• This analysis is a follow-up to the comprehensive report “From Bad to Worse: The Continuing Effects of Sanctions on Russia”, which was published by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies in June 2023. We continue to analyse the nuanced effects of Western sanctions against Russia two years since the beginning of Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and, in contrast to the widespread international optimistic assessment of “Russia’s economic resilience” to sanctions, paint a very different picture: behind the facade of a handful of positive macroeconomic indicators like strong GDP growth and low unemployment, Russia’s actual economic reality is much bleaker, and the situation is getting worse. 

    This paper intends to provide Western policymakers with realistic in-depth analysis of multiple effects of sanctions on the Russian economy, helping to identify areas where sanctions are truly working, and Putin’s main economic vulnerabilities, an un-derstanding of which is crucial to further strengthening the Western response to Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and limiting Russia’s ability to finance the war. 

    Economy EU-Russia Ukraine

    Russian Economy: Still Standing, But Stuck


    30 Apr 2024

  • President Macron stating that Europeans may consider sending troops to Ukraine is a psychological shock for Europeans. It brings war one step closer to kitchen tables. But is it feasible from a battlefield perspective? 

    Mostly because of Moscow’s extreme “denazification” goals, there are only two ways out of this conflict right now: Russia’s victory or Ukraine’s victory. And given demographics and Ukrainian infantry losses, it is all too obvious that Ukraine can only last two or three more years at this deadly pace. Russia, on the other hand, can prolong the ordeal it initiated until the end of the decade. 

    In practice, this means that Ukraine’s second military mobilisation wave will be its last. Could European troops be that third wave that would allow Ukraine’s war effort to regenerate as of 2025 or 2026? Is the future a combination of European and Ukrainian troops fighting side by side?

    Let us be frank: once in Ukraine, it is highly unlikely that European troops will stay for very long safely in the rear. The Russian army will find a way to engage them with deep ballistic strikes. Additional air defences will protect these fresh European units; they could also protect certain industrial sites ramping up arms production. But Russia will find ways to overcome these defensive measures by concentrating its fires. European troops will be in immediate danger: you can expect wounded and killed in action as of the first month of engagement.

    Europeans have not faced such battlefield intensity since World War II. The air dominance and heavily-walled bases of Afghanistan, of Iraq or of the Balkans cannot be used as a benchmark. European armies would need to test never tried before concepts such as decentralised operations with little connectivity from front to rear, or the integration of civilian digital tools within military manoeuvers. Even European Special Forces would operate in an unprecedented context.

    At a more strategic level, supporters of Ukraine would have three options: NATO, EU or national contingents. 

    Option 1: NATO. NATO decision making is driven by consensus, which sits at the heart of its centre of gravity, which is Alliance cohesion. There is currently no consensus of this in NATO, with the White House declaring it would not send troops to Ukraine. Germany, Britain, Italy, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic also all swiftly distanced themselves from the idea.

    However, if consensus was to be established, then NATO has the command and control (C2) at strategic level (HQ NATO and SHAPE), supported by LANDCOM, AIRCOM, MARCOM and NSHQ; at the operational level; JFC Brunssum, Naples and Norfolk and at the tactical level a number of High Readiness Force Land HQs (HRFL). The elements of these in the VJTF and NATO Response Force (NRF) are at high readiness.

    Option 2: the European Union. The EU lacks the command and control framework that NATO has and is not set up and organised for war fighting, which is what this would become very quickly. It also lacks the confidence that comes from experience as it never sent such a volume of soldiers meeting such life and death odds. The EU would be very quickly asking NATO for C2 and logistic support. 

    However, this option could be a good catalyst for the establishment of an EU force structure, along the vision of France. In the context of a future President Trump and dwindling US support for NATO, this might be a serious option. It might also be a very good strategic communications initiative to start to mobilise and force generate the resources required, which in turn would send a strong message to Russia.

    Option 3: a group of willing nations. This is what is happening right now. Nations are providing logistical and C2 support on a bilateral basis, particularly in supporting the delivery of intelligence, high tech weapons and ammunition. Perhaps these activities could be better grouped and messaged to send a stronger and more cohesive supporting message to Ukraine and Russia. NATO would be the most effective organisation to do this and could do so without deploying C2 into Ukraine.  A strategy of ‘leading from behind’.

    However, it leaves a few questions open. First, what would be the relationship of the forces deployed with Ukraine’s own military chain of command? Would they be subordinate to the Ukrainian armed forces or would they operate under the national command of the sending state? The question is not a simple one.

    Second, and perhaps more importantly, what would be the purpose of this foreign force supporting Ukrainians, bearing in mind that Russia and China will block any UN resolution: Ukraine becoming whole again? Making sure that Russian forces cannot advance up to the Dnieper? Ensuring that Odessa remains Ukrainian for longer-term economic viability?

    Third, how would we pull out if we have to and on what terms? If Russia were to advance past the Dnieper or move troops again from Belarus, Europe’s foreign contingent would have to reconsider its layout and its overall purpose in coordination with Kyiv. A mixture of guerilla activities and diplomacy may ensue.

    Winning in Ukraine needs such conceptual bluntness and adaptability. It also needs to be comprehensive from the start: land manoeuvres, maritime, air, cyber, including increased strikes into Russian flanks, tech, robots, drones, AI, loitering munitions, cyber information operations targeting the mothers at home and those stuck in the trenches.

    All these questions do not need to be tackled in the media or in any other public debate, though Macron’s “thinking of the extremes” was highly useful. This is something our political and military leaders can think about behind closed doors in the next few months. So should those gloomy men in their bunkers within the walls of the Kremlin.

    Michael Benhamou Juha Vauhkonen Gary Deakin Defence Ukraine

    Michael Benhamou

    Juha Vauhkonen

    Gary Deakin

    Should Europe Send Troops to Ukraine? 

    Blog - Ukraine

    16 Apr 2024

  • Travelling to Kyiv in 2024 requires a 24 hour trip through 3 different means of transportation. Only 2 and a half years ago, this would’ve been dismissed as pure fiction. But here I was, with a delegation of 30 people from different parts of Europe and the US flying to Warsaw, followed by a 4 hour drive to the Ukrainian border and finally a 12-hour sleeper train that would take of us to the Kyiv Security Forum.

    Among the first recommended things to do when going to Ukraine is downloading an air alert app on your phone, which blasts alerts of potential shelling and shows the closest shelter where one can find safety. Sure enough, on the early morning of our arrival to Kyiv on 21st March, 31 missiles were launched on the capital in the biggest attack seen in 44 days, debris of which caused significant damage to roads and civilian buildings.

    During the night of 22 March we were awoken, alongside all those living in Ukraine, by a massive attack on the country’s energy infrastructure. A total of 60 drones and 90 missiles were fired, causing major damage to the huge Dnipro hydroelectric power plant. This is Ukraine’s largest, and the one that supplies power to the nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia. In Kharkiv, almost 1 million people were left without electricity as a result of the attack.

    As the Russian Federation was intensifying its attacks on Ukraine, the Kyiv Security Forum was unfolding with local and international guests leading discussions on Ukraine’s prospects of joining the EU and NATO, the country’s internal political dimension, the situation on the frontline and the West’s support to Kyiv.

    The loudest message resonating in the room was the need for more military aid – of every type and in every form, from ammunition to air defence. As Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of NATO’s Military Committee, rightfully pointed out, Ukrainian soldiers are fighting a war combining WWI methods of trenches and artillery barrages with 21st century drones and artificial intelligence. Ukrainian troops are pioneering innovation by using Soviet-style equipment in combination with modern Western material. But they can only continue doing so if more helps comes quickly.

    Every passing week, the Kremlin is able to produce more ammunition and missiles than the West thought possible. Somehow, North Korea and Iran can provide military aid to Russia more efficiently than the wealthy and powerful collective West can to Ukraine. Western countries should set clear priorities and ramp up military production by creating partnerships with the private sector to invest in the defence industry.

    Today, Ukraine is underarmed and undermanned. During the battle of Avdiivka, the ratio of Russian to Ukrainian soldiers was 7 to 1 according to Colonel Andriy Biletskyi, Commmander of the Third Separate Assault Brigade of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. However, victory could’ve been achieved with proper and modern air defence and enough ammunition. The deficit in weaponry leads to difficulties in mobilising troops, therefore leading to even more disparity in the number of soldiers on the frontline.

    To successfully continue their task of defending against Russian occupation, the main expectations of the Ukrainian military for 2024 are a viable law on mobilisation from their own government and delivery of necessary military supplies from their allies. Warfare is complicated and multifaceted, and so too is the necessary hardware and weaponry. Air defence systems remain a priority as Russians hold a decisive supremacy in the skies.

    However, despite words of support and encouragement from Ukraine’s allies, the situation remains grim. Expressions of condemnation and condolences are not enough. At the moment the world is failing to mobilise the support Ukraine needs, while Russia tries to degrade the resources Kyiv does have.

    Some nations do however set a positive example, like Denmark, the first country committing to transfer its entire artillery to Ukraine and urging others to follow. The Baltic states’ bilateral aid to Ukraine from Jan 24, 2022 to Jan 15, 2024 is respectively of 3.6% of GDP for Estonia, 1.5% for Lithuania and 1.2% for Latvia, while the biggest EU Member States are at 0.6%.

    With EU and American elections coming up in a few months, 2024 could be a make or break year for Ukraine, and all eyes are on the upcoming Washington Summit. The Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Olha Stefanyshyna, states that Ukraine has expectations but no illusions, as the only commitment from NATO allies is a recurrent message of “Ukraine will become a member of NATO, it’s not a question of if but of when”.

    One thing is clear, neutrality does not guarantee peace and grey zones are a danger for international security. While writing this piece, two more air strikes were carried out by Russia on Kyiv and Lviv on 24 and 25 March.

    Ukraine is fighting for its rightful place in the EU and NATO as a full-fledged member among democracies in the collective West, but its chance of survival depends on the timely delivery of military aid from its allies.

    Anna Nalyvayko Defence EU-Russia Ukraine

    Anna Nalyvayko

    Dispatch from Kyiv


    27 Mar 2024

  • What do Olena Zelenska, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Yulia Navalnaya have in common? Besides all three coming from the former USSR, their husbands are among the people that Vladimir Putin fears the most. This has led these women, with no prior experience, to enter the domestic and international political scene, and to advocate for freedom, democracy and international support to their countries in continuation of their husbands’ work.

    Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, now an habitué of the Berlaymont, high level meetings and international conferences, was a name we never heard of before 2020. The wife of Belarusian blogger and political activist Syarhey Tsikhanouski, Sviatlana stood in for her husband in the Presidential electoral race of 2020 following his arrest and prohibition from running as a candidate. Dismissed by Lukashenka as a non-threat, she managed to gather an unprecedented level of support, so much so that when the Belarusian autocrat declared he was the winner of the elections—claiming more than 80% of votes—people poured into the streets to denounce electoral fraud and announce Tsikhanouskaya as their legitimate President.

    Faced with the threat of losing his longstanding ally – some may say puppet – Putin accepted Lukanshenka’s plea to help him hold on to power, by making, however, Belarus a de facto satellite state of Russia. Facing prison or exile, Sviatlana chose the latter by establishing a Belarusian opposition HQ in Lithuania and advocating for the release of political prisoners, sanctions on the Lukashenka regime, constitutional reform and new, free and fair elections in her country, all acts for which she has gained international recognition. She carries forward the mission started by Syarhey Tsikhanouski, sentenced in 2021 to 18 years in prison, by lending her voice to the opponents of the regime and the Belarusian people. In 2023, Tsikhanouskaya was sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia.

    Olena Zelenska came onto the international scene in 2019 as the First Lady of Ukraine, after her husband Volodymyr Zelensky became the country’s sixth President. Her initial goal during her mandate was to support humanitarian causes, gender equality and equal opportunities, with initiatives such as Barrier Free Ukraine and others.

    In February of 2022, however, her life and that of her compatriots changed dramatically. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and her husband being on the Kremlin’s death list, Olena Zelenska, initially sheltered in a high security hiding place, later embarked on numerous trips to speak about the immense and growing human costs of Russia’s full-scale invasion and to ask for support for her country. She met with countless heads of state and governments, gave numerous interviews and spoke in major international fora on behalf of Ukraine’s President and its people, to keep Ukraine high on the agenda and ask for what the country needs the most at the moment – weapons. Zelenska became the first spouse of a foreign leader to address a joint session of Congress and as the President is busy leading the military operations, the First Lady executes her diplomatic duties with great efficiency.

    In 2022 the Olena Zelenska Foundation was launched with the goal of restoring the human capital of Ukraine as well as the reconstruction of medical and educational institutions. Now, in February 2024 as the war entered its third year, and as Western support sometimes wobbles, the First Lady keeps sending her message loud and clear in the hope it will be heard and addressed- war in Ukraine is about more than Ukraine—it is about who will uphold the values of the West and the postwar rules-based order.

    Yulia Navalnaya, a woman whose name we heard countless times in the past two weeks, is the most sought-after figure by Western leaders and media  since the death of her husband Alexei Navalny under suspicious circumstances on 16th February at the Arctic pole penal colony IK-3 . Putin’s harshest critic, he exposed high-level corruption within Russia’s government and became an opposition figure, giving hope to many for a possibility of freedom and democracy within the Russian Federation.

    Navalny had previously survived poisoning attempts and years in jail, ultimately paying the highest price for his values and ideals. After the shocking news, Yulia Navalnaya, who has always stood by her husband behind the scenes, decided to take centerstage, moments after the death of Alexei was announced to the world. In an Instagram video posted on Navalny’s account she accuses Putin of killing Alexei and addresses her fellow Russians urging them to fight against the regime, to take to the streets and stand against war, corruption, impunity and for free and democratic elections. Taking up her husband’s cross, Yulia pledged to continue Alexei’s fight against the Putin regime, hoping to become a unifying figure for the opposition.

    The ultimate thing that Olena Zelenska, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Yulia Navalnaya have in common is love for their countries, freedom and democracy. In different ways they give voice to the ideas and commitments of their partners, all of whom strive or strived to see their homelands free from war and actions of the Kremlin autocratic regime and its proxies. Their boldness and courage show us also how much we need women in diplomacy, foreign affairs and international security. The participation of women, on equal terms with men and at all levels of decision-making, is essential to the achievement of sustainable development, peace and democracy.

    As we nervously await the upcoming elections in Russia, the EU and the US among other states in the biggest election year in history, it is painfully clear that any result can tip the scale towards a more democratic or autocratic world. In times like these we should look at Zelenska, Tsikhanouskaya and Navalnaya, acknowledge their sacrifice and understand that our democratic freedoms cannot be taken for granted. Only by standing together against oppression, corruption, and autocracy, can we honour the work of those who fight every day for democracy to thrive.

    Anna Nalyvayko Democracy Eastern Europe Leadership Ukraine

    Anna Nalyvayko

    The Female Lead – Building a Legacy of Democracy

    Blog - Ukraine

    27 Feb 2024

  • Two years already have passed since the eruption of war in Ukraine, yet the conflict’s outcome remains uncertain as ever. European leaders, in numerous declarations, have staunchly expressed their commitment to Ukraine, vowing unwavering support in the face of aggression.

    The West has managed to provide substantial backing, and the EU surprised itself with its solid support for Ukraine. However, the reality on the ground in Ukraine today is extremely worrying. Tangible assistance has fallen short and arrived late of what is truly needed.

    Meanwhile, the conflict in Ukraine has morphed into a larger battle waged by the East against the West, but not all in the US and Europe agree on this perception. Thus, the West finds itself ill-prepared to confront this challenge effectively.

    The United States, mainly its deadlocked, partisan Congress, continues to deliberate on providing substantial support, leaving Ukraine in a precarious position with uncertain prospects for financial and military assistance. Domestic political troubles in the US are undermining its decade-long investments into its global influence.

    Meanwhile, European nations are awakening to the urgency of the situation, hastily fortifying their defences. However, the logistical complexities mean that meaningful European aid to Ukraine will most likely arrive too late. The need for support is pressing, with Ukraine requiring assistance yesterday, not tomorrow.

    One of Putin’s most potent tools in this conflict has been nuclear deterrence, a realisation that is only now dawning upon Europe. Discussions abound regarding the modalities of nuclear defence, including the controversial proposal of a common European nuclear arsenal.

    Behind closed doors, there is a minority but growing sentiment within certain segments of the European political establishment that some form of accommodation with Russia may be necessary. Meanwhile, countries in Russia’s geographical proximity understand that peace with Russia might only offer temporary respite, before Putin sets off on the war path again.

    The war in Ukraine has shifted the political landscape in Europe, with defence emerging as a paramount issue. As a result, power dynamics within Europe are undergoing a subtle but significant shift Eastward. Countries bordering Russia are placing renewed emphasis on defence spending, recognising its newfound importance in a post-Fukuyama world characterised by disorder and geopolitical volatility.

    Amidst debates within the EU about the feasibility of a unified European army, the stark reality is simple: currently, Ukraine’s army IS the European army, serving as a frontline defence for Europe’s security, its values, and its future. The moral implications of delayed assistance weigh heavily on the West, as Ukrainian lives are lost while European politicians deliberate.

    As the conflict drags on, questions about the future relationship between Europe, the EU, and Ukraine loom large. Should Ukraine emerge from this ordeal as a divided and disillusioned nation, betrayed by its European allies, the repercussions would be profound. The assumption of Ukraine’s unwavering pro-EU stance cannot be taken for granted, as trust erodes in the face of prolonged neglect.

    In light of these challenges, the path forward for the EU and Europe is clear: we must honour the pledges made at the onset of the conflict and provide unequivocal support to Ukraine in its struggle for sovereignty, self-determination, and victory. In war, like politics, persistence and determination are key elements. While Ukraine is in a difficult position, the situation is no easier for Russia, a country now destined for economic and social decline under Putin’s brutal regime, even more so than was already the case. Nothing is lost yet.

    2024 stands as a pivotal juncture, where decisive action is imperative to shape the outcome of this protracted conflict. Inaction in supporting Ukraine risks Europe becoming a battlefield for years to come. The stakes are high, and the time for meaningful intervention is now. The European countries’ response to the Ukraine war will not only define their relationship with Ukraine or their role as global actors, but it is an existential question challenging their capacity to uphold peace, democracy, and human rights within their own continent.

    Tomi Huhtanen Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine Values

    Tomi Huhtanen

    The War in Ukraine, 2 Years On – In 2024, Europe Must Decide if it Wants to Win

    Blog - Ukraine

    23 Feb 2024

  • *The views expressed here are the author’s own, expressed in his personal capacity. 

    Tucker Carlson’s 9 February 2024 interview with Vladimir Putin has been widely panned as obsequious and unenlightening. Certainly, since even before Russia’s February 2022 invasion, Carlson has consistently sought to undermine US, EU, NATO and G7 support for Ukraine, including by lambasting Ukrainian leaders, delegitimising Ukrainian democracy itself and advocating other pro-Kremlin talking points—not to mention by promoting far-right European politicians like Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Santiago Abascal and foremost Viktor Orbán. In this sense, the recent interview followed a predictable script, with Carlson several times essentially inviting the Russian president to confirm Carlson’s own anti-Biden, anti-woke, anti-neocon and anti-establishment views. Calling this out is surely fair.

    And yet we should also not underestimate the value of the interview’s content or its potential for good effect. First, for instance, regarding insight: at roughly the 1:22:00 mark, Carlson—who has long framed the war as a proxy conflict between the US and Russia, disregarding Ukrainian or European agency—asked about the global implications of Russia’s actions, in particular given the rise of China and the risk of a new Russian dependency even less welcome than Putin’s longstanding sense of Western encroachment. Carlson here channelled a widely held American conviction: that the war in Ukraine is ultimately important—insofar as it is important—not just, or even mainly, because of the importance of European stability or of US-Russia relations per se but rather within the context of an emerging order defined increasingly by a new zero-sum, cold-war paradigm featuring the US and China as prime antagonists. Rather than challenge Carlson’s framing here, Putin instead played the part of China’s consigliere: touting China’s ‘foreign-policy philosophy’ as ‘not aggressive’ and advising the US and others not to continue acting ‘to [their] own detriment’ but to simply make their peace with China’s trajectory of predominance.

    Carlson, since the launch of his primetime Fox News show in November 2016 (he was fired in April 2023), has arguably been, after Trump himself, MAGA-nation’s most cutting-edge provocateur. Trump has no doubt carefully attended the Putin interview and its fallout. What might that conversation signal about a Trump 2.0’s foreign policy? Trump has of course long undermined support for Ukraine and pilloried ‘delinquent’ NATO allies; at a campaign stop on 10 February, he said he would even ‘encourage’ Russia to have its way, with impunity, with such false (former) friends. And on China? Despite his tough talk—including threats of much higher tariffs—Trump continues to praise Xi Jinping and hedge on defending Taiwan. Would he in the end throw not just Ukraine or other NATO allies but also Taiwan under the bus—ostensibly to protect American jobs or further rally his isolationist base? Was Putin even, in the exchange noted above, purposefully floating for Trump just such a face-saving about-face on China—in the guise of a newly quiescent global order centred again, predictably, around great powers’ spheres of influence?      

    Paradoxically, given Carlson’s Putinversteher persona, the interview has also offered something besides mere insight, though: an opening for a new democratic push for Ukraine. Throughout the conversation, Putin dared past or present Western leaders (of the US, UK, Germany, France and Poland, especially, and of course of Ukraine itself) to contradict his version of key events. Carlson, for his part, presented himself as an ingenuous journalist seeking to understand and convey all sides of the conflict. (He says he wants an interview with Zelensky too.) Why not call both Putin’s and Carlson’s bluff? Why not propose—and arrange—say, that Carlson interview former US Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, former German Chancellor Merkel or former British Prime Minister Johnson: all key to policy decisions Putin believes have corroded the post-Cold-War peace? The terms for such talks should of course be identical to Putin’s: they should follow the same uncut format, and Carlson should maintain the same conciliatory tone and open docility. Were Carlson to comply, he might in turn expect more interviews, per the same conditions, with current leaders like Polish Prime Minister Tusk, German Chancellor Scholz or French President Macron, not to mention Presidents Zelensky or Biden themselves.  

    Would this not reward Carlson for ignorance or bad faith? It would. Or could Carlson be expected to honour good-faith commitments to fairness in interviewing other leaders—or at least to showing them no less deference than that shown to an authoritarian with little-to-no democratic or media accountability? This seems unlikely, given Carlson’s history and temperament. But even such a spectacle, in itself, would provide an instructive, and discrediting, parallel. At any rate, surely the case for Ukraine is compelling enough to take the risk—especially since current efforts are proving unable to stem a slow erosion of voters’ faith that military, economic or even political support for Ukraine should keep flowing.

    Time is short. Ukraine urgently needs shells and cash. The US House of Representatives may fail to approve the Senate’s $61-billion aid package for 2024. An extended debate—holding Carlson accountable to his own precedent—would give reputable journalists new information to fact-check and report. Ultimately, it would galvanise a new national and transatlantic conversation, with voters at the centre. Could die-hard MAGA voters be swayed even in face of what would likely remain Trump’s own intransigence? Far from certain, indeed—but success is more likely by trying than by carrying on as before and hoping for the best.    

    One last point. Engaging Carlson’s self-professed search for the truth on Ukraine would also represent another powerful dare: to Putin, to allow all such interviews with past or present leaders to air, uncensored, on Russian media. Carlson’s new interlocutors could of course speak directly not just to American or European sceptics who trust Carlson as a source—and who make up essential, and growing, electorates in many Western countries—but, too, to disenfranchised Russians told for years that Carlson and populists like him are the aggrieved oracles of Western decay. Why not rather newly engage him—engage them—with the strong case for Ukraine? They are listening.

    Nathan Shepura EU-Russia Society Ukraine

    Nathan Shepura

    Call Their Bluff: How the Putin Interview can Help Ukraine

    Blog - Ukraine

    15 Feb 2024

  • War between Russia and Ukraine broke out on the 24 February 2022. Since then, most of the commentary has focused primarily on geopolitical and economic issues. This paper seeks to bring to the debate the dimensions of history, culture and identity. It argues that these remain crucial to understanding this war and central to the EU as it formulates a way forward.

    The Russian narrative, as espoused by President Vladimir Putin, seeks to depict Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians as one people—‘the largest state in Europe’—whose origin can be traced to Ancient Rus, with Kyiv as the ‘mother of all Russian cities’. Ukraine’s narrative, on the other hand, has been one of gradually trying to distance itself from the Russian domain. In an attempt to reshape public discourse and perception, the country has been implementing laws promoting ‘de-Stalinisation’ and ‘de-Communisation’.

    While issues of a political, economic and defensive nature remain fundamental, these debates point to the ever-growing presence of issues concerning history, culture and identity. As the war in Ukraine shows, engaging with such debates need not be considered a death knell for the EU, but an opportunity to forge a more realistic and rounded Union.

    Thus, this paper recommends that the EU continues to recognise that historical debates can lie at the base of contemporary crises. Furthermore, it argues that the EU needs to show coherence, that it can exploit its soft-power potential better, that greater civic consciousness should be encouraged and that the complementarity between the nation and Europe should be emphasised.

    EU-Russia Society Ukraine

    Ukraine as a Locus of Identity: Why History and Culture Matter


    19 Dec 2023

  • Interview with Klaus Welle by Alfredo Marini

    Secretary General of the European Parliament from 2009 until 2022, Klaus Welle is currently Academic Council Chairman at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, with academic roles at the KU Leuven University, the London School of Economics, and the Colin Powell School for global leadership. After his experiences within the Young Union and the Democrat Youth Community of Europe, between the 1980s and 1990s, he directed the Foreign and European Affairs section of the CDU, before starting his long and prestigious career at European level: before his last assignment, which ended last year, he was Secretary General of the EPP (1994-1999) and Director General of the EP’s DG IPOL (2004-2007). In this interview, Welle reflects on the prospects of the European Union in the current historical context, in view of the 2024 elections and in light of the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, also offering his own vision on the topics of a common European defence and of the relations between Italy and Germany. This chat manifests a profound reflection on the legacy of the values of the founders of Europe and on how the latter must still inspire the next stages of European political integration, also in memory of the enduring David Sassoli.

    The European elections are approaching. Compared to 2019, the world has changed profoundly and the Union must also change to adapt. In a context in which non-traditional political forces continue to gain consensus, the classic coalition built on the EPP/S&D pivot does not seem to be an obvious conclusion. What is your opinion on the matter?

    First of all, I would like to point out that in the European Parliament – contrary to what usually happens at the member state level – there are no systems based on fixed coalitions. This aspect, after all, is easily deduced from the observation of the discussions on the individual dossiers. In fact, this situation means that during each vote, majorities are built from time to time on individual proposals and it is not uncommon to observe atypical convergences. I would add that the individual political groups do not always express themselves unanimously, and this represents a further element that hinders the creation of a fixed coalition system.

    Having made this necessary clarification, in thinking about the possible outcomes following the 2024 elections, I would keep in mind what I have just said, but above all I would avoid using national political categories to read the dynamics of European political groups.

    A further factor of complexity that influences the formation of coalitions is constituted by the so-called institutional issues, such as the election of the President of the Commission, for which a double qualified majority is required, both in the Parliament and in the European Council. In this regard, reaching this majority in the European Parliament requires complete convergence between the EPP, S&D and Renew, but as in political groups internal cohesion is never complete, looking to other political forces to build a coalition project represents a viable option.

    The interlocutors could be those with whom it will be possible to find an agreement on the names for the Presidency of the Commission and of the European Council. I therefore expect that all the parties of the current Italian Government could be considered as interlocutors, as they would participate in the creation of the convergence within the European Council.

    I make a final digression on this aspect, recalling what happened in 2019, when the Greens – on the basis of a programme that we could define as a little too green – decided not to support the candidacy of Ursula von der Leyen; so it will be interesting to understand whether or not, after the 2024 elections, the Greens will remain unavailable to carry out convergences as happened almost five years ago. Certainly, what has just been said will influence the negotiations for the creation of the next coalition.

    In an article which appeared last May in the columns of «Le Grand Continent» you described your idea of “conservatism of the future” and the role of the EPP in relation to the other European political families. In this article you also traced a sort of useful perimeter for defining the category of far-right parties…

    What I set out in that article is, first of all, a clear definition of the European People’s Party, after which I made a conceptual distinction between the political forces that can be included under the label of the conservative right – which do not fall within the perimeter of the EPP – and those included in the category of the reactionary far-right.

    In my opinion, the European People’s Party can be defined as a programme party. I was able to deduce this peculiarity in the field when thirty years ago – during my mandate as Secretary General of the EPP – some of the so-called Catholic or Christian Democratic parties, despite having a name that could have linked them to a pro-European thought, in reality did not share positive feelings regarding the idea of ever greater political integration of the Union.

    The EPP is, therefore, a programme party since it includes within it only those political formations which, although not formally belonging to the Christian-democratic milieu, substantially share its entire political programme.

    What would this programme consist of?

    In an approach that can be summarised in the complete acceptance of three key points: full support for the European integration process, support for the transatlantic partnership, and defence of the post-1945 political order, in turn based on the cornerstone of representative democracy.

    Current Christian-democratic thought is based on the desire to be able to find a synthesis between apparently irreconcilable concepts, such as the protection of social rights and the promotion of the free market, with the final aim of the protection and well-being of the individual.

    To conclude this answer, in the article published in «Le Grand Continent», I spoke about the method with which the EPP has developed over time, which I wanted to define as a method of mergers and acquisitions. An approach that fits perfectly with the essence of the EPP as a programme party, rooted in the three assumptions and principles I mentioned previously.

    And federalism? Is this word, cited in the 7Ds for sustainability report drafted by the Martens Centre, one of the guiding principles of the EPP?

    Of course, European federalism is part of these guiding principles. When I refer to it, I think of something very concrete. Federalism means thinking about different levels of government – local, regional, national and European – together and in harmony, with the aim of integrating them. I do not share an idea of federalism which paradoxically underlies a centralised government model. The guideline to follow to correctly express the idea of federalism we are talking about is condensed in the principle of subsidiarity.

    So, which sector should we start from to integrate the levels of government you are talking about?

    I firstly refer to the principle of subsidiarity, which requires that only those functions which require it to be carried out correctly must be integrated at a higher level of government.

    Having recalled this concept, I try to respond by saying that the sector from which we could start is that of defence. In this regard, I am drafting a paper that deals with what I have defined as the European defence pyramid; in the document I explain that the precondition for our member states to contribute effectively to NATO takes the form of the need to provide the EU with an internal defence market. The purpose of this choice lies in the strategic need to provide our Union with sufficient production capacity to not be dependent on non-EU countries (such as South Korea, for example).

    After that, this single defence market should be accompanied by the planning of large investments in the logistics-infrastructure sector and by research programmes that have a dual purpose, both civil and military. This defence and protection system that I am outlining should then be completed by a civil protection service on the model of the one developed by Michel Barnier some time ago.

    Everything should be financed with resources from the Union budget.

    The outbreak of the war in Ukraine has brought the issue of common security back to the top of the EU’s priorities. From this event, we have learned how much being technologically lagging compared to our allies and our enemies, continuing to depend on foreign countries in the defence production chain, is no longer an acceptable situation for Europeans. The Union must develop its strategic capabilities by investing in infrastructure, research, logistics and intelligence, drawing the necessary resources from the EU budget which, inevitably, will have to be strengthened.

    In 2019, President Macron, referring to NATO, said that the Alliance was in a state of “brain death” but, as you just recalled, the war in Ukraine changed everything. Are the European Union and NATO complementary entities or not?

    As I said, after this conflict I firmly believe that a new approach to defence is needed within the EU, but this is not currently possible outside the framework offered by the Atlantic Alliance. Therefore, for us Europeans, the time has come for awareness and efficiency in terms of defence. I also think that the European Union and NATO are complementary, as demonstrated by the progress of the conflict.

    In the next legislature, the European political leadership and the parties will have to act by starting to consider an effective common defence as a European public good.

    Next Generation EU (NGEU) was a successful response by the Union to the great damages caused by the pandemic. Could it become a structural measure?

    I believe that the NGEU was necessary, but there are some unknowns that must first be addressed and resolved. The NGEU was accompanied by the adoption of a Decision on own resources; with this instrument, to which is added a specific interinstitutional agreement, European institutions seek to repay the debt contracted through the EU’s own resources, with the promise – starting from 2021 – to work on a radical reform of the EU revenue and budget, foreseeing a strengthening of the latter with the introduction of new own resources. Therefore, in order to think about a structural NGEU, we must wait for a timetable from the institutions to understand when we can start seriously discussing the topic of the new fiscal capacity of the Union.

    Having clarified these aspects, I do not believe that we should proceed with the simple creation of new debt without first providing adequate financing, something on which the Member States have not yet found an agreement. After that, I add that the use of important resources outside the budgetary control of the European Parliament (which also needs to be strengthened) should not be allowed, even more so when the debt is entered in the Union budget. Parliament, therefore, must be able to control spending through the relevant budget control commission and the plenary. To conclude, if we were not to adequately find the own resources I was talking about, we would find ourselves faced with a very complex situation, because if the payment of interest on the NGEU loans were to take place during the next MFF it could happen that, de facto, we would have between 10-15% fewer resources than today. We must therefore urgently resolve the issue of the Union’s new fiscal capacity in order to make it increasingly less dependent on transfers from member states.

    The NGEU has been read by many analysts as the foundation stone of a true European public debt. Are we close to our Hamiltonian moment?

    You talk about the European Hamiltonian moment, but we can also draw from other historical examples. For example, until 1913 the US federal budget was just 1% of GDP, a ratio that could only be changed in times of crisis (as happened during the Civil War). The introduction of the federal income tax represented an adequate response to provide the American federal government with the right resources.

    In my view, the urgent need for a common defence, as well as external border protection programmes, represents the starting point from which to start working to increase the resources of the Union budget. In conclusion, to keep this instrument credible and give it a structural look, before thinking about new expenses, we must find a way to finance it adequately with common resources. And this objective cannot be achieved by simply adding together the debts of individual member states.

    The war in Ukraine broke the promise of eternal peace that Europeans believed in. In the aforementioned 7Ds for sustainability document, you help to describe the new concept of European defence on which the EPP would like to work. What can you say about this and what do you think of the new funding that the German government has allocated for the defence sector?

    I’ll start with the second part of the question. I would not give much importance to the efforts that Germany is putting in place to increase the defence budget, also because this situation does not represent an internal problem within the EU. In fact, it must be remembered that the German government’s commitment on this aspect is the minimum necessary to fill the enormous gaps generated by decades of lack of investments and, indeed, it is hoped that this action will lead to a sort of normalisation. Having clarified this, I return to the first part of your question, the one relating to the new concept of European defence.

    There are two points that I would like to clarify: first, the Russian aggression of February 24, 2022, underlines how only within the European Union can one be protected, and this is why the Ukrainians would like to join quickly. The war reiterated how NATO is about military hardware, but nowadays we live in an era where any phenomenon can be transformed into a weapon, which is why the European Union remains indispensable. In almost two years of war, we have seen food being used as a weapon, and the same has been true for energy and migratory flows. In the areas I mentioned – which are of strategic importance in the system of modern symmetric warfare – NATO cannot act effectively, while the EU can. My argument is that since this aggression, it has become clear that now, and from now on, NATO and the EU are and will necessarily be complementary. The problem, as we said previously, consists in the need to strengthen the Union in the defence sector very quickly; currently, according to some estimates, the lack of a European internal market for defence products leads to a waste of resources amounting to around 30%. This is because we still only have procurement procedures at national level, which result in an absence of competition. In the United States, there are just over 30 weapons systems, while in the EU we have as many as 160. This means that the United States can scale up and produce efficiently, while we waste money producing inefficiently. This is the first difficulty to overcome by means of a European internal defence market.

    The second aspect is this: as I have already said, we need to invest in research through the EU budget, using the next MFF to finance investments in transport and logistics, so as to intervene promptly in regions that may be at risk, such as the Baltic countries.

    The initiatives I have listed so far, let’s be clear, cost nothing! In fact, they would save money. We cannot afford to be inefficient and divided. The initiatives I have described regarding security and defence must not be implemented over the next ten years, but immediately, because we may not even have much more time available.

    Foreign policy continues to be a field in which the Union struggles to express and assert itself. Current events in the Middle East are a testament to this. What do you think can be done to make the EU a body capable of developing a foreign policy that is as univocal and effective as possible?

    With the current institutional structure, the EU’s room for manoeuvre in the field of foreign policy is limited. In reality, European citizens have been asking for a common foreign and defence policy for at least thirty years, but as we well know, these aspects touch the profound heart of the sovereignty of individual member states. The first decisive step to start from, as I have said up to now, is the defence sector.

    I add a further suggestion. If we look at the constitutional experience of the United States and France, we note how the direction of foreign policy is strongly anchored to the figure of the President. I say this because within the European institutional panorama, the European Council is becoming a sort of collegiate Presidency, and would enjoy the necessary legitimacy to act as interpreter of the implementation of European foreign policy, while also deliberating with a qualified majority.

    During the closing ceremony of the Conference on the Future of Europe, President Macron proposed the establishment of the European Political Community (EPC), an idea that also garnered interest and consensus from other European leaders. The EPC was born as a response to the geopolitical crisis following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, but among its main purposes there is also the creation of a political space for those countries determined to become part of the European Union. Does the EPC have a future?

    The European Political Community is, essentially, a platform for political discussion without a solid legal framework. The choice of this very “light” structure arises from the need to offer the United Kingdom a guarantee – following Brexit – that would allow it to join the EPC initiative while maintaining its extraneousness with respect to the continent’s political integration process. Having said this, I believe that the effort of the EPC is very limited in this extremely complex context.

    It is equally true, however, that it is urgent to find an answer for those countries that want to become members of the EU, but which currently do not yet possess the requirements to be such.

    In short: the European Political Community currently cannot play a concrete role in the field of defence and security, due to the limited political space at its disposal. However, I do not deny that it could develop in the near future into a platform for dialogue and support for the candidate countries for European membership.

    October 7, 2023 could become a date fixed in our collective memory in the same right as February 24, 2022. As the war between Hamas and Israel continues, images from the Be’Eri Kibbutz and Gaza bring to mind the horrors of Bucha and Kharkiv. The Middle Eastern picture is increasingly unstable. What do you think?

    We have to ask ourselves why what is happening in the Middle East has happened right now. In my opinion, the triggering cause of this tragedy lies in the success of the process of normalisation of the relations between Israel and its neighbours, which has now been underway for some years. In fact, in the wake of the Abraham Accords, Israel and Saudi Arabia would have normalised their diplomatic relations in the coming months, thus designing a new geopolitical structure that would have seen Iran certainly more isolated. Hamas’s ill-fated move must be read in this context and its aim was to prevent Israel from normalising relations with its Arab neighbours.

    The risk of escalation is frighteningly real, also due to the Israeli military response…

    I believe that Israel has the right to adopt severe measures against Hamas, but it should prevent these from turning into the political lever that Hamas is waiting for to achieve its objective, that is, to promote a general escalation of the conflict, in order to avoid a stabilisation of the geopolitical scenario of the Middle East.

    Do you have any proposals in mind to reach an acceptable settlement of the interests at stake?

    The scenes of violence that we are witnessing with astonishment bring the real issue back to the political discussion table, that is, how to reach a fair agreement between Israel and the Palestinian people that is capable of guaranteeing peaceful coexistence between two states. The agreement I am talking about should include as its central point the fair and shared exploitation of the region’s resources, such as water and arable land, following the example of what happened between France and Germany immediately after the end of the Second World War.

    What is happening today in the Middle East is reminiscent in many respects of the Franco-German case: the two European countries were bitter enemies for a long time, and both suffered the disastrous results of the wars that we all know, but after these events they managed to change their relationship, moving from an aggressive logic to one based on cooperation and peace (the so-called win-win logic). If in the Franco-German case the engine of peace was the shared management of limited resources such as steel and coal, in the Israeli-Palestinian case we could refer – as I was saying – to the joint exploitation of water and arable land.

    It is probably obvious to reiterate that Hamas can never be a party to this agreement because: a) it does not represent the Palestinian people; b) it is a terrorist organisation with which any form of dialogue is radically excluded; c) it embodies the opposite of any logic based on peace and cooperation.

    I conclude this answer by referring one last time to the Franco-German example. After the Second World War, there was more than one reason not to reinsert Germany into the international community, but it was still decided to offer the German people a second chance. And it was thanks to that courageous decision that today we can talk about the most successful project of peace and common development in history. I believe that the same pragmatic spirit must be adopted to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and I would add that the same should be done towards Russia; with this statement I mean to say that we Europeans must not abandon the hope of seeing a Russia different from the current authoritarian regime, a Russia that can become democratic and capable of cooperating peacefully with its neighbours.

    Let’s move on to immigration, a phenomenon to which it has not been possible to offer an adequate response. Recently, the Italian and German governments also had a heated discussion on the Crisis Regulation. Your opinion on this aspect?

    Let me start by saying that I am not an expert on the subject, but what I can say is the following: the EU is currently not a state but a union of citizens and states. Having reiterated this, all issues relating to the distribution of the burden of managing migratory flows are – politically speaking – always difficult. From my point of view, we must find a fair compromise and I believe that the proposal developed by the European Union could be one.

    If border countries must commit to registering and providing protection to refugees who need it, at the same time we cannot allow this aspect to be managed by a few in the interest of all: therefore, it is necessary to provide a solidarity mechanism between member states. In addition to what I have just said, agreements must be signed with the countries of origin, even knowing that the task is not easy, since the countries in question are often not democracies. Limiting the number of arrivals and equitably distributing the responsibilities related to the management of the Union’s external borders must be our immediate objective.

    With respect to the strategic issue of the protection of the EU’s external borders, I want to clarify how Germany itself must be ready to make its contribution, even though it is not a border country. A revolution in the approach to some issues is necessary. The external borders of our Union – as for defence – must be understood as a European public good to be protected with the EU’s own resources.

    The elections last October in Hesse and Bavaria saw the victory of the CDU/CSU, but the AfD sees its consensus growing. Are we approaching a scenario where the far right in government may no longer be taboo?

    In one of the previous answers, I stated that the far right can be summarised in a triple system of oppositions: against European integration, against the transatlantic partnership and against the post-1945 political order. The AfD, therefore, is undoubtedly a far-right party, as is Marine Le Pen’s party in France. These political formations have nothing in common with the EPP, as they represent its exact opposite. Therefore, any coalition with these subjects is completely excluded.

    The AfD took advantage of the problems of the current German government to build its consensus; problems that are generated by the forced nature of the coalition made up of Liberals, Greens, and Social Democrats. The great failure of this government is also measured on the issue of the energy transition, where the desire to proceed with the decarbonisation of our production system did not consider the economic difficulties of a large part of German citizens (the reference is mainly to the energy conversion plan for existing buildings). The dissatisfaction generated among citizens on this aspect has turned into the political leverage that the far-right has exploited to build its crude populist program.

    Returning to relations between Italy and Germany: which dossiers should the joint efforts of the two governments focus on?

    Germany and Italy have very strong historical ties (in Germany we always say that we have a federal system because the Kaiser of the Holy Roman Empire was too busy strengthening his power in Italy to do the same in Germany). So, yes, there is a strong historical bond, but there is also an economic partnership of great strategic importance; it is no coincidence that southern Germany and northern Italy are, economically speaking, a single region and a single production chain, especially (and not only) in the automotive sector. For Germany, Italian stability – both economic and political – is a crucial aspect. We have witnessed many sudden and continuous changes in Italian politics (basically from the end of the Christian Democracy onwards) and we therefore hope to now enter a phase of greater stability. Perhaps it is a naive hope, but it would also be very welcome for our cooperation within the European Union.

    You held the prestigious role of Secretary General of the European Parliament. I believe that this experience in particular gave you the opportunity to understand the potential and defects of the Union. President Sassoli, referring to the European Union, said that “we are not an accident of history”. So, what do you think the legacy of the Founding Fathers of the EU is today?

    Allow me to make a premise. I had an excellent relationship with President Sassoli, at the time I was Secretary General of the EP and I remember the moment of his election very well. That day, immediately after the vote, while he was giving the inauguration speech you referred to, he took his seat and put his hand on my shoulder. It was an extraordinary gesture for me and thus demonstrated to the whole Parliament that we would share some important responsibilities together during his mandate.

    From my point of view, the legacy of the founders is still here, and you can perceive it precisely by looking at the figure of President Sassoli, a person capable of condensing and interpreting the principles and values we talk about even in the difficulties of the present. So, the legacy of the founders is still here and is inspiring young leaders across Europe.

    How is this legacy perceived in Germany in light of the great challenges of the present?

    Challenge is a relative concept; in Germany we have often experienced this relativity. I believe that the present is complex, but in reality, every era had its own complexities. Like at the beginning, in the 1950s, when we had to decide whether to accept the Germans again after the atrocities of the Second World War. After that, it was a succession of challenging moments: in the 1960s we had Charles De Gaulle with the empty chair policy, in the 1980s the economic crisis, in the 1990s we had to introduce the euro and, finally, came the financial crisis.

    I therefore believe that it is the duty of every generation to renew its commitment to Europe while keeping the spirit of the founders alive. I want to say that every generation has the possibility of becoming – again – the generation of the founders, because every era has specific challenges that only contemporaries can respond to.

    Today, as I was saying, we are put to the test above all in the defence sector, in the awareness that the war in Ukraine is not a simple regional phenomenon and brings with it a big question, namely: what are the rules that we want to make reign on the European continent and, consequently, in the world? Russia answers this question by reaffirming the rules of the 19th century, according to which the strongest can overwhelm the weakest.

    As the European Union, on the contrary, we offer to protect member states and our value system knowing that individual nation states are too weak to do it alone. Will we be strong enough to defend our Union from a new authoritarian wave?

    In this sense, if we manage to move towards a serious effort for the creation of a common European defence, we ourselves will become founding mothers and fathers.

    During my mandate as Secretary General, also thanks to the strong support of President Sassoli, the House of European History has become an important place both for spreading the principles and vision of the founders and for underlining this continuity between us and the past. I strongly support the idea that we Europeans have a common culture, past and future and those who do not fight for a common future will always oppose our common past too.

    Poland, especially after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, plays a very important role both within the Union and NATO. In the recent general elections, the PiS failed to block the civic coalition led by Tusk. What do you think?

    I think these results are a great relief for the European Union, they certainly are for me. I think Donald Tusk had great courage in taking the fight into his own hands. On this occasion, it was especially young people who came forward, clearly stating that they do not want a nationalist future, but rather aspire to a future in an open society within the European Union, also helping the Ukrainians of course. I therefore think that this is a very important moment for liberal and pro-European political forces.

    Klaus Welle EU Member States European Union NATO Ukraine

    NATO and the EU are complementary, but the Union must have a common defence

    In the Media - Interviews and Expert Quotes

    22 Nov 2023

  • On the background of talks about international fatigue over the war in Ukraine, and calls for “peace negotiations”, Vladimir Putin has issued the clearest declaration of intent for upcoming years: he is ready to double down on attacking Ukraine, and has no wish for the war to end any time soon.

    The Russian Government recently introduced a draft three-year federal budget to the State Duma – which was personally approved by Putin, who gave it a green light at a recent meeting in the Kremlin. It was already reported by other media that the budget envisaged a sharp increase in military spending – but the actual figures are so shocking that it is worth taking a detailed look.

    In 2024, Russian military spending is expected to hit 10,8 trillion rubles, or over $110 billion under the current exchange rate, equivalent to 6% of the Russian GDP – that’s up from 6,4 trillion rubles, or $66 billion, equivalent to 3,9% GDP in 2023. More shockingly, that’s up 3,2 times as compared to the pre-full scale invasion federal military budget of 2021 (3,4 trillion rubles). This is an absolute record in Russia’s post-Soviet history.

    But there’s more: the military budget for 2025-2026 is also intended to be exceptionally high – 8,5 and 7,4 trillion rubles per year respectively, or 2,5 and 2,2 times higher than the pre-war 2021 military spending. The 2025 and 2026 figures are indicative only – usually, they are reconsidered significantly at a later point when the relevant budgets are approved. But they normally provide insight into the thinking of Putin and top Russian policymakers – it is easier to understand their medium-term thinking and priorities at a particular moment. If anyone didn’t get the real intent, Putin’s Finance Minister Siluanov had publicly confirmed that financing the military at the moment is an absolute priority, and will be done at the expense of all other spending directions.

    If you want to understand Putin, you need only follow the money, which is the most valuable asset for him. The priorities are very clear: Putin is not only preparing for a lengthy war, but most likely thinks that he will decisively turn his fortunes around on the battlefield, claiming the initiative at the front and pushing Ukraine back. It is not easy to say exactly how these extra funds will be used (84% of the draft 2024 military budget is classified), but the jump in funds allocated to the military is impressive in itself.

    Such budgetary projections are a clear rebuff to those who argue that the war may end any time soon, if only Ukraine is pushed towards conceding some territory to Russia. Putin has a different view: he wishes to double down in his military attack on Ukraine, and is not interested in opinions and advice from the West’s “useful idiots”. Even if the war suddenly stops, such an intensive military build-up clearly presents a strategic threat to Europe and the world: Putin evidently aims at major re-armament, which, given his aggressive revisionist behaviour, paves the way for new possible attacks on other countries beyond Ukraine, whom Putin deems “hostile”.

    Whether Putin’s push to increase the efficiency of his army through a sharp rise of spending will succeed is an open question – and there are reasonable doubts in that. First, the draft federal budget is based on an assumption that budget revenues will grow by over 22% year-on-year in 2024, including a 30% growth in oil & gas revenues, and a 19% growth in non-oil & gas proceeds. That’s totally unrealistic. The Russian Government and Central Bank admit that the economic recovery has been flattening out recently after the bounce-back from the low base of 2022; further recovery is impeded by rising inflation, the sharp increase of Central Bank interest rates, capital flight, lack of investment, and so on. Although the IMF and other macro-economists continue to issue modestly optimistic forecasts of Russian GDP growing around 2% in the next year or two, that’s not nearly enough to generate an over 20% increase in annual budget revenue, and the GDP growth itself is largely driven by military-related industries, while the rest of the economy is depressed (the growing split between military and civil economy is discussed in more detail here). So there may be serious fiscal limitations after all.

    Second, Putin’s army is in bad shape, which is not easy to correct. His most capable elite forces have been largely decimated after nearly two years of the full-scale invasion, and training new cadres will take time – if they will be available at all. Increasing the production of weapons and ammunition will also take time and investment – and, given the high level of corruption and lack of transparency within Russian military industries, about which Putin had complained multiple times himself, it is not clear if extra money will be helpful at all. Nor can it help resolve the systemic problems with inefficiency of operational command of Russian military units, low troop morale, and the other issues Russia has faced on the ground.

    However, Putin’s strategic intent is clear: he is not backing down in the face of Ukrainian resistance, and wants to regain the initiative, intensify combat, and turn the war into a protracted conflict, testing the West’s ability for long-term resistance. It must serve as a sobering signal to those arguing for “negotiations with Putin” and a “peaceful settlement of the conflict”. He doesn’t want negotiations. He wants more war. We need to stop him; by speeding up military assistance of Ukraine and bringing Ukraine’s victory nearer, and by intensifying sanctions and cutting off his revenue. If Putin’s wings will not be clipped, he will plunge the world into a perpetual war. We mustn’t let him.

    Vladimir Milov EU-Russia Ukraine

    Vladimir Milov

    Putin’s New Budget: A Declaration of Endless War

    Blog - Ukraine

    03 Oct 2023

  • I was watching MSNBC a few days ago. The discussion was about why the US was supplying Ukraine with cluster munitions, arms which are banned in the US itself. When asked why the Biden Administration was supplying such munitions to Ukraine, one of the show’s participants, New York Times columnist David Brooks, gave an answer that really startled me. He said “I guess they (the US) have no other munitions to send”.

    So, after a few months of artillery-intense trench warfare, the West has run out of supplies of shells and missiles, and cannot replenish its stocks quickly enough. This reveals acute vulnerability. How on earth did the US, and its European allies, find themselves in this situation? What would happen if Europe found itself engaged in a protracted conflict with Russia? Would we be able to keep our own divisions supplied?

    It seems as if the West has been taken by surprise by this munitions shortage. There is no excuse for that. History provided us with ample warnings. There is a clear precedent, in relatively recent history, for the style of war now being waged in Ukraine… the artillery bombardments, followed by assaults on deep entrenchments, that characterised the Western Front in the First World War. Advances could only be made after heavy bombardment of the front line had first been undertaken.

    Like in Ukraine, the First World War was initially a war of movement. The Germans made rapid advances in 1914, until the French halted them on the Marne. After that, the war quickly became a static artillery war, where advances of as little as 100 metres were celebrated as triumphs. These small advances involved huge casualties among the advancing forces, unless they had been preceded by heavy artillery barrages, with a calibre of shell which destroyed barbed wire as well as larger fortifications.

    In general terms, casualties among the attacking forces were three times as great as they were among the defenders. It stands to reason there is probably a similar ratio in Ukraine now as well.It is becoming plain that Ukraine does not have sufficient supplies of either the type or amount of munitions required to make a major breakthrough and preserve the lives of the brave Ukrainian soldiers sent in to attack the Russian lines. Meanwhile, Russia posseses air superiority, which is more important now than it was in World War One.

    I do not understand why the counter offensive was announced in the first place, when adequate supplies of artillery and munitions were not yet in place. A worrying lack of strategic foresight is evident. Here again, the political precedents from World War One are far from encouraging.

    Within a couple of months of that war starting in 1914, there was already an acute shortage of shells and heavy artillery in the British Army; France and Germany were better supplied. This situation is described by Lloyd George, in Volume One of his War Memoirs. He described the War as a war between German “mechanics” (i.e., munitions manufacturers) and British manufacturers, and said that, in 1915, the German “mechanics” were winning.

    Radical action was required. There was an acute shortage of people available to work in munitions and artillery factories. State enterprise had to be brought into play, because private enterprise was too slow in setting up the required factories. State-owned “Royal Factories” were set up all over these islands, including in Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Galway. There were not enough men to work in the factories. So, women had to be employed in this dangerous work. The War became an industrial war.

    But even the opening of the Royal Factories, and the recruitment of thousands of women workers, was too slow in delivering the necessary shells in 1915. This was because there was an acute labour shortage then, just as there is in 2023. The Daily Mail went on the war path. A political crisis ensued. The Liberal Government, led by Asquith and supported by the Irish Party, which was committed to Home Rule, was replaced by a coalition of Liberals and Unionists, led by Lloyd George. In other words, the munitions crisis of 1915 has influenced our political reality today.

    The West is facing similar choices today. Notwithstanding the fact that the NATO counties, especially the US, outspend the Russians on military hardware by an outstanding factor, they have yet to mobilise society for the existential struggle which its chosen ally, Ukraine, is undergoing.

    In addition, the EU may face a political crisis as well because it has not matched its needs with the necessary resources. Member governments must simultaneously ramp up arms production for Ukraine, pour money into the Green Deal, provide for the healthcare of an ageing population, and manage the debt inherited from the COVID-19 epidemic, while still respecting the Maastricht budgetary criteria. These challenges require serious, considerate solutions in order to avoid the pitfalls which have previously befallen the nations of Europe in times of crisis.

    This is all the more true in a scenario where Donald Trump wins the 2024 election in the US, where he may decide to stop supplying arms to Ukraine. Europe would then be alone facing Putin.

    John Bruton Crisis Defence Ukraine

    John Bruton

    The Lessons of History Bode Ill for Ukraine and the West

    Blog - Ukraine

    27 Jul 2023

  • This paper is a follow-up to the comprehensive report “Beyond the Headlines: The Real Impact of Western Sanctions on Russia”, which was published by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies in November 2022. Back then, the paper argued that the widespread view of Russia “weathering” the sanctions, which supposedly brought only a “limited” impact, was wrong, and actually based on an erroneous focus on just a handful of manipulated or misleading macroeconomic indicators, such as GDP, the ruble exchange rate, unemployment, and inflation. A broader cross-sectoral look and focus on a wider set of indicators more realistically reflecting the contraction of economic activity showed a totally different picture: that the sanctions in fact were having a much wider, systemic, and lasting economic impact, which would only continue to increase over time. This meant that sanctions were working, and strategic patience was needed to see their full, devastating impact on the Russian economy. And all this was before the EU embargo on Russian oil came into effect, cutting Russia off yet another significant part of its energy export revenues.

    Since then, the situation has gotten much worse for Putin and the Russian economy. First and foremost, the EU oil embargo – on the backdrop of intensified Russian military spending – has thrown Russia into a full-blown budget crisis, something which the country was able to escape in 2022. The 2022 fiscal year ended with a significant deficit (2,3% of GDP) after being in surplus for 11 months; in the first four months of 2023, the budget deficit has exceeded the planned annual deficit (envisaged by the federal budget law) by 17%. It is important to note that, with a significant drop in private and foreign investment, the economy has increased its reliance on state assistance – the weakness of governmental finances, therefore, is a major impediment to any recovery.

    EU-Russia Ukraine

    From Bad to Worse: The Continuing Effects of Sanctions on Russia


    23 Jun 2023

  • The war in Ukraine has highlighted many uncertainties and raised many questions concerning Europe’s future security and defence requirements. Has the world now been forced to accept that interstate war is no longer a phenom- enon of the past? Have the EU’s relations—and hopes for partnership—with Russia irrevocably ended? Has a new eastern-leaning centre of gravity been established within the EU? How has the war affected the nature and trajec- tory of transatlantic security relations? How might the EU conceptualise and deliver on its new requirements in the field of military capacity? What are the prospects for a peace settlement and a new Eurasian security order? These profound questions require a major aggiornamento in the EU’s approach to security and defence policy.

    Foreign Policy Security Ukraine

    The Ukraine War and Its Implications for European Security


    29 May 2023

  • Vladimir Putin might be nostalgic for the Czarist Russian Empire, but that has not stopped him from taking a page from Stalin’s playbook. Since he began the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, on February 24th 2022, the Russian political and military leadership have been accused of a number of war crimes. These include, but are not limited to, indiscriminate attacks on civilians, torture and rape.

    But while the whole world was focused on the atrocities of Bucha and Irpin, a more “invisible” war crime was taking place – forced deportations of Ukrainians from the occupied territories, and the abduction of Ukrainian children on an industrial scale, which earned the Russian Federation’s President an arrest warrant, issued by the International Criminal Court. But let us take a step back and analyse the Russian deportation phenomenon and the twisted ideological reasons behind it.

    In 1940, when the Red Army annexed territories in eastern Poland, about 250,000 Poles and thousands of Ukrainians and Belarusians were deported to Siberia and to Asia in order to remove the most active populations from the annexed territories. In 1941, after insurrections that followed the Baltic States’ annexation, the Soviet central apparatus decided to deport groups of Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians: about 48,000 people were sent to Siberia.

    The deportations were followed by the relocation of ethnic Russians to these territories. The goal was always the same – weaken the national sentiment of the populations living in the occupied territories, remove the threat to the regime and proceed with the russification of the people living in the then-USSR.

    After the fall of the Soviet Union, many ethnic Russians who were relocated to other Soviet republics remained there, even after these countries declared their independence. This in part allowed Vladimir Putin to use the Karaganov Doctrine, which states that Moscow should position itself as the defender of the human rights of ethnic Russians living in the “near abroad”. This was done for the purpose of gaining political influence in these regions. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and support to the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic were carried out following this playbook.

    Before invading Ukraine in early 2022, Moscow had been slowly but steadily distributing Russian passports to Ukrainians living in the regions of eastern Ukraine under Russian control. According to Russia’s Interior Ministry, more than 527 000 people have been granted Russian citizenship between 2019 and 2021.

    But with the full-scale invasion and the subsequent resistance from local populations, many Ukrainians were forcefully deported. While Russian authorities claim that these are war refugees who willingly decided to flee to Russia, the reality is quite different. In the first six months of the war, 1.5 million people were forced to board buses headed to filtration camps. In these camps, refugees endured intense interrogation, often facing verbal abuse, threats, or physical violence. They were then sent to temporary accommodation centres, some as far as 7,000km from their homes.

    Those detained, or “filtered out”, include Ukrainians deemed threatening because of their potential affiliation with the Ukrainian army, media, government, and/or civil society groups. Considering that all humanitarian evacuations should be voluntary, safe and informed, and given the coercive environment in which these evacuations to Russia took place, we can say without a doubt that the Russian Federation is committing the international crime of forcible transfer of population.

    What earned Putin an international arrest warrant, however, was the forceful transfer of children in particular.

    According to Ukrainian officials, more than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been forcibly deported to Russia or Russian-controlled Ukrainian territories, with only 300 returning to Ukraine thus far. This number includes children separated from their parents, with no identification nor information on the location of their family and children from orphanages and care institutions.

    Once in Russia, they are enrolled in local schools and sit through classes that include revisionist history lessons, while being forced to go through psychological “rehabilitation”. Additionally, legislative amendments have been initiated in the Russian Federation to make it easier for such children to acquire Russian citizenship or to be adopted by Russian families, which would violate the Geneva Convention prohibiting the change of a child’s personal status, including its nationality.

    Along with the arrest warrant for Putin, Maria Lvova-Belova, the mastermind behind the use of camps for ‘integrating’ Ukraine’s children into Russia’s society and culture, is also wanted by the ICC. However, the political and military elites are not the only players to be blamed for war crimes. Russian religious leaders continuously support Putin in the monstrosities suffered by the Ukrainian people.

    To gather and track information about abducted children, the Ukrainian government has established a platform, “Children of War”. Additionally, Ursula von der Leyen, in partnership with the Ukrainian authorities and the Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki, announced the launch of an initiative working towards the goal of returning abducted Ukrainian children to their home country. However, ensuring that the enablers of all these war crimes are brought to justice remains equally important. The international community, with the EU at the forefront, should take all the necessary steps to bring the perpetrators to trial and re-establish the rules-based international order. Russia has gone to great lengths to try and delete Ukraine, its population and its national identity, including stealing the country’s future – its children – and for that, it cannot go unpunished.

    Anna Nalyvayko Human Rights Ukraine

    Anna Nalyvayko

    Deportations, abductions and forced Russification – the fate of Ukraine’s Children of War

    Blog - Ukraine

    28 Mar 2023

  • On 24 February 2022, conventional interstate conflict returned to Europe after Russia launched an unprovoked war against Ukraine. Although some predicted at the time that Kyiv would fall in a matter of days, the Ukrainian people continue to fight to defend their homeland and push Russia out. Their bravery and determination should be saluted, and the international community should continue to show solidarity towards Ukraine.

    Russia’s invasion is a major breach of international law, specifically the principle that the borders of recognised states should not be changed by the force of arms. Ukrainians voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and the USSR’s successor state, the Russian Federation, recognised Ukrainian independence in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. Allowing Russia’s aggression to stand would weaken this principle and provide a precedent for other aggressive states to extend their frontiers by force.

    It is unclear how much longer the war will last. Russia has remained committed to waging war against Ukraine, and Ukraine has ruled out any peace that does not involve the return of all its occupied provinces, including the province of Crimea. Furthermore, the land that Ukraine is seeking to free from Russian occupation is perceived by both sides as part of their national identity, but it remains Ukrainian under international law. This means that the chances for a sustainable peace deal are currently rather slim. The EU must therefore prepare for a protracted Russo-Ukrainian war, characterised by intermittent periods of escalation and de-escalation.

    To deal with such a conflict, the EU needs an action plan. The objectives of this action plan should be to (1) push Russia to cease all hostilities towards Ukraine and withdraw its forces as a first step beyond the 24 February 2022 borders, (2) assist Ukraine in recovering and rebuilding itself, (3) facilitate Ukraine’s accession to the EU, and (4) enhance the EU’s strategic sovereignty, i.e., its capacity to react and deal with external shocks. To reach these goals, a set of short, medium, and long-term options are presented below.

    EU-Russia Foreign Policy Future of Europe Ukraine

    The War in Ukraine and the Way Forward


    28 Mar 2023

  • It’s been a year since war came back to Europe. Not terrorism, or counter-insurgency or undeclared proxy fighting. Not hybrid- or cyber- or another kind of hyphenated conflict, but a full scale war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine.

    Don’t forgive the horror — the civilians murdered with their hands tied behind their backs in Bucha; the shelling of apartment blocks in Kharkiv and the razing of Mariupol; the deliberate missile attacks on hospitals and electricity infrastructure; the rapes everywhere Russian soldiers have been.

    Don’t forget the heroes: from the soldiers dug in trenches making Bakhmut the 21st century Verdun, to the railway workers somehow keeping them supplied and civilian trains on time, the medics and drone operators, the firefighters and police, the teachers, the anti-corruption investigators rooting out profiteers even in the middle of the war; and the men and women who found themselves out on the streets of their towns and cities with an old AK and a few rounds of ammunition, ready to meet Putin’s war machine with everything they’ve got.

    Ukrainians have been blessed with one of Europe’s greatest war leaders. Like Churchill and de Gaulle, Kossuth and Sobieski, Zelensky is growing into a new fighter for freedom before our eyes. 

    Because freedom in Europe is what this is about. When Ukraine held its referendum on independence, in 1991, 92% (including 54% in Crimea, by the way) voted in favour. Twice they revolted against a Russia-supported, but Ukrainian, strongman, Viktor Yanukovich; first to prevent him taking office by electoral fraud after his opponent Viktor Yuschenko was poisoned, then to oust Yanukovich. No wonder they’ve fought like lions.

    This historical fact stands against what is still a popular narrative (this recent piece in Foreign Affairs is but one example) that Ukraine belongs, if not in a Russian sphere of influence, at least in some liminal space between Russia and the West, apparently divided by language. The language division in no way reflects political allegiance, any more than it does in say, Ireland, where support for independence is distinctly more widespread than the practice of speaking Irish as a first language. President Zelensky, of all people, is a native Russian speaker. Kharkhiv, famous for its Russian-language literature, voted 86% for independence in 1991. This is a country acutely conscious of its own destiny.

    The 2013 Revolution of Dignity, as the second revolution against Yanukovich is known, was sparked by his rejection of an association agreement with the EU. The demonstrators killed by Yanukovich’s goons died under the EU flag. After the revolution, Ukraine began two processes of reform needed to maintain and defend its democratic culture. First, it decentralised power. Local mayors took control of local governments and local policies. The era of top-down government, inherited from the Soviet Union, was brought to an end. Second, it decentralised the culture of the army, allowing low-level commanders on the spot to react to events much faster than their Russian opponents. Both were decisive last spring, as Ukraine’s army was able to adapt in the field to keep the huge Russian invasion force out of artillery range of Kyiv and Kharkiv (had they been surrounded, they would have received the same treatment as Mariupol); and as civil society mobilised itself to supply the war effort and organise resistance in occupied territory.

    So we should not be surprised when Ukraine meets accession requirements faster than other applicants have. Unlike Poles and Hungarians, they’ve had to fight against a hybrid regime before they joined the EU, not afterwards. They understand that reform has to be political as well as economic, and the war itself will spur nation-building in ways we still can’t fully imagine. Corruption is of course a major problem, and wartime procurement and postwar reconstruction provide opportunities for it to flourish. We need to help them with the best of our experience in curtailing it. Let us hope we follow the example of Laura Kovesi’s European Public Prosecutor’s Office, rather than the distinctly ineffective DG NEAR operations, as any observer of, for example, Serbia or Albania will attest.

    Ukraine’s accession will be a tremendous test of the EU’s ability to overcome the almost two decades of crisis-management it has had to contend with since the Constitutional Treaty was rejected in 2005. Those were tough years: a political disappointment followed by a financial crisis, a refugee crisis, Brexit, the rise of populist demagogues, and a global pandemic each raised problems the EU had not been designed to address. Yet, it survived, and egregious Albion aside, stayed together. The war is a different kind of crisis because it reminds us why European unity exists: to make the continent safe for democracy. An EU that includes Ukraine will be notably different from the one settled at Lisbon. Its centre of gravity, at first through population, and as Ukraine recovers and grows, also of its economy, will be more eastern. It will be more military, because protecting its members’ democracy will mean protecting them from Russian revanchism. It will be culturally and linguistically far more diverse than the original Six could ever have imagined. If all candidate states are eventually admitted, it will have 36 members, and need a different internal structure, in which formal unanimity will have bcome impractical. Thus, more effort will be needed to build democratic legitimacy for winning coalitions and for losing coalitions to accept when things don’t go their way.

    This isn’t the time to work those details out, but it would I think be a fitting monument to Ukraine’s astounding bravery and sacrifice if we could conclude them, along with the finalisation of Ukraine’s accession, in a future Treaty of Kyiv.

    Garvan Walshe Democracy Ukraine Values

    Garvan Walshe

    Why Ukraine Belongs in Europe

    Blog - Ukraine

    27 Feb 2023

  • A version of this text was originally published in French in Le Point.

    The Russian war against Ukraine will end, as did every war before it. The current intensity of Russia’s war effort is not sustainable. About half of its heavy armaments have already been destroyed or captured by their Ukrainian adversary after the first year. Only North Korea and Iran are supporting Russia with ammunition and drones. Ukraine, on the other hand, is receiving increasingly sophisticated weapons from the entire West, including decisive assistance by the United States. Previous experience from the First and Second World War tells us that this can be crucial.

    Escalation to nuclear war entails the risk of Russia’s self-destruction. Such a decision is not impossible, but unlikely. Putin designed the conflict to severely damage Ukraine with little effect on Russia itself, in order to preserve and potentially even shore up his own political support base. Russian military doctrine foresees nuclear arms to protect the very existence of Russia. But Russia’s very existence is not under threat, only its imperial and colonial ambitions are.

    It is now reasonable and necessary to start reflecting about the day after.

    The United States comes out of this conflict very much strengthened. Its credibility as a protective power is re-established. Weaknesses shown in the past are pushed into the background of our collective memory. Leaving Afghanistan to the Taliban and the passivity of the Obama administration after the use of chemical weapons by the Russian-allied Assad regime in Syria are no longer the last word. China has taken note, as have Pacific countries who feel threatened by Xi Jinping’s geopolitical ambitions. A military attack against Taiwan by China now seems like less of an easy undertaking or a foregone conclusion.

    Joe Biden has proven to be an impressive leader and established the basis for a second mandate as President of the United States. Far from being “Sleepy Joe”, he provided serene leadership based on his decades of experience as a United States Senator, Vice President under Barack Obama, and his proven track record as a good friend of Europe.

    NATO is not a direct party to the war, but has served as the forum for the coordination of unprecedented weapons deliveries. If it ever was brain dead, it has risen quite remarkably from its ashes. Central and Eastern European states, on the conflict’s borders, feel confirmed in their long-held convictions that in moments of real danger, NATO and the United States are essential. German and French hesitations have contributed to that.

    And still, objective limitations have become obvious also for NATO. In an age where everything is being weaponised, the European Union has a toolkit that NATO does not have. The European Union took the decision to provide a home to millions of Ukrainian war refugees under especially privileged conditions. It passed sanctions on Russia of an intensity never seen before. It provides financial support similar to that of the United States of America. The European Union connected the Ukrainian electricity grid to its own in record time. And perhaps most important: it provides hope to Ukraine by opening up a perspective for membership. NATO and the European Union are obviously complementary, now with a growing role for the European Union.

    But our shortcomings have equally become obvious. The neglect of our military is appalling, the loss of industrial base for armaments creates a near complete dependence on the United States and even South Korea for urgent deliveries. In the absence of a guaranteed demand, German Leopard tanks must now be built one by one and by hand, like in the pre-industrial age. We are paying the price of the European Union not having an internal market for armament products, no common technical standards, no common export policy for arms. The taxpayer is the first, but not the only victim of armaments nationalism. Will we learn?

    The war in Ukraine has also demonstrated the critical role of transport and logistics. Russian tanks queuing for tens of kilometres outside of Kyiv, having run out of petrol and easy prey for Ukrainian anti-tank weapons, are still in our collective memory. All together, the member states of the European Union would probably be sufficiently equipped to defend against a conventionally much weaker Russia after this conflict. But would we be able to transport French and Spanish equipment in adequate time to where it is needed? Or would bridges be too weak and tunnels too small? This is exactly where the European Union can play a major role with its own infrastructure programmes.

    The unprecedented regime of sanctions, cutting Russian goods, services and financial flows off from international exchanges, essentially in the space of a weekend also raise serious question marks for the future. What if China would indeed attack Taiwan? Sanctions would probably not fall very much behind what was agreed against Russia in order to uphold the international order. Except in that scenario, our economies are much more intertwined. Which risks are we ready to take and which ones need urgent reduction through friendshoring or homeshoring?

    After the war in Ukraine, the United States will have to focus their military efforts on where they are challenged the most, i.e., China and the Pacific. The build-up of an American-led alliance system in Asia is already advancing quickly, involving Japan, Australia and India as key partners. Europeans will have to compensate conventionally in Europe as long as Russia does not give up its imperial ambitions. Poland has already taken major investment decisions, spending at least 3 percent of its GDP on the military. And yes, we do now have a European army: the army of Ukraine defending our freedom and security as well.

    We are turning the page of a 30-year period since the end of the Soviet Union during which the lowest price was the lead paradigm. Companies relocated to wherever the workforce was available, also providing important technology transfers, with little regard for country or system. The access of hundreds of millions of new workers to the global labour market kept inflation low and consumers happy. The authoritarian hardening of both Russia and China, paired with an aggressive stand towards their neighbours, now brings this period to an end. Security has replaced the price paradigm.

    Klaus Welle Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Security Ukraine

    Klaus Welle

    When the War in Ukraine Ends…

    Blog - Ukraine

    24 Feb 2023

  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 created massive cross-border movements out of Ukraine and back into the country. This short piece presents a historical comparison of the Ukraine post-invasion migration with other similar situations in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The comparison reveals that with more than 6 million crossings in both directions, the cross-border movements in the first 2 months of the Russian assault on Ukraine constitute probably the most intensive conflict-induced migration on record at the global scale during a two-months period. 

    By 24 February 2023, some 8.1 million refugees from Ukraine were recorded across Europe (including non-EU countries). Surprisingly, the EU, which has welcomed the majority of the refugees following the Russian attack, has been able to absorb such large numbers without the inflow causing a major political conflict between the member states. The European societies’ sympathy for the plight of the fleeing Ukrainians has played a decisive role in this. The Ukrainian displacement shows that each immigration flow is unique and that there are instances where mass immigration does not shake the EU to the core. The unexpectedness of this influx also serves as a reminder that the EU needs to develop robust plans for migration contingencies. 

    Crisis Migration Ukraine

    Cross-Border Movements Compared: Migration from and to Ukraine in Historical Comparison with Other Conflict-Induced Situations 


    24 Feb 2023

  • 1. How do you evaluate the EU’s support to Ukraine since the outbreak of the war? What were the most and least effective aspects of the EU’s action? 

    José María Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain: Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the political, economic, and military support of the 27 EU member countries to Ukraine has been growing in volume and importance. The EU, in coordination with the USA, has implemented a wide range of policy responses to Russia’s war against Ukraine. Among these responses, the most significant were economic sanctions, military assistance, and financial and humanitarian aid. Given that imposing sanctions requires unanimity among EU members states, the EU has been making huge efforts to maintain unity in its support to Ukraine. EU energy dependence on Russia has made targeting its energy sector challenging, but the EU has approved progressively tougher sanctions in the energy sector. Especially noteworthy is the extraordinary solidarity shown by European citizens in welcoming more than seven million refugees from Ukraine.

    The main objective of economic sanctions and “restrictive measures” on Russia’s government and its financial, business, defence, technology, and media sectors is to cripple Russia’s ability to finance the war against Ukraine, create costs for Russia’s elites, and diminish Russia’s economic base. In this sense they are effective, even if sanctions have not changed Russia’s imperialist ambitions in Ukraine. Sanctions have meant the end of Ostpolitik, which was born during the Cold War in Germany and is the consideration that economic ties would improve political relations between Russia and the EU. We do not yet know what the full consequences of this rupture are, but it is clear that it is a turning point in relations between the EU and Russia, and above all between Germany and Russia.

    Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, former Prime Minister of Poland: The EU’s response to this war has not been free from mistakes, but by and large I must say that I have been positively surprised by the EU’s reaction. Most importantly, the EU has finally become realistic about Russia, and it has started treating Ukraine and other post-Soviet European-minded countries as true partners. The decision to offer Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia candidate status was long in the making, but it was taken in critical circumstances. The EU and especially Commission President Ursula van der Leyen have shown true leadership on the matter. As the recent EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv demonstrated, the EU’s commitment to sustain Ukraine’s European vocation is strong. The EU has also shown leadership in providing Ukraine with military aid via the Peace Facility. The same can be said about the 9 packages of sanctions, the most thorough in EU history. I believe that the resilience shown by the EU’s attitude towards this war was also prompted by the strong voice of civil society, such as GLOBSEC, where I have the privilege of chairing the Ukraine Support Council.

    Where I am less positive in my assessment is the timing and the scope of the various EU actions, including sanctions, which should have been applied sooner and without giving Russia time to adapt to them. The EU has reacted to the war with a stronger sense of leadership than many expected but it is time for the EU to switch into a proactive mode. We should not be simply reacting to the aggressive and illegal actions of Russia. The EU should demonstrate more initiative now.

    2. Unfortunately, we do not yet see any light at the end of the tunnel and the war does not appear to be nearing its end. What should be the long-term strategy of the EU in this conflict and towards Russia? What do you see as the most serious threats to a united European approach going forward?

    José María Aznar: The long-term strategy of the EU in this conflict should be to support Ukraine to defend and conserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Russia is trying to reverse the international order created after World War II and the Cold War, and, above all, it intends to change the European security and defence order, so the EU’s main strategy should be to prevent Russia from succeeding in this task. Supporting Ukraine means not allowing any power to become a hegemonic power and change international borders by military force.

    The biggest threat to the EU’s strategy in supporting Ukraine is its internal vulnerabilities, its citizenry becoming war-weary, and populism and authoritarianism flourishing because of rising energy costs which in turn increase the cost of living. An even greater crisis in liberal democratic political systems could lead to a decline in support for Ukraine.

    Another danger is that the West has not clearly and unambiguously defined to what extent we want to defeat Russia. There are different definitions of what Ukrainian victory means: expelling Russia from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, or returning to the pre-invasion borders. It is obvious that if we do not have a common vision of the end of the war, we do not share a common goal.

    Jan Krzysztof Bielecki: I don’t entirely agree with the question’s premise. First of all, it is remarkable that a year into the invasion, Ukraine is still standing, its institutions are functioning. I can vouch from my own experience as I visited Kyiv in December 2022, when GLOBSEC opened its office there, the first think-tank in the world to do so since the Russian invasion. I found the Ukrainian state perfectly functional. Moreover, Ukraine regained some of the territory that it lost in the initial weeks of the invasion. Russia is not winning on the battlefield, although it outnumbers and outguns Ukrainian armed forces many times over. The Ukrainians have something which the Russians lack: they know what they are fighting for, and they are determined. I recommend the reading of the report by Nico Lange, published by GLOBSEC, on what we as the West can learn from Ukraine. Most importantly, what we as the West must do is to remain resilient and united in supporting Ukraine. If Putin prevails, he won’t stop in Ukraine, and he would threaten the European order directly. Ukraine is not only defending itself, but it is also defending us, the EU and the West. 

    3. What are the fundamental geopolitical consequences of Russia’s war? Is this crisis helping the EU to develop real defence and strategic capabilities or is it making us more dependent on the US?  

    José María Aznar: The main geopolitical consequence is the division of the world between the West (liberal democracies) and the rest (countries that have condemned the invasion of Ukraine but have not imposed economic sanctions on Russia), and the very likely further rapprochement between the revisionist powers (Russia, China, Iran, North Korea).

    The war in Ukraine has shown that the EU’s security and defence depends on the Atlantic Alliance. It has also shown that U.S. leadership has been the key to the West’s coordinated response, because, as during the Cold War, Europe’s eastern border is the United States’ first line of defence. Therefore, it is obvious that the EU’s dependence on the US in security and defence is complete and that it is possible to speak of strategic autonomy in other areas (technological, energy, economic…), but not in security and defence. The EU must develop its defensive capabilities, but always in close coordination with NATO and within the framework of the transatlantic relationship, because it is the only guarantee for the successful defence of the international liberal order.

    Jan Krzysztof Bielecki: Russia’s unprovoked war against the EU’s direct neighbour and its associated partners has profound geopolitical consequences for the EU and the rest of the West. By invading Ukraine, Russia made it clear that it wants to destroy the European order, that it seeks to destabilise NATO and challenge the role of the US in European security. The Russian narrative on this matter has been fully supported by another authoritarian state – China. This effectively means that the world of democracies is challenged now by powerful and resentful autocrats. Sadly, other emerging powers, such as India, South Africa or Brazil are either oblivious to the fate of Ukraine or are in fact sympathetic to the Russian narrative. At this time, Western unity is imperative. The EU would be naturally well-advised to boost its defence capabilities but do so to complement rather than compete with NATO. By invading Ukraine, the Russians are not just threatening the geopolitical balance of power, but they are also challenging our values of democracy and liberty. To prevail, we must stay united.   

    Mikuláš Dzurinda EU-Russia Ukraine

    Vital Questions on the 1st Anniversary of the war in Ukraine

    Other News - Ukraine

    24 Feb 2023

  • As the war in Ukraine approaches its disheartening one-year mark, much has changed in terms of its outlook and our own perceptions. While leading experts predicted a swift capitulation of the government, Ukraine’s quintessential bend-but-don’t-break resilience has given rise to hope and opportunities. But this has come at a tremendous cost.

    Since the launch of the invasion, the loss of life on both sides has been staggering. The U.S.’s top military advisor, Gen. Mark Milley, has estimated that both Russia and Ukraine have lost around 100,000 soldiers each, in addition to roughly 40,000 Ukraine civilians, with mass graves and other horrors being discovered regularly.

    Of course, in addition to the Ukrainian people’s awe-inspiring sheer will for freedom, impressive ability to quickly learn and wage combined warfare, it is Western armaments that are making the profound difference, most notably from the United States and the UK.

    While the European Union reacted with notable speed and unison (especially by EU standards) and perhaps, somewhere along the way, coming just a little bit closer to defining the age-old riddle of “what is European identity?”, the war would be long lost if not for the military support for Ukraine from the outside world. Reflecting on this, the EU needs to realise that this very moment is pivotal in the war. It needs to invest in its own security by way of investing in and securing Ukraine’s victory, at whatever cost.

    To date, the U.S. has pledged and delivered over 25 billion euros to Ukraine in lethal aid. The UK by comparison, the second-largest single donor, has committed 2.6 billion euros to date. The European Union however, a collective of 27 countries, has committed only 3.6 billion, despite its immediate proximity to the conflict and boasting of being the world’s largest economy.

    The latest saga that especially underlines this unbalanced dichotomy is the months-long debate and final agreement to send tanks. Was it monumental for the EU? Absolutely! But that achievement still has many caveats, most of all being that the actual final arrival of those tanks won’t be for months and will require at least 6-8 weeks of training. Meanwhile, there are already signs of weakening, or the watering down of those pledges, most notably by the Netherlands and Denmark who announced that they will not send Leopard 2’s, all while France remains completely absent on the question of sending its own tanks. It seems that, once again, the EU is moving at its steady pace of two steps forward, one step back.

    The timeline for those tanks and other heavy weapons systems means that Ukraine won’t have this firepower to assist in Russia’s imminent spring offensive, at least in the numbers needed to make an immediate impact, and could also predicate Ukraine’s ability to counter Russia and launch its own planned offensive.

    We are at a point in this war where we are taking Ukraine’s relative success for granted. Yes, Bakhmut holds (for now – but not likely for long) and Ukraine has not only stalled Russia’s invasion, but also made considerable gains to recapture territory. Russia’s next offensive, however, will not be like the others: it will have learned from earlier mistakes, become more desperate for victories and, in the wake of pressure mounting on the battlefield and at home, Russia will attempt to bring the war to a crescendo.

    Collectively the West, but especially the EU, must dramatically pivot from its general reluctance and painstakingly slow conditional military support for Ukraine (e.g., the debates on defensive vs offensive weapons, long-range missiles, and most recently tanks) and offer everything it can to support Ukraine’s victory. Most importantly, this involves the ultimate taboo – sending fighter jets.

    Russia may have demonstrated significant blunders on the battlefield to date, but Vladimir Putin and his generals are well-aware that their window for success is limited and closing. Despite dragging its feet as it approaches each major hurdle, collectively, the West continues to send shipments of more – and superior to Russia’s – military aid. In seeing this sustained support, Russia will become more desperate for gains and will throw everything it has into this offensive, on multiple fronts but in the east especially, perhaps even from the north towards Kyiv in an attempt to yet again force a surrender or bring Ukraine to the negotiating table.

    The sooner the West can send more and, in particular, more-advanced weaponry to Ukraine, the quicker we’ll see the results on the battlefield, bringing the war to an end sooner rather than later. In fact, tipping the scale enough by sending tanks (in the hundreds) and fighter jets, could enable Ukraine to reach striking distance of Crimea – a launching pad for much of Russia’s operations. Retaking Crimea, or even giving the perception that it’s within reach, could instead force Russia to the negotiating table with Ukraine holding most of the bargaining power, and would strike a major blow to Putin’s credibility.

    Regardless of the results from either Russia’s or Ukraine’s next offensive, and their respective abilities to counter them, or how much ground is seized and lost in the process, the next few months are going to be the bloodiest on the battlefield. The West, and particularly the European Union, must seize the moment at this pivotal juncture and overcome its reluctance to fully support Ukraine with all the weapons it needs to defeat Russia. Supporting Ukraine’s defence means investing in our own, after all. And after shielding us from Russia’s onslaught for almost a year, don’t we owe it to Ukraine to do more to end the war and show that we’re all in?

    Gavin Synnott Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Gavin Synnott

    Russia’s War Against Ukraine is at a Pivotal Junction – It’s Time for the EU to Decide if it’s all in

    Blog - Ukraine

    16 Feb 2023

  • Defence EU-Russia European Union Leopard Leopard Tanks Security Tanks Ukraine
    Defence Dialogue Leopard Tanks Ukraine Russia War

    Defence Dialogue Episode 20 – Leopard Tanks in Ukraine

    Defence Dialogues

    08 Feb 2023

  • It’s like two exceedingly polite gentlemen (or for those with long memories, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat) insisting the other goes through the door first. ‘After you,’ says the US to Europeans when asked if it will send tanks to Ukraine. ‘No, after you,’ replies Germany.  In the end, like Arafat and Barak, the tanks will get to Ukraine, but not before a couple more rounds of indecisive shuffling.

    Undignified this may be, it is also notable for what it isn’t. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24th last year, two groups of people have exceeded expectations.

    The first and obviously most important has been Ukraine itself. Its armed forces have fought well, not only bravely. Its state institutions continue to operate, with railways restoring services to liberated territory within days, and utility workers putting in heroic efforts to keep electricity and heating supplies going even as Russia tries to destroy infrastructure with missiles and Iranian drones.

    The second is Europeans in general. As spring turned to summer and the initial shock of the invasion began to wear off, it became difficult to avoid articles fretting about ‘war fatigue.’ Would Europeans be willing to tolerate higher energy prices, or other disruption, while Ukraine fought? Would they start demanding their leaders push Ukraine to abandon provinces to Russian occupation so that their power bills could be reduced?

    It turns out that other Europeans, and not just Ukrainians, are made of tougher, more adaptable stuff than was imagined. Across the continent, people have welcomed Ukrainian refugees (and despite the assiduous efforts of Russian disinformation, continue to support them). Poles and Lithuanians have even crowdfunded drones. Others support by funding generators, trucks, body armour and other non-lethal equipment for soldiers. Anti-sanctions demonstrations turn out to have been instigated by Russian agitators. Pro-Russian politicians, like Italy’s Matteo Salvini, have been marginalised, and even German industry managed to keep output close to pre-war levels despite drastically cutting demand for gas (in good news for economic theory, it turns out that gas was so cheap that much of it was wasted).

    As history shows, democracies are slow to fight, and prefer to spend their money elsewhere. Norman Angell’s The Great Illusion argued —in 1910— that the world had become so interdependent that war had become unthinkable. Intervention in Bosnia came too late for the boys and men of Srebrenica.  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson justified defence cuts to a British Parliamentary committee on the grounds that “the old concepts of fighting big tank battles on European land mass are over” — in November 2021.  We have difficulty believing there are people who prefer destruction to peace, even when, as with Vladimir Putin, they have provided no shortage of evidence to demonstrate it.

    Yet once we realise democracy must be defended, we turn out to be extraordinarily resolute in seeing things through. Though the EU can only act in foreign policy through consensus, it has supplied huge quantities of military and civilian aid to Ukraine. The euphemistically-named European Peace Facility has been topped up and a new €18 billion macro-financial support instrument for Ukraine enacted, overcoming objections from Hungary, despite the requirement for unanimity in common foreign and security policy (CFSP).

    Russia’s sheer barbarism, from the medieval torture in cities it occupies, to the World War I-style destruction by artillery of those it cannot, has fortified public opinion. Though most Europeans are afraid their lives may change because of the war, as shown in the latest Eurobarometer: ’When thinking about the war in Ukraine and its potential consequences, close to two-thirds of EU citizens (65%) are not confident that their lives will continue unchanged’ — 74% of the same sample said they supported Ukraine and 73% were in favour of EU policies towards Ukraine. 

    It seems that the more the war goes on, the stronger public support for Ukraine will be.

    Garvan Walshe Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Garvan Walshe

    The Opposite of War Fatigue – how European Support for Ukraine Keeps Getting Stronger

    Blog - Ukraine

    17 Jan 2023

  • The euphoria over the liberation of Kherson, along with hundreds of Ukrainian towns and villages, has been dampened by the fear of winter setting in. The Kremlin has decided to let freezing temperatures break the Ukrainians, rather than using bullets. Russia is focused on destroying power stations and energy grids. Millions of Ukrainians are already without electricity, drinking water or heating. While Russia, unable to sell its gas, is burning it off in open fields, Ukrainians are gripped by the fear of winter creeping in.

    The situation in the Western world is complicated as well, although naturally it could never compare with Ukraine’s. High energy prices, inflation, rising debt and social unrest, are all causes of distress for political leaders, but also among popular masses. These dynamics also create a breeding ground for populists, nationalists, and conspiracy theorists.

    Unsurprisingly, voices calling for a peaceful, diplomatic solution are growing ever louder. The Kremlin’s protagonists, whose idea of peace involves Ukraine’s capitulation or some form of appeasement, are no longer alone in the conversation about a diplomatic resolution to the conflict. President Biden was flustered by President Zelensky’s decision not to negotiate with Russia as long as Vladimir Putin remains in charge. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also stated that “…Russia’s war with Ukraine will most likely end at the negotiating table….”, reassuringly also saying Ukraine will determine when to start this process.

    President Biden was flustered by President Zelensky’s decision not to negotiate with Russia as long as Vladimir Putin remains in charge. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also stated that “…Russia’s war with Ukraine will most likely end at the negotiating table….”, reassuringly also saying Ukraine will determine when to start this process.

    What are the implications for us, as EU citizens, and our political leaders? Energy supplies from Russia have fallen, we imposed painful sanctions on Russia, and are helping Ukraine financially as well as by supplying defensive weapons. We are admitting Ukrainian refugees. Will these measures make the Kremlin reconsider its approach towards Ukraine? Will these measures help Ukraine push Russian troops out of its territory and achieve sustainable peace? Or must the EU do more for Ukraine to succeed? Does the EU dispose of a pivotal hold move that would help Ukraine pin its opponent?

    I think the most sensible and indeed necessary step to take is the creation of a common European defence force. A European army represents an instrument that would significantly tip the scales in the right direction. There has never been a more opportune moment coupled with urgent momentum to take this step than there is today.

    Diplomacy is effective when it is backed by real, deployable operational forces. Only real strength from Ukraine and its allies, present in Ukraine, can ultimately persuade the Kremlin to accept a peace settlement sustainable in the long run. Only true military capabilities will help the EU gain the respect and authority without which it is impossible to face today’s security challenges.

    I believe it easy to understand that the military personnel best suited to carry out a stabilising, peacekeeping mission in Ukraine and its vicinity is the UK and the EU. The Kremlin cannot sell the narrative that Europe has a vested interest in a cold war with Russia or in the country’s destruction as successfully as it can sell the narrative of the threat presented by the United States and NATO.

    Finally, there is the factor of necessity. The EU’s security dependence on the United States is no longer defendable or sustainable. It is immoral and naive to expect the US to bear a large cost – both politically and militarily – to defend a community that is more populous than the US and with a comparable level of economic strength. Such asymmetry is simply untenable in the face of the ever more assertive China and of the changing domestic political climate in the US. And, finally, Donald Trump announced he will seek re-election to the US Presidency. I am afraid no one can predict how the US government will act with Donald Trump at the helm again. But even if a different candidate wins, the state of affairs will likely never be the same.

    The EU should stop procrastinating. If anything, we only stand to gain from the creation of a common European army. A common European army would straighten out the feeble European pillar of NATO. Common European armed forces would be capable of more cost-effective procurement than individual member states are. Moreover, there will likely be better compatibility of weapons and equipment procured this way than is currently the case. Only three things are required: less national egoism, a greater sense of responsibility, and more courage on the part of political leaders; at the European, but especially at the national level.

    I’m not a wrestler myself, I enjoy jogging; but I’ve often seen a tie between two wrestlers broken by one bold, well-thought-out hold move. I believe we, the EU, have such a hold move at our disposal.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda Defence EU-Russia NATO Ukraine

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    Tipping the Scales in Ukraine Requires a United European Army

    Blog - Ukraine

    13 Dec 2022

  • Defence Security Ukraine

    Contemporary regional threats and challenges in Europe


    26 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

    Niklas Nováky

    With the new Ukraine Mission, EU Military Training Becomes More Geopolitical

    Blog - Ukraine

    21 Oct 2022

  • Click the image to download

    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 vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný Crisis Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update September 2022

    Migration Update

    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

    Niklas Nováky

    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 Flickr

    Tomi Huhtanen Crisis Democracy European Union Ukraine

    Tomi Huhtanen

    From Claiming a Global Role for the EU to Defending it – State of the Union 2022


    15 Sep 2022

  • Click the image to download

    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 vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný EU-Russia Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update August 2022

    Migration Update

    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 Centre

    Margherita 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 Integration

    Jarosław Pietras Enlargement Ukraine

    Panel 4 Day 1 – EU Enlargement: A New Approach

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    31 May 2022

  • Click the image to download

    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 vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný EU Member States EU-Russia European Union Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update May 2022

    Migration Update

    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

    Jarosław Pietras

    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

  • Click the image to download

    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.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný Crisis EU-Russia European Union Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update April 2022

    Migration Update

    30 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

    Gavin Synnott

    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 Enlargement European Union Ukraine

    Jarosław Pietras

    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 Enlargement 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?

    Distinctive values profile of Fidesz supporters, based on the 2018 global values survey which Glocalities conducts annually on its own initiative

    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

    Vít Novotný

    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

  • Click the image to download

    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.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný EU-Russia Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update March 2022

    Migration Update

    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

    Anna Nalyvayko

    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

    18 Mar 2022

  • Brexit Ukraine

    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

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Putin and the End of the Strong Man’s Tale

    Blog - Ukraine

    16 Mar 2022

  • Dimitar Lilkov Digital EU-Russia Technology Ukraine
    Brussels Bytes

    Russian War Propaganda and Online Disinformation with Monika Richter

    Brussels Bytes - Ukraine

    16 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 - 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

    Dimitar Lilkov

    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

  • Click the image to download

    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.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný EU Member States EU-Russia Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update February 2022

    Migration Update

    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

    Tomi Huhtanen

    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: [1] 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.

    [2] 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

    Henna Virkkunen

    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

    Vladimir Milov

    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

    Tomi Huhtanen

    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

    Maria Spyraki

    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

    Anna Nalyvayko

    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

    Anna Nalyvayko

    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 Unsplash
    Anna Nalyvayko Eastern Europe Elections EU-Russia Leadership Ukraine

    Anna Nalyvayko

    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.

    Photo by Shaah Shahidh on Unsplash

    Anna Nalyvayko Eastern Europe EU-Russia Neighbourhood Policy Security Ukraine

    Anna Nalyvayko

    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”.[1]

    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

    [1] Anders Åslund, Ukraine: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It, Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2015.

    Anna Nalyvayko Eastern Europe Enlargement EU-Russia Ukraine

    Anna Nalyvayko

    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

    Anna Bulakh

    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

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    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.

    Quiet revolution

    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

    Žiga Turk

    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

    Andrius Kubilius

    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;

    To conclude:

    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

    Viktor Artemenko

    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 Enlargement Ukraine

    Viktor Artemenko

    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

    Roland Freudenstein

    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).
    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.

    Vít Novotný Eastern Europe EU-Russia Neighbourhood Policy Ukraine

    Vít Novotný

    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.


    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.


    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

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    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

    Vít Novotný

    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

    John Bruton

    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

    John Bruton

    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).


    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.


    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.


    – 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.


    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.

    (1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJd39gEzAcc
    (2) http://www.osce.org/node/119078
    (3) http://forbes.ua/ua/persons/562-poroshenko-petr-alekseevich
    (4) http://forbes.ua/ratings/1

    Bogdana Depo Democracy Elections Ukraine

    Bogdana Depo

    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

    Roland Freudenstein

    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

    Marc-Michael Blum

    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

    Roland Freudenstein

    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

    Salome Samadashvili

    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

    Roland Freudenstein

    The message from the streets of Kyiv

    Blog - Ukraine

    10 Dec 2013

  • 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

  • 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

  • Defence EU-Russia Ukraine

    The changing realities of EU defence cooperation


    26 Apr 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