the largest of many miscalculations made by Putin in this war. In a matter of weeks, he has managed to succeed in what Donald Trump could not achieve in four years: he has made NATO great again. In a sign of the times, even the historically neutral Nordic countries of Finland and Sweden appear set to join as early as this summer.
For all it’s worth, however, many of these developments, including NATO’s substantial troop increase on the EU’s eastern flank, now at 40,000, will only serve as a deterrent for Russia against EU and/or NATO members, and will not slow Russia’s war in Ukraine, or prevent more atrocities from being committed there.
What Ukraine needs now, while Russia is regrouping, is more shipments of lethal aid ahead of the decisive battles that lie ahead. Crucial to Ukraine’s successful guerrilla tactics have been the man-portable air-defence systems supplied by Western allies, such as the Javelin, NLAW, and Stinger, which have denied Russia air superiority and stalled potential ground assaults. Additionally, the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone – which will likely become the hottest-selling weapon system on the market following its demonstrated field success – has enabled Ukraine to destroy entire columns of vehicles from afar, coordinate effective artillery barrages and monitor Russian troop movements.
But these weapons will not be enough for what could be the deciding chapter of this war. Ukraine desperately needs shipments of heavy weapons before Russia launches its next assault. Guerrilla tactics alone will not stall Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern landscape, which is dominated by open fields. Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has echoed this call, indirectly clashing with Chancellor Olaf Scholz who has been accused of delaying deliveries of tanks to Ukraine. Czechia and Slovakia have already responded, along with pledges by Poland and the Baltic nations, and an additional $800 million in US support. Other EU members must follow suit while this equipment can still play a deciding factor.
Finally, what Ukraine needs most is for the EU to stop financing this war for Russia, effectively enabling it to sustain the conflict. The impressive sum that the EU has already committed in military aid – €1 billion with possibly another €500 million in the works – is insufficient. Though this feat marks the first time that the EU has supplied lethal weaponry to a third country, that amount is dwarfed by the €35 billion that it has paid to Russia since the start of the war for its energy imports – nearly Russia’s entire annual defence budget.
Ultimately, Ukraine’s fight is our fight, as Europeans and proponents of democracy. The window for the EU to have a meaningful impact in the battles to come is small. While Russia regroups, we must step up support for Ukraine, for the sake of their future and our own. As Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba put it, “Either you help us now, and I am speaking about days … or your help will come too late.”Gavin Synnott Defence Foreign Policy Ukraine
The Clock is Ticking – Ukraine Needs Urgent Support Ahead of Russia’s Next Offensive
Blog - Ukraine
14 Apr 2022
The author is a WMCES Visiting Fellow and the former Polish Secretary of State in the Office of the Committee for European Integration, who was involved in Poland’s accession to the EU.
On 11 March 2022, EU leaders met informally in Versailles to discuss the Russian war against Ukraine. The question of how to address Ukraine’s bid for EU membership remained unanswered. Heads of states simply noted that the Commission should prepare an opinion on this request, the so-called “Avis”, which is part of the formal procedure. It was not a visionary response, but a technocratic one. How can the Commission assess whether Ukraine is ready for membership while the country struggles against Russian invasion? There is a need for a considered approach that would guide the EU and Ukraine into a joint post-war era.
In rather dramatic circumstances, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an application for Ukrainian membership of the European Union, a plea to determine his country’s future. No one would reasonably expect that membership could be granted immediately, but in such atrocious times, it is necessary to respond credibly. There were calls, also among EPP leaders, to grant Ukraine candidate status. As the summit approached, some diplomats felt such a move would be low-risk, as it is never clear whether a candidate will actually eventually become a member. But this argument can be reversed, too. It does not seem entirely honest to offer candidate status on the assumption that it may not necessarily lead to membership. After the unequivocal declaration of the European Commission and the clear position of the European Parliament, some countries expected that the Council would adopt a similar stance in Versailles. In this respect, the Versailles Declaration fell short of their expectations. It does not create a fast-track procedure or promise candidate status to Ukraine; however, it does include some new elements.
EU leaders unanimously affirm that “Ukraine belongs to our European family”. This goes a few inches further than the wording of the EU-Ukraine summit last October. The Versailles Declaration notes that “the Council acted swiftly and invited the Commission to deliver its opinion on this request in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Treaties”. Now, any next step depends on a competent, but dry and technocratic analysis done by the Commission. Even without a clearer commitment on the candidate status, asking the Commission to prepare the Avis means that the discussion on Ukraine’s eligibility to become an EU member is thus over.
However, the follow-up to the political response to Ukraine’s application should respect all the accession process’ requirements. Any decision must also be consistent with the approach taken by the EU towards other candidates such as those of the Western Balkans, or others countries, like Georgia or Moldova.
The process of preparing a country for accession is complex and time-consuming. Simply asking the Commission to prepare an opinion on Ukraine’s application, the aforementioned Avis, is a bit confusing at this stage. How can the Commission reasonably assess whether Ukraine is capable of applying the acquis communautaire, while Russian bombs are dropping on the very institutions which would be applying EU regulations? Could one expect to receive quickly trustworthy answers to the thousands of questions in the typical questionnaire, which is soon going to be used by the Commission for this purpose? Is it possible to judge whether the Ukrainian administration is mature and can operate stably, as EU members expect? Drafting now an typical Avis on Ukraine’s membership application following standard methodology, through a detailed review of all the chapters of the acquis, would probably lead to unconvincing conclusions, as Ukraine is not currently in the position to deliver all the detailed information required.
Therefore, I recommend a different approach, The preparation of the Avis should be divided into four distinct phases; namely, assessment whether Ukraine meets criteria to obtain candidate status, guidance towards reconstruction, assistance with implementation of the acquis, and final assessment.
During the first phase, on the basis of relatively straightforward assessment of the Ukrainian economy, legal system and administration structures and intentions of the Ukrainian Government described in the answers to the first short questionnaire, the Commission should be able to propose to the EU Member States to decide, whether, under the condition that as they are, Ukraine can be granted candidate status for EU membership.
Whenever the war ends, Ukraine will need major reconstruction. The EU should prepare to offer massive support, clearly linking this support to Ukrainian membership aspirations. It is necessary to focus on rebuilding Ukraine with the objective of integrating it with the EU. This part should therefore serve as a very solid guidance for any reconstruction effort focused on path towards the EU, indicating what should be done beyond the existing Association Agreement and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. For several years, there has been an intense dialogue between the EU and Ukraine to bring the Ukrainian legal framework closer to the acquis communautaire; since 2014, significant progress has been made in this respect. Thus, the Commission, and in particular DG NEAR (including the European Commission Support Group for Ukraine – SGUA – and the EU Advisory Mission for civilian security sector reform – EUAM) has a fairly good idea of Ukrainian efforts so far. But since 24 February this year, the situation has changed dramatically. Gradual adaptations based on “best efforts” principles and soft obligations with no clear deadlines will no longer be sufficient. Therefore, this part of the fully fledged Avis should focus on the required transformation and improvement of economy and trade, services and labour markets, environmental and energy standards, as well as administrative capacities, an impartial judiciary, and the rule of law. These reconstruction programmes could be arranged – as typical Avis – according to the chapters of the acquis communautaire and the necessary adaptations, bringing the country closer to the EU.
The next phase of the Avis should begin at a certain stage of the implementation of the reconstruction programme, when it will be possible to assess in detail the progress made towards adopting the EU’s legal framework. Financing reconstruction programmes can be converted to pre-accession facility with even clearer focus on integration process. In the meantime, the Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, could be significantly enhanced. Additional rights for Ukrainian entities and citizens could be given, in step with the obligations assumed by Ukraine. For example: a customs union between the EU and Ukraine could be established, or the inclusion of Ukraine within the Emissions Trading System to avoid that the country is negatively affected by the proposed Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism – CBAM.
Solid progress in implementing these programmes and transforming Ukraine’s economy and legal system would enable the writing of final conclusions of the Avis. Only then would it be possible to convincingly answer the question of whether Ukraine meets membership criteria, in general terms and in practical details. Such a conclusions would allow the EU to take a final decision on accession negotiations.Jarosław Pietras Enlargment European Union Ukraine
Ukraine’s Accession Cannot Happen Overnight, but it Deserves Due Consideration
Blog - Ukraine
12 Apr 2022
Letting Kyiv cut the line in front of five existing candidates would be “terribly destabilizing in the western Balkans,” Drea says.Eoin Drea Enlargment Ukraine
Ukraine’s Bid for EU Membership Is a Long Shot—for Now
In the Media - Interviews and Expert Quotes - Ukraine
08 Apr 2022
By Anne Blanksma Çeta, Principal Social Impact Strategy, Glocalities
While opinion polls announced a narrow race in the Hungarian parliamentary elections of 3 April, Fidesz enjoyed a decisive victory. How did Viktor Orbán achieve this? And what does it mean for Fidesz’s public support in the coming months, now that the EU has decided to activate the rule-of-law conditionality mechanism? A unique survey into the future of Europe in 10 EU countries (including Hungary) might provide some answers. The survey was conducted in December 2021, and then again in March 2022 to assess the impact of the war in Ukraine. These two surveys, commissioned by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and executed by the global research agency Glocalities, drew about 5000 respondents each, and will be published in a comprehensive report soon.
2018: Fidesz and the Values Coalition of Traditionalists and Achievers
Electoral victories by Fidesz in the past decade can be explained by the values coalition which Viktor Orbán put together in the last decade. It unites Traditionalists (status quo conservatives) and Achievers (entrepreneurial networkers), who together form a values majority in Hungarian society. This electoral coalition has been consistently mobilised by Fidesz with constant values-based messages and campaigns, emphasising traditional family values, national pride, and religious values. In contrast to these positive (in the eyes of the Fidesz electorate) values stand the values Fidesz vigorously opposes in all its forms: hedonism (by implication, the LGBT community), globalism (Soros, Brussels) and liberal pluralism. All indications for the 2022 elections were that Fidesz would again run a campaign based on this playbook. The referendum on Child Protection, scheduled on the same day as the national election, was specifically designed to reinforce this values-based framing, which worked so well for Fidesz in the past. Then, Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, throwing Fidesz’s electoral strategy in a shambles. The united opposition quickly grasped the weakness of the Fidesz campaign exploiting values cleavages in Hungarian society, while a war on Hungary’s border requires a unifying message. The opposition decided to brand Orbán as the divisive, pro-Putin and anti-EU candidate, which needed to be beaten by a united opposition. So, how come that campaign failed?
2022: Rebranding of Fidesz as the Party of Peace and Stability
It was not only the opposition who grasped that the war changed the electoral context; so did Fidesz. They decided to change the elections from a battle of national conservatives versus liberal progressives into a battle of war and instability (the opposition) versus peace and stability (continued rule by Fidesz). The results of our polling data from March 2022 show how Fidesz was able to read (and shape) the public mood:
- In a list of foreign threat perceptions, ‘Russian foreign policy’ went up from 10% to 29% in Hungary, which is high, but in a completely different league than threat perceptions in Poland (where the perceived threat of Russia climbed from 35% to 57%).
- Hungary was the only one of the 10 countries polled where willingness to provide security guarantees to other EU countries fell considerably (while in most other EU countries it went up or stayed the same). On the statement ‘Hungary should provide military support and assistance to another EU country if that country is under attack, even if that attack does not threaten Hungary directly’, agreement went down from 51% to 38%, showing the extent and effectiveness of Russian intimidation on the Hungarian public.
- On a list of EU policy concerns, ‘cost of living’ was increasing in Hungary the most out of all 10 countries polled, making it uncontestably the principal concern of Hungarians during the election campaign. This clearly made Hungarians more inclined to follow Orbán’s appeasing attitude towards Russia.
- On a list of values that people aspire for in Europe, ‘safety’ and ‘peace’ strongly gained in popularity in Hungary since the war in Ukraine, while the commitment to values of ‘equality’ and ‘human rights’ went down. This demonstrates how the war in Ukraine resulted in a trade-off between the values of safety and peace, which Fidesz made central to their campaign, versus equality and human rights, on which Fidesz has a bad track record in public opinion.
This polling data explains how the campaign message of Orbán being the candidate for peace and stability in times of war resonated with the country’s public mood. Concerns about peace and stability trumped concerns about rule of law and inequality, which became less important in contrast. The results also show the considerable difference in public sentiment between Hungary and Poland regarding their risk assessment of Russia and the impact of this threat on public opinion. In Poland, high threat perceptions about Russia and high solidarity with the Ukrainian people translated in an emboldened public opinion against Russia and public pressure to offer more support to Ukraine. Conversely, in Hungary, the war intimidated Hungarians to stay out of this conflict for fear of the consequences, both in terms of security and rising energy costs.
Threats and Opportunities Regarding Fidesz’s Future Public Support
How should the EU assess Fidesz’s public support moving forwards, with an EU-Hungarian conflict over the rule-of-law mechanism? Again, the survey data provides several clues:
- Fidesz’s current legitimacy lies in the party’s ability to offer peace and stability. Further increases in energy prices (gas sanctions?) and a military escalation of the Ukraine war which could be blamed on Brussels are both elements that could further strengthen public support for Fidesz.
- At the same time, the EU enjoys high trust in Hungary (much higher than the government does, which is widely seen as corrupt). Stability trumps rights at this moment in time. The rule-of-law mechanism should therefore, much more clearly and consistently, be communicated as a way to stop high-level corruption of EU funds (a concern that consistently polls highly in Hungary).
- At the same time, the EU should be very careful in its interpretation of the rule of law. Especially in the domains of values and morality (e.g., abortion, family values, gay rights), Hungarian society remains strongly conservative and aligned with the government. The EU Commission should therefore tread very carefully, aim to enforce the more institutional aspects of the rule of law, and avoid conflating the rule of law with more politicised issues that activate profound values cleavages in Hungarian society.
- The war in Ukraine shows how national pride and pro-EU attitudes can very well co-exist. Ukrainian nationalists aspire to European integration to escape from Russia’s imperialist ambitions. Across Central Europe, national and European aspirations are closely intertwined. The EU should seek to promote and nurture this sentiment of pro-European patriotism in Central Europe, including in Hungary, where Orbán might find himself increasingly isolated among Visegrád countries.
This is only a tiny fraction of the rich insights that our data-driven study on the future of Europe can offer to clarify a variety of topical EU issues. A full report is upcoming.Anne Blanksma Çeta Central and Eastern Europe Democracy Elections Ukraine Values
Anne Blanksma Çeta
Understanding Fidesz’s Landslide Victory in Hungary: Some New Data
08 Apr 2022
Popular sentiments are crucial in how societies respond to immigration.
Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the volume of refugee migration into the EU stagnated. The bloc’s share in hosting the world’s refugees had been declining since the peak of the bloc’s asylum and border crisis of 2015-16.
There was also a general view that the bloc was closing itself off. This perception was more due to political rhetoric than reality. While refugee immigration constituted only a small part of overall EU immigration figures, the numbers of non-EU workers, students and family members of existing migrants reached the total of more than 20 million residence permits at the end of the pre-pandemic year 2019.
The Kremlin’s assault against Ukraine has changed the perception of the EU as an insular entity, however incorrect that perception was.
Ukraine’s desperate are now running for safety into the EU in the hundreds of thousands, creating the most intensive forced flight in human history when measured by the number of people crossing international borders in one month. The use of cars, buses and trains is making this flight possible, and so are the eastern members’ open borders.
On 4 March 2022, the EU’s interior ministers voted to grant all Ukrainian refugees temporary protection in the bloc, providing a ‘blank check’ to an unlimited number of Ukrainians who might arrive in the EU before 4 March 2023. One’s presence in Ukraine on 24 February and having been displaced by conflict are the only conditions for the EU to provide legal protection.
Absorption capacity, meaning the ability of a society to accept and accommodate people from another society, appears to have ballooned beyond all imagination. Whether Ukrainians will become well integrated in all the member states they are entering, remains to be seen.
Absorption capacity and war
In peacetime, the prospect of admitting 3.7 million people within a month would have caused unimaginable political conflicts between the EU’s members.
Sentiments obviously play a decisive role in determining a society’s absorption capacity. War is turning out to evoke the strongest of sentiments.
Before the war broke out, the EU’s eastern frontline states were often characterised in West European countries as inherently xenophobic. This characterisation was incorrect, but at least partly understandable due to the far-right rhetoric of a couple of the region’s leaders, as well as several members’ refusal to participate in the mandatory relocation scheme of 2015-17. This portrayal now seems out of time and out of touch.
When Russian tanks began rolling into the previously unconquered areas of Ukraine, the Central and East Europeans’ response was instant, automatic and instinctive. ‘I want to help the victims of Russian aggression’ was a thought that galvanised the collective psyche without having to be communicated.
The fact that Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Czechia and others are currently falling over themselves to welcome, accommodate, and assist refugees is impossible to miss. So is the abrupt transformation in rhetoric by the governments in question.
How can we explain this change?
Identification with the victims plays a major role. A comparison with the Syrian conflict can help us grasp this phenomenon. The Syrian conflict that began in 2011 was difficult to understand for the average European. Due to the conflict’s complexity and length, and due to the involvement of so many internal and external actors, it was difficult for Europeans, east Europeans including, to clearly identify the victims and develop compassion with them. In Ukraine, it is beyond doubt who the aggressor and the victim are. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees did not start arriving from Turkey until 2015, four years into the war. Ukrainian refugees started fleeing their country on the day that Russian rockets started landing.
Also essential are the Central and East Europeans’ historical instincts. At different points in the twentieth century, people on today’s eastern flank of the EU, from Finland in the north to Romania in the south, became acquainted with Soviet tanks. With the important exception of defeating the Nazis in 1944-45, these tanks broke lives and crushed hopes. For four decades, these eastern countries were colonies of sorts of the Soviet Union, a Marxist-Leninist empire.
So, when on 24 February Russian tanks began rolling into the previously unconquered areas of Ukraine, the Central and East Europeans’ response was instant, automatic and instinctive. ‘I want to help the victims of Russian aggression’ was a thought that galvanised the collective psyche without having to be communicated.
Many Central and East Europeans also realise that in Putin’s messianic war, Ukraine represents freedom, prosperity and democracy and thus, Western civilisation. This is despite the many failings that Ukraine displayed as a state, including wide-spread corruption and cronyism. Along with feelings of helplessness and rage, Central and East Europeans are rationally acting in their own self-interest as they open their homes to Ukrainian families. They realise that Putin’s army poses a direct threat to the West and to their way of life.
The fact that the vast majority of refugees are women and children also helps. Nobody could claim that a man is less worthy of protection than a woman is, and asylum law certainly contains no such clause. Still, it seems a trait of the human mind that people are readier to assist a mother with children than a man. The fact that most Ukrainian men are at home fighting the enemy only adds to the generally shared admiration of Ukraine and its people.
Familiarity cannot be dismissed as a factor, either. Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians shared the same state with Ukrainians until 1990, the Soviet Union. Ukrainians have been the dominant immigrant group in Poland, Slovakia, and Czechia since the fall of communism began in 1989. The opening of visa-free access in 2017 only sped up the process of mutual familiarisation. Ukrainians have been among the fastest growing immigrant groups, not only in Central and Eastern Europe, but across the EU, for many years now. They tend to assimilate easily and are known to be hard workers. Linguistic, religious, and cultural proximity with the EU’s eastern flank is part of the equation.
These factors are not exclusive to the EU’s eastern members and, with the exception of historical instincts, are present across the whole bloc. They are contributing to the steep increase in the EU’s absorption capacity, resulting in private homes being opened, public institutions mobilising their resources, and tens of thousands of volunteers helping on all possible fronts.
The triggering of temporary protection allowed the EU to immediately respond to the influx, without the immediate need to debate intra-EU distribution. But given the mass of newcomers, problems with their reception and integration will, no doubt, occur at local, national, and European levels. The fact that some female Ukrainian refugees have already fallen victim to crime and abuse may be only a harbinger of things to come.
It is too early to draw conclusions on the implications of the Ukrainian influx for the EU immigration and asylum policy. What is clear is that the compassion of Europeans as well their self-interest in helping Ukraine to defeat Putin’s army has multiplied Europe’s absorption capacity to levels not seen for decades.Vít Novotný Central and Eastern Europe EU Member States Migration Ukraine
Ukrainian Refugees and the EU’s Absorption Capacity
Blog - Ukraine
06 Apr 2022
As a condition for ending its unprovoked war against Ukraine, Russia wants Ukraine to become neutral and stay out of NATO. Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy has also acknowledged that Ukraine is unlikely to become a NATO member, instead emphasising the importance of a possible EU membership, for which Ukraine applied on 28 February.
When Russia talks about Ukraine’s neutrality, the examples of Finland and Sweden come up. During the Cold War, the USSR influenced Finland’s internal politics significantly. Finland’s cooperation with Western Europe and North America was also heavily constrained by the 1948 Finno-Soviet Treaty and the ever-present threat of Soviet aggression. Thus, Finland managed to associate itself with EFTA and the EEC in 1961 and 1973, respectively, but it had to wait until the USSR’s collapse before joining the EU as a full member.Niklas Nováky Janne Leino Ukraine
Constructive ambiguity over Ukraine’s neutrality could help end the war
Articles and Op-Eds - In the Media - Ukraine
01 Apr 2022
Mikuláš Dzurinda Andrius Kubilius Jamie Shea Niklas Nováky Defence NATO Security Ukraine
Putin’s War Against Ukraine and the New Paradigms of European Defence Cooperation
Live-streams - Multimedia - Ukraine
31 Mar 2022
1. How will the Russian invasion of Ukraine influence the upcoming Hungarian parliamentary election?
Wojciech Przybylski, Editor-in-Chief of Visegrad Insight: According to recent opinion polls, the war has apparently helped the government consolidate its position, which centres on protecting domestic welfare even at the cost of solidarity with Central and Eastern Europe. In short, Hungarians respond to government messages that are about not taking sides and are frightened that active help to Ukraine may put their prosperity at risk.
Tomáš Strážay, PhD., Director of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association: The unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine has influenced the pre-election period and the campaign, but it most probably will not have any significant impact on the elections. Hungarian society has been deeply divided, even before the beginning of the Russian invasion. Though opinion polls slightly favour the ruling party Fidesz, the opposition also has chances to win.
In times of crisis, incumbent politicians usually enjoy a better position than those in opposition. They have better chances of appearing in the media and spreading their messages. Viktor Orbán, who has been in power continuously for 12 years, presents himself as the guardian of the Hungarian national interest and the protector of Hungarians, including those living in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine. He avoids openly supporting any side of the conflict, declaring that Hungary is not involved in the war. In addition, he keeps gas and oil prices artificially low and hopes that once the conflict is over, Hungary will be able to continue close cooperation with Russia on certain investments. The opposition, on the other hand, clearly condemns Russian aggression against Ukraine and prefers closer cooperation in the EU, as well as strengthening of the NATO alliance.
2. How do you interpret the current Hungarian foreign policy towards the war in Ukraine? On one hand, the government of PM Orbán supports EU sanctions against Russia; on the other hand, it refuses to allow weapons for Ukraine to transit through Hungarian territory.
Wojciech Przybylski: Hungarian foreign policy is built on the premise of maximising economic gains while simultaneously mitigating risks related to the global power reshuffle, which has been forecast since 2014 by Viktor Orbán. Budapest does not believe in the EU or NATO as guarantors of the world order, and actively engages in diplomacy with the most serious challengers to the status quo. Hence, it has intensified ties with Russia and China in order to benefit economically from that relationship, and possibly even politically in the long run. It has played along with the EU so far, as to not risk ostracism, but at the same time buys into the Russian revisionist narrative about Ukraine to increase its usefulness to Moscow.
Tomáš Strážay: Russia´s aggression of Ukraine undermined two important pillars of Fidesz’s and Orbán´s policy – the fight against migration and the strategic partnership with Russia. Tens of thousands of refugees that have entered Hungary so far clearly show that Hungary cannot continue to act as an anti-migration fortress any longer. The strategic partnership with Russia has been challenged as well. The mission of Viktor Orbán to Moscow at the beginning of February can by no means be interpreted as a peacemaker´s mission. Despite the efforts by the government to keep possibilities for intensive economic cooperation with Russia open, this approach will not be sustainable in the long run. Hungary’s position in both the EU and NATO has been weakened. In addition, Hungary lost its closest partner – Poland. Not to mention Ukraine, where Budapest has completely lost credibility. The costs of this “walking on the edge” approach is certainly higher than any possible benefits resulting from future cooperation with Russia.
3. What political development do you foresee for Hungary if Fidesz wins the election? What if it is defeated by the Hungarian Opposition Alliance?
Wojciech Przybylski: The Fidesz government will continue to send dovish signals to Russia and amplify the economic narrative of job-market protection. It will double down on its culture war agenda and amplify alt-right narratives in hopes of aligning with Trump-loving Republicans ahead of the upcoming US elections. The opposition would try to reverse the rule of law mechanisms installed since 2010 and review bilateral economic deals with Russia or China to demonstrate that better deals could be negotiated.
Tomáš Strážay: Fidesz and its leader will be pushed to take a side in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Maintaining the “balanced” position will no longer be possible, so Hungary will have to make a choice. And due to the fact that Hungary is a full EU and NATO member, there will not be much space left for manoeuvring. Hungary will have to walk away from its planned economic projects with Russia – especially where the investments in the Paks II power plant are concerned, but possibly also when it comes to its long-term gas delivery contract. Since the prices of both gas and oil are kept artificially low in the pre-election period, the population will most probably be hit by this increase. The risk of high inflation cannot be avoided either, which might result in a decrease of popular support for the government.
When it comes to the opposition, the main issue will be the stability of the government. The opposition block consists of ideologically divergent parties, which were able to agree on some common ground before the elections, but could pursue different interests while in government. However, the development of closer ties with the EU and greater respect for the rule of law might be expected. Hungary may also be willing to start processes leading to the adoption of the single European currency.Viktória Jančošeková Democracy Elections EU Member States Ukraine
Vital Questions on Hungarian Political Developments Since the Invasion of Ukraine
Other News - Ukraine
31 Mar 2022
Welcome to the Migration Update March 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Thanks go to Davide Marcantoni for selecting and writing up a court case for the judicial observatory, and Sandra Pasarić for suggesting a news item for this issue.
Migration Update March 2022
31 Mar 2022
After Euromajdan, the feeling of “Ukraine fatigue” slowly creeped across the EU over the years, as the plight of the Ukrainians became increasingly less newsworthy. Today, there is growing risk that a similar fatigue will re-emerge.
That cannot happen; that must not be allowed to happen. Not now. Not after the daily sacrifices made by millions of Ukrainians in defense of fundamental European values.
After Ukrainian citizens clearly chose a pro-European path in 2014, a major window of opportunity opened for Ukraine. Love of democracy was not enough, the country needed systemic reforms in nearly all areas, and the EU readily provided expertise and financial aid. However, one thing that Western leaders did overlook was Putin’s actions in Crimea.
The illegal Russian occupation of the peninsula was the most serious breach of European sovereignty since the Second World War; unsurprisingly, more breaches were to follow. European leaders condemned Russian actions and imposed sanctions. However, this proved not to be a fundamental game-changer in EU-Russia relations. This led to the partial Russian occupation of Donbas.
Again, Western reactions were rather mild. Quickly enough, the West began referring to the situation in Donbas as “frozen” and treating it as a civil conflict, instead of calling out Russia and uniting behind a strong response to this violation of international law.
In a similar fashion, the initial support and excitement over reforms also gave place to annoyance and fatigue in the West – that felt Ukraine was not reforming fast enough. Despite these feelings, the number of reforms post-Majdan was unprecedented, with the Martens Centre offering its own contribution through the #UkraineReforms project. True, Ukraine’s reform path was still long, but only a few years after the Revolution of Dignity, the prospect of EU membership began to fade. This trend reached a point where there was no clear refence to it in the joint declarations which followed Eastern Partnership Summits. Ukraine started to be pushed down the EU’s list of priorities.
Today, a month after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the same feeling of fatigue is creeping in. After the unity behind the first few rounds of sanctions, cracks are starting to appear. While Eastern member states like Poland and Lithuania want the EU to maintain the pressure on Moscow by banning energy imports from Russia, others such as Germany are signaling their lack of willingness to go further, and instead review the effect of the sanctions imposed so far. This is exactly what Putin wants.
Decisiveness cannot give place to hesitation. The EU’s dependance on Russian oil and gas could have been scaled back in 2014; instead, Russian gas kept flowing into Europe. This cannot continue to happen in light of Putin’s war on Ukraine.
Energy is only one of the many aspects affected by the war, of course. The repercussions are multiple. From food supply, to trade, to finance, all parts of the global system are disrupted by war. In other words, by helping Ukraine, the West would be helping itself.
Most see Russia’s attack on Ukraine as something that happened on 24 February. But for Ukrainians, the attack has been ongoing for 8 years. Besides brutal military action, Ukraine must also fight Russian propaganda, which permeates not only Russian society, but European society as well. Since 2014, Russian informational influences in the occupied territories have been primarily aimed at discrediting Ukraine as a state. Additionally, the Kremlin has been strengthening ties and financing many far-right parties in Europe, who have been promoting the Russian narrative among EU citizens.
In less than four weeks of war, Russia has fired more than a thousand missiles at Ukraine and reduced entire Ukrainian cities to rubble. More than 10 million people left their homes, 3 million of which are refugees in the EU. If Western leaders maintain their current cautious approach towards Russian aggression, the world will witness a genocide of the Ukrainian people.
There cannot be fatigue in the face of violence. There cannot be hesitation in punishing the perpetrator. The West should do all it can to stop Russia and hold it accountable. This includes providing military, financial, and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, while continuing to impose stricter sanctions on Russia.
It is equally important not to link sanctions to a peace agreement. Having failed in taking Kyiv, Russia might push for a peace agreement in the style of Minsk II to disengage the West and lift sanctions, but the West must not fall into that trap. A peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia with unrealistic demands will not save Ukraine, but only delay its disintegration. Prematurely lifting sanctions will not deter Putin, but will only encourage him to go further. This war cannot be normalised and dismissed as “frozen” in the near future.
Ending this horrendous and unjustified war is the immediate priority, but once it is over, many other issues will need to be faced. At that moment, a serious and concrete membership perspective in the EU must be offered to Ukraine. 40 million people are currently making the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. It would be unacceptable to look them in the eyes and say, “Sorry, you are not Europeans now”.Anna Nalyvayko Democracy EU-Russia European Union Ukraine
Normalising Ukraine’s Tragedy Would be Europe’s Gravest Mistake
Blog - Ukraine
24 Mar 2022
In the end it took only 15 days for the real EU response to the war in Ukraine to become apparent. In barely two weeks, from the start of the Russian invasion to the recent European Council Summit, the soaring rhetoric of “standing with the Ukrainian people” was replaced by more prosaic political realities.
So while Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, pleaded for “big, historic solutions” to support Kyiv’s fight against Russia, what he actually got from European leaders was a mere acknowledgement of their “European aspirations”. As with the Bosnian war of the 1990s, the Georgia invasion of 2008 and even the Russian seizure of Crimea in 2014, all the EU is able to offer is “co-ordinated political, financial, material and humanitarian support”.Eoin Drea Ukraine
Ukraine is learning that symbolism, not substance, will define EU response
Articles and Op-Eds - In the Media - Ukraine
21 Mar 2022
Loredana Teodorescu Defence Gender Equality Ukraine
Women in Conflicts
Her and EU - Multimedia
18 Mar 2022
Bridge the Channel March 2022
Bridge the Channel - Multimedia
17 Mar 2022
Putin is rapidly losing the war in Ukraine; his war. The advance of Russian troops remains stalled, and the logistical problems stemming from operating on multiple fronts remain unsolved. Putin had three basic options to move forward; seek a peace agreement with Ukraine in upcoming weeks, try to continue the war with new resources from central Russia and external help, or double-down with chemical attacks or even a tactical nuclear strike. Putin seems to have chosen the first one. Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia are being conducted as we speak.
Putin choosing to negotiate is clearly based on the very poor performance of the Russian military. The only thing Putin seems capable of doing in order to pressure Ukrainian is to target Ukrainian society at random, including, and perhaps especially, civilians. The short-sightedness of this strategy is mind-blowing.
One day, hopefully soon, when the shooting stops and the rebuilding of Ukraine starts, international calls for responsibility accountability and legal ramifications will face Putin and Russia for decades to come. Individual human stories of suffering will emerge, books will be written and movies will be made. And all fingers will point to Putin.
The Destructive Pattern of the Authoritarian Leader
But why is Putin losing the war? He fell in the ‘dictator trap’, adopting strategies which led him to make huge tactical errors. He created a context of fear, receiving information only from yes-men and sycophants, which made him miscalculate the commitment of Ukrainian people, Ukraine’s military capability, and the West’s reaction. Clearly, the basic framework of the Ukraine invasion was set by Putin and his political reasoning, and not the Russian military leadership; insufficient troops were mobilised because the invasion was to be seen as a limited operation by the Russian people; and visibly no alternative strategies were devised should Kyiv not fall rapidly.
Consequently, the war in Ukraine is the end of Putin’s tale of a strong man. EPP President Tusk called for the ‘deputinisation’ of the West, naming Trump, Le Pen, and Viktor Orbán, among others. Deputinisation can be seen not only as a reference to Putin’s influence in Europe, but as the myth of a strong man or woman, who through swift decisions, charisma, and determination, overcomes some of democracy’s modern challenges.
The pattern of the authoritarian leader repeats itself; first, a democratic or seemingly democratic leader cumulates political power, then gradually consolidates his power by cutting institutional and legal structures, and undermining the rule of law and checks and balances. Oppressing democratic institutions and controlling the media is then combined with the cumulation of personal wealth and financial assets, often through corruption. Soon enough, so many laws have been broken and enemies made that the only way for the leader to avoid prison or even simply stay alive is to remain in power and double-down – and once they lose democratic legitimacy, they increasingly use brutality. Turkey’s President Erdoğan, once the hope of a democratic Turkey, is a good example of this pattern.
Can China Avoid the Dictator Trap?
Undoubtedly, the developments in Russia and the failure of Putin’s one-man rule are followed in China with concern, not only in terms of China’s global positioning, but also as a reflection on internal developments within the silent ranks of the Chinese Communist Party.
China has a painful history of one-man rule under Mao Zedong, who ran China’s economy into the ground and caused tens of millions of Chinese to die in an untimely fashion. Almost immediately after his death in 1976, Mao’s system was taken apart, and it was decided to restrict unlimited political authority. The Constitution limited the President to two terms and de facto to the position of General Secretary of the Communist Party. President Xi Jinping has reversed and erased the two term limit in 2018, despite concerns within the Communist Party. China is becoming increasingly assertive on the international stage, and oppressive at home. Dealing with China is becoming more challenging for the West, and its domestic developments are worrying.
While in China the consequences of one-man rule remain to be seen, in Russia the consequences are evident. Putin is losing the war, but the war is not over. Despite the peace talks, Ukrainians are dying and need help and support. The outcome of the war in Europe will be felt in all areas of our societies. Putin’s fall will be a huge blow for the populist narrative; to many populists, Putin was an inspiration – and perhaps still is. Putin’s strong man tale is ending, but the lesson is clear: Democratic backsliding has a huge cost. Neither Europe nor the West as whole can overlook the price of the decline of democracy without fighting back. Unfortunately, the struggle is only beginning.Tomi Huhtanen Democracy EU-Russia Populism Ukraine
Putin and the End of the Strong Man’s Tale
Blog - Ukraine
16 Mar 2022
Dimitar Lilkov Digital EU-Russia Technology Ukraine
Russian War Propaganda and Online Disinformation with Monika Richter
Brussels Bytes - Multimedia - Ukraine
16 Mar 2022
Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine has led to a turning point in Europe’s thinking on security and defence. The EU’s decision to finance the supply of lethal arms and equipment to Ukraine, along with Germany’s and other countries’ announcement to massively increase military spending, marks a remarkable reversal in Europe’s strategic culture.Defence Foreign Policy Ukraine
Russia’s War Against Ukraine is Changing Europe’s Strategic Culture
08 Mar 2022
Anna Nalyvayko Defence Democracy EU-Russia Ukraine
Voices from Ukraine: Frontline Stories
Multimedia - Other videos - Ukraine
08 Mar 2022
In a recent EU emergency summit concerning Russian aggression in Ukraine, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, urged European leaders to re-think their Golden Passport schemes. She later tweeted:
“The Kremlin has long thought it could buy its way into Europe. It is time to close any loopholes, end the dangerous phenomenon of golden passports that provide a backdoor to European citizenship and ensure that Russian money does not become as critical as Russian gas. At the end of the day, this is how we achieve our strategic autonomy.”
There is much truth in this. The sale of “golden passports” has proven to be lucrative. Some EU member states have opted for similar “residence by investment” schemes – also known as “golden visa” programmes. Similar schemes are on offer in over 19 member states.
These programmes do not come without their fair share of controversy. The European Parliament has frequently condemned such schemes for their apparent lack of transparency, which has “negative consequences in other member states, eroding mutual trust and undermining common values.”
EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders also highlighted the grave risks of such schemes. He eloquently described them as a “fast-track entrance for criminals.”
Member states operating such schemes argue that proper checks are made on all applicants, and successful individuals have injected much-needed expertise and talent into the economy. The truth is far less prosaic – these programmes provide a reliable and regular source of income. However, as various journalistic investigations have demonstrated, the downside to this scheme is that they often attract the wrong sort of people and the worst kind of easy money.
Cyprus had to cancel its scheme after it was revealed that high-ranking government officials were aiding fictional Chinese executives with criminal records in getting a Cypriot passport. Probes into this scheme led to the revocation of citizenship of 23 nationals and six of their family members. The vast majority of the 6,779 new citizens were Russian.
A joint investigation led by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation also uncovered some dangerous loopholes in Malta’s IIP programme. It found that prospective citizens could spend a few days in Malta fulfilling basic requirements and getting their citizenship. A recent report in The Daily Telegraph revealed some concerns at the EU level. The Maltese Government vehemently denies that there is anything to be concerned about. Nonetheless, on 2 March 2022, the same government announced that it is suspending the scheme for Russian and Belarusian citizens, citing difficulties in conducting due diligence checks.
The illegal Russian aggression in Ukraine should prompt us to look at such schemes more critically.
Schemes in EU member states should not enable individuals who want to undermine the security of the Union to bypass regular channels to obtain easy entry into the EU. This Trojan horse of policies promises easy money but can prove damaging in many other respects.
In addition, the EU must strongly reflect on how it interprets citizenship. The Treaty of Maastricht provides that all citizens of member states are automatically granted EU citizenship. The Treaty of Amsterdam confirms the compatibility of national citizenship with EU citizenship. The latter grants individuals the right of freedom of movement and residence throughout the EU and the ability to vote in European and local elections. In essence, citizenship implies an element of mutual trust, a sense of belonging and shared common interests. An understanding of rights and obligations underpins these.
Given this, we must question whether the de facto sale of citizenship is compatible with the values that EU citizenship seeks to foster and promote.
The war waged by Russia in Ukraine has demonstrated, once again, the brutality and cynicism of authoritarian regimes. That their close allies and cronies should be able to buy their way into the economic, political and social heart of Europe is something which the EU and its member states must resist rather than facilitate.André P. Debattista EU Member States EU-Russia European Union Ukraine
André P. Debattista
Scrapping Golden Passports
Blog - Ukraine
08 Mar 2022
Niklas Nováky Álvaro de la Cruz Defence EU-Russia NATO Security Ukraine
Defence Dialogue Episode 15 – The impact of the Ukraine War on Europe’s Strategic Culture
Defence Dialogues - Multimedia - Ukraine
07 Mar 2022
Andrius Kubilius Peter Hefele Defence Democracy EU-Russia Ukraine
Thinking Talks Ep.4 with Andrius Kubilius, MEP
Multimedia - Thinking Talks - Ukraine
05 Mar 2022
Vladimir Milov Anna Nalyvayko Defence EU-Russia NATO Security Ukraine
Interview with Vladimir Milov, Russian Opposition leader and Research Associate, Martens Centre
Multimedia - Other videos - Ukraine
04 Mar 2022
Jolyon Howorth Anna Nalyvayko Defence EU-Russia NATO Security Ukraine
#ComeTogether – EP. 6 with David McAllister and Jolyon Howorth
Multimedia - Other videos
04 Mar 2022
As the horrific shelling of Ukrainian cities continues and Putin’s war crimes escalate, the European Union is relentlessly trying to respond on different fronts. At the latest emergency Council session, energy ministers pledged to urgently link Ukraine’s electricity grid with European power systems. When it comes to the EU’s notorious dependence on Russian gas, the European Energy Commissioner has reportedly stated that long-term, ‘the best and only solution is the European Green Deal’. True, in the long-run we all hope that Europe will operate a sustainable low-carbon economy, independent from Russia’s hydrocarbons. However, as the spectre of John M. Keynes grimly reminds us, in the long-run we’re all dead. As the drums of war rumble increasingly closer, we need to act urgently and stop pretending that a fossil-free future is just around the corner.
Brace for impact
The EU depends on Russia for 40 % of its overall natural gas imports and 26 % of its imported crude oil. In the winter of 2021, Russia delivered less and less natural gas to Europe through the Ukrainian transitory network, while European gas storage capacity currently hovers around 30 %. The EU must prepare for severe limitations should the Kremlin decide to squeeze deliveries further. There could be severe energy shocks, especially in certain Central and Eastern European and Baltic countries, where the staggering dependence on Russian gas ranges between 70 to 100%. Diversification of supply is no longer merely a recurring think-tank recommendation. It has become an absolute necessity.
Limit our financial transfers to Putin’s war chest
Even if Gazprom’s deliveries to Europe remain uninterrupted, the EU needs to seriously consider reducing import volumes. Oil and gas account for 60 % of Russia’s exports and more than a third of the country’s federal budget. With the benchmark Dutch front-month gas price at 185 euros per MWh and crude oil spiking above $100 per barrel, European member states are directly subsidising the Kremlin’s coffers with hundreds of millions of Euros daily. Even worse, our energy addiction led to the exemption of Sberbank and Gazprombank (!) from the SWIFT ban on Russia’s biggest banks. The two were exempted as they process nearly all exported oil and gas payments. This is a weak spot for our collective sanction strategy and softens the blow on their financial system.
This would be extremely difficult, but the EU must collectively limit its energy imports from Gazprom. First, the EU needs to ramp up all potential Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) imports it can get its hands on. The LNG market is already strained, with Qatar and the US struggling to satisfy growing demand. All EU member states possessing LNG infrastructure need to ensure it is operational and consider investing in novel sites. The recent announcement that Germany will plan two novel LNG terminals is good news.
Second, the EU needs to boost all available supply domestically (even if it is limited) and from partner countries such as Norway, Algeria, and Azerbaijan. European countries should seriously consider restoring partial operation of their coal-fired power plants and delay the decommissioning of their nuclear reactors (namely Germany and Belgium) so that we can boost our electricity supply.
Third, the EU needs to coordinate in increasing gas storage capacities across the continent. This will be extremely costly, as there are risks of European partners outbidding other member states in order to pursue national interests. According to a recent analysis by Bruegel, the EU can overcome a winter with limited or no Russian gas deliveries if the costs are adequately redistributed and the Union collectively tackles the inevitable strain on its energy supply.
Lastly, European households and industries must try to moderate their demand for natural gas for manufacturing, heating, and electricity generation. This is complex and potentially costly, but even a slight reduction in overall cross-continental demand can make a difference. Implementing energy efficiency measures and accelerating the operation (and reduced red tape) of large-scale renewable energy projects should also be parallel objectives.
Support Ukraine and work with global partners
The announcement of the urgent linking of Ukraine’s electricity grid with European power systems is certainly good news. EU member states should also stand ready to supply Kyiv with natural gas, the same way Slovakia operated the reverse-flow to Ukraine during the 2014 crisis.
On the international front, the US would be an important ally in guaranteeing expanded LNG deliveries in the future. Washington should also release as much oil as possible from its strategic reserve in order to calm energy markets. The International Energy Agency and its members have already agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil in order to guarantee supply. The Transatlantic alliance should put substantial effort to convince OPEC countries to do the same and increase the amount of oil available on the market.
Revive the true European Energy Union blueprint
Championed by President Juncker in the Commission and MEP Jerzy Buzek in the European Parliament, the Energy Union was one of the most ambitious attempts for novel supranational initiatives during the 2010s. The foundational principles aimed to ensure security of supply, and improve interconnection and member state cooperation on energy storage. Most of all, the goal was to complete an actual internal energy market with all of the necessary related legislation and infrastructure, and even ensure that the EU speaks with one voice on energy affairs. This is our true objective for establishing a position of power vis-à-vis Russia on the energy front. However, due to the complacency of certain member states, some of the most ambitious objectives of the Energy Union have been forgotten. In recent years, the initiative has mostly become a secondary extension to the European Green Deal.
Given the current geopolitical situation, guaranteeing our security of supply and energy independence has become an essential aim. The European centre-right must return to the basics of the true Energy Union and become its spearhead so that the EU can safeguard the collective interests of its citizens. The recent proposal by MEP Radosław Sikorski on a ‘European Gas Union’ resonates in this exact direction.
The upcoming EC proposal on European gas independence is extremely important, as it will be announced next week. Hopefully, it will address these issues and come forward with an ambitious supranational strategy, which will be followed by national capitals.
Business as usual with a war criminal is simply not an option.Dimitar Lilkov Energy EU-Russia Ukraine
The EU Must Limit Gazprom’s Grip and Slash Putin’s War Chest
Blog - Ukraine
03 Mar 2022
1. What is Putin’s end-goal? His rhetoric hints at regime change, but he has stated he does not wish to occupy Ukraine. What to make of these mixed messages?
José María Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain: President Vladimir Putin’s objectives in Ukraine have shifted, from trying to influence Ukraine and prevent its entry into the Transatlantic Alliance and its rapprochement with the West, to invading Ukraine. The aim of the illegal and unjustified Russian attack on Ukraine is to end Ukraine as an independent country, to make it politically, militarily, and economically unviable and marginalised, and to bring it back into Russia’s orbit of influence. For Russia, victory in Ukraine could take several forms. It does not have to result in a sustainable solution. It could involve the installation of an obedient government in Kiev. Alternatively, defeating the Ukrainian army and negotiating a Ukrainian surrender could effectively transform Ukraine into a failed state. Russia could also employ devastating cyberattacks and disinformation tools, backed by the threat of force, to paralyse the country and induce regime change. Whatever the form, Russia seeks to ensure Ukraine is effectively separated from the West. Russia’s other objective is to reconfigure the European security order, created after the end of the Cold War, at the expense of the United States and the Transatlantic Alliance.
2. Despite their best efforts, Western diplomats were unsuccessful in deterring Russia’s invasion. What are the early lessons learned from this failure for the West?
Aznar: The West’s credibility in its confrontation with Russia was reduced to conventional deterrence (deterrence by punishment), counter-deterrence, and “deterrence by disclosure”. The first was the claim that if Russia invades Ukraine, the West will respond with severe economic sanctions, “never seen before”. Also, some NATO member countries have sent tonnes of defensive weaponry to Ukraine. The counter-deterrence, which was one of the West’s biggest mistakes in this crisis, was the declaration that they will not engage Russia in an armed conflict to defend Ukraine. Ruling out the option of presenting Russia with an enemy that could defeat it (the USA), gave wings to the Kremlin’s plans. One of the novelties of this war and of the American strategy has been “deterrence by disclosure”. Since the beginning of the tensions on the Ukrainian border, the USA was releasing intelligence information almost daily. In all previous wars, intelligence services presented the American government with “elements of judgment”, in order to make an appropriate decision in a conflict. This new strategy has not deterred Russia, but it has demonstrated that the West lacks a conventional war strategy vis-à-vis Russia. It has also shown that responding to a revanchist Russia with sanctions and rhetorical proclamations of a rules-based international order is not enough.
3. How should the EU respond to this aggression in your view?
Aznar: The EU has responded with all the instruments at its disposal: it has condemned the Russian aggression, has partially expelled Russia from the SWIFT system, and frozen the foreign currency reserves of the Russian Central Bank abroad, in order to deprive it of the capacity to cushion the shock of Western sanctions. However, these measures do not affect the energy sector, given that 41% of the gas imported by the EU comes from Russia. The effects of economic and financial sanctions will be seen in the long term, and will undoubtedly damage Russia’s economy. This war has shown that European defence depends on NATO and the Transatlantic relationship, so EU countries must increase military spending and ensure their defence within NATO and in coordination with the United States.Mikuláš Dzurinda EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine
Vital Questions on the Ukraine Invasion Episode 2
Other News - Ukraine
01 Mar 2022
A little over a century ago, hundreds of thousands of young (much too young) men died in one of the cruellest battles in human history at la Somme in France. Even though the Allies eventually won the battle and the war, many orphans, widows, and mothers asked themselves for the next few decades whether the deaths of ‘The Great Fallen’ were at all worth it. That is probably the worst feeling one can have after losing a loved one: was it all for nothing?
I will not pretend to ignore, nor will I begin to discuss, the numerous and radical differences between the First World War and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. I will simply focus on a potentially catastrophic situation that could create hundreds of thousands of new orphans, widows, and greaving mothers without changing the current war’s outcome. If the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian army and its people lasts for a few more days, weeks, or months – which today seems far from impossible, and I pray they continue to resist – they will eventually fall one way or another. The military equipment and capabilities are far too superior on the Russian side. And then, what difference would President Zelensky and thousands of others have made? I hope that, at the very least, they will have managed to change the consciences, mindsets, and even ideologies of young people in the West. Our grandparents already understand the sacrifices one needs to make for a greater purpose; some of our parents do too; but this matters little today, as it is our responsibility to navigate the #FutureOfEurope.
It is true that, step by step, little by little, most of the EU member states and other Western democracies are offering real assistance to the Ukrainian government and have approved measures to critically weaken Russia’s capabilities. Nevertheless, there are still many, even a majority, that oppose putting boots on the ground and risking EU lives. Some even still oppose sending weapons, like some members of the Spanish government, where a pro-Putin party in the governing coalition controls several Ministries. In addition, I’m willing to bet that many Europeans showing resolve today will change their attitudes after a few months of sustained rising prices, a lack of certain products and eventually, energy shortages. Then what? No more Russian sanctions and expensive aid to Ukraine? Our temporary effort and their permanent sacrifice, for what? Let’s surrender and kneel down now, Ukrainians!
In reality, it’s the complete opposite. We must assist them all the way, with all our capabilities, and for as long as needed. Because this is a just cause, because there is so much at risk – for us too – and because one day we will need help, as it has been the case in the past, and it would set a very dangerous precedent that superpowers do as they wish, breaking international law without strong repercussions.
The oft-cited reason to not support clear intervention or the adaption of certain measures to help Ukraine is that they are not part of the EU, nor are they NATO members; also, they’re not really a democracy, more of a corrupt state. I ask myself how many would think differently if the invaded were (or will be?) Finland, or Poland, or Estonia. How many EU governments and their citizens, would be in favour of directly confronting a military aggression on the Union’s territory? Would we be ready to send our own troops then? We are legally obligated to do so, but would we? Where does our comfortable cowardice end?
I was once told that if you’re not willing to die and kill for your country or your system, either your country/system is not good enough, or you’re not. I think it is obvious that European freedom, democracy, and values are worth fighting for, now more than ever. So, I guess the not-so-wealthy, not-so-democratic, and so-corrupt Ukrainian citizens demonstrated a much higher form of humanity than we did.
I pray that a Celtic folk band will not find itself writing a song like ‘The Green Fields of France’ about 19-year old Ukrainians buried in massive cemeteries, many in anonymous graves. But most of all, I pray that their mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, widows and widowers will have the certainty that these men and women didn’t die in vain. This certainty is something we can provide, if we dare to.Álvaro de la Cruz EU-Russia Ukraine
Álvaro de la Cruz
The Green Fields of Ukraine
Blog - Ukraine
01 Mar 2022
Welcome to the Migration Update February 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments, and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Thanks go to George Pepios for writing up the judicial observatory and to Wolfgang Pusztai for suggesting a news item for this issue.
Migration Update February 2022
28 Feb 2022
While Ukrainians fight for the defence of Kyiv, for the country and for their independence, it is clear that the year 2022 will define Europe’s history in a way comparable only to 1989. Europe’s history after the Second World War, the development of the European community and later the European Union was largely about rectifying the Second World War’s legacy, and culminated in the fall of communism in 1989 and hopes of a better future. Conversely, the war in Ukraine will permanently challenge the optimism of Europeans and change the way they view the future of the continent.
Many hope that after the Ukraine war is resolved, Europe can return to normality, albeit with a new balance with Putin’s Russia. The initial rejection of excluding Russia from the international payment system SWIFT and targeted sanctions tacitly express a thinking among Western nations that the Ukraine war’s negative impact can be conventionally mitigated. But the Ukraine war has implications that go well beyond its national borders – and that includes the war’s costs.
Europe has now entered into a conflict that will last as long as Putin is in power. He has now crossed several red lines that very few in Russia or in Ukraine thought he would. For him, there is no turning back.
Putin’s rule has become progressively less dependent on legitimacy and authority; but now it is clear it is based on power and violence. His speeches in recent days clearly state that the war in Ukraine is not about Ukraine, but about him challenging the West, Europe’s post-war order, and the continent’s security architecture. Putin has made an indirect reference to the use of nuclear power and has repeated that should Finland and Sweden join NATO, there would be grave political and military consequences. The war in Ukraine has already expanded beyond the country’s borders.
The full impact of the war on the EU’s internal dynamics remains to be seen. Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and Northern Europe now have urgent security concerns. The way in which the rest of the EU can relate to this may become a uniting or a dividing factor within the EU. Dynamics between EU member states are changing, while the situation in Ukraine has shown that Germany’s leading position in the EU has substantially weakened since Angela Merkel is no longer Chancellor.
The end-game of the war in Ukraine has wider implications, as US President Biden has stated. Pandora’s box has been opened, total war is no longer taboo and this will reduce the threshold for the use of military force. Depending on the West’s resolve, China will re-assess the potential Western reaction in case it attempts to seize Taiwan through military means. In Europe, Russia is involved in the Balkans and conflict-seeking actors may become emboldened. Shadowed by the Ukrainian situation, the much-neglected but very worrying domestic developments in Turkey have recently been paired with statements challenging Greek territorial sovereignty; these could take a sudden and ugly turn.
Ukrainians today are examples of courage and commitment, an inspiration to the rest of Europe. President Zelensky is showing devotion and sacrifice all European leaders can admire. European citizens are spontaneously rising for Ukrainians; everyday Polish citizens at the Ukrainian border, for instance. But the war in Ukraine is far from over.
In the streets of Ukraine, it is not just the future of Ukraine being fought over, but Europe’s as a whole. Europe is most likely in a conflict which will be long and costly. Putin has started a war against the West and will not stop. Should he successfully take over Ukraine and manage to negotiate a new security arrangement, the West will be permanently weakened. Ukrainians need all the possible support. The EU has to isolate the Kremlin and Putin’s Russia, knowing that this effort will be long and costly. Europe’s history is being decided, and the Europe of the free needs to ensure that they are the makers of that history.Tomi Huhtanen Crisis EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine
The Fight for Europe’s Future is Being Fought in the Streets of Ukraine
Blog - Ukraine
27 Feb 2022
1. What is Putin’s end-goal? His rhetoric hints at regime change, but he has stated he does not wish to occupy Ukraine. What to make of these mixed messages?
John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland: The Russian end goal is to force Ukraine into a Russian-dominated economic union that would be incompatible with a trade agreement with the EU. This would require a new government in Kyiv and a new Ukrainian constitution. The Ukrainian armed forces would be reduced, but border adjustments may not be crucial for Russia. This outcome would threaten the integrity and effective sovereignty of several EU and NATO states. It is hard to say what the next Russian goal will be and how firm NATO guarantees would be in practice, given the state of US public opinion and pacifism in some EU countries.
Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, former Prime Minister of Poland: Putin’s end game was clear from day one. He cannot accept any liberal democratic transformation in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Particularly in Ukraine, the largest and strategically most important ex-Soviet state. Successful transformation in Ukraine means the end of Putin’s dictatorship. It would also be proof to Russians that such a transition is possible, and can brings liberties and improve standards of living for all citizens. Putin believes, like some far-right leaders in Europe do, that the West is immoral and in political decline. They think the future is in authoritarian regimes built on military power; and the Tsarist empire is back. What Gorbachev destroyed, Putin resurrects. He will establish a neo-East Germany in parts of conquered Ukraine, which will take place in the next few weeks, if not days.
Ivan Mikloš, former Minister of Finance of Slovakia: Nobody knows what Putin’s end-goal is. Everything he’s done over the last few days was so irrational that it’s complicated to make any prognosis of the possible outcomes. Another factor is the unreliability of what Putin says. Last week, he promised not to invade to Ukraine, telling this to Macron, Scholz, and other Western leaders, and then did it anyways.
2. Despite their best efforts, Western diplomats were unsuccessful in deterring Russia’s invasion. What are the early lessons learned from this failure for the West?
Bruton: There has been a visible lack of coordination in the West. The idea of keeping Russia in the international payment system SWIFT, while excluding Iran, is incoherent. But to be fair, this is a shock, so some confusion is understandable, but it should end now.
Bielecki: The West was deaf and blind to a long list of Russian so-called operations. Just remember Chechnya, Transnistria, Georgia, Syria, Ukraine. That includes Maidan and Donetsk, Crimea, the downing of flight MH17. Operations in Londongrad are also important to mention, beginning with the financing of local politics (the British are starting to speak about it!). There were assassinations, the acquisition of thousands of properties, massive sales of resident visas for cash in the UK, Cyprus, Malta, Luxembourg, etc. Then, the separate case of Germany, with a long history of support for Russia and hostility towards Ukraine.
Mikloš: The early lesson is that these kind of irresponsible dictators only understand and respect power and strength.
3. How should the EU respond to this aggression in your view?
Bruton: The EU should agree to exclude Russia from SWIFT. It makes no sense for individual heads of government to talk to Russia while others refuse to do so; there should be a single messenger and a single message.
Bielecki: I wish to be crystal clear about this final question; I have signed many publications and appeals, including one from our GLOBSEC, so I will end with a basic question. With Putin openly speaking about Clausewitz’s famous dictum, how long can the West continue magical thinking? “Unless you are ultimately prepared to resort to force, dialogue or negotiations are only a postponement of the other side’s aggression.”
Mikloš: By imposing the strongest possible sanctions, including excluding Russia from SWIFT, freezing the accounts and assets of Russian companies and citizens in NATO and EU member states, freezing the foreign currency reserves of the Russian Central Bank deposited in Western Central Banks and imposing personal sanctions against Putin personally.Mikuláš Dzurinda Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine
Vital Questions on the Ukraine Invasion
Other News - Ukraine
25 Feb 2022
1. The Russian violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty has been described as a turning point in European history; war has returned to our continent. How do you view the long-term implications of Russia’s aggression?
Vladimir Milov, Russian Opposition Leader and Martens Centre Research Associate: Much depends on further developments of the situation – will Putin stop at the current line of conflict or further the military invasion of Ukraine, and how the West will react. However, one thing is clear and very concerning: Putin has developed an appetite for permanent destabilisation and the escalation of tensions – which is not only limited to Ukraine – and his regime, in its present shape, remains a fundamental threat to European and global security. Putin’s recent speeches and historic rants, and Monday’s broadcast of the meeting of Sovbez (the National Security Council, the highest authority which currently de facto rules Russia), demonstrate that the entire Russian leadership is not inclined to adhere to the international rules-based order, and is ready and willing to act in a disruptive manner, not just with regard to Ukraine. In order to contain Putin’s permanent destabilisation policy, a strong deterrence strategy is required.
Michael Benhamou, Martens Centre Research Associate: Russian troops entering Eastern Ukraine marks the return of a high-intensity military scenario not witnessed since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Sadly for us Europeans, there are two important differences:  the United States will not come to the rescue this time, with President Biden having confirmed the power shift to Asia launched by Presidents Obama and Trump.
 European Armies cannot cope with such a conventional war scenario on their own continent (i.e. infantry vs infantry). This is firstly due to military budgets, especially in Central and Northern Europe, having decreased considerably over the past decades; secondly because post-9/11 wars have driven our soldiers towards urban combat and counter-terrorism – a long shot from classic warfare.
To put it differently, polls show the citizens of Sweden and Germany to be most opposed to Russia’s behaviour (ECFR); but they also vote for politicians who, for the most part, disdain the purpose of the military. This contradiction is being exploited right now.
2. As a follow-up, do you think this situation fundamentally imperils the liberal international order (also taking into the positions of countries such as China and Turkey)?
Milov: Of course, Putin’s moves show deep disregard to the international rules-based order, and disrespect even to his own commitments – he recently praised the Minsk agreements as “the only possible solution” to the Donbas conflict, only to throw them into the dustbin just a few days later. Putin is a dangerous player with total disregard for international rules and Russia’s international commitments, as his record over the years and the very recent development prove.
Benhamou: On that topic, the entourage of Vladimir Putin has indeed developed a sophisticated anti-liberal critique since the end of the 1990s. A few years ago, I remember reading about Putin’s top adviser Alexandre Dugin’s interpretation of German jurist Carl Schmitt for instance. Schmitt was a former Nazi party member who famously wrote in The Concept of the Political (1932) that “a nation who does have the force or the will to engage in wars does not mean the end of the political order; it simply means the end of a weak nation.”
This Russian mindset is underpinned by the rise of conflict in Europe’s periphery and beyond. And yes it is opposed to the victorious post-World War II model – that of America’s open markets competition and of the sense that cooperation is more beneficial than systemic mistrust – with the European Union being the best example of this choice. Putin wants to take us back to inter-state zero-sum games that are easier to play (for them), unreasonably passionate, but also more unpredictable.
To face this challenge, citizens of democracies need to get rid of their apathy. French philosopher Tocqueville wrote beautifully about the egoism of property-obsessed democrats in times of peace, followed by their awakening and cohesion when the threat approaches. Will his prediction prove to be right again?
3. Putin’s televised address on Monday evening was a rambling attempt to negate Ukraine’s right to exist and justify Russian aggression. Has Putin recently become disconnected from certain geopolitical realities, or has this always been the case and is only now more apparent?
Milov: Putin is not disconnected from reality, he deliberately tries to wittingly construct a parallel propaganda reality to justify his actions, and he doesn’t care about the truth and facts. I’m sure he’s aware that his interpretation of history has little basis in reality – for instance, he says that “Khrushchev had for some reasons taken Crimea from Russia and handed it to Ukraine”, but he must be fully aware that things have in a totally different manner and it was not Khrushchev, there are plenty of official Soviet documents actually explaining the long discussion about the need to transfer Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR for objective reasons. Putin cannot not know that – but he’s obviously lying to the public, consciously and deliberately, following the Goebbels playbook step-by-step.
Benhamou: Yes, as February 2022 ends, there seems to be a lack of logic in Russia’s short-term goals: annexing Ukrainian provinces that it already de facto controls – provinces with limited strategic value – and all these theatrics at the cost of renewed sanctions, economic difficulties, increased support for NATO amongst Ukrainians…
But we don’t have the whole game plan. And Moscow has some serious cards in their hands too: time, geography, overwhelming force, gas, increased wheat production enabled by climate change. Yet all these cards would be pointless if China ends up swallowing the whole. In business terms, we’d say that Russia’s alliance with Europe would bear more “complementary advantages” than going East – with each side possessing skills the other does not.
4. Western sanctions are on the way, Germany has just announced the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and Russian stocks and the ruble have already crumbled. Will economic pressure be the undoing of Russia’s military endeavour?
Milov: Yes, the Russian economy will suffer greatly from another round of Putin’s aggressive foreign policies. Russia is still heavily dependent on consumer imports, and the depreciation of the ruble further hits the consumer purchasing power of ordinary Russians (which had reduced by about 10-15% since the beginning of the aggression against Ukraine in 2014). Even the import substitution efforts backfire, as they only lead to the monopolisation of industries and price growth, further reducing Russians’ real incomes, as proved by the experience of import substitution in food and agricultural sectors since 2014. Russia’s large corporations and its banks, the lifeblood of Putin’s economic system, will be further disconnected from the global markets and the financial system, pushing Russia from a globally-oriented player towards an Iranian-style semi-autarky. Public opinion polling for Putin is already not so bright, because Russians are tired of economic woes caused by his geopolitical adventures, and of living in a ‘besieged fortress’ mode. New economic sanctions caused by the occupation of Donbas mean serious costs for Putin – in case Western sanctions will be serious enough to meet expectations.
Benhamou: I am not a Russia expert, and I have never been to Russia myself. But the resilience of Russia’s population is multi-secular, as is their acceptance of authority. As for Nord Stream 2, it is not a cancellation but a suspension as far as I understand. The infrastructure in the Baltics will not be destroyed and can be reactivated at any time!
Political winds only need to blow a little for that to happen – just look at rising oil prices, rising electricity prices impacting all families, America’s rapid exit, potential wars in the Middle East that Europeans will not be able to handle on their own… “Patience”, Putin will tell his audience. Patience.
We owe it to the Ukrainians to tell them the truth: they are alone right now. No Europeans will die for them. And we need to rethink the balance between our liberal values and the return of violence in order to be ready for that next time.Vladimir Milov Michael Benhamou Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine
Vital Questions on the Ukraine Crisis
Other News - Ukraine
23 Feb 2022
The European Union has accomplished many of its energy policy goals. Energy efficiency has improved, the share of renewable energy has increased, and emissions have decreased; the latter two have progressed even faster than expected. In 2020, a milestone was reached when renewables overtook fossil fuels in the EU’s electricity mix.
On the other hand, the Energy Union’s stated objective of a reduction of import dependence has not been achieved; quite the opposite. Although the start of the crisis in Ukraine shifted the dynamic in this domain, the overall direction is not convincing. In 2020, energy imports into the EU rose to their highest level in 30 years, topping 60%. This is a major failure and is currently reflected by sharply rising energy prices.
The European Union is far too dependent on imported fossil energy, especially Russian natural gas. During the colder months of the year, this provides Russia with a very strong bargaining chip that it will not shy away from using when needed. From both an energy policy and a geopolitical perspective, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is a historic investment failure that will only exacerbate European dependence on Russian gas.
At a time when the European Union’s industrial policy calls for greater strategic autonomy, resilience, and security of supply on all fronts, the foundations of energy policy have been left unaddressed. As such, EU countries have rightly reduced their own fossil fuel consumption and abandoned coal in particular, but have not been able to sufficiently replace it with new low-emission alternatives. It has therefore become necessary to increase imports of fossil fuels.
Only now are EU countries beginning to wake up to the fact that, without significant additional investment in nuclear power, it will be very difficult for them to increase their use of carbon-neutral electricity, for example in heating, industry, and transport, and thus meet their climate targets. Many countries are reversing their decisions to close their nuclear power plants, and the new Dutch government, among others, has just announced a complete turnaround and the construction of two new nuclear power plants. Although the Netherlands has the image of an environmentally-conscious nation, it is highly dependent on fossil energy and one of the laggard EU nations, with its energy mix being comprised of less than 10% renewable energy.
After a winding process, the European Commission also agreed to include nuclear power, albeit on interpretative terms, in the scope of a sustainable financial classification system, the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities. This move was absolutely essential. It has been calculated that meeting the 2030 climate targets will now require an additional €350 billion investment in the EU each year compared to the previous decade.
The Commission’s decision reflects a simple reality: nuclear power must be strongly involved in the energy mix of tomorrow. Wind, solar and hydro power alone are not enough to secure the viability of our societies. It is also noteworthy that currently, 60% of the European Union’s renewable energy comes from biomass. Their use should not be severely restricted by legislation either, or it will once again result in an increasing dependence on fossil fuels.
Additional investment to counter the sharp rise in energy prices will not bring rapid relief. In the long-term, however, increasing Europe’s own low-emission energy production is key to building a sustainable energy model; this means investing in renewable energy, nuclear power, good transmission connections, and energy storage.
At present, each member state must do all it can through local means to alleviate the difficulties caused by the energy price crisis. In recent weeks, most EU countries have channelled various targeted subsidies to households, businesses or agriculture, including through reductions in energy taxes, vouchers or direct financial assistance for gas bills. However, in the long run, we must address our energy deficit. Europe can no longer be so dependent on imported energy, and it is very difficult to imagine how this dependency might be effectively reduced without nuclear energy. Solutions to Europe’s dependence on imported energy are still being sought at a European scale, and will be for the foreseeable future.Henna Virkkunen Energy EU-Russia Ukraine
The EU is too Dependent on Imported Energy
Blog - Ukraine
15 Feb 2022
In light of the European gas price crisis of 2021, questions are mounting whether Gazprom—a Russian majority state-owned energy corporation and an important supplier of energy to Europe—had contributed to record-breaking European gas price hikes by manipulating the market and withholding the supply of gas from Europe. Most recently, the Russian gas giant was accused of market manipulation by such a respected heavyweight of the energy world as Fatih Birol, Director of the International Energy Agency.
There’s growing evidence that Gazprom was, in fact, involved in deliberate withholding of significant volumes of gas from the European market, despite the fact that there were plentiful supplies of natural gas in Russia, ready to significantly reduce pressure on European consumers. Currently, some Martens Centre colleagues and I are working on a more detailed report on these facts, which will be published in the Spring 2022 issue of the European View – but here are some highlights.
First, Gazprom had surprisingly reduced gas supplies to Europe in 2021. According to Gazprom’s own data, it had supplied only 185.1 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas to the so-called “far abroad” (i.e., countries beyond the former Soviet space), which is notably lower than the annual exports of 2017-2019, and only 3.2% or 5.8 bcm higher than in COVID-struck 2020. But this growth of exports was mostly enjoyed by two countries; China and Turkey. Supplies to Turkey surged in 2021 by 63%, or 10.3 bcm. Full figures of yearly gas supplies to China in 2021 are not known, but based on the 10-month gas exports figure of 8 bcm, the total annual gas supply from Russia to China will likely be around 10 bcm in 2021 – up from 4.1 bcm in 2020.
If the 16 additional bcm of Chinese and Turkish supply are subtracted from the total 2021 statistics, we find that the remainder of the co-salled “far abroad” – which essentially means the European Union – received 10 bcm of Russian gas less in 2021 than in 2020, for a total of 169.1 bcm.
This situation underlines the need to further investigate long-term contractual relations between Gazprom and its major European counterparts.
Second, the decline of gas supplies to Europe in the second half of 2021 is actually supported by day-to-day EU gas supply statistics provided by Gazprom on its website. According to this data, Gazprom had reduced supplies to the EU in September-December 2021 alone by 13.6 bcm, and gas supplies running via the Ukrainian gas transit network and via the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline running through Belarus and Poland were reduced by 58% and 51% respectively during that period.
Third, Gazprom has significant excess upstream gas production capacity. During a speech in September, Gazprom’s CEO Alexey Miller admitted the existence of excess production capacities in the amount of “150 bcm of gas”. Mr. Miller further explained that Gazprom’s gas output in 2021 was the “best figure in the last 13 years”.
Fourth, Gazprom also reported a record-breaking injection of gas into Russia-based storage facilities for the 2021-2022 winter season – around 73 bcm. That’s a 13 bcm increase, or nearly 22%, compared to the level of 2020-2021. If these 13 bcm had been to Europe instead, they would have significantly eased the pressure on the European gas market, reducing the late-December European underground gas storage deficit (which was around 20 bcm) by two-thirds.
Maybe Russia needed some extra gas stocks due to extreme temperatures? Not to the extent that Russia might need to pump 22% more storage gas than it did last year: as admitted by Mr. Miller during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, by late December, Russia’s underground storage facilities were at 83% capacity, meaning only 17% of these record-breaking reserves were drawn out in November and December.
Fifth, Gazprom owns about 10% of total European underground gas storage capacity. Gazprom has been filling its own European underground gas storage capacities ahead of the 2021-2022 winter season at a much slower pace than other European storage capacity owners.
Gazprom says it hadn’t been receiving any additional gas supply requests from European consumers. That brings us back to the non-transparency of contractual relations between Gazprom and its main European counterparts. When asked whether they had sent requests to Gazprom asking for increased fuel supplies, most of Gazprom’s European counterparts refused to provide a straightforward answer: “When asked by Reuters, European energy firms Wingas and Engie said they had not asked for extra gas, while Eni, Uniper, OMV and RWE did not elaborate apart from saying Gazprom had met contracted commitments”.
This situation underlines the need to further investigate long-term contractual relations between Gazprom and its major European counterparts. In the era of a sizeable gas deficit in Europe, European gas companies should provide clear answers as to whether they actually demanded extra gas supplies from Gazprom; if not, why, and if so, what the response was.
All these facts are sufficiently significant evidence to demand the launch of a full-scale investigation into Gazprom’s alleged manipulation of the European natural gas market ahead of the 2021/2022 winter season. Fundamentally, a Russian state actor harming consumers by forcing gas prices to surge should trigger alarms for all European policymakers.Vladimir Milov Energy EU-Russia Ukraine
How Gazprom Manipulated the EU Gas Market
Blog - Ukraine
03 Feb 2022
The United States and Russia initiated a discussion on 10 January on European security and the Ukraine conflict, after Moscow demanded NATO commit to halting its expansion. Putin has already achieved an important goal: Russia has a principal seat at the negotiating table as Europe’s security architecture is being negotiated, without any other Europeans.
For the average Ukrainian, the most concerning question nevertheless remains possible Russian aggression in the coming weeks. Despite the fact that after years of speculation and concern, Ukrainians have become somewhat numb to the daily speculations of war, the current situation is very worrying. Member states on the Eastern flank of the EU are following the situation with grave concern, especially those countries bordering Russia.
In an interview with the Martens Centre, Russian opposition politician and former Deputy Minister of Energy and Martens Centre Research Associate Vladimir Milov gave an in-depth analysis on Russia’s intentions concerning Ukraine. In his view, Putin’s main goal is to ensure he plays a role in international fora when it comes to geopolitics, rather than truly search for conflict.
According to Milov, the idea of a major war is hugely unpopular and would have a significant impact on Putin’s approval ratings, which Putin knows all too well. One recent poll shows that two thirds of Russians prioritise personal economic well-being and higher living standards over geopolitical greatness – among Russians aged 40 or below, this figure jumps to 70%.
Importantly, the Russian people do not really expect a war with Ukraine – the majority says it is unlikely. Thus, should there be a full-scale military confrontation between Ukraine and Russia, the war would come as a surprise and contradict Russian popular aspirations.
A rapidly-rising concern is the increasing concentration of Russian troops in Ukraine’s neighbourhood. However, these ‘troops near the Ukraine border’, which we have heard so much about are not stationed in the field – they are amassed at permanent stationery bases like Pogonovo near Voronezh, which is geographically near the Ukrainian border, but in reality, is just a large stationery military base in Central Russia.
As Milov points out, it is a relatively easy exercise for Putin to bring even a hundred thousand troops to military bases of that scale, because he can keep them there for an indefinite period without incurring major costs, playing with the West’s nerves and raising fears of an invasion, as a near no-cost exercise.
The West should remain vigilant nevertheless. Russia is accumulating its combat-ready forces, and is conducting military drills with these units, which are effectively rehearsals of a hypothetical invasion. In such an environment, there are real risks of dangerous, war-triggering incidents, such as warplanes violating Ukrainian airspace during military exercises and Ukraine reacting to it. Should there be any mistake or sign of weakness from the West, Putin will use it.
Italy’s President Mario Draghi was stating the obvious in December 2021. When it comes to resisting Russia in its pressure campaign on Ukraine, Europe has little leverage.
However, the fundamental European problem is not the lack of common security structures with EU member states, there are plenty of those. The core challenge is not institutional but political. European countries do not have the political will nor culture to even think of engaging militarily outside their own borders, let alone in some cases taking full responsibility of their own security, even within the NATO structure.
Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö, in his widely quoted New Year’s speech, referred to Henry Kissinger’s wisdom; Kissinger pointed out that whenever avoidance of war has been the primary objective of a group of powers, the international system has been at the mercy of its most ruthless member.
Motivated by Putin’s latest actions, European leaders and the public need to ask if their strategy of complacency has come to an end and if their avoidance of war, well-meaning as it may be, might be detrimental to the peaceful European continent.Tomi Huhtanen EU-Russia Foreign Policy NATO Ukraine
Putin is Unlikely to Attack Ukraine – but Europe’s Complacency Would be Detrimental
Blog - Ukraine
10 Jan 2022
Tomi Huhtanen Vladimir Milov Defence EU-Russia NATO Ukraine
Thinking Talks Ep.3 with Vladimir Milov
Multimedia - Thinking Talks - Ukraine
10 Dec 2021
It took the recent energy crisis for the European Union’s dependency on imported fossil fuels to make the headlines. Naturally, as long as the share of fossil fuels remains high in the energy mix of member states, the EU will continue to depend on external providers.
The shock reactions within European markets and the European political scene is, however, rather unjustified. This is the second time in a decade that Putin has weaponised the gas supply to the EU, actions which now pose an overarching dilemma: Will we obtain long-term, binding contracts with Russian companies supplying gas and thereby ensuring stability, or will chaos ensue?
In 2015, after the first shock of the use of natural gas as a weapon against Ukraine and later against countries of the Union, the EU proceeded with the ambitious legislation of the Energy Union. However, despite the legislative planning, forecasts for natural gas supply over the last six years have been insufficient. This is particularly problematic given natural gas’ role as a transitional fuel. Furthermore, the appropriate storage infrastructure specifically for green energy was not built.
In addition to the provision of the Treaty, which enshrines the energy mix as a national competence, a number of countries took their own initiative, focusing on their interests. First of all, Germany secured bilateral low-tariff agreements with the main Russian provider Gazprom, combined with the development of relevant infrastructure, namely Nord Stream 2. Other member states, such as Poland, insist on a form of political guerrilla warfare.
Last week, the European Commission announced measures including:
- Joint voluntary procurement from the member states, maximising the benefit of the bargaining power of the world’s largest single market.
- Increased strategic stocks to avoid large price fluctuations.
- Use of the resources of the Emissions Trading System by the member states for the relief of the most vulnerable, something that the Greek government is already doing.
Such “tools” may work only as emergency response measures but do not address the fundamental problem of dependence on fossil fuels and their suppliers.
It is important to tackle the problem of security of energy supplies for Europe at its root cause. This is also a necessary aspect of delivering on the Green Deal’s ambitious goal of making Europe the first continent with a carbon-free economy by 2050.
The EU’s main weapon in the face of the energy crisis is the sum of the unprecedented financial resources currently at its disposal: the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, and other financial tools, with InvestEU being the most important one. Renewable energy, combined with renewable energy storage facilities, is the answer to the dilemma of whether we are headed for Putin’s embrace or for chaos.
Existing technology, and as it happens technology that is principally developed in Europe with European taxpayer money, enables large-scale sustainable investments in onshore and offshore wind farms, photovoltaics for every household and industrial consumers, hydroelectric power from oceanic currents, and also power generation from waste.
The EU’s answer to the dilemma now shamelessly posed by the Russian president is to accelerate investment in renewable energy, through synergies between the private sector and the member states, and through transnational projects, by all available means. This is the only way the EU energy market will be able to provide affordable energy to its households and businesses. In addition, the EU will be taking a first, momentous step towards real strategic autonomy.Maria Spyraki Crisis Energy EU-Russia Ukraine
In Putin’s Embrace or in Chaos?
Blog - Ukraine
19 Oct 2021
Roland Freudenstein Anna Nalyvayko Eastern Europe EU-Russia Ukraine
Crimea in the Spotlight – the Road to De-Occupation
Live-streams - Multimedia - Ukraine
10 Sep 2021
The day before Ukraine’s 30th independence anniversary, over 40 international delegations gathered in Kyiv to officially kick off the Crimea Platform, an initiative by President Zelensky to bring Crimea back under Ukrainian sovereignty. The Crimea Platform is a consultative format aimed at stepping up the international response to the occupation of the peninsula, with de-occupation as the final goal. The Platform will operate on three major levels – intergovernmental, parliamentary, and expert, all of which have unanimously condemned Russia’s ongoing actions, which are an open assault against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and undermine its independence.
However, in order to succeed, the Crimea Platform’s strategy and its outcomes have to be better and aim higher than those of the Minsk II Agreements. Is that realistic? First, let’s analyse the major differences between the occupied territories of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Even with the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, Donbas has not been annexed by Putin, who instead created a regional conflict by supporting the separatists, claiming to be an external party to the war.
Crimea, on the other hand, has been invaded and illegally proclaimed Russian under the pretence of a referendum after which the Crimean parliament voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The international community was quick to condemn the Kremlin’s move and not recognise the annexation, but besides calling for a return of Crimea to Ukraine, not much else has been done. Donbas, however, has remained a focus of attention, with multiple steps taken in the direction of conflict resolution. But even in this case, neither the meetings of France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia under the Normandy Format, nor the Minsk II agreements, yielded any concrete results.
With the war in the Eastern part of the country continuing, and a deadlock on his hands with regards to the implementation of the Minsk II 13 points, President Zelensky decided it was time to talk about Crimea. Under the slogan “Crimea is Ukraine – Stronger Together”, Zelensky aims to put Crimea back on the map, as until now, the topic has only been discussed in the UN General Assembly and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The presence of more than 40 delegations at the summit of the Crimea Platform showed a clear support and commitment to Ukraine. However, there may be an uphill path to more concrete actions than just reinforcing the non-recognition policy on Crimea. Out of the five key priorities on which the initiative is based, only the first two seem easily achievable. The first priority – consolidating the non-recognition policy on the illegal annexation – can be considered successfully achieved. In fact, only a handful of countries recognise the validity of the referendum held in the peninsula. The second priority – strengthening sanctions against Russia – seems to be an easy win with the big players. The representatives of the US and the EU, along with Germany and France in particular, are all committed to keeping sanctions in place and supporting Ukraine in the restoration of its territorial integrity.
The other three priorities will definitely be harder to pursue: the protection of human rights and international humanitarian law; ensuring security in the Azov-Black Sea region; and overcoming environmental and economic consequences of the occupation. The reason for that is seven years of continuous colonisation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.
Repression against Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians requires immediate action. There are over 100 individuals being politically persecuted in the peninsula, the majority of whom are Tatars, labelled as extremist groups by the Kremlin. In addition, the territory has undergone a process of russification. Russia has been changing the demographics and the ethnic composition of the Crimean population since the very beginning of its occupation, and now, according to expert calculations, every third inhabitant of Crimea had arrived in the region from Russia. Additionally, on 20 March 2021, decree number 201 of the President of the Russian Federation came into force. According to this decree, the majority of the Crimean Peninsula is gaining the status of a border territory of the Russian Federation. Moreover, Crimean residents have been issued Russian passports, and the Kremlin spent some €2.6 billion to construct a bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland.
The militarisation of the peninsula adds to concerns for the security and fears of destabilisation of the region, not only for Ukraine, but for Europe as a whole. Of course, the international sanctions and the lack of water supply from the Dnipro river have an impact on the economy of Crimea, but do not seem to deter Putin from his plans.
The truth is, the de-occupation and re-integration of Crimea will be a long and difficult process. But the bottom line is: Crimea is Ukraine, and Ukraine cannot do it alone. As important as the declaration of the Crimea Platform is, international partners must follow up with concrete action and hold Russia accountable for its violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Political and diplomatic efforts should continuously follow in order to increase pressure on the Kremlin and restore Ukrainian sovereignty. Russia will never willingly cede the peninsula back to Ukraine, even with a top-level change, so international partnerships and the common effort of Ukrainian allies is vital in ensuring a successful outcome of the objectives of Crimea Platform; but be prepared to wait.Anna Nalyvayko Eastern Europe EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine
The Crimea Platform and its Chances of Success
Blog - Ukraine
01 Sep 2021
Michael Gahler EU-Russia Ukraine
Ukraine’s Resilience Level: Economic, Political, and Security Developments
Live-streams - Multimedia - Ukraine
19 May 2021
Ukraine has been making the front page of newspapers all over the world for a couple of weeks now, due to an incriminating phone call between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky on 25th July. This conversation, the transcript of which was released on 25th September, led to the launch of an impeachment inquiry of President Trump and to the resignation of the US Special Envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. But what have been the consequences for the Ukrainian President? To quote the character of Anatoly Dyatlov from the famous TV series Chernobyl, “not great, not terrible”.
Zelensky has scored an unprecedented victory in the history of Ukraine, being elected President with 73,2%. A popular comedian, with no experience in politics, he has been chosen to lead the country instead of Petro Poroshenko. Zelensky campaigned on memes and irony, promising to free Ukraine from corruption and transform it into a thriving democracy.
However, his gains did not end there. One day after his inauguration as President of Ukraine, Zelensky dissolved the Verkhovna Rada calling for parliamentary snap elections on 21st July. Despite the fact that there was no policy content in most messages during Zelensky’s presidential campaign, Ukrainians rewarded him once again, by giving his party, Servant of the People, an absolute majority in the Parliament – 254 out of 450 seats.
Zelensky is in the most favourable position to turn the country around, controlling all levels of power and having massive support from his electorate. He already delivered on some of his promises made during the campaign, by signing a bill creating the procedure to impeach a president and simplifying the firing of government officials as part of his fight against corruption.
President Zelensky is determined also to lift a longstanding ban on the sale of farmland and start a process of privatization of state-owned enterprises to boost investments and move on with the economic reforms that the country really needs.
And of course one of his biggest accomplishments in his few months of holding the presidency has been the prisoner swap between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, trading 35 prisoners each. Zelensky is undoubtedly more open towards dialogue with Putin than his predecessor and wants to show progress on the conflict resolution in Donbas. Even though the Minsk II Agreement is still far from being implemented the prisoner exchange gave hope to Ukrainians that there might be an end to this war.
However, Zelensky’s presidency is not all fun and games. His reputation is overshadowed by his close relationship with the oligarch Kolomoisky, owner of the 1+1 Channel, where Zelensky’s show was aired, and his alleged sponsor in the elections. Also troubling, the reconfirmation of Arsen Avakov as Interior Minister, an obstructionist to legal reforms who is tainted by numerous corruption allegations that he denies.
The real trouble on the international scene though, began for Zelensky only on September 25, when the White House released a memorandum of a phone conversation between President Trump and Zelensky himself, in late July. Apparently, shortly before this call, Trump had ordered $391.5 million in military aid to Ukraine to be frozen, to then pressure Zelensky to look into the case of Joe Biden’s son in relation to his position on the Board of the oil and gas company Burisma.
The speaker for the US House of Representatives launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump immediately after the release of the memorandum and the first head to fly was that of Kurt Volker. He was appointed as a special envoy on Ukraine in July 2017 and was involved in negotiations over the conflict in Donbas.
Volker has facilitated a meeting between Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Zelensky’s advisor Andriy Yermak, which made him look involved in the scandal. However, Ukraine considers Volker’s resignation a big loss as he was highly regarded in the country and seemed to be the “voice of reason” in the U.S. -Ukraine relations.
This situation, however, did not have a terrible impact on the Ukrainian President. For sure he will have some explaining to do to France and Germany, after openly criticising Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel in the incriminating phone call. Zelensky complained about the lack of support to Ukraine from the EU while praising all the United States is doing for his country. However, in the age of unaccountability for what one says, and considering his lack of political experience, he will most likely be quickly forgiven.
With regards to Ukrainian population, if Volodymyr Zelensky brings peace to Donbas, creates better economic conditions for the country and takes even some tiny steps in eradicating corruption, they will not withdraw their support for the new President. According to the Rating Group poll, 71% of Ukrainians are satisfied with Zelensky’s work.
Recent developments in the conflict resolution will gain him even more support among people who feel the war fatigue. On October 1st, Zelensky agreed to the “Steinmeier Formula”, allowing local elections in the Eastern regions of Ukraine under the control of the separatist supported by Russia. One has to agree that with this decision he got back into EU’s good graces quite quickly paving also the way for the Normandy Four meeting.
Even with some missteps along the way, for now, Zelensky is still being given the benefit of the doubt by both the international community and his electorate and at least for the time being his support in the country is likely to stay at 70%.Anna Nalyvayko Eastern Europe Elections Leadership Transatlantic Ukraine
Not great, not terrible –the repercussions of Ukrainegate
Blog - Ukraine
08 Oct 2019
2019 is an important year for politicians all over Europe: MEPs running for re-election in the European Parliament, Spitzenkandidaten working to secure support for the top floor of Berlaymont, and eurosceptics finding common ground to disrupt the Union.
Another top job is up for grabs in a country which aims to become a member of the EU in the near future – the presidency of Ukraine. With elections scheduled for March 31, 30 candidates registered so far for the highest office of the country.
Candidacies were announced at different moments: the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko came forward only a few days ago, formally announcing that he’ll run for elections on 29 January. His main opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko declared her participation on 22 January, even though her slogan “New Course for Ukraine” was everywhere to be seen on billboards alongside Ukrainian roads for already some months.
The actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyi broke the news to his audience on 31 January during an appearance on TV. As a follow up, Zelenskyi launched a website, on which he extends an invitation to join his team, putting forward one condition: the applicants must have zero experience in politics.
Every candidate promises something new and pledges to do the job better than his or her opponents. Poroshenko promises to apply for a full membership to the EU in 2024, as well as to lead Ukraine to NATO; Tymoshenko suggests a new constitution, a new economy and a new social system; Zelenskyi is not making any promises, but is gaining traction for being anti-establishment and disconnected from the “old system”.
Other candidates like Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv, plays with words such as “decisive change”; Oleh Lyashko, the leader of the Radical Party, is travelling across the country to show he is a man of the people; Anatolyi Hrytsenko, the former Defense Minister of Ukraine said he would deal with corruption and the oligarchic system of power in the country.
However, the one thing that is missing in the platforms of all the candidates is a clear plan for achieving peace in Donbass. The war with Russia in Eastern Ukraine is entering in its 6th year and the solution is nowhere to be seen. The Minsk Agreements were revealed to be a failure, trapping the actors in a vicious circle considering Russia’s and Ukraine’s opposite positions and interpretation of the 13 points contained in the document.
The new President of Ukraine will have a tough job in handling the conflict resolution, as one thing that has emerged from polls is that for 72% of Ukrainians peace in Donbass is a number one priority.
While all candidates state that they plan to bring peace to the nation, no one is ready to share technicalities of how they plan to achieve the goal. Tymoshenko suggests a “Budapest+” negotiation format involving the European Union, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, skillfully avoiding to explain what she is ready to compromise – although she is thought to be willing to go pretty far to accommodate Putin.
Zelenskyi’s “we’ll meet in the middle” approach also does not say much about what exactly he is ready to give to Putin. For Poroshenko, making any concessions to the Kremlin would be a political suicide, therefore trapping him in the current deadlock.
One thing that is quite clear to all candidates is that the Minsk agreements cannot be fulfilled and that there is a need for a new approach. However, anyone who is open to dialogue with the separatists would be seen as making concessions to Putin and lose public support. In fact, if there is something positive about Russian aggression in Ukraine, is that it strengthened the people’s unity and created a stronger Ukrainian identity.
The lack of openly pro-Russian candidates in the 2019 elections is indeed a major difference from all the other elections ever held in Ukraine. Even Yuryi Boyko, the candidate of the Russian friendly party Opposition Block, is careful in phrasing his campaign, reiterating that he represents interests of all Ukrainians “regardless of what language they speak and what church they go to’’.
Despite the fact that Opposition Block is portraying itself as “the party of peace”, it will be very difficult for Boyko to top the list given that he is perceived as the successor of the Party of Regions, which formally ceased to exist after Yanukovych fled the country in 2014.
The problem is that at the moment there are no meaningful alternatives to Minsk agreements and that at least some compromises have to be made. OSCE is working on a new peace plan which would include the deployment of UN peacekeepers, a provisional international government, and the setting up of a reconstruction agency in the currently Russian-occupied region of Ukraine’s east, but Putin immediately rejected the idea.
One thing to take into account is that Ukrainians do not vote based on party ideology, but rather on the personality of the candidate. The weakness of ideology in political parties and the prominence of party leaders have always characterised the country’s system.
Therefore, for the final result it is not important if the party of the candidate places itself on the right or left of the political spectrum, but rather if the people trust Poroshenko, Tymoshenko and the other names on the presidential list to deliver on what they are promising.
For sure Poroshenko’s eyes are on the West. With his 2019 election slogan “Army, Language, Faith” he managed to score two out of three points so far, making Ukrainian the required language of study in state schools across the country and obtaining autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
According to him, “only full EU and NATO membership would completely and irreversibly guarantee the independence of our Ukrainian state and Ukrainian national security”, so seeking a second mandate could maybe help him fulfil the slogan and lay out a strategy for seeking the light and the end of the tunnel.
Photo by Denys Rodionenko on UnsplashAnna Nalyvayko Eastern Europe Elections EU-Russia Leadership Ukraine
War and Peace: the struggle that awaits the winner of Ukraine’s top job
Blog - Ukraine
05 Feb 2019
Just one day after the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor, the man-made famine of 1932-1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians during the Stalin regime, the Russian Federation, the continuing legal personality and successor state of the Soviet Union, stroke again. This time it came in the shape of a naval battle, or more accurately, a unilateral attack since there was no return of fire.
On 25 November, Russian FSB border guard ships attacked two Ukrainian artillery boats and a tugboat in the Kerch Strait off the coast of occupied Crimea wounding six Ukrainian sailors and seizing all three vessels with a total of 23 crew members on board. It’s important to note that the Ukrainians ships were already on their way back to Odessa from the Kerch Strait (which they couldn’t pass) when they were fired upon and seized by Russia.
As per usual, there are two sides to the story: according to Russian media and government, allegedly, Ukraine has violated Russia’s territorial waters deliberately provoking an incident in order to create a pretext for new sanctions to be imposed on Moscow; whereas Ukrainians deny any violations. Unfortunately for the Kremlin, there is an agreement that proves Ukrainians to be right.
It was signed in 2003 by the then Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Vladimir Vladimirovich himself, and it designates the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters between Russia and Ukraine, with free access for each side. Not that agreements stopped Putin before from achieving what he wants: he will easily ignore any international treaty, just as he did with the Budapest Memorandum when he illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.
Following these events, the Ukrainian Parliament has greenlighted a decision to impose martial law in 10 regions located along the Russian border and Transnistria, which entered into force at 9 a.m on 28 November and last until 27 December. The initial proposition looked at imposing the martial law for 60 days, which would have caused a postponement in the elections, scheduled for 31 March 2019, as martial law rules out elections.
However, after a compromise reached with the political parties, the term was decreased to 30 days, which would allow holding elections as planned. President Poroshenko stressed that martial law will not infringe upon civil liberties of Ukrainians, and in Parliament repeated that they will be limited only in case of an intervention.
The blame game is already on. The masterminds of Kremlin propaganda claim that this “provocation” is solely aimed at imposing martial law in Ukraine and, henceforth, cancelling the elections with the President Poroshenko being the main beneficiary. Stakeholders of the other side accuse Russians of violation of sovereignty and open aggression.
It’s no secret that Poroshenko’s popularity has been dropping and his re-election is not set in stone. He recently scored a big victory when the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was granted autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople – however, he is still far from being the favourite candidate. His campaign slogan “Army, Language, Faith”, addresses the national pride of citizens, but he is not the only one to play this card.
As of October, 66% approved (and 33% disapproved) of Putin’s performance, down from 82%(and 17%) in April. The percentage of those who “trust” Putin fell from 59 to 39%, and the percentage of those not trusting Putin doubled. So what could be better than another triumph of Russian forces against the ‘evil Ukrainians’ to reverse this trend?
However, there’s a major difference between this episode and the annexation of Crimea or the war in Eastern Ukraine – this is the first time since the beginning of the Russian aggression in February-March 2014 that Russia as a state is engaging in an open act of aggression against Ukraine, not hiding behind “Donbas separatists” or “little green men”.
This could be a game changer for the response of the international community. President Poroshenko appealed to the partner countries under the Budapest Memorandum, to the EU countries, and to participants of the Normandy format in order to coordinate effective measures to protect Ukraine.
The Baltic States along with Poland were quick in condemning Russian behaviour, followed by EU and NATO statements. The US took their time: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s condemnation was noticeable for how late it was, whereas President Trump framed Russian aggression as a “both-sides issue”, refusing to openly criticise Putin.
This is indeed a moment of truth for the West – the Kremlin wants to know how much it can get away with. The Black Sea is a critical intersection for trade and security and it needs to be properly protected.
Experts suggest that NATO and the United States should send in naval ships in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea to guarantee that it stays open to international shipping as well as provide military equipment to Ukraine. Even the former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen states that “Russia responds only to power”.
The Eastern part of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, with cities like Mariupol and Berdyansk, is now practically cut off from shipping with much of their trade now functioning by rail, at higher cost. The EU should consider special assistance programmes to soften this effect.
What is important for the European Union to realise is that Russia has made a bold act and moved this war closer to its doorstep. A safe and secure Ukraine is essential for the security of Europe and a unified response from the member states is crucial for the respect of international law.
Achieving consensus on military intervention inside NATO is rather difficult, but tougher economic sanctions and suspension of the Nord Stream 2 could be steps in the right direction.
Strait outta Azov: How much can Putin get away with?
Blog - Ukraine
28 Nov 2018
In 2014, it appeared Ukraine’s population had found the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – only with Willy Wonka being the newly elected President Petro Poroshenko and the Chocolate Factory being not only his Roshen brand, but Ukraine itself.
The window of opportunity was wide open, and many reforms were put on the table. The drive of the government, with the support and advocacy from civil society, brought some incredible results. Ukraine did not declare default, contrary to everyone’s expectations, in February 2015, actually achieving a massive macroeconomic stabilisation “close to a miracle”, making the European Commission’s bailout plan unnecessary.
Some noticeable steps have been taken in various reform fields from the military to the banking system, to public administration, to decentralisation. Corruption, one of the country’s biggest problems, has been tackled by establishing anti-corruption institutions and e-declaration systems, making Ukraine in a way “both the most corrupt and at the same time the most transparent country in Europe”.
With encouragement and conditionalities from the EU and IMF, Ukraine was on the steep, but right path to success. Privatisation, judicial reform, pension and healthcare, seemed to be heading in the right direction particularly after the initiation of the visa-free regime with the EU back in June coupled with the full implementation of the Association Agreement in September.
The reform process appears to be slowing down.
However, considering the frailty of the coalitions in the Verkhovna Rada, and the approaching parliamentary and presidential elections, the reform process appears to be slowing down.
Corruption remains the most deeply rooted problem the country faces, and despite the establishment of an unprecedented open competition to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court, most Ukrainians feel that their country is not heading in the right direction.
Anti-government protests demanding Poroshenko’s resignation have begun in Kyiv in October. The protesters have been fuelled by a former ally of the President, Mikhail Saakashvili, who returned to Ukraine after accusing Poroshenko of obstructing reforms and resigning from his position of governor of Odessa earlier this year. Saakashvili advocates for electoral reforms, the creation of anti-corruption courts, and the abolition of parliamentary immunity.
The Chocolate King is not faring well with numbers – his rate of approval, according to the latest poll by the Razumkov Center, is at 24, 8%. The truth is, people’s perception that the reform process is stalling is translating into a political risk. While Ukraine’s active civil society, one of the main advocates for change in the country, insists on more radical reforms, the majority of the population has difficulty dealing with the pace of reforms as it is.
The decision of the government to cut gas subsidies for homes and enterprises that had been in place since Soviet times led to a one-third drop in energy consumption and zero dependency on Russia and also led to increasing citizens’ dissatisfaction when people saw their energy bills double.
The government pursues reforms that activists and Western donors push for, but, as the short-term costs overshadow the long-term benefits among the public opinion, those actions erode support for a reformist government, even if they are in the long term interest of Ukraine itself.
Political opponents exploit the dissatisfaction to attack the government by calling for early elections, but a sudden change in Ukrainian leadership would only stall the progress made so far.
Even with all its weakness and slow pace, the post-Majdan government is the most reform-oriented that Ukraine has ever had.
Moreover, one should not forget, that contrary to the Western habit of referring to the situation in Donbass as a “frozen conflict”, Ukraine is fighting a real war on the eastern border with Russia. A war that so far resulted in 10,090 deaths and 1.7 million internally displaced people.
Even though a “win the war by reform” approach is largely acceptable and cheered by the EU, “It’s very difficult to do everything simultaneously” stated Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister for European Integration, Ivanna Klympush, in her recent visit to Brussels.
Even with all its weakness and slow pace, the post-Majdan government is the most reform-oriented that Ukraine has ever had. The range and number of the reforms implemented is unprecedented in the history of the country. If positive changes are not acknowledged, the loud criticism by populists will devalue all efforts and bring the state of “Ukraine fatigue” to the EU and its Member States.
This is particularly alarming in the wake of the 5th Eastern Partnership Summit taking place on 24 November in Brussels. Even though the Summit is meant to be forward-looking in bringing tangible and positive results in the four priority areas established at the Riga Summit in 2015 – stronger economy, governance, connectivity and society – there is very little doubt that the final declaration of the Brussels Summit will not explicitly include a membership perspective for Ukraine, as the reference to the EU membership aspiration of the country is opposed by some Member States.
In order to avoid an “EU fatigue” in Eastern Europe, the Union, however, has to demonstrate its commitment towards its neighbours and rethink its so-far limited offer. The most obvious way to ease tensions in Ukraine would be to increase political, economic, and material support for Kyiv. A “Marshall Plan for Ukraine” proposed by Lithuania with the aim of boosting the economic recovery with the infusion of funds linked to the revitalisation of structural reforms is a step in the right direction.
On the other hand, to keep his “Chocolate Factory” on the path to European integration- Petro Poroshenko has to do his homework. Internal political struggles and pre-election tensions must not overshadow the reform process. The Presidential administration and the government have to renew their commitment to reforms, Ukraine’s golden ticket to the EU, to demonstrate to their citizens to deserve an opportunity for another mandate in 2019.
Photo by Thomas Hafeneth on Unsplash
 Anders Åslund, Ukraine: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It, Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2015.Anna Nalyvayko Eastern Europe Enlargment EU-Russia Ukraine
Petro Poroshenko and the chocolate factory: Ukraine’s golden ticket?
Blog - Ukraine
23 Nov 2017
Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its subsequent invasion of eastern Ukraine led to a series of attacks against Ukraine. These have included cyber-attacks, fake news, economic pressure, terrorist attacks, as well as an all-out military conflict. Given that eastern Ukraine was at the centre of these attacks, its civil society developed its own resilience strategy to minimise the impact of non-military hybrid threats. This experience provides valuable lessons for Europe in general.
Ukraine’s response to Russian hybrid warfare
The concept of ‘resilience’ has traditionally been used in the areas of development and risk management. The European Union’s (EU’s) 2016 Global Strategy defined resilience as a concept that encompasses the ability of states, societies, communities and individuals to transcend a crisis while maintaining national economic and social development, and adapting to the changing environment under the pressure of continuous threats.
European states, both EU and non-EU ones, face many common security challenges such as terrorism, cyber threats, fake news, political and economic pressure, and military sabre-rattling. Given that military force is not often the most appropriate and effective way of addressing such hybrid threats, a resilience strategy can and should be deployed to strengthen the state’s capacity to deal with them.
Ukraine has become a testing ground for Russia’s unconventional tactics. It is also an easy target due to internal systemic weaknesses caused by corruption, dysfunctional institutions, and a fragmented civil society. By means of disinformation, operations of influence and subversion, Russia annexed Crimea without an open military intervention. It also localised a static, low-level conflict in eastern Ukraine, i.e. masked “People’s Republics’” puppet states as a product of civil war where Russia obscures its involvement to a secondary role.
Ukraine has become a testing ground for Russia’s unconventional tactics.
Following the annexation of Crimea, a Russian disinformation operation was launched to discredit the Ukrainian government and institutions in the eyes of the country’s citizens. At first, Ukraine faced significant difficulties in responding to the way Russia was challenging the perception of national identity, values, and history. More specifically, there was a dramatic shortage of the resources required to protect the country’s military, diplomatic, media and home fronts.
The most effective deterrent against hybrid threats proved to be societal resistance. A non-violent local civilian defence operation began. This included civilian groups debunking fake news with the extremely successful website StopFake, countering cyber-attacks, forming humanitarian aid volunteer groups, volunteer reform teams in government agencies and local councils, and volunteer civilian patrol and rescue teams.
Although this response had a positive impact, it was chaotic and needs sustained support to become part of a resilience strategy facing a continuous level of threat. The key to developing an effective strategy is to rethink the nature of the threat and decentralise the response to the level of communities and individuals.
A bottom up approach to resilience
If we understand hybrid warfare as a complex set of interconnected threats and forceful means waged to further political motives we no longer limit threats to traditional kinetic operations. In fact, hybrid threats have made traditional state borders irrelevant. It is no longer only the protection of borders that guarantees a nation’s security but also its home front.
To fortify the home front, European states need to challenge the traditional top-down institutional approach towards security and development planning. The Ukrainian experience illustrates the difficulties in making domestic resilience work in practice.
Engagement between government institutions and civil society remained inefficient, creating gaps between the needs and the expectations of the population on the one hand, and the capacities and resources of the authorities on the other hand. Those gaps indicated the state of resilience as well as the areas vulnerable to hybrid attacks.
National resilience is a continuous process of developing and improving knowledge of the changing needs and security threats on local and national levels.
The nexus between national security and resilience is rooted in individuals’ attitudes toward leadership and institutions. To operationalise resilience, it is necessary to monitor levels of trust and preparedness as key indicators of existing gaps between the population, civil society and government institutions.
The EU’s Global Strategy correctly points out that “when the ‘centre’ is broken, acting only from top-down has a limited impact.” It is much more difficult for an external force to disrupt personal and organisational networks built by both the private and public sector. This reality is what makes bottom up organisations key factors in enhancing resilience.
The way forward
National resilience is a continuous process of developing and improving knowledge of the changing needs and security threats on local and national levels. The EU’s objective to help states and societies build their resilience is limited to financial and knowledge transfers (monitoring, training, advising).
To guarantee local ownership, the EU should engage at the level of an actor’s capabilities. However, this creates practical challenges. In reality, resilience building means going to distant regions of the EU’s partner countries such as eastern Ukraine. The cities of Kramators’k, Sieverodonets’k, and Mariupil are at the heart of an effort to build effective resilience against disinformation and military attacks. It is clear that an effective EU response would require facilitating partnership between the state and civil society in local communities.
Such ambition should be met with clear understanding how to choose the local partners and monitor fund distribution. All investments should come with the tag of local ownership and responsibility. Aside from all of these challenges, the EU’s presence in Ukrainian communities would allow its member states to learn on the ground the most practical tools to counteract hybrid threats and improve national resilience in their home countries.Anna Bulakh Defence Eastern Europe EU-Russia Security Ukraine
Operationalising resilience: an example from Ukraine
Blog - Ukraine
21 Nov 2017
In mid-September, together with former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs at the German Bundestag Marieluis Beck, and former US Ambassador to NATO Alexander Versbow, I visited Toretsk, the so-called contact line in South-Eastern Ukraine. It is a line separating Ukrainian territory controlled by Ukraine from Ukrainian territory that Ukraine does not control.
We were brought to the Dnepropetrovsk airport from Toretsk by a Ukrainian military helicopter. When we descended from the helicopter, its captain asked Rasmussen to patiently listen to him for two minutes. The captain said to the former General Secretary of NATO and current advisor to President Poroshenko something along these lines: “Mr Rasmussen, I fulfilled the duty assigned to me. I safely transported you and your friends from point A to point B. But you arrived in point A 15 minutes late. This was very bad, because it made our big helicopter exposed to the attention of the enemy for 15 minutes. In a similar situation, I recently lost a group of soldiers who were shot down by the enemy because of the delayed take-off.”
It was only then that I understood why, after the helicopter got off the ground, its captain made several manoeuvres to change the flight direction and why for about 10 minutes we flew so close to the ground that we almost touched it. “But now comes the most important part,” continued the captain, “I know you are advisor to President Poroshenko. Show him this photo – the picture showed the captain with President Poroshenko during one of the President’s visits to Eastern Ukraine – and tell him that I am the soldier who was the first and the only one to speak up during critical moments on Maidan square, wearing the uniform of a member of Ukrainian Armed Forces, and I publicly urged the Ukrainian military not to intervene against the demonstrators. I am 53 now. I risked everything, my family, my work. I believed then and I still believe in democratic changes in our country. But please tell the President, because I cannot get near him, that if he does not do away with corruption, we will lose the war with Russia and we will lose our country. I earned 5 euros today for my service to you. But I’m not complaining. I did not do it for money. I did it because Ukraine needs your help, it needs the solidarity of the entire democratic world. I still believe that Maidan had and continues to have a meaning. But our President must take a strong stance on corruption.”
I decided to share this experience with the public. At home in Slovakia, in Ukraine and in Brussels. Because the future, and not only that of Ukraine, lies with people like the captain of our helicopter.Mikuláš Dzurinda Democracy Foreign Policy Ukraine Values
Why Poroshenko must take a strong stance on corruption
Blog - Ukraine
19 Sep 2017
In the EU we have the luxury of reflecting upon if we would rather have a one-speed or two-speed Europe, we complain that governments do not do this and the EU does not do that. We take our democratic rights seriously every four years when we go to elections.
If we are really pissed off, we vote for someone who appears to be fresh and critical of the non-performing political mainstream. Someone like a populist, for example. And then we go back to our day-to-day lives.
Maybe lash out some discontent on Facebook, Twitter or, exceptionally, in a critical blog post. You could call this hamster-wheel democracy: it takes some steam out of the system, but nothing much changes. There are places in Europe that do not have this luxury.
Say you want a revolution?
Ukraine is the only former communist country that had not one, not two, but three major civil uprisings, in 1990, 2004 and 2013. What people have learned from these repetitive revolutions is that it does not suffice to go on the streets and achieve political change.
They have found out – the hard way – that things also need to happen after revolutions. There needs to be a follow-up after each revolution: improvements, modernization, reforms. In a word, real change.
The revolution taking place in Ukraine today is not on the streets. It takes place on the internet and on the social networks (real and digital) that civil society is weaving.
Ukrainians have been seeing failure in the running of the country top-down, both during communism and during post-communist democracy. The first failed spectacularly, the second only had mixed success.
Ukraine is the only former communist country that had not one, not two, but three major civil uprisings, in 1990, 2004 and 2013.
The long legacy of communism left the country with poorly performing public services – education, healthcare, public administration, justice, police, and the list can go on. Corruption – small and big – has always been a way to get things done.
Democracy made corruption worse. Communists had privileges without having to resort to corruption. Corruption of others in communist times was suppressed by secret and non-secret police.
After 1991, communist institutions failed to be transformed into inclusive institutions at the service of the citizen. Instead, extractive elements on every level were preserved, institutions and monopolies extracting profit enabled by their position of power.
Ukraine was failing to create an inclusive “infrastructure of opportunity” for all. This is why nations fail, Darren Acemoglu argues.
After Euromaidan, people are determined to change that; citizens even more so than the government. Coming from Slovenia where we are tired and depressed from not seeing reform, it was so refreshing to see many young people who were literally taking matters into their own hands. Not by becoming politicians, but by facilitating bottom-up policymaking and bottom-up state-building.
Reanimation of reform
An example of the first is the “Reanimation package of reform” movement that is basically doing the job of a reform ministry. It is similar to what I had in Slovenia in 2007-2008, or what the prime minister of Slovenia Mr. Pahor had in 2010, the “reform scoreboard”. They – civil society – are pushing for reforms and overseeing their progress: speaking to the Rada, lobbying the MPs, talking to the ministers.
This includes more than 80 NGOs, such as the Ukrainian Center for European Policy, Institute of World Policy, Europe without barriers, Civil society Institute, Anti-corruption Action Center and others.
Examples of bottom-up state-building are the numerous on-line services that civil society is developing on top of government open data. Some match and exceed the quality of similar services that are being created by bureaucracies in the West.
For example, the online service that makes spending from national budgets totally transparent, or applications which allow citizens to decide how to use parts of the city budget.
In some respects, Ukraine is a huge living lab of participatory democracy.
The first fights corruption, the second improves the management of local communities and makes sure that public money is invested where citizens consider it important.
But more importantly, such online services create commitment, a sense of belonging, ownership and improve the web of trust in a society. The thousands who participate in creating those services and the hundreds of thousands who are taking an active part in using them form a resilient social network, independent of potential hacking, control or censorship on mainstream social networks. These are the people who will go to the streets again if needs be to protect Ukrainian independence and democracy.
In some respects, Ukraine is a huge living lab of participatory democracy. And more: it is an example of participatory state-building. As should be the case after revolutions, the people are taking power.
From what I have seen it is not so much about taking power in Ukraine, but about doing the work for the country and building it again with the expertise of NGOs such as Center for Innovations Development of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Center for Democracy and Rule of Law and Easy Business and Center for Economic Strategy.
I find the very idea that people, freely collaborating on the internet, can come in and deliver where the state and its bureaucracy are failing, fascinating. It is not another Facebook or Twitter revolution. It is not the “click-tivism” of likes and retweets. It has serious elements of online bottom-up state-building.
If it succeeds, Ukraine will be a textbook case of what the Internet can do for democracy. As a believer in the positive effects of technology on society and as a believer in Ukraine, I do hope it succeeds.
It also puts Ukraine on the world map, not as a country that has the Сrimea and “coal and steel” problems with its big neighbor, but as a hub of technology for participatory democracy and know-how of civil-society-driven reforms.
This technology and the related social know-how is something we could use in the West as well – to take some wind out of the sail of the populists, for example.Žiga Turk Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia Technology Ukraine
Ukraine’s quiet revolution
Blog - Ukraine
20 Apr 2017
Europe has gone through paramount difficulties and tragedies throughout the twentieth century, dealing with two world wars, the Holocaust, the existence of gulags and tens of millions of deaths. After the end of the Cold War, Europe stepped into the twenty-first century with faith in its guarantees of peaceful prospects. Unfortunately, recent years have demonstrated that these guarantees are not as reliable as previously thought.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has engaged in another aggressive foreign policy adventure, this time in Ukraine. This has brought back the nightmares of the twentieth century, prompting experts to discuss the possibility of a Third World War (Lucas 2015) and to portray the prospect of a nuclear conflict as entirely likely (Fisher 2015).
Intimidating as it may sound, this is the reality of the situation. The Western community cannot escape it by burying its head in the sand and shying away from openly responding to the pressing geopolitical questions at hand.
In this article I will briefly discuss the origins of the ‘Russian problem’ and its effects on the state’s foreign policy, describe the phase of development that Russia is currently undergoing, and provide the readers with guidelines on the actions that the Western community should take in order to help both Ukraine and Russia move forward successfully on the European path.
Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Andrius Kubilius Eastern Europe EU-Russia Neighbourhood Policy Ukraine
A changed reality: EU and US role in the transformation of Ukraine and Russia
Blog - Ukraine
19 Nov 2015
On June 18th, the Ukrainian Parliament had the chance to decide on possible reforms of the legislation for local elections, which will be held next October. This strategic decision aims at strengthening decentralisation by introducing new election procedures and optimisation of local councils. As a result, the draft law has been accepted in the first reading, which parliament may then alter or amend. In doing so, however, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has compromised its chance to implement a comprehensive, open, and inclusive reform of the law on local election.
According to the current law, half of the municipal rayon (district) and oblast (province) councils are elected by the proportional system, and the second half is decided in single-member constituencies. This system has continuously proven to be a breeding ground for the misuse of administrative resources[i], corruption and numerous manipulations. If you include elected representatives of all levels it totals 240, 000 people.
Mayors of large cities are currently elected by a ‘first past the post’ system allowing the use of political technologies like spreading votes among many candidates. An excellent example of this was the Kyiv election of 2006 when Leonid Chernovetskyi – famous for his singing, buying votes and corruption – was elected mayor: there were two centrist candidates fighting for the same electorate and each received 20-25% of the vote. But the winner was a third candidate, representing a populist party, who received 30% of the vote.
The coalition agreement of the majority in the Ukrainian Parliament, signed by five parties, contained electoral reform in the first half of 2015. It proposed the following:
The purely proportional method will apply in parliamentary and local elections, where votes will be cast for individual candidates and not political parties (this may mean that constituency lists will have to be introduced and constituencies will have to be redrawn). The majority system will only be maintained in the case of elections to village and city district councils. Mayors of big cities will be elected by an absolute majority.
Ukrainian parliamentarians had to choose between four proposals:
Proposal #1 – Initiated by Yulia Tymoshenko and the Batkivshchyna party, but the proposal was withdrawn on the voting day.
Proposal #2 – Drafted by Mykola Fedoruk from Popular Front.
Proposal #3 – Introduced by Cross-factional group of deputies and experts of Reanimation Package of Reforms[ii].
Proposal #4 – Proposed two hours before the deadline by some deputies from Liashko Radical Party and Petro Poroshenko Block.
During the ranking voting the fourth proposal got the most support and was adopted in the first reading. According to the proposal, mayors of cities with more than 90, 000 inhabitants are elected with an absolute majority which means elections with two rounds for such communities. Another positive achievement is optimisation of total number of elective representatives in local communities.
On the other hand it is not fully complying with the Coalition Agreement, in the way that it does not formalise a holding of local elections under a proportional voting system, and forbids self-nomination at some levels. In some way it creates quasi-majoritarian election system where parties assign candidates to districts. New system reintroduces bloc system, which is a step back according to experts of Reanimation package of reforms. Another negative change is the threshold of 5% for parties and 7% for blocs, which makes it almost impossible for new parties to rise. The authors call their proposal ‘an open-list proportional voting system’ – either by mistake or in order to manipulate public opinion. The results of election held under this system might discredit the election system, and the open-list proportional voting system, as well as the entire institute of local election.
The experts have already replied to this legislative initiative. They call for the inclusion of the following regulations into the draft law which is being finalized:
– to ban or strictly limit paid-for political advertising on radio and television, as well as outdoor political advertising;
– to create conditions for due participation of the internally displaced persons in the election;
– to make financing of election campaigns more transparent by publishing full financial reports both before and after election;
– to introduce effective mechanisms securing balanced representation of both women and men in the elective agencies;
The voted draft eliminates the existing parallel system for local council elections, which has been widely blamed for recurring irregularities in local elections and for a lack of representativeness in local councils. At the same time the law fails to introduce effective mechanisms to secure proper representation of women in the local councils, to make the funding of the election campaign more transparent, and to cut down the expenses of the parties and candidates for the election propaganda. The draft law includes no regulations to guarantee that internally displaced persons will have a possibility to vote at the election.
In any case, a significant effort will be needed to ensure voters understand how the new system works and how to fill out the ballot papers. Extensive training of election commissioners and observers will also be needed to ensure smooth implementation of the new system. Moreover, these changes will help to discipline voters to be more responsible in local elections, because they are not taken seriously when compared to the general election. The understanding of this responsibility by local communities for those whom they are electing is a precondition for decentralisation. If Kyiv made this step towards the strengthening of local self-government, it will support the ranks of Poroshenko and Yatseniuk and their parties which were depleted after the elections in November. Thus, the adoption of this proposal with the amendments mentioned above would be the best possible, but certainly not the best imaginable, result.
[i] The misuse of administrative resources is forcing state employees to vote for the ‘right’ candidate, using local budgets for election campaign etc.
[ii] The Reanimation Package of Reforms is an initiative of public activists, experts, and journalists who have teamed up to facilitate the implementation of reforms in the country.Viktor Artemenko Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine
The battle for local democracy in Ukraine
Blog - Ukraine
30 Jun 2015
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatseniuk, along with a number of ministers, came to Brussels this week for talks about ongoing reforms in Ukraine, the Association Agreement and the security situation. Ukraine now has a new parliamentary coalition and therefore, a new government. Hopefully, we will now see real reform.
But the long process of negotiation between the parliamentary elections on 26 October and the actual appointment of ministers has left many with a somewhat ambiguous impression. Before anyone actually started to get to work, the whole process became mired in intrigue. All of us remember 2005 and the ensuing unraveling of the Orange Revolution. Nobody wants to see that story repeated.
Before the election, President Poroshenko had hoped that he would be able to nominate a government of his choosing. But that became impossible with the unexpectedly high electoral support for “Narodnyi Front”. Its leaders, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleksandr Turchynov, led Ukraine through the complicated period of spring 2014 and their party has thereby gained a degree of national sympathy.
The composition of Poroshenko’s political group was not helpful for the President. The “Poroshenko Bloc” contained a number of candidates of a less than savory variety. Poroshenko’s triumphant presidential campaign before 26 May also appears to have bred a sense of complacency and inertia. While Ukrainian society has changed rapidly, politicians have simply not caught up.
A similar complacency could yet come to haunt Arseniy Yatsenyuk. He received the trust of the people and must not squander it. It is integral that he repays this trust with action beyond mere public criticism of his government partners.
Raised in an environment of endless talk shows, Ukrainian politicians appreciate the media component of their work too much, assuming a good speech on television to be more important than dozens of specific actions. We are living in an information era where the appearance of action without substance becomes a more and more difficult juggling act by the day.
Last week, the Ukrainian Prime Minister presented a governmental action programme which aroused a lot of discussion in Ukrainian society and within the coalition itself. The programme was eventually changed with the addition of one significant sentence: the current coalition agreement was identified as an integral part of the governmental action programme. Why this detailed agenda of reforms and legislative initiatives designed by politicians and civil society representatives together was not deemed a sufficient action plan for government in its own right is anyone’s guess. We are now left with numerous contradictions between the Government’s plan and Coalition agreement with no agreed method for resolving them.
Successful reform requires not only good law but also effective implementation. Here are some of areas of reform identified in the Coalition agreement:
– Constitution: A proper political framework of checks and balances cannot be designed by one of branches of power, so a Constitutional Assembly should be created. According to the Agreement, a special working group in the Parliament will select delegates to constitute the Assembly.
– Anticorruption: So far anticorruption is the brightest example of reform in Ukraine. The October 5 anti-corruption law has been adopted by the Parliament. The creation of a register of real estate owners allows for the tracking of those who bought “New Mezhyhirya” and for questioning of suspicious landlords. It is a great success for the Minister for Justice. Beneficial owners legislation is another triumph, it allows for finding the ultimate holders and those who legally or illegally profit the most.
– Judicial: The “On restoration of confidence in the judiciary” law obligates checks on the general jurisdiction of judges and the prosecution of those who violated the oath or committed a criminal crime. In addition, a new law on prosecution has to change the paradigm of this institution from civil surveillance to actual prosecution. Those two laws have been adopted but they met natural resistance from the whole Court and Prosecutor system.
– Decentralisation and public administration: The main challenges faced by decentralisation are efficiency and authority. Hanna Hopko, a newly elected deputy registered a project of law that promotes quality deputies and leads to the cutting of unnecessary costs in the maintenance of local councils. The next step is to make amendments to the Constitution to steer duties from Kyiv to local and regional communities and it should be done before the New Year. This reform will boost the real transformation from a post-soviet to a democratic state.
– Economic development and growth
– Regulation, Business and competition
– Financial sector
The real indicator of reforms in economic and financial sector is the Budget 2015. When the Government presents it we will see what rule-set the Prime Minister has chosen: the old (crisis) or the new (reforms).
The previous Yatsenyuk government is not remembered for reformist solutions even within the government and administration itself. And Yatsenyuk, despite loud statements of his willingness to sacrifice his career, seeks to share responsibility for unpopular decisions with other political forces. Maybe he believes that will help him to become President himself one day. In other circumstances, this could be understandable. After the killing on Maidan in February and amidst a drawn out war in the East – it is not.
Yesterday Petro Poroshenko has appointed Oleksandr Turchynov as a Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council. The president wanted to send a clear signal that there will be no war between him and Yatsenyuk. His signals are transparent. Turchinov is a bridge in relations between Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk, a sign of mutual trust. Poroshenko gave a member of Yatseniuk’s team a position in his territory. This move shows understanding from the President that Ukraine’s future depends the Parliament and the President working together.
In general, the Governmental programme in concert with the Coalition agreement look promising; let’s see if there is enough political will to make it happen.Viktor Artemenko Democracy Eastern Europe Enlargment Ukraine
Ukraine’s Reforms: Real or Fake?
Blog - Ukraine
17 Dec 2014
“Mantra” (Sanskrit मंत्र) means a sacred utterance… or group of words believed by some to have psychological and spiritual power. – Wikipedia
As 2014 is drawing to a close, let’s take a look at how the West has debated its reaction to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. With all the controversy, there is nevertheless a number of statements that more or less everybody can agree on, at least in Europe. I call them the four mantras of the Ukraine debate. I don’t claim they are false or mistaken. But the way they are formulated, none of them stands closer scrutiny, because they all are more or less massively beside the point.
1. ‘The West has made mistakes, too’:
Actually, the statement as such is what Americans call a no-brainer. Who doesn’t ever make mistakes? The question is: which were the mistakes? And here we get some interesting disagreement. One school claims that the West was too triumphant after the end of the Cold War, expanded NATO ignoring Russia’s fears, and crossed another Russian red line with its attempt to drag Ukraine into the West (thereby also forcing an unwanted choice upon the poor Ukrainians: Russia or us). This argument, or at least parts of it, has been made by many – probably in its most coherent form by the neo-realist U.S. pundit John Mearsheimer.
The other school is best represented by the American journalist Anne Applebaum: If anything, the West has nurtured the illusion of a cooperative Russia modernising along Western lines for much too long. Even when those who know better (i.e. the Poles, the Balts and a few others) had warned their Western partners that it was an illusion. As Estonian President Toomas Ilves likes to say: Georgia in 2008 was the wake-up call but we’ve been hitting the snooze button ever since. From France’s sale of the Mistral assault ships to our slow reaction to Russia’s blatant attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in February 2014: It was our mistake not to challenge Russia much earlier and more decisively. We might actually have saved Ukraine, ourselves and the whole of Europe a lot of trouble.
2. ‘We need to keep the channels for dialogue open’:
Sure, talking always feels good. Some say that ‘as long as people talk, they don’t shoot!’ – Nice. The problem with this conventional wisdom of Western diplomacy is that by the time it is uttered, the shooting usually has been going on for some time – just not by NATO, the U.S. or the respective coalition of the willing. Because to talk it takes two, but to shoot it only takes one who has at least a Kalashnikov and the determination to use it. And as we have seen, the shooting in the Donbas can very well go on while the talking is being solemnly carried out in Geneva, Vienna, Paris or Minsk.
It all boils down to the street thug techniques that Vladimir Putin learned as a teenager in the backyards of Leningrad, in what he still proudly calls his ‘street university’(look it up in Masha Gessen’s book). A good khuligan (=hooligan) first punches you in the nose, and then leaves you a choice: you can be unreasonable and escalate the situation, or you can be reasonable and work out a mutual compromise: You give him your wallet, and he will even smile at you again.
So where does this leave us? Communication is good, but only if it serves a purpose and if it doesn’t keep us from calling a spade a spade, and from doing what needs to be done, such as broad-based economic sanctions. The West needs to have a position that is based on our core values, and back up this position with hard power, otherwise it’s pointless.
3. ‘There is no military solution’:
This one is really popular. From UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to Chancellor Angela Merkel, even to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, everyone agrees on this one. Again, there is nothing wrong with the sentence as such. Of course wars never solve anything. They never sort anything out (except for slavery in the US, the holocaust and a few dictators, as P.J. O’Rourke likes to point out). The trouble with Russia’s new cold war is that there is no quick solution to it, period. Ed Lucas from the Economist has pointed that out brilliantly. As long as Putin wants it to drag on, it will continue, no matter what he signed. The fate of the Minsk agreement should have demonstrated that. What amazes me is that anyone in their right mind and not on the Kremlin’s payroll still believes that Mr Putin’s public statements, assurances in interviews, or even signatures, have any true meaning whatsoever.
Now, instead of uttering banalities such as ‘There is no military solution’, the much more interesting question is: Can there be an improvement in the situation as long as Ukraine is militarily as hopelessly inferior to Russia as it is at the moment? As for me, the answer is a clear no. Ukraine, after a democratic revolution, has been wrongfully attacked by its neighbor who is now bullying the whole neighbourhood. To take Western military intervention off the table from the very beginning, was tactically questionable but may have been necessary to calm down public opinion in Europe and America. But that does not mean that the West, or at least individual countries, shouldn’t help Ukraine to at least partly redress the imbalance militarily. That goes from training to the delivery of non-lethal equipment to modern small arms and anti-tank and air defence weapons.
The simple truth is that sanctions may not be enough to make Russia change course. The military price tag of Russia’s aggression counts: The more of those ‘vacationing volunteers’ come home in body bags, the more precarious Putin’s image will become at home, all Novorossiya talk notwithstanding. All this does not mean stability will return if and when military options are brought back to the table. But it means that the Ukrainian government will be able to talk and act with more self-confidence. Which should be a worthwhile goal, and would spur the domestic reform effort of Ukraine.
4. ‘There is no stability against or without Russia’:
This is another beauty. As if Putin’s Russia was interested in stability as we define it – or at least most of us do. Frankly speaking, I have no idea how people can consider a Europe with buffer zones and spheres of influence a stable place. I thought we’ve been through that for a few centuries. I cannot see why we should even endorse the idea that some countries which have the bad luck of being close to Russia, cannot freely choose their political system and alliances, and are somehow doomed to live in an authoritarian kleptocracy.
So it all depends on which Russia we’re talking about. As Mikheil Saakashvili said in 2013: We will have stability in Europe when Russia becomes a normal nation state. Because at the moment, it isn’t (and hasn’t been for a long time). Instead, at least in its self-description, Russia is an empire and empires have no borders. As long as that is the case, there will be no stability. We’d better prepare for a long conflict with Putin’s Russia. It will have political, diplomatic, psychological, economic and military aspects. It will neither be all-out war nor a repetition of the Cold War. It will even still contain elements of cooperation. But it will only be over when there is a fundamental change in Moscow.
If we really want a better future for the Ukrainians and the people in Eastern Europe (including Russians) and if we seriously aim at a Europe Whole and Free, we should go beyond the mantras. We need to shape up and win this. Otherwise, Mr Putin wins. And that would mean the end of NATO, the EU and Europe as we know it.Roland Freudenstein Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia European Union Foreign Policy Ukraine
Ukraine beyond the mantras
Blog - Ukraine
15 Dec 2014
What about the war in the east and what about politics? Well, there were echoes of both, but not as intensively as you might imagine when you follow the news on TV.
Ukrainian patriotism was palpable in both Kiev and Lviv. One could see the yellow and blue colours on public buildings, bridge railings and other places. On the streets, volunteers even collected money for those yellow and blue paints. What was also noticeable was that not a single building featured the Russian flag, although flags of other countries were freely flown. The EU flag could be seen everywhere on public buildings.
Lviv seemed more religious in its patriotic commitment. One car proudly featured a flag with Christ’s head over yellow and blue, proclaiming ‘God and Ukraine Above All’:
I also visited the barracks of one of the many branches of Ukrainian ‘special forces’ in a Lviv suburb. In February, they were partly burnt as local demonstrators tried to prevent the soldiers from joining other government forces who at that time were suppressing the demonstrations on the Maidan. In the event, I was told by an active participant of the siege of the barracks that the young soldiers, themselves drafted, were more than happy not to go to Kyiv and stay at home.
On the markets in Lviv and Kyiv, there was plenty of toilet paper with faces of Putin, Yanukovich and other figures opposed to the pro-European forces (I am told that you can find similar merchandise in Russian cities but with faces of the representatives of the current Ukrainian government).
Disturbingly, in Lviv there was also plenty of red and black. These are the colours of the Right Sector, a far-right organisation with a voluntary militia which is fighting the Russians and Russian sympathisers in the east, alongside the regular Ukrainian army. The Right Sector criticises the regular army as corrupt and leaking information to the Russian government. According to the Right Sector’s own periodical, which you can pick up at a stand in Lviv, the organisation does not accept atheists, communists or socialists in its ranks. Not that I fit any of these affiliations but thanks, that’s not my mug of kvass.
On the radio, there was a lot of discussion regarding a lustration law to ‘clean up the Ukrainian state’. The allegation is that the public administration and the army are partly controlled by people whose sympathies go to the former Soviet Union or who have links to the Russian government.
In Lviv, we were told that a demonstration was just being organised in one of the suburbs. It gathered young men and their families opposed to military draft. These young men did not want to fight for a Ukraine some of whose citizens turn against their own state, backed by a foreign power to the east. In contrast, other young men volunteer for service and want to fight for a restoration of Ukraine in its borders recognised by international law. Still others are waiting, often with trepidation, to be drafted into the Ukrainian army. And if you want, you can support the Ukrainian army by a donation organised by the government:
Moving about in Kyiv and Lviv was easy. No-one ever accosted me on the street, although I took plenty of photographs and used my rusty Russian. Freedom seemed to be thriving. On the Maidan in Kyiv, I even saw a charming demonstration for the independence of Siberia: (http://ces.tc/XUMocb).Vít Novotný Eastern Europe EU-Russia Neighbourhood Policy Ukraine
The only battle I witnessed was to make the Kyiv city centre clean and presentable again. And the only violence I suffered was inflicted on the locker of my suitcase at the Kyiv airport, either by the airport security or by thieves.
So, if you are looking for an affordable holiday with good food, a lot of greenery and historical monuments, I heartily recommend Lviv and Kyiv in Ukraine.
From the Brussels bubble to the (all quiet) Maidan front: A travel diary (Part 2)
Blog - Ukraine
08 Oct 2014
Ukraine is passing through a civilisation change. Ukraine has made a fundamental strategic decision: UKRAINE DECIDED TO BELONG TO THE WEST. Similarly to how we in Slovakia decided in 1998. Russia’s reaction represents its response to this fundamental Ukrainian decision. This is no action organised by the United States, no CIA conspiracy against Russia – this is the free choice expressed by the Ukrainian people not only on Maidan, but also by electing a clearly pro-European President Poroshenko and ratifying the Association Agreement in Parliament by overwhelming majority on 16 September.
Why was Russia’s reaction to the decision of Ukraine so harsh? I believe that the main reason is that Russia strives to maintain its status of a global superpower. It is concerned about the loss of influence. And it also fears that Western influence would weaken the position of its ruling elite. The intervention in Crimea was quick and smooth because Crimea had always been, as it were, at Moscow’s disposal: the Crimean nomenclature, the ruling political elite was mentally closer to Moscow and had for years preserved considerable political and administrative independence from Kiev. Thus, it was not a big problem for Russia to intervene militarily in Crimea and to hastily organise a referendum on whether the Crimean population wants to join Russia. It was all the easier given the fact that many Russians felt in their minds and hearts that Crimea had “always” been Russian.
Why is the situation in eastern Ukraine so dramatic? The main reason is that after Russians took control of Crimea, they tried to use a similar scenario also in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions (Oblasts) of the Donbass area. However, this time Ukraine decided to defend its territory. Even at the cost of armed clashes and the loss of human lives. In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Russians met with a much “less warm” reception than in Crimea. In response to the determined stance of Ukraine, the EU and NATO agreed on the need to draw a red line, which is represented today by economic sanctions.
IS THIS ONLY A FEUD BETWEEN RUSSIA AND UKRAINE? The Prime Minister says that this is a GEOPOLITICAL CONTEST BETWEEN RUSSIA AND THE UNITED STATES OVER UKRAINE. That is not true. However, the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine does have a more global character. IN THIS WAY, RUSSIA IS CHALLENGING THE WEST. The West did not and does not incite Ukraine to join the EU or NATO. The West says that it will fully respect Ukraine’s choice. Just the other way around – it was Russia that was actively and openly trying to make Ukraine join its Eurasian Customs Union. The West would have accepted that choice just as it accepts Ukraine’s choice to belong to the EU. It only made it clear that Ukraine must make a choice. It is not possible to belong to both the EU and the Eurasian Union. President Yanukovich apparently played to both sides. Like asking Russia for loans. And certain “strategic” investments. We don’t know what “guarantees” he offered for these loans. But it is very likely that he raised high and unrealistic expectations by Russia. This is probably why Russia responded as it did to the ousting of Yanukovich by Maidan. The fact that Russia is challenging the West and not only Ukraine is also witnessed by reduced gas deliveries to Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. It is therefore not only Ukraine that is concerned; it is also Russia challenging the West. It is a test about how far can the Russians go. This challenge to the West also conveys a strong message for the domestic audience: it should demonstrate the strength of the ruling regime and its determination to defend Russia against the penetration of the values or ideas of the Western world into Russia. Moscow does not want its Maidan.
WHY IS THE TENSION IN AND AROUND UKRAINE SO HIGH
The basis of Western political culture is democracy. Basic tenets of democracy are free elections and pluralistic society. An essential attribute of free elections is that the government defeated in the elections hands over the power to the opposition. And, moreover, that the winner of elections shares the power it has acquired. It shares it with the opposition to which it assigns, for instance, the function of parliamentary oversight. And also with civil society, which must be allowed to freely and independently carry out its activities. Democratic governance means the de-politicisation of the police, courts and prosecution.
Russia’s problem is that – practically at all times (except perhaps for the short period of perestroika) – it had been dominated, ruled by an authoritarian regime. First by the czars, then by the Bolsheviks, later (and up to the present) by the nomenclature, called the Family. The nomenclature opposes democratisation with the argument that loosening the reins to democratisation, liberalisation and pluralism would lead to the collapse of the state. In reality, it strives to maintain its power, and its policy often includes the search for an external enemy to make people ignore problems at home.
Not only Ukraine but also Russia faces serious challenges. Both internal and external. They are, in particular, adverse demographic trends, economic dependence on extraction and export of raw materials, and also the pressure – growing, albeit slowly – of civil society towards the promotion of pluralism. Russia’s neighbourhood – from its perspective – is not exactly favourable or friendly (in the words of one participant of a recent conference in Kiev – with big China in the east, Islam with its ever stronger extremist factions in the south, liberal “decay” in the west, and cold seas and ice in the north).
For these and also other reasons, a sustainable agreement with Russia has been and will remain a problem for the West. Russia, its ruling elite, will feel increasingly vulnerable and therefore increasingly less predictable. In particular, it will be afraid of what presents the most serious threat to its political monolith. This means the West. The ruling nomenclature will do anything to prevent the Maidan spark jump over to the Red Square.
WHAT OPTIONS DOES THE WEST HAVE?
In this situation, the West has only two options: to abandon the promotion of democracy in the world, abandon the support to Ukraine, and to subsequently backtrack and yield to the authoritarian regimes in other parts of the world, allowing these regimes to get increasingly “bolder”, or to accept the challenge of and engage in a hard struggle with Russia.
The baseline of the political struggle between the West and Russia must be the conviction of its citizens and gradually also of the others that the West does not present a threat to Russia. If anything, it presents a threat to its political monolith, the establishment, the nomenclature. The determination of the West to accept the challenge of Russia and respond to it has taken the form of economic sanctions imposed on Russia. The more often Fico criticises the sanctions, the more often it should be repeated to the citizens: ECONOMIC SANCTIONS HAVE BEEN IMPOSED ON RUSSIA BY THE EU. THIS MEANS BY INDIVIDUAL MEMBER STATES, INCLUDING SLOVAKIA. THUS, AS REGARDS SLOVAKIA, ECONOMIC SANCTIONS HAVE BEEN IMPOSED ON RUSSIA BY THE GOVERNMENT OF ROBERT FICO.
I do not criticise this decision of Robert Fico’s government. I do not criticise this decision because I perceive it as a fundamental, principled response of the West to the Russian challenge, and I consider it to be the best of available responses. However, I do criticise Prime Minister’s statements regarding the sanctions that received also his approval. It is highly immoral and damaging for Slovakia when the Prime Minister approves sanctions in Brussels on Monday, only to subject them to harsh criticism at home, in Slovakia, on Tuesday. Such conduct leads to distorting the truth, turning things upside down, confusing the cause and effect. All this leads to the rise of primitive anti-Americanism, opposition to the EU, and the subsequent polarisation, flaring of tempers, but mainly to the loss of Slovakia’s reputation. I do not recall any ambassador of a neighbouring country having ever commented the statements by the Slovak Prime Minister the way the Ukrainian ambassador did referring to Robert Fico: Robert Fico talks like a bad neighbour.
Ukraine is facing serious challenges. The most serious of them is the defence of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ukraine has made its choice. It is defending its rights, even at the highest cost: the cost of human lives. That is one reason for its successful defence efforts. This is also the reason why Ukraine should be helped. Especially in the MORAL sense. I appeal to Prime Minister Fico to stop falsely claiming that Ukraine is breaking down, that Ukraine is falling apart. Such statements are false and cynically inappropriate. They harm Slovakia and do not help Ukraine. Who they help are the aggressors who want Ukraine to disintegrate.
Besides this crucial and vitally important challenge, Ukraine is facing and will continue to face three truly monumental and several major challenges. (Môj návrh: Ukraine is facing and will continue to face a few truly monumental and a number of major challenges.) Monumental challenges are, in our opinion, modernisation of its economy, restructuring of its industry, stabilisation of its currency and the financial sector, diversification of energy sources, and resolution of its defence capability and security issues.
These challenges are also challenges for the West. It is true that no one will do for Ukrainians what they must do themselves. But the West must help them. In each of these areas. It is commendable and encouraging that Slovakia has contributed by ensuring the reverse flow of gas to Ukraine. The Slovak Government deserves praise for having mastered this process much earlier than it had been initially indicated. But, by no means is it possible to claim victory. The fact that Russia is challenging not only Ukraine but also the West is documented by reduced deliveries of Russian gas to Poland, to our country, and to Hungary.
But there are many other serious challenges that Ukraine is and will be facing, such as the need to combat corruption, decentralise and streamline public administration, improve the quality of education, healthcare, modernise the pension system.
Not only the West but also Slovakia as its part have things to offer to Ukraine. Like moral and political support, and also experience with the transition process and reforms. This is also in the supreme interest of Slovakia, and not only of the regions in the eastern part of the country.
Among those who spoke in the opening section of the already mentioned conference which was held on 11-13 September in Kiev was the frontman of Ukrainian band “Okean Elzy”, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk. He is one of the most visible faces of Maidan. The last question he was asked was: What does Ukraine expect the West to do? Svyatoslav paused in thought. I expected he would make a request for financial or military assistance, a kind of a new Marshall Plan … But after some thought, Vakarchuk said: What is going on in Ukraine right now is painful for us. And we realise there still will be a lot of pain for us to bear. It would be good if also the West could bear and withstand some pain. Because, if the West does not do it and is not ready to do it at a lesser scale now, it will also suffer much pain later.
I understood what he meant. And I am convinced there are many of us who understand.Mikuláš Dzurinda Democracy Eastern Europe Neighbourhood Policy Ukraine
What’s going on in Ukraine?
Blog - Ukraine
30 Sep 2014
My trip to Ukraine in the second half of August was fun and safe. True, I visited only the capital Kyiv and the city of Lviv in the west of the country. I did not venture further east into the war area.
My first surprise was on the Maidan Square in Kyiv, the focal point of resistance to the Yanukovych government. I expected flames of burnt tyres and fights between the police and the remaining demonstrators. Such scenes were indeed taking place as late as 7 August: (http://ces.tc/XUI4JX).
When I arrived on the Maidan square on 17 August with my companion, I was welcomed by girls in zebra and rabbit outfits. They offered that the passers-by take joint photos with them as mementos from Kyiv, for a small fee of course.
How come, you may ask? I arrived in Kyiv just at the moment the city administration, now led by Vitali Klitschko of the UDAR party and under some pressure of the city’s inhabitants, sent the demonstrators away and started cleaning up the square (http://ces.tc/1x7opFO).
This renovation seemed like a difficult task. Some buildings are almost completely destroyed and the paving has been used to make barricades. One could see plenty of shrines to the fallen heroes of the Maidan, complete with improvised shields from the fighting (http://ces.tc/1slFCdG).
The next surprise was the easiness with which Russian and Ukrainian speakers in the capital and elsewhere interacted. There seemed to be no linguistic conflicts. I heard bilingual conversations everywhere on the streets and on the radio.
A third surprise was the amount of greenery in Kyiv. The capital boasts a lot of parks. Some are used by chess players in a fashion typical of the countries of the former Soviet Union.
True, the air in the capital seemed quite polluted in the busier places. But the river Dnipro was clean (http://ces.tc/1wJJSlm), clean enough for city dwellers and visitors, including myself, to take a dip in at the municipal beach on the island of Trukhanov.
The fourth surprise in Kyiv was that the customer service was really good, at least in some places such as Puzata Khata, a superb fast-food chain that serves Ukrainian specialties. Admittedly, good service is not a difficult feat to achieve if one compares with the shop service in central Brussels.
I took the ominously looking ladies in Kiev museums and rude information officers at the Kyiv airport as unavoidable flashbacks to the socialist past, which I know so well for having lived it in communist Czechoslovakia. I have to say, though, that I shook a little when one of the ladies in the Afghanistan War Museum picked up the phone and whispered something into the receiver whilst staring at me intently. It transpired that she complained about my photographing, not knowing that our museum guide had allowed me to take pictures.
In Lviv, the relatively recent history of the capital of Austrian Galicia is visible in architecture, cuisine and culture on every step. Poverty was a bit more in your face in Lviv than in Kyiv. If it were not for the cars, some corners of the city would even have looked like sceneries from a hundred years ago:
In both Kyiv and Lviv, there were plenty of street stands, selling anything imaginable, from food to flowers and memorabilia. It seemed that making ends meet was not easy for many people.
(To be continued)Vít Novotný Eastern Europe EU-Russia Ukraine
From the Brussels bubble to the (all quiet) Maidan front: A travel diary (Part 1)
Blog - Ukraine
24 Sep 2014
On the 1st of August 1975, the then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave was one of the signatories of the Helsinki Final act governing relations between European states. He signed along the United States, all other European countries (except Albania), and the USSR, which at the time encompassed both Russia and Ukraine.
Article one of the Helsinki Final Act said that the signatory states would “respect each other’s sovereign equality, juridical equality and territorial integrity” and that they would refrain from the “use of force or the threat of the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.
As a small militarily neutral European state, Ireland has a greater interest, even than has a state which enjoys the comfort of a military alliance, in ensuring that these clear interstate principles are respected.
The Russian annexation of Crimea by force and its present increasingly overt invasion of Eastern Ukraine is obviously a flagrant breach of the Helsinki Final Act. It is the first of its kind since the end of the Second World War, unless one includes the NATO action against former Yugoslavia over the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, which was then part of sovereign former Yugoslav territory. I argued at the time that this was a dangerous precedent.
As Taoiseach, I happened to have been invited to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the very day the Assembly was voting to admit the Russian Federation to membership of the Council. I spoke in favour of Russian accession. Russia became a member on 28 February 1996. The Council of Europe is the source of a dense and comprehensive network of treaties on many topics, including human rights. The Council of Europe, and its Treaties, only have meaning to the extent that its members are willing to abide by international law.
The European Union itself also rests on the foundation of respect for international law. The EU only EXISTS because there is an assumption that international Treaties will be respected in ALL circumstances. The EU has no force to govern its own members beyond the force of international law in the form of EU Treaties. The European Court of Justice interprets these Treaties and its rulings are accepted by all EU states.
Dividing the EU has been a long standing Russian goal, and President Putin’s aggressive tactics appear to be succeeding in the goal of dividing the EU, in a way that previous Russian efforts have failed. At a meeting I attended last June, the new EU Foreign Representative, Federica Mogherini, admitted that, as then Italian Foreign Minister, she had been “advocating for Putin” within the EU. Her promotion will now encourage Putin, and is more eloquent than any verbal warning he may have been given about the EU ending its “partnership “with Russia, whatever that means.
Within the EU, countries like Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Italy are relatively accommodative towards what Russia is doing, while others, like Lithuania, Poland, Estonia and Latvia are alarmed and looking for resolute action. The bigger EU states are, painfully and unsuccessfully, trying to balance commercial interests against professed principles. The Russian tactics are very similar to those adopted by Hitler in his dealings with the Czechs in 1938, and the present tactics of the EU are not dissimilar to those adopted by the French and British Governments of the day.
As 28 nations, the EU will never be able to move with the dexterity of an autocracy like Russia, but if it is not to have its policies dictated in the Kremlin, as a result Russian pressure on energy supplies, it needs to make a radical change in its own energy policies. It needs to build a proper energy union in Europe, independent of Russia, with complete inter connection of its energy distribution grids. That will require a lot of (job creating) investment, and the diversion of funds from current consumption. But a long term decision like this would create a new momentum with which Russia could not ignore.
The EU also needs to reflect on the contradictory messages it is sending out about nuclear disarmament.
Libya, which had got rid of its nuclear weapons programme, was attacked by EU countries, who were supporting the ouster of the Gaddafi regime. In an agreement to encourage it to give up the nuclear weapons on its territory, Ukraine’s sovereign integrity was guaranteed, in the Budapest memorandum, by a number of countries, including Russia, the UK, and France. Against the background of what happened in Libya, more recent developments in Eastern Ukraine reduce the incentives for nuclear disarmament in a very dangerous way.
Given the vast economic superiority that EU countries enjoy over Russia, it is surprising that they have so little influence on it. If EU countries refused to buy Russian gas, Putin would have to stop and think. But the effect of such a decision would hurt some EU countries much more than others, and that would require the EU to set up a budget big enough to compensate the countries that would suffer the most. The biggest resistance to this would come from countries, like the UK, that do not want a large EU budget. Likewise German business interests who are heavily invested in Russia.
It is really difficult to see who can now stop Putin, except perhaps an awakened Russian public opinion that will become sickened by the casualties Russian soldiers will suffer in a needless war against another Slav country.John Bruton Defence EU-Russia Security Ukraine
Events in Ukraine threaten both the international rule of law and nuclear non-proliferation
Blog - Ukraine
05 Sep 2014
I have just finished reading ‘Sleepwalkers – How Europe went to war in 1914’ by Christopher Clark, Professor of Modern History in Cambridge. He describes the statesmen who stumbled into War in 1914 as “sleepwalkers, watchful but unseeing, haunted by dreams, yet blind to the horror they were about to bring to the world”.
A web of interlocking commitments, designed to give individual countries security and peace behind their own borders, ended up tumbling the whole continent into War.
Austro-Hungary had a defensive pact with Germany. Russia set itself up as the protector of Serbia. France gave Russia a blank cheque in the Balkans because it needed Russian assurances against Germany. Britain had a rather more vague understanding with France. It feared any Russian rapprochement with Germany because Russia could threaten British interests in India.
So, when Franz Ferdinand was murdered in Sarajevo by assassins that had come from Serbia, the possibility that all these dominoes might fall in the direction of war opened up. But it was only a possibility.
Serbia could have taken resolute action to root out the conspiracy behind the assassins before Austria issued any ultimatum. Austria could have issued a more temperate ultimatum. Serbia could have given a less evasive response. Germany could have restrained Austria.
Russia could have held back from full scale mobilization in support of Serbia, and France could have made it clear that it did not wish to get involved in supporting a Russian attack on Austria so long as Germany stayed out too. Britain could have said it would remain neutral in a German war with France, so long as Germany respected Belgian neutrality.
The interlocking commitments between countries that led to war were not, according to Christopher Clark, “long term features of the European system, but the consequence of numerous short term adjustments” made in the immediately preceding years.
The War was not inevitable, but suited some leaders to pretend to themselves afterwards that it was, so as to avoid facing the consequences of some their own omissions, ambiguities and evasions.
Some of the issues involved are still current.
How does one pursue a criminal conspiracy launched from another jurisdiction? If the European Arrest Warrant was in place could Austria have obtained the extradition of some of the conspirators from Belgrade without threatening war?
Christopher Clark says Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia was milder than the one NATO issued to Serbia in 1999!
As we see a drift towards a confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine, the lesson I draw from this book is that leaders must not just think of the next move, but of the likely counter move, the move after that and so on, bearing in mind that nothing is inevitable until it has actually happened, and that they usually have more choices than they are willing to acknowledge.John Bruton Defence Eastern Europe EU-Russia Ukraine
As tension mounts over Ukraine: Some lessons from 1914
Blog - Ukraine
11 Aug 2014
Ukraine had Presidential elections while Kyiv was electing its mayor and the members of the Kyiv City Council. Preliminary results suggest that Poroshenko is winning with 54%, while Klitschko is on 57%. Both elections represent a major step forward in the stabilisation of an independent and democratic Ukraine. The presidential elections gave Ukraine a long-awaited legitimate president, while the citizens of Kyiv have elected their mayor and Kyiv City Council; for the last two years Kyiv was without permanent leadership.
The elections were significant from both the domestic and the international perspective. Firstly, the election was a factor of domestic consolidation for Ukrainians. The high voter turnout and high percentage of vote given to Poroshenko has reaffirmed the vast support of Ukrainians for the new authorities, as well as their strong support for the course of European integration. Consequently, the election results have destroyed the myth advanced by Russia that the authorities in Kyiv are neither supported by Ukrainians, nor that European integration is a priority. Secondly, Ukraine has got a legitimate president who for the upcoming five years will advance both security and foreign policy. Strong political commitment as well as support of Ukrainians is what the EU, IMF and the World Bank are expecting to see. Therefore the President, with his clear commitment to this agenda, is a reassuring factor. Thirdly, the Russian Federation has a legitimate Ukrainian representative as interlocutor. Previously the negotiations with Ukraine were blocked by Russia, as according to Putin the ‘Kyiv junta’ which took power as a result of a coup d’etat had no legitimacy to represent Ukraine (1).
PRELIMINARY RESULTS OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
The Central Electoral Commission is still working on the final results. Poroshenko has won in the first round having obtained a majority of votes – 54%. He is followed by Tymoshenko – 13% and Lyashko – 8%. The far-right, such as Tyagnybok (Svoboda) have got only 1,17% and Yarosh less than 1%. This destroys Russia’s argument about a popular fascist movement in Ukraine. Moreover, those two parties have failed to establish any stable cooperation with European far right parties, as the latter have developed close ties with Putin.
The average turnout was 60%, with 77% in Lviv and 14% in Donetsk, 12% in Lugansk and 0% in Crimea, as the ones from Crimea had to go vote on the continental part of Ukraine. The low turnout in the East is clearly explained by the disruptive actions of the separatists. In Donbas there were a number of attacks on the polling stations by the armed separatists. The National Guard was successful in arresting some of the heavily armed terrorists at the polling stations; however, they did not manage to stabilise the situation. Consequently, the elections were massively disrupted in Donbas.
The international community has recognised the elections as fair and democratic. According to the Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions, the ‘presidential election in Ukraine was characterized by high voter turnout and the clear resolve of the authorities to hold what was a genuine election largely in line with international commitments and with a respect for fundamental freedoms in the vast majority of the country’ (2). Consequently, the exit polls have prompted immediate congratulations from world leaders to Poroshenko.
REACTION OF THE RUSSIAN LEADERSHIP
The day of elections in Ukraine was marked with the official visit of Medvedev to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in March. This gesture was taken by the Ukrainian side as a provocation. The next day Lavrov expressed an interest to negotiate with official Kyiv representatives stressing that this dialogue needs no intermediary (meaning the EU and US). Nevertheless, the Russian leadership welcomed the participation of the EU and US in the framework of the OSCE Roadmap. Later, both Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk will confirm that they will participate in the meetings only where both the EU and the US will participate.
On Monday, Yanukovych, former president, was quoted by ITAR-TASS saying that he respects the votes given by Ukrainians, but he considers the elections illegitimate. Poroshenko has immediately reacted by saying that Yanukovych could only comment when he returns to Ukraine where he is to assume criminal responsibility.
FIRST COMMENTS BY POROSHENKO
– Preliminary parliamentary elections will be held by the end of the year at the latest.
– His first visit might be paid to Donbas. Preliminary local elections in this region are a possibility. Moreover, he might also hold his inauguration in this region.
– Yatsenyuk will remain Prime Minister.
– The dialogue with Russia will happen in the framework of the EU-UA-Russia-Ukraine negotiations, as previously Russia did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the authorities in Kyiv and refused to deal with the Kyiv authorities.
– Crimea was and is a part of Ukraine. The state will return it with the help of the international legal framework.
POROSHENKO – HOPE FOR STABILITY
Even within the parliamentary-presidential system, the President plays an important role as he is responsible for foreign and security policy. Today Poroshenko has stressed a) the wide support of Ukrainians for the course of European integration, as testified by the elections and b) the importance of changing the approach to the anti-terrorist operation in the East. Being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, his first official visit will be paid to Donbas where he plans to grant full amnesty to the separatists who had guns, but who have not been shooting.
Firstly, Poroshenko is a unique politician who has managed to negotiate and agree with all political parties. In 2000, he was one of the founding fathers of the Party of the Regions and was on friendly terms with Kuchma and Medvechuk. A year later he established his party ‘Solidarnist’, but even in 2004 he became an important ally of Yushchenko.
Both Poroshenko and Tymoshenko were promised the position of Prime Minister, but Tymoshenko and Yushchenko agreed a secret deal. In 2007, Poroshenko headed the council at the National Bank of Ukraine. In 2009, he was FM for one year. In 2012, he was a member of the Azarov government as a Minister of Economic Development and Trade. Therefore, he has access to all political circles in Ukraine; unlike other politicians he has avoided open political confrontation with influential politicians.
Secondly, Poroshenko is seen by many Ukrainians as an apolitical man as he has no party behind him. Even at EuroMaidan, his appearance was not marked by strong speeches or proactive positions; at the same time he was present and from time to time he would give strong comments. An apolitical leader ‘sitting between the different political chairs’ is someone Ukrainians want to see.
Thirdly, Poroshenko is an oligarch and oligarchs are and will be important in the decision-making in Ukraine. According to Forbes, his assets are worth $1600 bln (3), making him the 7th richest man in Ukraine (4). Oligarchs play an important role in both the stabilisation and the destabilisation of Ukraine. The best example is contrasting actions of Kolomojski and Akhmetov. Kolomojski in Dnipropetrovsk has acted against the separatists, chasing them from his region. This is in stark contrast to the near complete lack of involvement by Akhmetov in Donbas. Poroshenko, having access to the club of the richest and the most influential people of Ukraine, will try to bring them together on common terms with regards to national priorities.
Fourthly, Poroshenko has clear priorities. While he has acknowledged the importance of Russia in the context of stability, he has immediately started building credibility based on the election results which have testified obvious support for the European integration course. Therefore he has declared this to be his priority along with the stabilisation of the situation in the East.
Therefore, to conclude, there are many expectations on Poroshenko with regards to stabilising the East as well as making European integration a major agenda point. Being reinforced by Klitschko as the mayor of Kyiv will help these leaders to lay a solid foundation for the parliamentary elections.
Ukrainian elections: hope for change?
Blog - Ukraine
30 May 2014
The chessboard has become the metaphor of choice in the debate about Russia’s aggression. For more than a month now, our condition humaine can be aptly described as ‘waiting for Putin’s next move’ [http://ces.tc/1gsEU2b]. On a more abstract level, this is reflected by the inflationary use of the term geopolitics. Especially among conservatives, we hear appeals that the West, and especially the ‘post-modern’ European Union, has to learn hardcore geostrategy. But on the Left as well, it is fashionable to frame the conflict as an imperial struggle between the West and Russia over a Ukraine which is, in itself, allegedly the embodiment of an East-West split. Geopolitics is not mentioned, but clearly implied. Now, this is how Wikipedia [http://ces.tc/1fQK8oZ] defines the term: ‘… a method of foreign policy [http://ces.tc/1kwRod1] analysis which seeks to understand, explain, and predict international political behaviour primarily in terms of geographical variables.’ Or, as Napoleon put it more bluntly: ‘La géographie, c’est le destin des peuples’.
I beg to differ. Because if that was true, then neither Ukraine nor Georgia, neither Belarus nor Kazakhstan, would ever have the chance to be free countries and choose their alliances, as long as Russia remains as big as it is. Needless to say, this perspective very much suits the Kremlin view in which NATO enlargement (and increasingly also EU enlargement or even association) to Russia’s borders represents a hostile act because they penetrate Russia’s sphere of ‘privileged interest’.
Zoom in on the Euromaidan and it’s easy to see that the geopolitical perspective is profoundly mistaken. What is it that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets for? For what were many of them risking their careers, their health, their personal freedom and their lives – and about 100 actually lost their lives. Was that for this or that empire? For a direction on the compass? Definitely not! What these Ukrainians wanted was something ultimately very simple: a decent future in a halfway modern state, without rampant corruption, with freedom of expression and a fairly functional justice system, and the ability to democratically choose its alliances. Or, as Anne Applebaum [http://ces.tc/Pv2NA2] put it: ‘this conflict pits Ukrainians (both Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking) who want to live in a “European” democracy with human rights and the rule of law, against Ukrainians (also both Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking) — who support an undemocratic, oligarchic capitalist regime that is politically and economically dependent on Russia.’ That is not geopolitics. That is a struggle of political systems. Incidentally, this also puts the alleged conflict between Western and Eastern Ukraine into perspective.
In fact, even Putin and the Russian power elite seem to have at least enriched their erstwhile purely geopolitical narrative with an increasingly comprehensive Eurasian ideology [http://ces.tc/1pYFr17] that casts itself as a grand alternative to the West – although admittedly on clay feet, as far as stringency and philosophical underpinnings are concerned. Nationalism and – increasingly – ‘traditional values’ are blended into imperial rhetoric by the Kremlin and its ideologues. They believe liberal democracy is finished. Hence, like all really important conflicts between political models, this one is ultimately about which one owns the future and which one belongs to the past.
This is actually good news for the EU. Its soft power finds traction with the people of Eastern Europe – or, at least, with their most dynamic parts, including Russians, by the way. But this will only work under four conditions: firstly, for the EU’s soft power to be effective, it has to be backed up by NATO’s hard power – both to deter further aggression and to reassure the allies. That requires political resolve. Secondly, the EU has to be serious about answering to the aspirations of the people who want to live in ‘European’ countries. That requires short term help as well as a long term perspective – which must, in the end, include membership. All this will be a hard sell inside the EU. Thirdly, the West will have to reinvent itself, both in terms of a new transatlantic bond, and in terms of the West Europeans taking the Central and East Europeans more seriously. Fourthly and maybe most importantly, this conflict with Putin’s Russia has to be seen for what it is: a political struggle not identical to, but with a similar intensity as the Cold War. And just like the systemic conflict between 1945 and 1989, this one is winnable.Roland Freudenstein Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine
It’s not geopolitics, stupid!
Blog - Ukraine
07 Apr 2014
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and a number of countries became independent on its former territory the number of states armed with nuclear weapons increased by three: Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine inherited the Soviet nuclear weapons on their territory. By far the largest arsenal remained in newly independent Ukraine, including 2500 tactical nuclear weapons plus 130 SS-19 and 46 modern SS-24 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) with about 1900 strategic warheads. At that time this was the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. International diplomatic efforts led to the signing of the Lisbon Protocol to the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) in 1992. Under this agreement, Ukraine (as well as Belarus and Kazakhstan) would join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapons state and would return the nuclear weapons on its territory to Russia, which would become the successor of the Soviet Union as a nuclear weapons state.
The practical implementation, however, took time and met with resistance: the last weapons were only returned in 1996. In the meantime, a debate had begun whether the strategic nuclear weapons (ICBMs and warheads) should be retained by Ukraine. The 1994 Budapest Memorandum, signed by Russia, the United States and the UK was a key piece to overcome these problems in the transition of Ukraine to non-nuclear status by giving security guarantees (both against territorial and economic threats) to Ukraine as well as assistance for the return of the warheads to Russia and the elimination of the missile systems in Ukraine. Even though the Budapest Memorandum falls short of explicitly giving security guarantees that would trigger automatic military response, the document contains strong political assurances that are legally binding for the signatories.
Leaving aside the question whether Ukraine would have been able to maintain the nuclear weapons systems it inherited from the Soviet Union, one might ask (and people in Ukraine actually do this) if the current crisis would have evolved in the same ways if Ukraine were still a nuclear power. While this question is, of course, theoretical it has significant impact in the reasoning of those countries that are either thinking to develop a nuclear arsenal or those who think of giving up their nuclear weapons. What transpires from the current crisis is that you should not give up your nuclear weapons for declarations of political will or assurances unless your conventional capabilities are sufficient for self-defence or you are member of a military alliance with strong security guarantees and automated mechanisms to invoke defence of your territory by the alliance in case of attack. If you are thinking to ‘go nuclear’, the current events might boost your intentions even further. For the goal of international non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, for the NPT and naturally for the ongoing negotiations with Iran, these conclusions are of course disastrous. At the same time, the nervous responses from the Baltic countries are a reminder that the US concept of extended deterrence fundamentally relies on the assurance of its allies that the US will fulfil its security obligations. That assuring allies can be more difficult than deterring adversaries is a lesson already learned at different stages during the Cold War.
What are the conclusions from this for Europeans and transatlantic partners? The damage to nuclear non-proliferation efforts has already been done but the reactions of the West in the ongoing crisis will determine whether this damage can be contained or more ‘fallout’ is produced. For the West, this basically means that any changes to Ukrainian territorial integrity by force, pressure and action not in accordance with international law must be and have to remain unacceptable. There are many possible actions that fall short of military intervention that can and should be explored. But beyond the actual crisis in Ukraine there are things to be learned and considered. Any possible window of opportunity for further nuclear (reduction) treaties between the US and Russia is definitely closed for some time to come. But there is no need to be afraid of a new nuclear build-up at this moment. The US should remain focused on coming up with a nuclear force structure that is sufficient and also affordable in the mid to long-term. Current forecasts predict the US will spend a total of $1 trillion on the nuclear triad (aircraft based systems, land and submarine based missile systems) over the next 30 years. These costs are likely to be unsustainable. Therefore a discussion is needed on the future of the US deterrent including both strategic and budgetary implications. While this will primarily be a discussion going on within the US, the voice and opinions of those countries ‘under the US nuclear umbrella’ should be heard as well. For Europe, this means answering some rather uncomfortable questions: How do we deal with the threat perceived by NATO members on the Eastern periphery of the alliance? What is the political and military role of US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe? What kind of “assurance” do European allies of the US require and expect? How would Europe with its partners respond to a scenario in which the ban of intermediate range missile systems under the INF treaty fell? There have been ongoing allegations that Russia is either violating or at least trying to circumvent the INF treaty. On the other hand, Russia could simply terminate the treaty, arguing that a similar move had been made by the US in terminating the ABM (Anti Ballistic Missile) Treaty in 2002.
While one could say that these are indeed bleak perspectives, one should not forget that there are still areas for nuclear cooperation that should not be spoiled. The risk arising from nuclear terrorism is real not only for the West but also for Russia and other countries. Even though President Putin will not attend the Nuclear Security Summit that will take place next week in The Hague there can be little interest on the Russian side not to continue international cooperation. The same should be true for us.
[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog post are entirely those of the author and do not represent those of any organisation.]Marc-Michael Blum Defence Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia Ukraine
Russia, Ukraine and the question of giving up nuclear weapons
Blog - Ukraine
18 Mar 2014
The weekends of February and March 2014 will be remembered for a long time to come. Russia’s unprovoked military attack on Ukraine has taken most of the West by surprise, and the implications of the intervention are staggering.
NATO and the EU are shell-shocked and still figuring out how to react. Direct military involvement is out of the question. But there are a few other things the West can do. Here are some ideas, which relate to mind-sets as much as to concrete actions.
First and foremost, the West must act together—notwithstanding the slightly undiplomatic reference to the EU made by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland. In fact, the Ukraine crisis could be the beginning of nothing less than a direly needed transatlantic reset.
In their joint efforts, the United States and Western Europe should take the newest NATO and EU member states in Central Europe more seriously. They should stop assuming that these countries are somehow traumatized by Russia and therefore slightly irrational. The West should use these nations’ knowledge and creativity on issues from cyberdefense to intelligence collection to their fullest potential.
The West has much to learn from Central Europe’s transformative experiences after the fall of Communism. It should apply that knowledge better to support democracy and the rule of law among Eastern partners, not only Ukraine. The EU should heed Central European states’ proposals for better energy networks and reduced dependence on Russian gas and oil. And the West must reassure countries with strong Russian minorities, if necessary by military exercises or redeployments of NATO forces.
There are also a number of sanctions the West can enact immediately: it can exclude Russia from the G8 group of industrialized nations, issue travel bans against Russian oligarchs and leaders, and freeze their assets. But these are only pinpricks, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has probably factored in to his actions. To take a real stand, the West will have to define Russia as a threat to its core values.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that diplomacy means seeing the world through the eyes of others. Even if that is true, diplomacy does not work unless it is firmly rooted in a system of values that one can defend against one’s adversaries. For the West, that does not exclude the option of talking to Russia. But the West must build up its military muscle, its capacities for intelligence gathering, its instruments for democracy support, and its long-term planning to counter the Russian threat.
The current Ukrainian crisis is ultimately about Russia’s future. Contrary to what some observers have said, this is not the last stirring of the Soviet Union. Rather, it is a reassertion of a deep-seated Russian pathology of which Soviet Communism was only one expression. The sleazy, aggressive authoritarianism that the West is witnessing now is another expression—and one that the West must mobilize against.
Europe and the United States need to find a new quality of response to the Ukrainian crisis, in both the short and the long term. To paraphrase a quote often misattributed to Winston Churchill: the West will end up doing the right thing, after it has exhausted all other possibilities!
[Originally published by www.carnegieeurope.eu]Roland Freudenstein Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia EU-US Transatlantic Ukraine
Russia’s war on Ukraine and the coming transatlantic reset
Blog - Ukraine
04 Mar 2014
Yanukovych still has the choice to emerge from the current ordeal as the man who has taken Ukraine’s statehood and democracy to the next level, by securing free and fair elections and making its European future irreversible. In exchange he will be allowed to get away with the economic benefits he has gained in his three years in power.
The stakes in the epic battle for securing democratic future of Ukraine have never been higher. A signature of the Association and Free Trade agreements between Ukraine and the EU would have been seen as an irrecoverable loss by Russia under any circumstances. However, if Ukraine’s European future is sealed by the massive democratic movement we are witnessing in Kiev today, it will bring a double blow to current Russian regime. It will create a substantial obstacle on the way of Russia’s ambition to rebuild an empire, but Kiev will also become a “Rubicon” for democracy’s advancement towards Kremlin.
Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the agreements with the EU in the coming weeks will only signal that he has never intended to do so, manoeuvring to buy more time. And time is of essence-Sochi Olympics are already starting to be a disappointing affair for Putin, with the heads of several European states refusing to attend the opening ceremony. Once Sochi is over, however, the Russian President will turn his full attention to the most important jewel of his crown-the Eurasian Union. The 15 billion credit line and substantial cut in gas prices presented to Yanukovych in Moscow, make it clear that the costs of the project, as with Sochi Olympics, do not matter.
In the coming weeks the EU cannot afford to yield-Yanukovych must either sign the agreements with the EU or the new elections are in order. The argument of the opposition is clear: When the elected representatives change the strategic alliances of the country, without having a popular mandate to do so, they lose any legitimacy to take the decisions on behalf of their people.
That said the challenge posed by the new elections, is also considerable. The opposition is divided and Vitali Klichko, the most likely candidate to defeat Yanukovych, lacks the necessary political infrastructure. Yanukovych’s hold on the administrative resources, which he will use to try to falsify the election results and the likelihood of heavy Russian interference, also present a considerable threats to the outcome of the elections.
However, the longer the period of uncertainty lasts, the greater will be the damage to Ukraine-massive collapse of the economy, social unrest and instability, are the most likely consequences. The EU’s margin of interference will diminish even further, as the conditions attached to the EU assistance will never be acceptable to increasingly cornered Yanukovych, focused on his survival. Weaker Ukraine, will be an even easier prey for Russia.
To paraphrase the Austrian Philosopher, Otto Neurath, the countries in transition from authoritarian rule into modern democracy are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship. “Where a beam is taken away a new one must at once be put there.” Ukraine and other former Soviet republics are racing against time-longer is the interval between replacement of the beams, greater is the likelihood of sinking. In the coming weeks, the EU and the US need to think strategically how to avert sinking of Ukraine’s democratic future, which is clearly a looming disaster.
While the current administration in the US might think that it is time to take a backseat and let the EU lead in its shared neighbourhood with Russia, Putin views the absence of the US as an opportunity to bring the region back under his neo-imperial rule. The Russian government is only too well aware, when it comes to confronting them, the EU, plagued with its own internal economic problems, is still a rather divided camp. It does not respect the EU’s “soft power.” Transatlantic Unity is a sine qua non for advancement of the democracy in our part of the world. We see encouraging signs of the US reengagement in the region and hope it will continue.
Western support for democracy groups in Ukraine turned out to be the most efficient form of foreign assistance. One can only regret that the leaders of the civic groups behind the mass protests, who today might be Ukraine’s last hope for securing country’s European future, do not have the time to organize themselves into the coherent political force, able to lead beyond street protests. The West needs to continue assisting broad democratization in the countries of the former USSR-helping to replace the Soviet citizens used to passivity with the ones who know how to hold their governments accountable.
Granted that Yanukovych does not sign the agreements with the EU in the nearest future, it will be up to these groups, supported by the Western political pressure, to force Yanukovych to call early elections. The West should already start mobilizing massive electoral assistance to Ukraine to prevent electoral fraud, securing the right of the Ukrainian citizens to have their voices heard through the ballot box.
Yanukovych should feel a real threat of becoming an international pariah in case he tries to steal the elections. A serious discussion of the potential sanctions against Yanukovych and his economic interests in Europe and the United States would be a good start.
Finally, convening an internationally mandated group of experts to look at real economic foes of the country and considering the potential need for “Marshal Plan” for Ukraine, which the country will likely need in order to shore up its economy, as the political crises deepens, would also be helpful.
Yanukovych still has the choice to emerge from the current ordeal as the man who has taken Ukraine’s statehood and democracy to the next level, by securing free and fair elections and making its European future irreversible. In exchange he will be allowed to get away with the economic benefits he has gained in his three years in power.
An alternative would be abandonment to the mercy of Vladimir Putin. If this choice is clearly framed, one might hope that if not patriotism or other sentiments of higher moral category, than a simple instinct of self-preservation prevails and Ukraine will be given a chance to win the race against time, securing its democratic future.
[Originally published on EurActiv.com: http://ces.tc/1fDVP3Z ]Salome Samadashvili Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia Neighbourhood Policy Ukraine Values
Race Against Time-The Democratic Future of Ukraine
Blog - Ukraine
18 Dec 2013
Two weeks can be a long time in politics. Remember the downbeat mood in the EU on 27 November, after Ukrainian President Yanukovych’s decision to ditch the deal with the EU? With the Eastern Partnership in near shambles, the finger-pointing, the recriminations, the understanding shown for Ukrainian industry dependent on Russian, not EU export markets, the suggestions that Brussels had not offered enough incentives to Ukraine, and, of course, the accusation that it had been a fatal mistake to stick to principles about Yulia Timoshenko?
All that seems ages ago now. Last Sunday’s mass demonstration in the streets of Kiev, the biggest since 2004, came as a culmination of a rising groundswell of protest against the government, and against its violent crackdown on a pro-EU demonstration on 30 November. Of course, only a fraction of the 45 million Ukrainians are demonstrating here. And yet, it’s some of the best and brightest, and they are not only from the West of the country. Plus, although this was initially a rather leaderless people’s protest, with Vitali Klitschko, the opposition now has a fresh leader that can at least hold out the prospect of a better future and credibly promise not to repeat the mistakes made by centre right Ukrainians after 2004.
To put it in a nutshell: Last Sunday’s toppling of the Lenin statue was the best expression of what this is all about: It’s about lies, it’s about Russia, and it’s about freedom.
Because three things have transpired in these heady two weeks:
Ukraine is in a mess. Its oligarch-based government is facing default. Yanukovych doesn’t seem to be able to raise the minimal credits required to keep the country afloat, not to mention sorting out the economy. Make no mistake: That man is no friend of Putin’s. In the world according to Yanukovych, Ukraine pushes its national interest in some kind of a balancing act between the West and Russia. In the eyes of the oligarchs, it thereby preserves lucrative sleaze and avoids bothersome controls by eurocrats. But a rising number of Ukrainians don’t buy this any longer because it doesn’t produce the minimal prosperity and stability they expect. They want freedom. And Russia wants Ukraine ‘back’.
Russia is playing hardball. Some people have known that for many years, but it has dawned on really everyone in the EU in the last couple of weeks. Russia is actively and ruthlessly rolling back the already meagre successes of democracy and the rule of law in the countries of the former Soviet Union. It is using not only strongarm tactics, such as trade boycotts, energy blackmail and threats about national security – or throwing money around by buying assets and people. It is also spreading ideology – as incredible as it seems. This ideology is based on the notion of a common past – sometimes referring to the good old days of the Soviet Union, sometimes to centuries before. But in any event, the putinist narrative goes, Western ways are evil ways. We Europeans can tell ourselves a thousand times that international relations in Europe’s east can be win-win for all: That is to no avail as long as Russia defines the game as zero-sum. But current Russia is a giant with clay feet. Its long term economic and demographic prospects are atrocious. And it has its own growing disenfranchised middle class whose first stirrings we have seen in the Moscow demonstrations a year ago.
The Ukrainians are showing us what believing in the West means. Hundreds of thousands of them are braving the cold, and even risking to get beaten up by riot police. As Ed Lucas wrote in the Economist, no one takes to the streets in favour of sleazy authoritarianism. What the demonstrators want is a whole range of things, from the rule of law and an end to corruption, to decent wages and pensions, to true independence for their country. For any future government, these are daunting expectations, in view of the current mess.
There is one drawback to the developments of the last two weeks, though: The political meta-concept of geopolitics has never been more fashionable in EU discourse. Now, I’m far from claiming that geography has no influence on politics. But if, as Napoleon claimed, geography was the destiny of nations (and, by implication, political ideas like freedom of secondary importance), NATO would have collapsed instead of the Warsaw Pact, and the Soviet Union might as well be alive and kicking. And today in Ukraine (just as in 2004), there is no neat automatic East-West divide that would suggest a politico-geographic split in the country. There is more of a divide between different groups in the population: Those with a desire for fundamental change, and those with an interest in the status quo, out of greed or out of fear.
And this is where the EU’s response to the situation has to begin: With the power of ideas such as freedom and the rule of law. We were losing faith in that ourselves. It took people like Vitali Klitschko and the men and women in ‘Euromaidan’ to remind us. However the situation in Ukraine develops now: At some point in the future, a new government will be in place that requires our help. It is good that the European People’s Party already has both Ms Timoshenko’s Batkivshchina and Mr Klitschko’s UDAR parties as observer members. And it is good that the EU and the US have unequivocally supported free speech and condemned police brutality and provocations in Ukraine. Second, we need to stick to the prospect of trade and political dialogue (in association agreements) while intensifying work on civil society, especially students, entrepreneurs and future leaders. Visa policy is extremely important in this respect, but also coherent democracy support. Third, of course more resources will be needed for some time to facilitate economic reforms – that’s unavoidable. Last but not least, we have to become much more patient and farsighted, not focused on political and economic success in a few years. The struggle over Eastern Europe is closer to its beginning than to its end. But it’s good that virtually everyone in the EU now recognises it as a struggle.Roland Freudenstein Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia Neighbourhood Policy Ukraine
The message from the streets of Kyiv
Blog - Ukraine
10 Dec 2013