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Defense & Security
Ukrainian military woman with Ukrainian flag in her hands on the background of an exploded house

Ukraine is losing the war and the west faces a stark choice: help now or face a resurgent and aggressive Russia

by Stefan Wolff , Tetyana Malyarenko

Ukraine is now experiencing a level of existential threat comparable only to the situation immediately after the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022. But in contrast to then, improvements are unlikely – at least not soon. Not only have conditions along the frontline significantly worsened, according to the Ukrainian commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrsky, but the very possibility of a Ukrainian defeat is now discussed in public by people like the former commander of the UK’s Joint Forces Command, General Sir Richard Barrons. Barrons told the BBC on April 13 that Ukraine could lose the war in 2024 “because Ukraine may come to feel it can’t win … And when it gets to that point, why will people want to fight and die any longer, just to defend the indefensible?” This may be his way of trying to push the west to provide more military aid to Ukraine faster. Yet the fact that the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, publicly accepts that to end the war Ukraine will have to negotiate with Russia and decide “what kind of compromises they’re willing to do” is a clear indication that things are not going well for Ukraine. There are several reasons for what appears to be an increasingly defeatist narrative. First is the worsening situation at the front where Ukraine lacks both manpower and equipment and ammunition to hold the line against Russia. This will not change any time soon. The new Ukrainian mobilisation law has only just been approved. It will take time to train, deploy and integrate new troops at the front. At the same time, Russia’s economy has been resilient to western sanctions and seen growth driven by the war. On top of deliveries from Iran and North Korea dual-use technology, including electrical components and machine tools for arms manufacture, has been supplied by China. Moscow has also managed to produce a lot of its own equipment and ammunition. Much of this is being made in facilities beyond the reach of Ukrainian weapons. This is not to say that all is well with Russian resupplies, but they are superior to what Ukraine can manage on its own in the absence of western support. Bleak outlook This changing balance of capabilities to sustain the war effort, which now increasingly favours Russia, has enabled the Kremlin to adopt a strategy of grinding down Ukrainian defences along long stretches of the front, especially in Donbas in the east, where Russian pressure has been applied in recent months.     There is also a large concentration of Russian troops across the border from Kharkiv at the moment. Ukraine’s second-largest city has come under increased Russian attacks over the past several weeks which has led to mandatory evacuations from three districts in the region. The approximately 100,000 to 120,000 Russian troops would not be sufficient for another successful Russian cross-border offensive, but they are enough to tie down large numbers of Ukrainian forces which, therefore, cannot be used in other potentially more vulnerable areas of the frontline. Short of a sudden collapse of a significant part of the Ukrainian defence lines, a massive Russian advance is unlikely in the foreseeable future. But part of what Russia is trying to do right now with its broad push against Ukraine’s defences is probe for weaknesses to exploit in a larger offensive later in the spring or early in the summer. In this context, it is important to remember Russia’s proclaimed overall goals, especially the Kremlin’s territorial claims to all four of the regions Moscow annexed in September 2022. There is no indication that these objectives have changed, and Russia’s current operations on the battlefield are consistent with this. Capturing the remainder of the Donetsk region would be the first step and provide a basis for subsequent further gains in the Zaporizhzhia region in southern Ukraine and the Kherson region in the centre, especially retaking the city of Kherson, which Ukraine liberated in late autumn 2022. A Ukrainian withdrawal behind better defensible positions away from the current frontline in Donbas would make the former goal – capturing all of Donbas – more achievable for Russia, but deny the Kremlin success in Zaporzhiya and Kherson. It would also frustrate any Russian hopes of capturing the remainder of the Ukrainian Black Sea coast all the way through to Odesa. Whether this Ukrainian strategy can succeed, however, will significantly depend on what kind of western support will be forthcoming and how soon. Help wanted – right now The most optimistic outcome is that Kyiv’s western allies rapidly increase military support for Ukraine. This must include ammunition, air defence systems, armoured vehicles and drones. At the same time, the western defence industrial base, especially in Europe, needs to switch to a similar war footing as in Russia. On that basis, the situation along the frontlines could stabilise and whatever offensive moves Russia has planned now would not gain much new ground. This most optimistic outcome would constitute a slightly improved situation for Ukraine – any more than that is unlikely at present. The worst case would be a collapse of parts of the frontline that would enable further Russian gains. While not necessarily likely as things stand right now, if it were to happen it would also be a major problem for morale in Ukraine. It would empower doubters in the west to push Ukraine into negotiations at a time when it would be weak, even if almost three-quarters of Ukrainians are open to the idea of negotiations. The worst outcome therefore is not Moscow taking Kyiv, but a military defeat of Ukraine in all but name. A major Russian offensive in the summer, if successful, would force Kyiv into a bad compromise. Beyond defeat for Ukraine, it would also mean humiliation of the west and a likely complete fracturing of the so far relatively united front of support for Kyiv, thus further empowering the Kremlin. In such a scenario, any compromises imposed by Russia on Ukraine on the back of Kremlin wins on the battlefield would probably be mere stepping stones in Putin’s unending quest to restore the Russian empire of his Soviet dreams.

Defense & Security
The national flags of NATO members fly outside the organization's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 3, 2023.

NATO anniversary 2024 - 75 years of the defense alliance

by Christina Bellmann

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français What is required of member states between now and the Alliance's anniversary summit in Washington D.C. from July 9 to 11 75 years after its founding, NATO is facing an unprecedented set of challenges. The global security landscape is changing rapidly - from the ongoing war in Ukraine to crucial elections on both sides of the Atlantic. The summit in Washington D.C. will not only be a celebration of the past, but also a crucial marker for the future direction of the Alliance.  NATO is in troubled waters ahead of its 75th birthday - on the one hand, it is not 'brain dead' but offers protection to new members - on the other hand, the challenges are enormous in view of the war in Ukraine.  In the third year of the war, the military situation in Ukraine is serious. The military is coming under increasing pressure and European partners are delivering too little and too slowly.  Western support must be stepped up in order to influence the outcome of the war - Russia's future behavior towards its neighbors also depends on this.  Elections will be held on both sides of the Atlantic in 2024 - the US presidential election in November will be particularly decisive for NATO.  Two thirds of NATO member states are well on the way to meeting the two percent national defense spending target - Germany in particular must ensure that this target is met in the long term.  Now it is up to the leadership of larger countries such as Germany, France and Poland to develop traction in European defense in order to present a future US president with a resilient burden-sharing balance sheet and not leave Ukraine - and the European security order - in the lurch. Return to the core mission In the 75th year of its existence, the North Atlantic Defense Alliance has returned to its core mission: deterrence and defense against a territorial aggressor. NATO defense planning will be reviewed for its resilience before the NATO summit in Washington D.C. from 9 to 11 July 2024. What challenges does the Alliance face in its anniversary year and what needs to happen between now and the NATO summit to make the summit a success? The state of the Alliance ahead of the summit NATO is in difficult waters ahead of its 75th anniversary. On the one hand, it has proven since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression that it is capable of acting and not brain-dead. The two new members, Finland and Sweden, have given up their decades of neutrality because their populations are convinced that they are better protected against Russian aggression within the 30 allies, despite the excellent condition of their military. On the other hand, the admission process has taken much longer than was to be expected given the high level of interoperability of both countries with NATO standards. It took a good twenty months since the application was submitted for both flags to fly on the flagpoles in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels - the internal blockade by Turkey and Hungary is an expression of the Alliance's challenge to maintain a united front against the Russian threat. The Vilnius decision of 2023 to adhere to the previous two percent target for annual defense spending as a percentage of national gross domestic product (GDP) as a minimum figure in future and even to strive for additional spending beyond this is an enormous effort for the members of the alliance - and the biggest point of criticism from its sceptics. The implementation of this goal goes hand in hand with the further development of the defense posture, which was also decided in Vilnius. This includes new regional defense plans that provide for more combat-capable troops that can be deployed more quickly. The Washington summit will show how far the Alliance has come in this respect in a year - gaps between targets and actual capabilities would consequently have to be covered by investments that go beyond the two percent GDP contributions. There are also a number of other important events and factors that will influence the summit. Ukraine's military situation In the third year of the war, the military situation in Ukraine is serious. The fighting has largely turned into a war of position, with high casualties on both sides. The sluggish supply of support from the West means that the Ukrainians have to make do with significantly less than their defense needs. The European Union has failed to meet its promise to deliver one million 155-millimetre shells within a year (by March 2024), while the Russian war economy is producing supplies in multiple shifts. This imbalance is making itself painfully felt in the Ukrainian defense - due to the material deficit, nowhere near enough Russian positions can be eliminated and Russian attacks repelled, and Ukrainian personnel on the front line are depleted. President Volodymyr Zelensky is coming under increasing pressure to mobilize fresh forces for the front. As a result, the Ukrainian military is having to give up some of its terrain in order to conserve material and personnel and take up the most sustainable defensive position possible for the coming weeks and months until relief hopefully comes. comes.1 The Czech initiative to procure half a million rounds in 155 millimeter caliber and 300,000 rounds in 122 millimeter caliber on the world market for Ukraine by June 2024 is urgently needed - but it does not change the fact that Europe and the West are delivering too little and too late, despite the efforts that have been made so far and must continue to be made.2 Even if the US and Europe were to produce at full speed, it would only be half of what Russia produces and receives in support from its allies. Western support therefore urgently needs to be ramped up, as it is of crucial importance for the outcome of the war - and for Russia's future behavior in its neighborhood. Upcoming elections A series of landmark elections will take place on both sides of the Atlantic in the run-up to the summit. The US presidential elections in November 2024 will be of the greatest importance for the future direction of NATO. To date, the USA has been the largest single supporter of Ukraine in the military field; in addition, the USA has decisive weight in the coordination of concrete support from NATO countries - the German Chancellor has repeatedly oriented himself towards US arms deliveries when it comes to the question of German support or even made this a condition for his own commitments.3 While the Democrats in the US Congress continue to support aid packages to Ukraine, the Republican Party is dominated by voices around presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for this "European war" to be left to the Europeans and for domestic challenges to be addressed instead.4 This has led to a months-long blockade of further aid amounting to 60 billion US dollars in the US House of Representatives, which is led by a wafer-thin majority of Republicans. Ukraine urgently needs these supplies to avert shortages in ammunition and air defense. At the time of publication of this Monitor, a release of the funds is not in sight. In terms of foreign policy, there is a bipartisan consensus that the real danger for the USA lies in a systemic conflict with China. Among Republican supporters, impatience with the continuation of the war is increasing, while approval for further support for Ukraine is decreasing. The mood among the general population is similar: between April 2022 and September 2023, the view that the US is doing "too much" for Ukraine increased (from 14% to 41%).5 On the European side, the most important milestone for further support for Ukraine is the election of the new European Parliament from 6 to 9 June 2024. Since the outbreak of the war, approval ratings in the EU for support for Ukraine have been remarkably stable.6 Even in the face of a sometimes difficult economic environment in the 20 eurozone states, approval ratings for the continuation of aid to Ukraine have only fallen slightly in a few EU states - starting from a high level. While the broad center of the EP groups (EPP, S&D and Renew) are united in their support for Ukraine and the transatlantic alliance, the foreign and security policy positioning of the far-right parties of the ECR and ID groups and the non-attached groups is not always clear. According to Nicolai von Ondarza and Max Becker from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), while the ECR parliamentary group "largely plays a constructive and compatible role" in foreign and security policy, including with regard to NATO and Ukraine, parts of the ID parliamentary group such as the French Rassemblement National (RN) or the German AfD either voted against resolutions critical of Russia in parliament or abstained.7 According to Olaf Wientzek from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, both the ECR and ID can expect significant seat gains in the upcoming EP elections.8 In terms of numbers, the ID and ECR groups are competing with Renew to be the third strongest force behind the EPP and S&D - according to current estimates, they all have between 80 and 90 seats. It would be conceivable for the currently non-attached Hungarian Fidesz (currently 13 MEPs) to join both the ECR and ID. In view of the increasing co-decision role of parliament - including for further Ukraine support packages - it is important for the EU how these parties and party alliances position themselves in terms of foreign and security policy.9 In fact, parties in the ID faction represent Russian propaganda within Europe in order to exert influence through disinformation, subversion and mobilization and thus undermine the social consensus with regard to Ukraine and NATO.10 This may also become apparent in individual elections, such as in the eastern German states in September 2024. Economic pressure - prioritizing defence? Global inflation averaged 6.2% in 2023. Current forecasts assume falling inflation rates in the Euro-Atlantic region over the course of 2024 to 2026.11 At the same time, however, global economic growth of 3.1% (2024) and an expected 3.2% (2025) compared to the previous year is well below the projections for the post-pandemic recovery.12 The combination of higher consumer prices and slower economic recovery continues to pose the risk of declining approval for strong support within the populations of the European Ukraine-supporting states. Protests in the face of announcements of cuts in various policy areas have demonstrated this in Germany and Europe over the past year. This does not make it easy to prioritize defence spending from a national perspective for the coming years. In the case of Germany, the defense budget is competing with all other departments in the budget negotiations for 2025, which are calling for an increase in social spending and investments in view of the current burdens on the population.13 At the same time, inflation does not stop at military procurement. As early as 2022, Germany therefore had to cancel a number of planned procurement projects due to increased costs.14 The cost increase also affects the maintenance of existing equipment and personnel. Even if Germany nominally reaches the two percent target in 2024, the increases in national defense spending within the Alliance will actually be lower when adjusted for inflation. Systemic threat from China The increasing systemic confrontation with China is not only identified in the US national security strategy; for the first time, China was classified as a concrete threat by NATO in its Strategic Concept of 2022. China is threatening to annex the democratically governed island of Taiwan to its territory, possibly by military means.15 This would have enormous global escalation potential and far-reaching effects on important international sea routes. Concerns about free trade routes are leading to a convergence of threat perceptions on both sides of the Atlantic. As a result, many European partners are rethinking their relations with China - as is Germany in its China strategy. China's global ambition to restructure the existing multilateral order according to its own ideas does not only affect Taiwan's independence. China's supremacy in key technical and industrial sectors as well as critical infrastructure, rare raw materials and supply chains would lead to a deepening of existing dependencies. Because the USA sees China as a systemic threat to international order, freedom and prosperity, it has been refocusing its efforts since President Obama took office. European NATO partners are therefore expected to invest in Europe's security themselves. Only greater burden-sharing by the Europeans would enable the USA to focus its attention more strongly on the Indo-Pacific. Challenges in new dimensions In addition to the geopolitical challenges outlined above, NATO designated space in 2019 as an additional battlefield to the existing fields - land, air, sea and cyberspace - due to its increased importance.16 In recent decades, China has rapidly expanded its presence in space in both the civilian and military sectors.17 The war in Ukraine has once again underlined the importance of satellite-based intelligence and the significance of connected weapons for combat. In addition, the effects of man-made climate change, which also have an impact on security in the Euro-Atlantic alliance area, have recently become increasingly apparent. At the 2021 NATO summit in Brussels, the Alliance set itself the goal of becoming a leading international organization in understanding and adapting to the effects of climate change on security.18 To this end, it adopted the "Climate Change and Security Action Plan". The NATO countries' homework A successful NATO summit in the anniversary year 2024 would send an important signal of the unity and defense capability of the Euro-Atlantic alliance in the face of Russia's breach of international law in a time of systemic competition. NATO member states are confronted with a complex threat situation ahead of the next summit in Washington D.C.. These give rise to various requirements: More NATO members must reach the two percent target In financial terms, the Washington summit will probably be considered a success if a substantial number of member states reach the two percent target. In 2023, this was the case for eleven countries (Poland, USA, Greece, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Latvia, UK, Slovakia).19 In February 2024, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on the sidelines of a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group in Brussels that 18 countries would reach the target by the summit.20 Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Denmark, Albania and North Macedonia are the countries that have recently reached the target.21 The newest NATO member, Sweden, increases the number to.19 Achieving the two percent target for defense spending is not an end in itself. The discussion within NATO as to whether one should deviate from the numerical contribution target and instead assess the actual capabilities contributed by the individual member states is not a new one. Amounts of money to measure collective defense remain the simplest way to approximate burden-sharing within NATO - and until all countries have achieved this, it will remain the relevant metric in the political discussion. From NATO's perspective, the gap between the desired capabilities listed in the defense plans and the troop contingents registered by the member states has widened steadily of late. In reality, there is no way around increased defense spending in order to adequately equip the required personnel, who would have to be subordinate to the NATO Supreme Allied Commander (SACEUR) in an emergency - from a military perspective, the demand is therefore increasingly being made that two percent should be the minimum target. In order to achieve all the required capabilities, larger contributions are needed from all nations. Due to the threat situation and political pressure, it seems possible that 21 countries, i.e. two thirds of the member states, will meet the two percent target by the NATO summit in Washington. In addition to the 19 countries mentioned above, these are France22 and Montenegro.23 Turkey wants to achieve the target by 2025,24 although this commitment is uncertain in view of the poor economic situation. Italy wants to spend two percent within the next two years25, while Norway should reach the target by 2026 according to Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere26. Slovenia has set 2027 as the target date for meeting the commitments27, while Portugal, Spain and Belgium have set 2030 as the target date. Canada (1.38%), Croatia (1.79%) and Luxembourg (0.72%) have not provided any information. Reduce bureaucracy, speed up procurement In material terms, the main aim is to convert the increased defense spending into "material on the farm" in a timely manner. To achieve this, the planning and procurement processes in many European countries need to be accelerated, made less bureaucratic and at the same time better coordinated. The common European defense will require massive improvements in the coming years. Some announcements have already been made during the pre-election campaign for the European Parliament; here, too, what counts is how the announcements are implemented after the election. Progress must also be made in the area of research and development in order to invest scarce resources in state-of-the-art systems. The question of joint development versus off-the-shelf procurement of available equipment will also have to be decided in many cases. A rethink in European procurement is essential for this. This is primarily the responsibility of the European nation states: long-term contracts with the arms industry must be concluded urgently, cooperation initiated and loans granted for production. Strengthening EU-NATO cooperation and NATO partnership policy NATO's Strategic Concept and the EU's Strategic Compass show a strong convergence in threat analysis. The EU has effective starting points and tools, particularly for cross-cutting challenges such as combating climate change, the threat of hybrid attacks and the protection of critical infrastructure. With the European Peace Facility and other instruments, a concrete institutional framework has been created to strengthen the European pillar in NATO and contribute to fairer burden-sharing on both sides of the Atlantic. The EU and NATO should further intensify the exchange on common challenges and utilize the strengths of the respective forum. In addition to the partnership with the EU, the member states should continue to promote NATO's partnership policy. 2024 marks the 25th anniversary of NATO's eastward enlargement and the 30th anniversary of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. In view of a global confrontation with Russia and an increasingly aggressive China, it is worth taking a look at the instruments that were devised during the Cold War with a view to 'like-minded' partners outside the Alliance. NATO's partnership policy - adapted to the new circumstances - is an ideal instrument for forging close ties with democratic nations in the Indo-Pacific that share NATO's interests and values.28 Investing in interoperability NATO must continue to act as a "guardian of standards" in favor of military interoperability. This year's major exercises as part of "Steadfast Defender 2024" and "Quadriga 2024" will show, among other things, which weaknesses still exist in the various dimensions of interoperability in practical tests. In addition, care must be taken to ensure that military innovations from pioneers within NATO do not leave the Alliance's other allies behind in technical terms. This does not mean that technological progress is slowed down in a race to the bottom; instead, member states with lower expenditure on research and development must be enabled to catch up more quickly - especially in areas such as space technology and the use of artificial intelligence in warfare, it is becoming increasingly important to avoid the technological gap between the members of the alliance. What does this mean for Germany? The Federal Chancellor's announcement on February 27, 2022 that the establishment of the 100 billion euro special fund heralded a turning point in Germany's security policy was seen everywhere in Germany and within the Alliance as the right decision in view of Russia's aggression. In his speech, Olaf Scholz emphasized that Germany was not seeking this expenditure to please allies. The special fund serves national security. However, the acute threat to European security remains and although the NATO target will be reached in 2024, the future of Germany's defense budget is anything but certain. However, investment in the Bundeswehr's defense capabilities is essential to contribute to credible deterrence. The foundation for securing sustainable defense spending in Germany's medium-term financial planning must be laid now, otherwise two percent - depending on the spending status of the special fund - may already be unattainable in 2026, when the regular federal budget is once again used as the basis for calculating the NATO target. As the budget for 2025 will not yet have been decided at the NATO summit in July 2024, the Chancellor will need to make a credible commitment to the allies that Germany will not fall behind. The Bundeswehr will also have to stretch itself enormously in order to achieve the troop levels announced for the new defense plans. The number of servicewomen and men is currently stagnating at just under 182,000. 29 In order to be able to provide the brigade in Lithuania in addition to the nationally required forces and to meet the division commitment for 2026, the Bundeswehr must come significantly closer to the target figure of 203,300 active servicewomen and men by 2027.30 The questions of how many of the 182,000 soldiers available on paper are also willing to become part of the brigade in Lithuania and how many of the total number are actually deployable in an emergency have not even been asked at this point. What counts now - political leadership The security situation in Europe is serious and NATO has no shortage of challenges in its 75th year of existence. It is in good shape to meet these challenges and has welcomed two strong nations into its ranks, Finland and Sweden. However, it is now important not to let up in the efforts that have been agreed. A united external stance is key here, as the current NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg never tires of emphasizing. His successor will have to continue this. Even more important, however, are actual, concrete and substantial actions - the English expression "put one's money where one's mouth is" must be the leitmotif of all European NATO nations in view of the US elections at the end of the year, regardless of the outcome. Ultimately, political leadership is what counts within the alliance in virtually all the areas mentioned - and it matters now. Many smaller countries in Europe look to the larger member states such as Germany, France and Poland for leadership. This applies both in terms of sustainable compliance with the two percent target and when it comes to political agreement and cooperation in the field of armaments. Here, the larger states have a role model and leadership function that can develop traction and pressure on the Alliance as a whole. This political leadership will be more important than ever for the European representatives in NATO in 2024. At the moment, however, it seems questionable whether the current leadership vacuum can be filled before the NATO summit. Germany, France and Poland have not yet been able to develop a jointly coordinated stance that could have a positive effect. It is therefore also questionable whether the NATO summit will be able to send important signals beyond the minimum objectives. The US presidential election hangs over everything like a sword of Damocles - the erratic leadership style of another US President Donald Trump could be difficult to reconcile with the strategic goals of the alliance. Imprint This publication of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V. is for information purposes only. It may not be used by political parties or election campaigners or helpers for the purpose of election advertising. This applies to federal, state and local elections as well as elections to the European Parliament. Publisher: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V., 2024, Berlin Design: yellow too, Pasiek Horntrich GbR Produced with the financial support of the Federal Republic of Germany. References 1 Reisner, Markus: So ernst ist die Lage an der Front. In: Streitkräfte und Strategien Podcast, NDR Info, 12.03.2024, online unter: 2 Zachová, Aneta: Tschechische Initiative: Munition für Ukraine könnte im Juni eintreffen. Euractiv, 13.03.2024, online unter 3 Besonders eindrücklich bleibt das Beispiel der Lieferung schwerer Waffen in Erinnerung: so rang sich Bundeskanzler Scholz zur Freigabe der Lieferung Leopard-Panzer deutscher Fertigung erst nach amerikanischer Zusage von Abrams-Panzern von militärisch zweifelhaftem Mehrwert durch. 4 Dress, Brad: Ramaswamy isolates himself on Ukraine with proposed Putin pact. In: The Hill, 01.09.2023, online unter: 5 Hutzler, Alexandra: How initial US support for aiding Ukraine has come to a standstill 2 years later. ABC News, 24.02.2024, online unter 6 Grand, Camille u.a.: European public opinion remains supportive of Ukraine. Bruegel, 05.06.2023, online unter 7 von Ondarza, Nicolai und Becker, Max: Geostrategie von rechts außen: Wie sich EU-Gegner und Rechtsaußenparteien außen- und sicherheitspolitisch positionieren. SWP-aktuell, 01.03.2024, online unter: 8 Wientzek, Dr. Olaf: EVP-Parteienbarometer Februar 2024 - Die Lage der Europäischen Volkspartei in der EU. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 06.03.2024, online unter 9 s. Footnote 7 10 Klein, Margarete: Putins „Wiederwahl“: Wie der Kriegsverlauf die innenpolitische Stabilität Russlands bestimmt. In: SWP-Podcast, 06.03.2024, online unter: 11 Potrafke, Prof. Dr. Niklas: Economic Experts Survey: Wirtschaftsexperten erwarten Rückgang der Inflation weltweit (3. Quartal 2023). ifo-Institut, 19. Oktober 2023, online unter: 12 Umersbach, Bruno: Wachstum des weltweiten realen Bruttoinlandsprodukts (BIP) von 1980 bis 2024. Statista, 07.02.2024, online unter: 13 Petersen, Volker: Ampel droht Zerreißprobe: Vier Gründe, warum der Haushalt 2025 so gefährlich ist. N-tv, 07.03.2024, online unter: 14 Specht, Frank u.a.: Regierung kürzt mehrere Rüstungsprojekte. Handelsblatt, 24.10.2022, online unter: 15 Vgl. Wurzel, Steffen u.a.: Worum es im Konflikt um Taiwan geht. Deutschlandfunk, 12.04.2023, online unter 16 Vogel, Dominic: Bundeswehr und Weltraum - Das Weltraumoperationszentrum als Einstieg in multidimensionale Operationen. Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, 01.10.2020, online unter: 17 Rose, Frank A.: Managing China‘s rise in outer space. Brookings, letzter Zugriff am 18.09.2023, online unter 18 Vgl. Kertysova, Katarina: Implementing NATO’s Climate Security Agenda: Challenges Ahead. In: NATO Review, 10.08.2023, online unter: 19 Vgl. Statista: Defense expenditures of NATO countries as a percentage of gross domestic product in 2023. Abgerufen am 18.09.2023 online unter 20 Neuhann, Florian: Ukraine-Kontaktgruppe in Brüssel: Eine Krisensitzung - und ein Tabubruch? ZDF heute, 14.02.2024, online unter 21 Mendelson, Ben: Diese Nato-Länder halten 2024 das Zwei-Prozent-Ziel ein. Handelsblatt, 15.02.2024, online unter 22 Kayali, Laura: France will reach NATO defense spending target in 2024. Politico, 15.02.2024, online unter 23 24 Vgl. Daily Sabah: Türkiye’s defense spending expected to constitute 2% of GDP by 2025. 21.10.2022, online unter 25 Vgl. Decode39: Defence spending: Rome’s path towards the 2% target. 20.07.2023, online unter 26 Waldwyn, Karl: Norwegian defence chief sounds alarm and raises sights. In: Military Balance Blog, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 23.06.2023, online unter 27 Vgl. Army Technology: Russian threat driving Slovenia’s defence budget increase. 02.08.2022, online unter 28 Vgl. Kamp, Dr. Karl-Heinz: Allianz der Interessen. In: IP, Ausgabe September/Oktober 29 Vgl. Bundeswehr. Stand: 31.07.2023, abgerufen am 19.09.2023, online unter: 30 Bundeswehr: Ambitioniertes Ziel: 203.000 Soldatinnen und Soldaten bis 2027. Online unter

MOTALA, SWEDEN- MAY 17, 2022: The Swedish flag and the NATO symbol.

Sweden in NATO: Is there a future for neutrality?

by Yauheni Preiherman

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français English translation of this Article was done by Minsk Dialogue Council on International Relations  Sweden and Finland personified successful neutrality in international relations for decades. Does their accession to NATO mean that the policy of neutrality will no longer have any prospects in the modern world? Sweden becomes the 32nd member of the North Atlantic Alliance. As we predicted a few weeks ago, the Hungarian parliament ratified the accession protocol of this Scandinavian kingdom relatively quickly and removed the last obstacle to its official NATO membership. This ends the almost two-year story of the Alliance’s enlargement in northern Europe, which was initially expected to have a much more rapid development. Stockholm’s finish line Of the 30 member states that were part of NATO when Sweden and Finland submitted their applications in May 2022, 28 carried out domestic procedures to ratify accession protocols in a tick. But two countries – Türkiye and Hungary – had questions for the candidates. In particular, Ankara said that it was impossible to have allied relations with countries that have become “guest houses for terrorists” and impose sanctions against Türkiye. This referred primarily to Stockholm’s policy, so Finland joined the Alliance in March 2023, while Sweden was left in the “waiting room”. After twenty months of negotiations and a series of concessions from Sweden itself, as well as the USA, which agreed to unblock the deal to sell F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye, the Turkish parliament passed a positive decision on Stockholm’s application on 23 January. After that, Sweden faced the final obstacle – Hungary’s lack of ratification. In Budapest, as the speaker of the Hungarian parliament put it, Stockholm was expected to show “some respect” and prove that it “takes Hungary seriously”. As a result, in recent weeks the drama has come down to whether Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson will accept his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban’s invitation to visit Budapest and personally discuss all issues that concern Hungary. At first, the Swedish government responded sharply and unambiguously that its head had nothing to discuss with Orban, at least until there was a positive decision on the kingdom’s admission to NATO. In the end, however, Kristersson did fly to Budapest on 23 February. After the negotiations, Viktor Orban said that the agreements reached in the field of military-technical co-operation “help restore confidence between the two countries”. In particular, an agreement was reached on Hungary’s purchase of four new Gripen fighter aircraft and a 10-year extension of the maintenance service of 14 Swedish fighter jets already in the Hungarian Air Force. Three days later, on 26 February, the Hungarian parliament ratified the protocol on Sweden's accession to NATO: 188 deputies voted in favour and only 6 against. Thus, supporters of the Alliance’s Northern European enlargement can calmly exhale. Within days, the Swedish flag-raising ceremony is expected to take place at NATO headquarters in Brussels. It will draw a line under Stockholm’s two hundred years of non-alignment with military blocs, a period during which Sweden has become one of the most recognisable avatars of the very idea of neutrality. No country for neutrals? Sweden’s decision to end its non-aligned policy, as already discussed, can hardly be called completely spontaneous and breaking all the foundations and trends of the past decades. Indeed, it was made under the extraordinary conditions of public shock after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, but Stockholm has been slowly moving towards it for a long time. This is important to know and understand, because against the background of NATO’s North European enlargement in 2023-2024, several natural questions arise about the significance of this event in the broader international context. For example: What does Sweden’s and Finland’s accession to NATO mean for the concepts of neutrality and non-alignment? Are the decisions of Stockholm and Helsinki indicators that place for neutrality in today’s world is shrinking? And should states that are still outside political-military blocs look closely at the example of Sweden and Finland and perhaps follow it? These questions are not just theoretical. Immediately after the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine and the imposition of the first anti-Russian sanctions, both in the media and from high political tribunes, the thesis began to be heard that there is no place for neutrality in the confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine. At least, in this way Kyiv itself and its Western partners have formulated their position. The explanation is simple: Russia’s actions, they emphasise, must be qualified as a flagrant violation of the UN Charter, which means that any form of neutral attitude to the conflict would encourage these violations and is therefore immoral and illegitimate. Based on this logic, they called on the nations of the world to condemn Moscow’s actions and join the Western sanctions regime. Since not all countries were willing to take sides in a conflict they do not consider their own, Ukraine and the West expectedly (but with varying success) used various instruments of convincing and pressure. This can be clearly seen in the dynamics of voting on war-related resolutions at the UN General Assembly. In general, the thesis “No country for neutrals” is as old as the world. It always sounds especially loud at the initial stages of large-scale geopolitical and military confrontations. This was the case, for example, in the early years of the Cold War, when the position of traditionally neutral states and leanings towards neutrality by countries such as Yugoslavia caused a harsh reaction both in the Kremlin and in the White House. Both considered them not only harmful in the fight against ideological enemies, but also deeply immoral. It is now once again difficult for small states to argue the importance of maintaining a neutral policy on the basis of their historical traditions or even their desire to help resolve conflicts; not to mention their own interests, which are not necessarily similar to those of the conflicting parties. The case of Switzerland is illustrative. Even with the naked eye one can see how difficult it is for Bern to implement its natural policy of neutrality, which, unlike Sweden, did not succumb to significant erosion either during the Cold War or after its end. On the one hand Switzerland is under enormous Western pressure, and on the other – under slightly different but also pressure from Moscow, which has been quick to include Switzerland among unfriendly states for joining some of the EU sanctions. Revealingly, in mid-2022, Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, who was then also the country’s president, even proposed that a new concept of neutrality be enshrined in law. The idea was to transform the classic Swiss neutrality into “cooperative neutrality”. However, what exactly the new concept meant remained a mystery (although the name already makes it more or less clear), as the members of the Swiss Federal Council rejected the proposal. But the very fact that such an initiative emerged is a good illustration of the challenges that neutral states face today. The future of neutrality The Cassis initiative also suggests that neutral states will not abandon their policies easily if they consider them optimal under the specific structural conditions that define their security environment. True, they will adjust to changing circumstances and adapt their foreign policy positioning accordingly, because, unlike major powers, small states cannot independently shape their own security environment and by definition are forced to adjust, look for vague wording, and manoeuvre. But they will not simply abandon a policy that has been tested for decades or even centuries. That is, the national interest of these countries remains at the centre of everything, rather than pressure, wishes and appeals to morality on the part of the participants in certain conflicts, even if they are superpowers. This is how the cases of Sweden and Finland differ from those of Switzerland, Austria, Malta, Ireland, and other countries that continue to adhere to neutrality and/or non- alignment: they define their national interest in fundamentally different ways in the specific geopolitical conditions that are developing here and now. At the same time, a simple rule always applies in international relations. The more uncompromising and fierce the confrontation between key actors becomes, the less opportunities and room for manoeuvre neutral states have. Therefore, in Europe, these are very hard times indeed for neutrals. But in some other parts of the world, the structural conditions are different, and the incentives for non-aligned policies in many countries, on the contrary, are only growing. India is a vivid example of this. It is now a welcome guest everywhere, and the main geopolitical antagonists are literally competing in inviting Delhi to co-operate. In such a situation, it is quite natural for India to skim all the cream with the help of neutral positioning, which she successfully does. European neutrals, however, now have to fight for the right to retain as many elements of the policy of non-alignment as possible and hope that their position will soon be in demand again. In this process, the forms and methods of neutrality are inevitably evolving. One of the leading theorists of neutrality, Austrian Professor Heinz Gärtner, has estimated that there are more than 20 different types of neutral policies. There is no doubt that this list will only grow over time. From the legalistic forms enshrined in the Hague Conventions in the early 1900s, neutrality will evolve further and further towards hybrid political forms such as hedging. It is important that in any case, a neutralist policy, no matter what forms it occasionally takes, will always have a place in international relations. Especially given the level of globalisation that has been achieved, which distinguishes the modern world from the realities of the Cold War. The great powers opposing each other will themselves eventually have an interest in linkages in the form of neutral and non-aligned countries. In addition, without neutral states and non-state actors, many practices basic to international relations would be impossible. For example, it is difficult to imagine the full implementation of international humanitarian law without them.

Belarus, Minsk, House of Government and Vladimir Lenin Monument

Ostracizing Minsk May Not Be in the West’s Interests

by Grigory Ioffe

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 43 Executive Summary: • The political rigidity associated with Western reactions to Minsk has limited any positive impact and is now sacrificing the “strategic foundation of Belarus’s statehood” on the altar of “present-day concerns.” • Official Minsk has limited economic options due to Western sanctions, leading to a stronger reliance on Russian businesses and trade routes. • Whether Belarus will retain its statehood or become a Russian colony depends on how long Minsk and Moscow remain on the same side of the Iron Curtain. By all indications, Western policy toward Belarus is in need of fresh ideas. The crackdown on the post-election protests in 2020, as well as Belarus’s role in Russia’s war against Ukraine, has elicited stern reactions in the West to Minsk and a wholehearted embrace of the opposition. Still, the political rigidity associated with these Western reactions has limited their positive impact and is now sacrificing the “strategic foundation of Belarus’s statehood” on the altar of “present-day concerns” (see EDM, March 14). Acting on some of these concerns may be counterproductive. For example, on March 1, Lithuania closed two more Belarusian border crossings and has been questioning Belarusian migrants based on the frequency of their trips to Belarus and their stance on the Alyaksandr Lukashenka regime (LRT, February 28). Such concerns limit Belarusians’ contact with the West and are used as fodder for hostile interpreters of outside actions toward Minsk. Russian historian Alexander Dyukov, in an interview with RuBaltic, notes that, until 2020, “Vilnius used to be a ‘weekend capital’ for some Belarusians. But people in expensive clothes and good cars who moved to Lithuania for permanent residence thereafter are a completely different matter.” Moreover, those newcomers appear to embrace the ideology that the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, headed by Vilnius, was a proto-Belarusian state whose name modern-day Lithuania usurped (RuBaltic, March 10). Whether such an ideology is dominant among Belarusians in Lithuania remains an open question, but it is unlikely to constitute any threat to the country. Perhaps even more critical than Dyukhov’s hostile interpretation of Litvinism are the strategic implications of the semi-blockade from Belarus’s Western neighbors (, August 30, 2023; see EDM, March 14). Some opposition-minded Belarusian commentators appear to take these implications seriously and use them to educate members of the Belarusian émigré community. In his recent weekly question-and-answer session with Zerkalo, Artyom Shraibman responded to the question: “There is an opinion that, in the event of the disappearance of the Putin regime, Russia will be too busy to care about Belarus, so the Belarusian regime will fall. However, as Russian businesses are taking over all the valuable assets in Belarus, the country is unlikely to be willing to let go of these businesses. And if so, does Belarus have a chance to not become a Russian colony in the foreseeable future?” Shraibman dispelled the notion that Russian business assets in Belarus are conducive to Belarus becoming a Russian colony. Shraibman referenced hostile takeovers of Russian holdings by Minsk, such as Belagazprombank in 2020 and the Belarusian authorities’ arrest of Russian potash company Uralkalii CEO Vladislav Baumgaertner in 2013 (see EDM, September 4, 2013). In both cases, Moscow did not retaliate. Shraibman believes it is important that Russia has become the primary buyer of Belarusian goods and that all remaining Belarusian exports are now in need of exclusively Russian transit, as Lithuanian, Latvian, and Polish transit routes are blocked. It is this sort of dependency that makes Belarusian entrepreneurs overly accustomed to Russian business practices and norms (YouTube, March 7). Whether Belarus will retain its statehood depends on how long Minsk and Moscow remain on the same side of the Iron Curtain. Developments on the other side of this new divide in Belarus are not as straightforward as they may seem. In mid-February, Elvira Mirsalimova, a Vitebsk-based ardent supporter of Russia’s war against Ukraine and of the view that Belarusians are Russians, was arrested for propagating Nazi symbols on her Telegram account. She republished a post about the “trophies of the Ukrainian army” supposedly found by Russian pro-war journalist Vladlen Tatarsky, who was killed in St Petersburg last year. These “trophies” included a flag with a swastika allegedly found in dugouts abandoned by the Ukrainian army, which Tatarsky was pictured standing on (Facebook/Mirsalimova, March 8). The irony of the situation is that both the late Tatarsky and Mirsalimova are champions of Russia’s expansionism, contrary to their “anti-Nazi” rhetoric (Zerkalo, March 5; Belsat, March 8). Valer Karbalevich of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty attributes the Mirsalimova episode to the fact that demonstrating support for Belarus-Russia integration, though officially enshrined, has limits in Minsk. Crossing these limits is fraught with punishment. Karbalevich recalls the 2016 imprisonment of three Belarusian citizens who insulted the Belarusian nation in three articles in the Russian media (Svaboda, March 11). He also notes that Lukashenka has monopolized the pro-Russian flank of the Belarusian political scene. Unfortunately, neither Karbalevich nor Shraibman acknowledges that, in Belarus itself, there are essentially two communities in one that adhere to different historical narratives, and both communities claim to represent “Belarusianness.” On the one hand, many Belarusians subscribe to the Russo-centric interpretation of Belarusian statehood; on the other hand, most of those Belarusians in the opposition abide by the “Westernizing” narrative (The Jamestown Foundation, December 20, 2019). Lukashenka claims leadership of the Russo-centric segment of society. West-friendly pollsters, however, have shown the latter segment to be numerically stronger than its counterpart (Belorusskaya Natsionalnaya Identichnost, December 2022). If this is the case, the answer to who is better equipped to protect Belarus from being absorbed by Russia is unclear. After all, while protesting the rigged 2020 election, the opposition did not favor any geopolitical orientation whatsoever. They became manifestly pro-Western when they found themselves forced out of Belarus. The opposition has little to no influence on developments within the country. Lukashenka’s track record, however, includes declarations and actions opposing Russia’s expansionism. For example, the Russian ambassador to Minsk, Mikhail Babich, was ousted in April 2019 because he appeared to confuse an independent country with a subdivision of the Russian Federation (see EDM, May 1, 2019). Ruling out the possibility of engaging official Minsk no longer makes sense for the West. Not only would such an engagement prop up Belarusian statehood, but nothing short of it can facilitate the release of Belarus’s political prisoners and limit the country’s integration with Russia.

Defense & Security
Russia and Ukraine Chess Figures

Dissecting the Realist Argument for Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

by Oguejiofor Princewilliams Odera

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français On 24 February 2022, Russian troops pushed into Ukraine from multiple fronts, bombarding cities like Kharkiv and the capital Kyiv. The invasion plunged Europe into its worst security crisis in decades and prompted a massive outpouring of military aid and economic sanctions on Russia from NATO and Western allies (Ramzy 2022). There were warning signs beforehand, as Russia had massed over 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders for months and issued demands to roll back NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe (Roth, Dan, David and Nana 2022). Yet the full-scale invasion still came as a shock via its violation of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and the fundamental principle of the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force (United Nations 2022). From a liberal perspective emphasizing democratic norms, international law, and human rights, Russia’s actions were indefensible and morally reprehensible. However, six key realist arguments can explain Russia’s rationale for the Ukraine invasion; security dilemmas and geographical insecurity, attempt to regain a sphere of influence, implementation of an offensive realist strategy, revisionism against the U.S.-led liberal international order, diversionary war theory, and autocratic insecurity and domestic politics. Realist Theory and Core Tenets Realism is one of the leading theories in the study of international relations, originating from thinkers like Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and later articulated by 20th century scholars like E.H. Carr, Hans Morgenthau, and Kenneth Waltz (Burchill, Andrew and Richard 2013). It posits that international politics is characterized by anarchy and a struggle for power between sovereign nation-states pursuing their own national interests (Waltz 1979). Key assumptions underpin the bulk of realism: 1. States are the primary actors and the fundamental units of analysis in the anarchic international system with no supranational authority. 2. All states possess offensive military capabilities that render them potentially dangerous to one another. 3. States can never be certain of other states’ future intentions or actions, leading to mistrust and worst-case scenario planning. 4. In this self-help system, states must look out for their own national interests and survival as the principal motive (Waltz 1979; Mearsheimer 2014). 5. While economic and cultural factors are important, military force and power politics take primacy in realist analysis. Realism tends to view human nature as flawed and egoistic, distrustful of lofty ideals like global peace or international cooperation. It emphasizes pragmatism over moral principles and ethics, assuming states will act opportunistically when their interests require it (Carr 1964). The accumulation of military capabilities and economic power is seen as a means for states to increase their relative power and security in an anarchic, zero-sum world (Mearsheimer 2001). Classical realists, such as Hans Morgenthau, place a significant emphasis on human nature and decision-making elites in their understanding of international relations. They argue that politics is governed by objective laws rooted in human nature (Chimni 2017). Morgenthau, in particular, has been described as one of the most important political thinkers of the 20th century and one of the greatest realist thinkers of all times (Chimni 2017). Classical realists believe that their pessimistic vision of human nature is reflected in politics and international relations. In contrast, neorealists or structural realists, like Kenneth Waltz, emphasize the constraints imposed by the anarchic structure of the international system (Lobell 2017). Waltz’s neorealism, first outlined in his 1979 book Theory of International Politics, argues that power is the most important factor in international relations. He posits that the nature of the international structure is defined by its ordering principle, anarchy, and by the distribution of capabilities (measured by the number of great powers within the international system) (Waltz 1979). Within the neorealist school, there are two main schools of thought: defensive realism and offensive realism. Defensive realists, following Waltz, argue that states merely aim to maintain the existing balance of power for survival. They assert that the anarchical structure of the international system encourages states to maintain moderate and reserved policies to attain security. They contend that aggressive expansion upsets the tendency of states to conform to the balance of power theory, thereby decreasing the primary objective of the state, which they argue is ensuring its security (Lobell 2017). On the other hand, offensive realists like John J. Mearsheimer see states as persistently seeking opportunities for relative gain and hegemony when possible. Mearsheimer, in his groundbreaking work “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics”, argues that states seek to maximize their power and influence to achieve security through domination and hegemony. He contends that only by creating an imbalance of power in its own favour will a state be able to maximize its security (Üstündağ 2020; Wivel 2017). The Realist Rationale for Russian Invasion of Ukraine Ukraine shares a 1,500-mile border with Russia, and its core territory was formerly part of Russia until 1991 (Plokhy 2023). From Moscow’s perspective, the prospect of Ukraine aligning with the West and integrating with NATO was an existential threat to Russian power that it could not accept (Lindsay 2022). Realists argue that a Ukraine aligned with NATO could enable the deployment of offensive weaponry close to Russia’s borders and threaten its access to the Black Sea, a warm water port it has coveted for centuries (McCallion 2023). As the core of realist theory warns, the basic structure of an anarchic and self-help system means states can never feel secure about other states’ future intentions or actions (Waltz 1979). When one state enhances its security, it undermines another’s. According to Mearsheimer, “Because no state can ever be sure that other states will not use their offensive capabilities for aggressive purposes, every state is compelled to look for ways to guarantee its own survival” (2014, 77). Seen from this perspective, Russia’s invasion can be rationalized as a pre-emptive move to neutralize what it saw as an imminent strategic threat. Closely related to arguments about great power status is the realist notion of states pursuing spheres of influence or buffer zones to enhance their security. The realist argument is that all great powers in history, including Russia, have sought to control the security dynamics in adjacent regions by maintaining relations with nearby smaller states that are aligned with their interests (Mearsheimer 2019). Ukraine, with its geostrategic position between Russia and Europe, is viewed as critically important terrain in Russia’s desired sphere of influence. Realists argue that rather than the expansion of Western liberal democracy, Russia was fundamentally motivated to invade to reestablish a favourable balance of power, security arrangements, and compliant buffer states on its periphery (Trenin 2022). Allowing Ukraine to align itself closely with NATO and host potential offensive forces was seen as a step too far by Moscow. Beyond defensively reacting to perceived security threats in the region, it can be inferred that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reflects a calculated strategy of offensive realism – persistent and opportunistic efforts to enhance its power economically and militarily to establish regional hegemony (Mearsheimer 2001). Under this view, Putin aimed to take advantage of a window of opportunity and weakness in the West to redraw boundaries and spheres of influence in Europe. Putin is said to want to rebuild a Russian sphere of influence in eastern Europe, principally embracing former Soviet republics such as now independent Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine. He has frequently bemoaned their “loss” after the Soviet Union collapsed. Putin may also hope to demonstrate to the west (and Russians) that the country is still a superpower. (Tisdall 2022, para. 2). Related to the offensive realism interpretation, some realists frame Russia’s invasion as an act of revisionism against the U.S.-dominated liberal international order that emerged after the Cold War (Kotoulas 2022). For decades, Russia complained about perceived encirclement by NATO and about what it viewed as disrespect and disregard for its interests in relation to Ukraine and its own sphere of influence (Sakwa 2022). The realist view is that even after the demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. and its allies continued to expand in ways that threatened Russia’s core interests and left it feeling boxed in by the steady eastward march of NATO (Smith and Dawson 2022). From this perspective, Russia eventually decided it needed to upset the liberal order and use brute force to re-establish itself as a great power capable of exerting sway on its periphery. Russia under Putin has no intention of entering into an American-run liberal world order but instead wants a multipolar world in which Russia enjoys a blocking position if not an outright veto. This is because Putin himself is ideologically averse to western liberalism (Grant 2022). By forcefully altering borders and facts on the ground in Ukraine, the realist argument suggests Russia aimed to disrupt the Western-centric world order and assert its regional dominance. Another realist interpretation views Russia’s invasion through the lens of diversionary war theory – the idea that leaders may provoke external conflict to divert public attention from domestic turmoil or unpopular policies (Levy and Vakili 1992). There is precedent for Russian leaders using force abroad for domestic purposes, from Stalin’s invasion of Finland in 1939 to Putin’s wars in Chechnya and 2008 invasion of Georgia (Ferraro 2023). From this view, Putin faced a host of domestic challenges in 2022, from economic malaise, rampant corruption and wealth inequality, to the prospect of more anti-regime protests like those in 2020 and early 2022 (Sharifulin 2023; McHugh 2023). “The Russian invasion of Ukraine could have been an attempt by Putin to garner popularity by invoking a distorted interpretation of Russia’s history and playing on Russian nationalism” (Rogers and Yi 2022, para. 3). From the foregoing it is obvious that launching a nationalist, irredentist campaign to reconquer historically Russian lands in Ukraine may have been calculated to bolster Putin’s domestic standing and shift discussion away from internal grievances. The realist logic is that leaders will take aggressive foreign policy actions when domestic audiences become restive, to rally patriotic support and legitimacy. Finally, another related realist explanation rooted in Russia’s domestic politics is the theory of autocratic insecurity, or fear among authoritarian leaders like Putin that if they compromise or appear weak, it could undermine their regime survival (Kuchins and Zevelev 2012). This aligns with defensive realist logic, where states will act pre-emptively and uncompromisingly when core interests and stakes are their very existence. The argument is that Putin saw the 2022 events in Ukraine as an existential threat to his regime’s survival and legitimacy, given its claims to defend ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking populations in Ukraine (Pifer 2023). A miscalculation that resulted in losing influence over Ukraine could inflame nationalist opposition at home and tarnish Putin’s carefully cultivated strongman image. It is evident that Putin’s war is motivated by longstanding concerns that if Russia doesn’t reassert its control over the territories it traditionally dominated, his regime – along with Russia’s status as a great power – will be undermined. The autocratic insecurity thesis suggests Putin felt he had to escalate in Ukraine to ensure his own political survival and Russia’s place as a relevant great power. Counterarguments and Moral Debates While the realist perspective offers several compelling interpretations of Russia’s strategic calculations and motivations underlying the Ukraine invasion, it leaves many fundamental questions unanswered and provokes heated moral debates. First, even if Russia felt genuine security concerns or resented Western encroachment, it had many alternative foreign policy options short of a full-scale war that caused catastrophic death and suffering. Failure to pursue diplomacy or de-escalation is difficult for realists to fully explain or justify. Second, a core tenet of the Westphalian system of nation-states is that countries cannot violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of others through force or aggression. Russia’s actions obliterated this international norm, raising questions about the validity of applying an amoral, power-politics lens that glosses over legal and human rights considerations (Kampmann 2021). Just as a burglar cannot be the judge of his own cause, you cannot allow a nation to be the sole arbiter of its own interests against those of the rest of the world whenever that happens to militate against the general interest and settlements Third, a consistently neglected component in realist thought is the key role of ideological and domestic factors in shaping interests and threat perceptions. Putin’s Russkiy Mir (“Russian World”) ideology views Ukraine as an artificial state and integral part of the greater Russia – a visceral belief that drove many of his decisions as much as geopolitical power calculations (Suslov 2022). The invasion thus cannot be fully explained without understanding the pseudo-historical mythmaking that permeated the Kremlin’s worldview. Finally, while providing interesting insights into Russia’s strategic cost-benefit analysis, realist arguments struggle to wrestle with the ethics and wisdom behind the invasion. Even if the goals aligned with maximizing Russia’s national interests, the terrible human costs and economic damage now suffered by Russia itself cast the decision as potentially catastrophic and self-defeating overreach. Conclusion In conclusion, the realist theoretical prism of international relations offers several potentially compelling rationales for Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine – security dilemmas, spheres of influence, offensive realism, revisionism against the liberal order, diversionary war, and autocratic insecurity. These arguments help elucidate how Russia assessed its strategic interests and the potential costs and benefits surrounding the attack. At the same time, the realist perspective is limited in several respects. It glosses over the war’s violation of international law and sovereignty norms. It cannot fully explain Russia’s diplomatic misfires or the moral dimensions surrounding humanitarian atrocities and the terrible destruction inflicted. And its focus on systemic incentives neglects the key role Russian domestic politics, pseudo-historical mythos, and Putin’s own ideological zealotry played in driving the conflict. Ultimately, while the realist lens provides useful analytical tools for dissecting state behaviour and interests, it is inherently amoral and therefore unsuited to grapple with complex human tragedies such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. References Burchill, Scott, Andrew Linklater, and Richard Devetak. 2013. Theories of International Relations. Bloomsbury Academic. Carr, Edward Hallett. 1964. The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations. New York: Harper & Row. Chimni, Bhupinder S. 2017. “The Classical Realist Approach to International Law: The World of Hans Morgenthau.” In International Law and World Order: A Critique of Contemporary Approaches, 38-103. Cambridge University Press. Ferraro, Vincent. 2023. “Why Russia Invaded Ukraine and How Wars Benefit Autocrats: The Domestic Sources of the Russo-Ukrainian War.” Center for Asian Studies/ Russia & Post-Soviet Space Section, University of São Paulo (LEA-USP). Grant, Stephanie. 2022. “Russia’s Ukraine Invasion Is Not Just about Borders or Power. For Putin, It’s about Identity.” ABC News, February 24. Kampmann, Christoph. 2021. “The Treaty of Westphalia as Peace Settlement and Political Concept.” In International Law and Peace Settlements, edited by Marc Weller, Matilda Retter, and Attila Varga, 64-85. Cambridge University Press. Kirby, Jen, and Jonathan Guyer. 2022. “The Increasingly Complicated Russia-Ukraine Crisis, Explained.” Vox, February 23. Kissinger, Henry. 1994. Diplomacy. New York: Simon & Schuster. Kotoulas, Ioannis E. 2022. “Russia as a Revisionist State and the 2022 Invasion of Ukraine.” In The Russian-Ukrainian War (2014-2022): Historical, Political, Cultural-Educational, Religious, Economic and Legal Aspects, 1-10. Baltija Publishing. Kuchins, Andrew C., and Igor Zevelev. 2012. “Russian Foreign Policy: Continuity in Change.” The Washington Quarterly 35, no. 1: 147-161. Levy, Jack S., and Lily I. Vakili. 1992. “Diversionary Action by Authoritarian Regimes: Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas Case.” In The Internationalization of Communal Strife, edited by Manus I. Midlarsky, 118-146. Routledge. Lindsay, James M. (Host). 2022. “Putin’s Choices, With Michael Kimmage.” In The President’s Inbox. Podcast audio, March 29. Council on Foreign Relations. Lobell, Steven E. 2017. “Structural Realism/Offensive and Defensive Realism.” Oxford Research Encyclopedias, International Studies. McCallion, C. 2023. “Assessing Realist and Liberal Explanations for the Russo-Ukrainian War.” McHugh, D. 2023. “Russia’s Economy Holds Up, but Growing Challenges Test Putin.” The Associated Press, March 13. Mearsheimer, John J. 2001. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W.W. Norton. Mearsheimer, John J. 2014. “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin.” Foreign Affairs 93, no. 5: 77-89. Mearsheimer, John J. 2019. “Bound to Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Liberal International Order.” International Security 43, no. 4: 7-50. Pifer, S. 2023. “Russia, Ukraine and Existential War.” Stanford University, The Center for International Security and Cooperation. Plokhy, Serhii. 2023. “Serhii Plokhy: ‘Russia Thought It Was Invading the Ukraine of 2014’.” Chatham House – International Affairs Think Tank. Ramzy, Austin. 2022. “The Invasion of Ukraine: How Russia Attacked and What Happens Next.” The New York Times. Rogers, K., and J. Yi. 2022. “How the War in Ukraine Might Change Putin’s Popularity among Russians.” FiveThirtyEight, March 11. Roth, Andrew, Dan Sabbagh, David Blood, and Nana de Hoog. 2022. “Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Where Are Putin’s Troops and What Are His Options?” The Guardian, February 14. Sakwa, Richard. 2022. The Russia Scare: Fake News and Genuine Threat. 1st ed. Routledge. Sharifulin, Valery. 2023. “More Corrupt, Fractured and Ostracised: How Vladimir Putin Has Changed Russia in Over Two Decades on Top.” The Conversation. Smith, N. R., and G. Dawson. 2022. “Mearsheimer, Realism, and the Ukraine War.” Analyse und Kritik 44, no. 2. Suslov, Mikhail. 2018. ““Russian World” Concept: Post-Soviet Geopolitical Ideology and the Logic of “Spheres of Influence”.” Geopolitics 23, no. 2: 330-353. Tisdall, Simon. 2022. “The Edge of War: What, Exactly, Does Putin Want in Ukraine?” The Observer, February 12. Trenin, Dmitri. 2022. “Why Realpolitik Still Shapes Russia’s Geopolitics.” Carnegie Moscow Center, February 28. United Nations. 2022. “UN Resolution Denouncing Russian Invasion of Ukraine Passes as Moscow Is Further Isolated.” UN News. Üstündağ, G. M. 2020. “A Critical Analysis of Mearsheimer’s “Offensive Realism”: The Rights and Wrongs.” Atlas Journal 6, no. 35: 1005-1013. Waltz, Kenneth N. 1979. Theory of International Politics. Boston: McGraw-Hill. Wivel, Anders. 2017. “Realism in Foreign Policy Analysis.” Oxford Research Encyclopedias. 

Defense & Security
Press conference by BORRELL, and SHMYHAL, in Brussels, Belgium, on September 5, 2022.

Ukraine: our support in the coming months will be decisive

by Josep Borrell

Last week, I travelled to Poland and Ukraine, where I addressed the Verkhovna Rada and met President Zelenskyy, and others from the country’s political leadership. Despite growing Russian pressure, the Ukrainians remain determined to fight for their independence and freedom, but they need more military support, and they need it now. The quality and quantity of this support by the EU and its member states in coming months will be decisive. For Ukraine, but also for our own security. Last week’s visit to Ukraine was my sixth as High Representative and the fourth since the start of Russia’s full-scale war. I started my journey with a stop-over in Warsaw to discuss the situation in Ukraine with Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski, and the military leadership. We agreed on the need to step up military supplies, including through the European Peace Facility, and the importance of EU-NATO cooperation. Poland’s support to Ukraine has been exceptional. The country is hosting about a million Ukrainian refugees, is a logistic hub for military supplies and hosts one of the headquarters of the EU training mission. In total 60,000 Ukrainian soldiers will have been trained in the EU by the end of the summer. The coming months will be decisive, for both Ukraine and the EU In Kyiv, I met President Zelenskyy, Prime Minister Shmyhal, Foreign Minister Kuleba, and Defence Minister Umerov. All my interlocutors expressed gratitude for the recently agreed €50 billion EU support package, which will provide Ukraine with predictable financing and help pay salaries, pensions and provide public services in the coming years. At the same time, they stressed the country’s dire need for more military assistance. Another major Russian offensive could be starting in the months after the Russian “elections” in March. However, I have found that the Ukrainian people remain determined to continue the fight and I saw their ingenuity and resilience at work. Unlike their Russian counterparts, Ukrainian soldiers know what they are fighting for and do not lack motivation. But they cannot do it without our support, which has to increase urgently. This is the reason why we have been taking stock of planned EU deliveries of military support in 2024 - currently estimated at more than EUR 20 billion - at our last Defence Ministers meeting. I urged EU member states to work with their defence industries in renegotiating contracts and prioritise deliveries of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine. We are also in the process of establishing a 5 billion tranche of the Ukraine Assistance Fund within the European Peace Facility to fund additional deliveries of military support. What the EU and its Member States do in the coming months to provide Ukraine with the tools to withstand a Russian offensive will be decisive, for both Ukraine, but also for the security of the European Union. Air-defence is crucial to stop Russia from terrorising civilians While in Kyiv, I experienced first-hand the daily reality of most Ukrainians and what a difference Western military technology makes in Ukraine. At 5:00 in the morning, the air alarm sounded – as it has done 40.000 times in Ukraine since February 2022 – and we had to take shelter from about 20 Russian cruise missiles heading towards Kyiv. All of them were intercepted by Western-provided air defence systems, but the debris of one of these missiles hit a residency building, tragically killing four people and injuring many more. I visited this building later that day with the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, and met some of the people who had just lost their homes. These Russian missiles serve no military purpose, they are indiscriminate attacks to terrorise the Ukrainian population. In cities with less protection by Western air defence, they are taking a high death toll. On 14 January 2023, for instance, that was the case in Dnipro, where a Russian missile hit a residential building, taking the lives of entire families, 46 people in total. To this day, many children in Dnipro could not return to their classrooms. Schools without shelters are forced to provide classes online. Providing Ukraine with more and better air-defence systems is an urgent priority. They save many lives. The house of Ukrainian democracy During my visit, I delivered a speech to the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament. I paid homage to the bravery of the Ukrainians who have been fighting, and often paying the ultimate price, to safeguard their country, their families, their culture and their democracy against the Russian attempt to annihilate Ukraine. Ukraine is at the front line between democracy and authoritarian rule and with their fight, Ukrainians are making a decisive contribution to the security of Europe as a whole. If Putin won in Ukraine, our security would be at high risk. This is why we need to change paradigm from supporting Ukraine for “as long as it takes” to committing ourselves to support Ukraine with “whatever it takes” to win the war and win the peace. We need to oppose the claims that Ukraine cannot win and that Putin should be appeased. At the Verkhovna Rada I also met the leaders of all political groups. There is a clear consensus on Ukraine’s European choice among political forces and civil society. I urged members of the Rada to preserve this unity and consensus, which will be essential to advance on the path to EU membership and to implement the necessary reforms. The EU will provide all the support needed along this path but it will fall to the Ukrainians to fight corruption decisively and strengthen the invisible infrastructure that sustains democracy: rule of law, plurality and inclusive governance, the separation of powers, human rights, social cohesion and equality. Liberated territories – clearing mines and fighting impunity In parallel to fighting off the Russian aggressions, Ukrainians are already rebuilding territories liberated from Russian occupation. One of the most dangerous but essential tasks is the clearing of countless deadly mines the Russians left behind everywhere. During my visit, the EU handed over to Ukraine another de-mining system able to clear anti-personnel, as well as anti-tank mines and other unexploded arms. The system is remote controlled and particularly safe to operate. Demining will make it possible for displaced people to return home and for farmers to work their land again. I also visited our civilian EU Advisory Mission, where EU police are training their Ukrainian colleagues. They teach them how to check armed individuals, assist demining operations or how to respond to the discovery of mass graves in liberated territories, both to collect evidence and to provide psychological care to the families of the victims. The trained Ukrainians will in turn pass on their knowledge to many more Ukrainian police officers. The aim is to stabilise the liberated territories and ensure their full and smooth reintegration into the country, and to start war crimes investigations as quickly as possible while witnesses are still available and before potential evidence becomes contaminated. There can be no peace without justice. The battle of narratives In parallel to the battle for Ukrainian territory, a second battle rages. The battle of narratives. It is equally important, because the perception of this war in Europe and the rest of the world will be decisive in order to maintain support for Ukraine, isolate Putin and make our sanctions work. We need to counter the Russian narrative resolutely that this war is about “The West against the Rest”. It is a war in defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every country and it is a war in defence of the principles of the United Nations Charter. It is about preventing a world where powerful countries change borders at will, and the weak fall prey to the strong. If Putin’s strategy proves successful, it will embolden Russia and other autocracies to pursue their imperialist agendas against their neighbours. This matters not only to Europeans, but also to people in Africa, in South America, or in Southeast Asia. This battle of narratives must also be fought in the EU. As we are approaching the European elections, Europeans need to be aware of what it would mean if Ukraine were defeated and the Russian army took up positions along a much larger part of the EU's border. Contrary to what some may argue, this would not ease tensions; instead, it would create a much more dangerous environment for Europeans, lead to more human rights violations, and cause many more Ukrainians to flee westwards. In the long run, it would be far more costly for us than supporting Ukraine today. Europe’s own security is at stake and we need to do everything we can to step up our support to Ukraine in the months to come.

Defense & Security
Fire and terrorist attack at Crocus town hall. Krasnogorsk, Moscow Region Russia March 22, 2024

The Crocus Hall Terrorist Attack Makes Us Rethink the Future of the World

by Ahmed Moustafa

The Crocus Hall terrorist Incident in Moscow sent shockwaves throughout the city and the world, serving as a stark reminder that terrorism remains a constant threat to global security. Despite efforts made by governments and security agencies to combat terrorism, this tragic event serves as proof that it never truly disappeared. The global failure to effectively identify and combat terrorism is a complex issue due to various factors. The nature of terrorism makes it difficult to identify and prevent, as terrorist groups often operate in secrecy and target vulnerable areas. The constantly evolving tactics and technologies used by terrorists also make it difficult for governments and intelligence agencies to accurately assess potential threats. Another factor contributing to the failure in terrorism identification is the lack of coordination and cooperation among different countries. Political and ideological differences can hinder the exchange of vital information and efforts in identifying and stopping terrorist activities. Addressing the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty, inequality, and political grievances, is also crucial for effective identification and prevention. However, tackling these complex societal issues requires significant political will and resources. The use of advanced technology and social media platforms by terrorists has made it increasingly difficult to identify and monitor their activities. The widespread accessibility and anonymity of social media platforms make it difficult for authorities to track and intercept potential threats. Lastly, there is a lack of effective measures in identifying and preventing radicalization, particularly among vulnerable individuals who may be manipulated and radicalized by extremist ideologies. The spread of misinformation and hate speech online has also contributed to the radicalization of individuals, making them vulnerable to extremist beliefs and actions. Terrorism and its economic impact globally Terrorism has a significant economic impact, but estimating its economic cost is a complex task. Direct costs include immediate financial losses, such as property damage, human life loss, and medical expenses, which can be easily quantifiable. Indirect costs, on the other hand, are harder to measure but can have a significant impact on the economy, such as disruptions to business activities, loss of foreign investment, and decline in consumer and investor confidence. These costs can lead to job losses, decreased production, and a slowdown in economic growth. Intangible costs, such as the psychological and emotional effects on individuals and society, are a challenging aspect of estimating the economic cost of terrorism. The fear and trauma caused by terrorist attacks can have long-lasting effects, affecting productivity and overall well-being. The cost of implementing security measures and anti-terrorism strategies also contributes to the economic burden. Over the last two decades, the world has witnessed a significant increase in terrorist attacks, particularly in regions such as the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. According to the Global Terrorism Index, the economic impact of terrorism in 2020 was estimated at $16.4 billion worldwide. This includes direct costs of $5.22 billion and indirect costs of $11.1 billion. In the United States alone, the total economic cost of terrorism was estimated to be over $1Trillion in the last two decades, with the majority of it being indirect costs. Moreover, the economic cost of terrorism goes beyond immediate financial losses and can have long-term implications. The disruption of global supply chains and the rise of protectionism in trade and investment due to the fear of terrorism can lead to a slowdown in economic integration and international cooperation. This can have a detrimental effect on developing countries, hindering their economic growth and development. Terrorism is a global threat that has been fueled by the shadow economy, which includes activities such as human trafficking, drug and arms smuggling, money laundering, and tax evasion. Terrorist groups use the shadow economy to fund their activities, as they require funds for recruitment, training, weapons, and logistics that traditional financing methods cannot provide. They generate large amounts of money through illegal activities like drug trafficking and extortion. The anonymity and lack of oversight in the shadow economy make it difficult for law enforcement agencies to track and disrupt terrorist financing. Terrorist groups also exploit vulnerabilities within the system, such as hawala money transfer systems and cryptocurrencies and prepaid cards, to fund their operations discreetly. The exploitation of individuals within the shadow economy is a major factor in perpetuating terrorism, as human trafficking is a lucrative business for terrorist groups. This not only fuels the growth of the shadow economy but also perpetuates the cycle of violence and instability in regions where terrorism is prevalent. The cost of mercenaries and hybrid wars worldwide is a contentious issue due to various factors. The recruitment and training of mercenaries can vary greatly depending on the country and organization involved. Governments may contract private military companies, while rebel groups and non-state actors may rely on local recruitment and training. Advanced technology and weaponry, such as drones and cyber warfare systems, also contribute to the overall cost of a hybrid war. Additionally, the use of propaganda and disinformation campaigns also requires significant funds to sustain. The involvement of foreign powers can significantly impact the cost of a hybrid war, as they may provide weapons, training, and aid, leading to a proxy war situation that escalates the conflict and prolongs its duration. The economic impact of a hybrid war, such as infrastructure destruction, displacement of civilians, and disruption of trade and commerce, also has significant financial consequences for the countries involved. The estimated cost of a single hybrid war can range from billions to trillions of dollars. The ongoing conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen have caused immense destruction and incurred exorbitant costs for both sides, resulting in countless lives lost and devastated communities. The West’s misunderstanding of Russia and the Orient is rooted in a long history of colonialism and orientalism, where the West has viewed these regions as exotic and inferior, leading to a lack of understanding of their complex histories, religions, and social systems. This has resulted in harmful stereotypes and a failure to consider the perspectives and opinions of those in these regions. This misunderstanding has had significant consequences for relations between the West and these regions, leading to damaging policies and actions, and escalating tensions. One of the main reasons for this misunderstanding is the narrative of the ‘Other’ created by the West, which exaggerates perceived differences in religion, culture, and politics, often without a deeper understanding of the complexities and nuances of these cultures. Additionally, one-dimensional stereotypes in Western media and popular culture have further cemented negative perceptions of these regions. To address this issue, the West must actively strive towards a more nuanced and accurate understanding of these regions, acknowledging historical and cultural biases, seeking diverse perspectives, and promoting a two-way dialogue and mutual respect between the West and these regions. The West must also recognize and address the damaging effects of their actions and policies on these regions, including the impact of colonialism, imperialism, and cultural appropriation, and actively work towards reparations and a more equitable global order. The terrorist attack in Moscow, which claimed the lives of innocent civilians, underscores the global issue of extremism and terrorism. The Russian government’s ongoing investigation reveals the danger of extremist ideologies and groups posing a significant threat to the entire world. To counter these threats, efforts must be made to relaunch the Counter-Extremism Dialogue between Russia and the Islamic World, a platform for Muslim countries to discuss ways to combat extremism and promote tolerance and understanding. The Russia-Islamic Dialogue on Combating Extremism, initiated by President Putin in 2005, aimed to address the root causes of extremism, such as poverty, marginalization, social media digitization, and lack of education and opportunity. However, subsequent editions have been delayed due to geopolitical tensions and conflicts. The tragic events in Moscow serve as a wake-up call for the urgent resumption of this important platform. Renewing dialogue to combat extremism in the Islamic world will strengthen ties between Muslim countries, send a message of solidarity, and provide a platform for discussing best practices and strategies in combating extremism and promoting tolerance within Muslim communities. It is crucial that representatives from non-Muslim countries also participate in the dialogue, as extremism and terrorism are global problems that require a global response. Renewal dialogue will also provide insight into the complexities and nuances of extremist ideologies, the role of social media and the Internet in the spread of radicalization, and develop effective measures to counter this dangerous trend. By bringing together people from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds, dialogue can facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences, promoting mutual respect and understanding. Terrorism is a global concern, with constant threats and attacks causing loss of lives and property destruction. Various approaches have been used to address this issue, including military interventions and intelligence operations. However, recent discussions have focused on the potential of culture, economic empowerment, and inclusion as effective treatments for terrorism. Culture refers to the beliefs, values, and customs shared by a particular group, and it plays a significant role in shaping an individual’s identity and sense of belonging. Terrorist groups often exploit cultural differences to recruit and radicalize individuals, so promoting a culture of tolerance, understanding, and acceptance could act as a deterrent. This could be achieved through education, intercultural dialogue, and respect for diversity. Economic empowerment is another potential solution to terrorism, as poverty, lack of opportunities, and unemployment are major factors driving individuals towards extremist groups. By creating economic opportunities and promoting growth in areas vulnerable to radicalization, individuals may be less vulnerable to terrorist organizations’ promises. Economic empowerment programs can also help rehabilitate former terrorists and provide alternative income sources, promoting social stability and economic development. Inclusion, particularly of minority groups, is crucial in addressing terrorism. Marginalized communities often feel neglected and discriminated against, leading to discontent and alienation, which can lead to extremist ideologies. Promoting inclusion and equal opportunities can help individuals feel more connected to society and less likely to turn to violence and terrorism. In conclusion, The failure to effectively combat terrorism globally is due to various factors, including changing terrorist tactics, lack of cooperation, root causes, advanced technology, social media, and inadequate measures to prevent radicalization. To combat terrorism, a comprehensive approach from all countries is needed, including addressing the economic cost of terrorism, addressing the shadow economy, and strengthening regulations to prevent funds flow to terrorist organizations. The cost of mercenaries and hybrid wars is complex, involving recruitment, training, advanced technology, foreign involvement, and long-term consequences. The West’s relationship with Russia and the Orient is a problem, and a deeper understanding and mutual respect are needed to break free from this cycle. The Crocus terrorist attack underscores the need for global cooperation in combating extremism, and dialogue between Russia and the Islamic world is crucial for promoting tolerance and peace. Recognizing the role of culture, economic empowerment, and inclusion in addressing terrorism is also essential.

Semiconductor chip cooperation between the USA and the European Union concept.

EU and US continue strong trade and technology cooperation at a time of global challenges

by Margrethe Vestager , Valdis Dombrovskis

Today, the EU and the United States held the sixth meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) in Leuven, Belgium. The meeting allowed ministers to build on ongoing work and present new deliverables of the TTC after two and a half years of cooperation. The TTC is a key forum for close cooperation on transatlantic trade and technology issues. The Commission was represented by Executive Vice-Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis, joined by Commissioner Thierry Breton. On the US side, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai were present. The meeting took place in a challenging geopolitical context, including Russia's illegal war against Ukraine and global economic pressures. In addition, the acceleration of the digital and green transitions opens opportunities for growth and innovation but also requires transatlantic cooperation towards joint approaches. The meeting showed that there is a strong commitment to advance transatlantic leadership on emerging technologies and in the digital environment, facilitate bilateral trade and investment, cooperate on economic security and defend human rights and values. Transatlantic cooperation on artificial intelligence, quantum, 6G, semiconductors and standardisation The EU and US reaffirmed their common commitment to a risk-based approach to artificial intelligence (AI) and support for safe and trustworthy AI technologies. Both partners believe in the potential of AI to help find solutions to global challenges. A short overview document published today on AI for the Public Good identifies milestones on which the EU and US are cooperating in the areas of extreme weather, energy, emergency response and reconstruction. The partners also announced a new Dialogue between the EU AI office and the US Safety Institute on developing tools, methodologies and benchmarks for measuring and evaluating AI models. Since the launch of the TTC in 2021, the EU and US have worked on transparency and risk mitigation to reap the benefits of AI for their citizens and societies and continue to implement the Joint Roadmap for Trustworthy AI and Risk Management. The EU and US have adopted today a common 6G vision setting out a path for leadership on this technology, and have signed an administrative arrangement for research collaboration. This builds on the 6G outlook adopted in May 2023, and the industry roadmap on 6G of December 2023. In the semiconductors area, the EU and the US are extending for three years their two administrative arrangements, under which they have been cooperating fruitfully to identify early-on supply chain disruptions and ensure subsidies transparency. They will commit to cooperating on legacy semiconductors and join forces in research to find alternatives to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in chips, including by leveraging AI capacities. On emerging technology standards, the EU and US are releasing a Digital Identity Mapping Report with the aim of identifying use cases for transatlantic interoperability and the cross-border use of digital identities. In 2023, the EU and the US endorsed a common international standard on megawatt charging systems for the recharging of electric heavy-duty vehicles. The partners will continue to work on standards as enablers of the green transition. Boosting digital skills and talent is fundamental for the success of the digital transition. The Talent for Growth Task Force launched in April 2023 with a one-year mandate, has served as a platform for rich exchanges on innovative skills development and actionable solutions to address skills shortages in the technology sector in both the EU and the US. The Task Force presented the outcomes of these discussions in the margins of the TTC. Promoting easier, more sustainable and more secure trade on the transatlantic marketplace Promoting sustainable trade as part of the green transition is a priority for both parties and the TTC remains a key forum for the EU and the US to cooperate on this. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of the Transatlantic Initiative on Sustainable Trade (TIST), which since its inception in 2022 frames the TTC's work in this regard. At today's meeting, ministers took stock of the work taking place under TIST including on conformity assessment, to facilitate trade in goods and technologies that are vital for the green transition. They agreed to publish a Joint Catalogue of Best Practices on Green Public Procurement to help accelerate the deployment of publicly financed sustainability projects, and to advance their cooperation on solar supply chains. The EU and the US have declared their intention to make transatlantic trade easier and to continue growing their unique economic partnership. To this end, both sides have agreed to facilitate digital tools in trade. In particular, they have taken steps to ease digital trade for companies by coordinating and aligning their respective technical standards for e-invoicing systems, which should considerably cut down on time and red tape. This will also reduce paper usage and carbon emissions associated with traditional invoicing methods. Furthermore, both parties reaffirmed the importance of the EU-US Clean Energy Incentives Dialogue as a platform for exchange to avoid zero-sum competition and trade and investment distortions in the clean energy sector. They also welcomed the publication of recommendations for greater transatlantic e-vehicle charging infrastructure compatibility, which complement the previously published Transatlantic Technical Recommendations for Government Funded Implementation of Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure. Moreover, the EU and the US hold that sustainable trade is not only about cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but also about ensuring a fair transition for workers and firms up and down the supply chain. This aim is encapsulated by the work of the Trade and Labour Dialogue (TALD), which, building on the discussions during a workshop with social partners organised at the fifth TTC meeting in January 2024 held its third meeting at today's TTC ministerial meeting. In addition, the EU and US have intensively engaged on critical minerals, which are indispensable for a wide set of technologies needed for EU strategic sectors such as the net-zero industry, and the digital, space and defence sectors. The EU and the US are advancing negotiations toward a Critical Minerals Agreement This agreement aims to strengthen EU-US supply chains in critical minerals for electric vehicles batteries and to reinforce the protection of labour and environment in international critical minerals supply chains. The EU and the US also welcomed the launch of the Minerals Security Partnership Forum (more information will be available later here), which they will co-chair, and look forward to a fruitful future cooperation with a wide range of partners around the world. Ministers also discussed partnering on economic security. In this regard, the EU and the US reaffirmed their shared concerns over the challenges posed by economic coercion and non-market practices employed by third countries and resolved to continue their efforts to de-risk and diversify their trade and investment relations. They also recognised the important role that the TTC has consistently played to optimise EU-US work on export controls against Russia and Belarus. They resolved to further align their respective priorities in this regard and to continue work on facilitating secure high-technology trade while maintaining an effective export controls regime. The EU and the US have carried out joint work to identify and promote best practices on foreign investment screening and will continue to exchange information to address threats to security and public order. Both parties also agreed to continue to exchange information on how to respond to the risks posed by outbound investments in certain critical technologies. Defending human rights and values in a changing geopolitical digital environment The EU and the US concur that online platforms should exercise greater responsibility in ensuring a fair, transparent, and accountable digital environment including by addressing gender-based violence and protecting human rights defenders online. The partners have developed a set of joint principles on gender-based violence on online platforms which complement the list of high-level principles on the protection and empowerment of minors and data access for researchers, which are in line with the EU's Digital Services Act. Both partners are determined to support democracies across the world and to defend human rights, free and independent media and combat foreign information manipulation and interference, especially in a year when many elections take place in the world. Following suit, they have published joint Recommended Actions for Online Platforms on Protecting Human Rights Defenders Online. The EU and US committed to facilitating data access from online platforms and published a report on mechanisms for researcher access to such data, which builds upon efforts undertaken by the academic and research community. Moreover, the EU and the US reiterated their commitment to support secure and resilient digital infrastructure and connectivity projects in third countries and announced a joint support package for Tunisia. This adds to the implementation of projects underway in Costa Rica, Jamaica, Kenya, and the Philippines. Next Steps The wide-ranging fruits of the TTC's work since its launch in 2021 attest to the value of this transatlantic policy forum, and principals agreed on the need to continue this work. Therefore, as both sides enter their respective electoral processes, the EU and US will reflect on the lessons learned so far and possible ways forward. In the meantime, the technical work under the TTC will continue. Building on the lessons learnt from our cooperation so far, we intend to use the remainder of 2024 to engage with EU and U.S. stakeholders to gather their views on the future of the TTC. Background The EU and the US launched the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) at their summit in Brussels on 15 June 2021. It has served as a forum to discuss and coordinate on key trade and technology issues, and to deepen transatlantic cooperation on issues of joint interest. The inaugural ministerial meeting of the TTC took place in Pittsburgh on 29 September 2021. Following this meeting, ten working groups were set up covering issues such as technology standards, AI, semiconductors, export controls and global trade challenges. This was followed by a second meeting in Paris on 16 May 2022, a third meeting in College Park, Maryland, in December 2022, a fourth meeting in Luleå, Sweden, in May 2023 and a fifth meeting in Washington DC in January 2024. The EU and the US remain key geopolitical and trading partners. EU-US bilateral trade is at historical highs, with over €1.6 trillion in 2023 and with bilateral investment stocks topping €5 trillion. Quote(s) “In today’s fast-moving and uncertain world, our partnership with the United States on trade and technology allows us to deal with some of the most crucial challenges of our time. I am proud of the results delivered so far and we will keep working to enhance economic security and build a fair digital environment that reflects our values.” Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age “The TTC has injected new dynamism into transatlantic trade relations. It is the first forum of its kind that has allowed the world’s two largest economies to set new standards and cooperate on current challenges - such as sanctions against Russia - based on shared democratic values. The TTC has made important inroads in terms of bolstering our economic security and enhancing the resilience of supply chains. We have also made valuable progress in jointly forging the green transatlantic marketplace.” Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President, and Commissioner for Trade

Defense & Security
Meeting of the Russian President Vladimir Putin

Terrorism Undercuts Putin’s Political Agenda

by Pavel K. Baev

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 49 Executive Summary: • The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) terrorist attack outside of Moscow was an abject failure of the Russian intelligence services, leading officials to push conspiracy theories claiming that Ukraine and the West were involved. • Moscow’s exploitation of Tajik immigrants, who perform the hardest, lowest-paying jobs in Russia and whom the police regularly mistreat, only exacerbates domestic tensions and creates a potential recruitment pool for ISKP. • Russia’s anti-terrorism policies to isolate and blame the West for the attack block any possibility of restoring counterterrorism cooperation as Moscow’s influence in the Middle East wanes due, in part, to cordial ties with Hamas. The shock from the March 22 terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall is continuing to generate angst and confusion throughout Russian society while failing to inspire unity. The Russian population may have grown accustomed to the perpetual shocks caused by the war in Ukraine, but the people are unprepared for the return of the specter of terrorism that loomed so large in the early 2000s. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who consolidated his leadership during Russia’s “war on terror,” which started with the explosions in Moscow in September 1999, cannot seem to find a way to turn the new disaster to his advantage (see EDM, March 25; Moscow Times, March 26). He had anticipated a confident start to his new presidential term, granted by the crudely manipulated “election,” but the Kremlin leader is now struggling to minimize the Moscow attack’s damage to his domestic authority and international agenda, as well as society’s support for the “long war” (Meduza, March 20; see EDM, April 1). The terrorist attack that has claimed over 144 lives was an abject failure of the Russian intelligence services. Putin, however, cannot punish the heads of the intelligence services because they make up his most covert inner circle and are the main conduits of his aggressive policies (, March 25). To divert attention from the security failure, Russian officials have declared that the terrorist act is connected to Ukraine and have sought to extend that connection to the West, particularly the United States (Kommersant, March 29). No shortage of pundits are eager to spin these conspiracy theories and present the US warnings about probable attacks as corroborating evidence (RIAC, March 28). Convenient as such insinuations may seem, they block any possibility of restoring international counterterrorism cooperation, as suggested by French President Emmanuel Macron (, March 25). The primary responsibility for the Moscow attack lies with the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP). It would take a long stretch of malignant imagination to present the Khorasan offshoot as a tool of US policy (see EDM, March 26;, March 28). The depth of Islamist radicalization fostered by ISKP in Tajikistan, one of Moscow’s most reliable allies in Central Asia, has aggravated societal discontent in Russia (Carnegie Politika, March 25). Tajik labor migrants perform some of the hardest and lowest-paying jobs in many cities across Russia. This unregulated exploitation inevitably creates a recruitment pool for ISKP (The Insider, March 29). Expelling illegal migrants might seem like a natural countermeasure to many Russians, but the manpower shortage caused by the war against Ukraine makes Russia’s economy increasingly dependent on this cheap labor force (, March 27). Police brutality toward Tajik immigrant communities has exacerbated the situation, creating another opening for Islamist recruiters (Novaya gazeta Europe, March 29). For ISKP’s ambitions, these domestic opportunities can be strategically connected with Russia’s ambivalent policy in the wider Middle East (Nezavisimaya gazeta, March 25). Counterterrorism used to be a key tenet of that policy. Currently, however, Moscow is trying to build ties with the Taliban and dissuade the Houthis in Yemen from targeting Russian ships (, March 21). Russian forces confronted the Islamic State most directly in Syria. In recent months, only occasional airstrikes have been delivered on the rebel-controlled Idlib province (Interfax, March 7). Hezbollah has been a key Russian ally in Syria. Yet air defense assets at the air base in Latakia have not interfered with Israeli airstrikes. The Russian Foreign Ministry even condemned Israel’s recent bombing of a camp near Aleppo as an “unacceptable provocation” (RIA Novosti, March 29). Terrorism continues to be a significant driver of instability in the Middle East, but Russia finds its influence and legitimacy in the region waning, not least because of its cordial ties with Hamas and other terrorist groups (Carnegie Politika, March 13). The harder Kremlin “hawks” push Ukraine’s involvement in the Moscow massacre, the less convincing the claims become to many states in the Global South, who are well aware of ISKP’s activities (Interfax, March 26). India is one of Moscow’s particular concerns. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba’s recent visit to New Delhi has added to these worries (Kommersant, March 28). India’s possible contribution to the peace summit planned to be held sometime this summer in Switzerland, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s peace plan will be discussed, will be a significant blow to Russian intrigues aimed at torpedoing or at least postponing this event (Rossiyskaya gazeta, March 28). Brazil is another important but currently unconfirmed participant in the peace summit. Russian pundits are keen to argue that Macron’s recent visit has not changed President Luiz Ignacio “Lula” da Silva’s neutral stance on the war (Izvestiya, March 29). China remains ambivalent about sending a delegation to Switzerland, but Russia has few means to influence Beijing’s position (Vedomosti, March 19). Putin’s intention to prove that domestic support for his “long war” remains strong and the apparent inability of his security apparatus to deal with the real causes of terrorism only aggravates the damage (see EDM, March 28). The Kremlin leader attempts to demonstrate confidence in Russia’s capacity to sustain the war effort, but the depth of domestic discord and discontent has been exposed. Many international actors who saw benefits in preserving neutrality and circumventing sanctions must now re-evaluate. Russia currently maintains the advantage on the Ukrainian battlefield. Still, a change in fortunes is increasingly probable—not only because of the new surge in Western support for Ukraine but also because of the degradation of Russia’s newly militarized economy and traumatized society. The presidential “election” has depleted rather than improved support for the war, and the next spasm of crisis may trigger a chain reaction that leads to a complete meltdown.

Defense & Security
Moldova and Transnistria, political map.

Moldova: Russia continues its mischief-making in breakaway Transnistria

by Stefan Wolff

In mid-February, the leader of Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, Vadim Krasnoselsky, summoned deputies “of all levels of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic”. The purpose of their meeting, he announced, would be to discuss “pressure from the Republic of Moldova that is violating the rights and worsening the socioeconomic situation of Transnistrians”. The meeting was set for February 28, the day before Vladimir Putin’s “state of the union” address. This was taken by some – including the influential Washington-based thinktank the Institute for the Study of War – to signal an intention to announce that Transnistria would formally declare its intention to join Russia. The Transnistrian congress met as planned. But its resolution, while full of praise about Transnistria and complaints about Moldova, fell well short of expectations. In the end, the assembled deputies merely appealed to Russia – as well as the Interparliamentary Assembly of States Parties of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the UN, the EU, the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Red Cross – to protect Transnistria and prevent an escalation of tensions with Moldova. Transnistria declared independence from the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic in 1990, as the dissolution of the Soviet Union was gathering pace. A brief violent conflict ended with a Russian-mediated ceasefire in 1992. This ceasefire mandated negotiations on the reintegration of Transnistria into Moldova, which included, among others, Russia and Ukraine. Efforts to agree on a deal proved futile over the following three decades and have completely stalled since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Thus, the Transnistrian region of Moldova has remained in a limbo state for more than 30 years now. Its separate identity is not even recognised by Russia and it remains formally part of Moldova. This limbo state has contributed to fears – in Moldova and the west – that Russia has territorial ambitions in the region. These have worsened since the invasion of Ukraine two years ago. Talk of Kremlin-backed plots to destabilise the country is not uncommon. In the event, the Russian president failed to mention Transnistria even once in his state of the union address the day after deputies had gathered in Transnistria. With the initial “excitement” of a potential crisis around Moldova gone, the predominant view among regional and international analysts was that this was a storm in a tea cup rather than a full-blown crisis. This is also the view of Moldova’s foreign minister, Mihail Popșoi. In an interview with Politico at the beginning of March, a month after taking office, Popșoi said that “the probability that the Russians would be able to advance and reach our territory is much lower now than it was two years ago”. Russian ambitions But this is, at best, only half of the more complex geopolitical context in which Moldova finds itself. Wedged between Ukraine and Romania, a member of Nato, Moldova’s future prospects are heavily intertwined with the outcome of the war against Ukraine. At present there appears to be little chance of Russia expanding its land bridge to Crimea all along the Black Sea coast to the Ukrainian border with Moldova. But that’s not to say that the Kremlin has completely given up on this ambition. Just days after the deputies’ meeting in Transnistria, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, complained about Moldovan violations of Transnistria’s rights. He alleged Moldovan discrimination against the Russian language as well as economic pressure on the Russian enclave. This eerily echoes Russian justifications for the invasion of Ukraine both in 2014 and 2022. Transnistria is not the only card Russia is playing. Four days after Lavrov’s comments, Putin met the leader of the Gagauzian region in Moldova, Yevgenia Gutsul, at the so-called World Youth Festival, which was held near the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi at the beginning of March.    Gutsul – and other powerful Russian allies including the fugitive Moldovan oligarch Ilan Shor, who was convicted of fraud in the “theft of the century” of US$1 billion (£792 million) from three Moldovan banks a decade ago – have been fomenting protests against the Moldovan government since September 2022. These protests reflect many ordinary Molovans’ existential fears over a cost-of-living crisis that has engulfed one of Europe’s poorest countries since the COVID pandemic and has worsened since the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Moldova’s European aspirations At the same time, the Moldovan president, Maia Sandu, has proposed a referendum on joining the European Union. Sandu, who faces a reelection campaign later this year, hope that this will boost her popularity among Moldova’s generally – but not unequivocally – pro-European electorate. Wanting to capitalise on popular discontent with economic conditions in Moldova, Russia has been supporting Shor’s protests and linking the unrest to Sandu’s pro-European foreign policy. Relying on allies in both Gagauzia and Transnistria, Moscow’s aim is primarily the destabilisation of the country ahead of presidential elections at the end of 2024 and parliamentary elections in the spring of 2025. In this context, even non-events such as the resolution passed by the Transnistrian deputies at the end of February are useful to Moscow. They increase uncertainty not only in Moldova but also among the country’s western allies. And this feeds into a broader narrative in which a status quo that has been stable for decades is suddenly questioned – with potentially unpredictable consequences. There is no evidence that the Kremlin has any concrete plans, let alone any capabilities, for military action against Moldova. Nor does it need to, as long as it has local allies to do its bidding against the country’s president and her government. This does not give Moscow a lot of leverage in its war against Ukraine but it is helpful in the broader efforts to weaken support for, and from, the European Union. The more Russia can peddle a narrative that connects European integration with economic decline and constraints on language and cultural rights, the more division it can sow – and not just in Moldova, but potentially also in other EU candidate countries from the western Balkans to the south Caucasus.