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Burning EU Flag

One step closer to the normalization of the far right

by Jaime Bordel Gil

More than a “before and after”, these elections represent a new chapter in the progressive integration of the far right into European politics. On the night of June 9th, the polls for the much-feared 2024 European elections closed. These were the elections of a change of cycle, the breakthrough of the far right, or the end of the grand coalition. In the end, it wasn’t as dramatic as expected, and the worst predictions of a possible right-wing majority did not come true. It is true that the earthquake some predicted did not occur, but for some time now, the tectonic plates of the EU have been moving in the same direction. The far right improved its results for the fifth consecutive time, which should not leave anyone indifferent. The grand coalition will not break, and the European institutions will not collapse due to the far-right tremor. However, for some time now, the European foundations have been shaking due to a far-right tectonic movement that could eventually bring the house down. The far right is growing, but it’s not taking over If we look at the results at the European level, beyond the respective victories in France and Italy, it seems that the far right is not growing as much as expected. The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) of Giorgia Meloni gain four seats but do not surpass the Renew Liberals, who lose 22 seats but remain the third-largest group with 80 MEPs. Identity and Democracy (ID), the group of Le Pen and Salvini, gains slightly more, nine seats, but with 58 seats, it remains the fifth-largest group in the chamber and sees its growth hampered by the departure of Alternative for Germany (AfD), which would have brought it a whopping 15 MEPs. These numbers may vary slightly, and if some deputies currently among the non-affiliated, like Viktor Orbán's Fidesz, are incorporated, the ECR could become the third-largest group ahead of the liberals. However, this would not significantly alter the majorities in the European Parliament, where the grand coalition between the conservatives, social democrats, and liberals will continue to govern the main EU policies. Nevertheless, the European People's Party (EPP) will have a bargaining tool with its partners: the possibility of blocking certain laws by making agreements with the far right. The combined seats of the conservatives and radical right-wing parties are not enough to form an alternative majority that, as Giorgia Meloni intends, would exclude the social democrats. However, the 184 MEPs from the EPP, together with the two far-right groups, could be sufficient to block legislation on key issues such as the green transition. Additionally, around thirty non-affiliated deputies also hold far-right positions (15 from AfD, 11 from Fidesz, and three from Alvise), further complicating the EU's green and social agenda. The radical right will not bring down the European structure for now, but its influence will increase in this new period. They do not yet have the strength to cause everything to collapse, but election after election, their ideas continue to permeate the European agenda. In the previous legislature, they already made their mark on key legislation such as the European Migration Pact, where despite voting against many motions, Jorge Buxadé managed to become the rapporteur for one of them related to the creation of a biometric database of irregular immigrants. This five-year term will likely start with a prominent commissioner chosen by the far-right, and with Giorgia Meloni seated on the European Council, they will have much more to say than in 2019. We shall see where it ends. More than a "before and after," these elections represent another chapter in the progressive normalization and integration of the far-right into European politics. Their ideas are here to stay, and although they do not yet have the capacity to lead majorities or elect presidents of the Parliament or the European Commission, they are managing to alter the frameworks of numerous debates, such as immigration and the green transition. This is the real danger, and this election reinforces that we continue to discuss these issues in the terms desired by Meloni, Orban, or Le Pen. Bipartisanship resists Another point that I believe needs to be highlighted about this election is that bipartisanship is holding up better than many expected. While it's true that the heyday of the two major political families adding up to over 400 members will never return, for the first time since 2004, the People's Party and the Socialists have not lost seats together, breaking a trend that seemed irreversible. The EPP gained nine seats, winning the elections in three of the five most populous states: Germany, Spain, and Poland. The Social Democrats obtained 137 seats, slightly below the 139 they had in the previous legislature, avoiding the drop predicted by almost all polls. The Liberals and Greens, on the other hand, have collapsed, each losing about twenty seats. As I was saying, the heyday of social democratic hegemony passed long ago, but beyond the endurance of the Iberian social democracy — the only ones alongside the Cypriots to independently exceed 30% — there are some good signs that suggest this family may be moderately satisfied. In France and Greece, two paradigmatic examples of the crisis in this space, Pasok and PSF, which seemed long defunct, are now vying for leadership in opposition again. In Italy, the Democratic Party (DP), despite insufficient results, has outplayed the 5 Star Movement in the opposition, solidifying its position as the main opposition force to Giorgia Meloni's government. And in the Netherlands, a coalition with the Greens has managed to surpass the ultra-right Geert Wilders. It's evident that the current situation for social democrats is not ideal, but if we look back ten years, many parties that seemed on the brink of disappearance have recovered and could even become a government alternative in a few years. This directly links to the crisis of an alternative left that in many European countries has shifted from being a viable alternative to a minority space. In France and Spain, these spaces that once made socialists tremble now find themselves divided and subordinate. In Greece, Syriza remains the second force, but in 2019 it led the center-left by 15 points and one million votes, a difference that has now been reduced to just 2%. In northern Europe, things seem to be going a bit better as the green left, formerly the Socialist People's Party, has won the elections in Denmark, while in Finland, the Left Alliance — a member of The Left — is the second force with 17% of the votes. Interestingly, this is where the far-right has fallen the most, being the sixth force in Finland, fourth in Sweden, and ninth in Denmark. These results provide a glimmer of hope and show to the left in other regions a path to defeat the far-right. This is the landscape we find ourselves in. In the face of a far-right that is gradually gaining power and influence in Europe, the only ones seeming to withstand the far-right surge are the two traditional families, the EPP and the Social Democrats. The former, increasingly unabashed in their alliances with the radical right, remain committed to drawing a distinction between the "good" ultras, such as the Atlanticists like Meloni and Poland's Law and Justice Party, and the "bad" ultras, who are anti-European and aligned with Putin, like the AfD or Salvini. This distinction allows them to present agreements with parties that have repeatedly shown scant respect for human rights as respectable. And the latter, either through action or omission of others, have managed to weather the storm following the 2008 crisis and remain in many countries as the alternative to far-right governance. Who would have thought this ten years ago when many were signing the death warrant for social democratic parties. This is the Europe that remains. The rise of far-right influence and the consolidation of bipartisanship are the two main headlines of a night that will go down in history more for Macron's advancement than for immediate repercussions on Union governance, where everything will continue more or less the same. No earthquakes, but with tectonic shifts that may one day bring everything crashing down. The article was translated and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 ES (Atribución-CompartirIgual 3.0 España).

Defense & Security
Shenzhen, Guangdong, China - Apr 27 2023: A China Coast Guard boat is cruising on the sea.

Philippines: Calming Tensions in the South China Sea

by International Crisis Group

“This article was originally published here by the International Crisis Group”Tensions between China and the Philippines are increasing the risk of armed conflict in the South China Sea. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2024 – Spring Update, Crisis Group looks at how the EU can support regional diplomacy to mitigate maritime disputes. Rising maritime tensions between China and the Philippines have highlighted the risk of armed conflict in the South China Sea and the dangers it would pose to global trade. Several countries are implicated in the set of complex sovereignty disputes in the sea, which stem from rival claims to various features and the maritime entitlements they generate, but recent incidents involving Beijing and Manila have triggered the greatest concern. The Philippines controls nine outposts in the Spratlys, a contested group of land and maritime features at the heart of the South China Sea. A submerged reef known as Second Thomas Shoal has become a dangerous flashpoint, with Chinese boats continually trying to block Manila’s efforts to resupply the BRP Sierra Madre, a rusting ship housing a handful of soldiers that a former Philippine government purposely grounded in 1999 in a bid to assert sovereignty over the atoll. China, which also claims the shoal, first started interfering with these missions in 2014, but relations between the two countries in the maritime domain have never been as volatile as during the last seven months. Chinese boats have regularly rammed the Philippine supply vessels or doused them with water cannons, occasionally wounding the sailors on board. Manila has a Mutual Defence Treaty with Washington, making this burgeoning maritime dispute part of the geopolitical competition between the U.S and China. In effect, the South China Sea has become a zone where conflict risks are rife – and where Washington and Beijing could be drawn into direct confrontation. Considering these developments, the EU and its member states should: • Seek greater diplomatic engagement with both Beijing and Manila to keep tensions in check. They should also expand their diplomatic presence across South East Asia and, where relevant, establish reliable channels through which they could communicate with high-level authorities in China and other claimant states should disputes at sea escalate; • Work to promote respect for international law, particularly the law of the sea, as a source of neutral rules for dispute resolution and conflict prevention, for example by organising public events, roundtables and dialogues in Manila and elsewhere. While this measure may not bridge the divides between Manila and Beijing, it could at least help establish a level of mutual support and understanding among the other South China Sea claimant states; and • Strengthen coast guard cooperation with the Philippines, focusing on building capacity in areas such as environmental protection, safety and search-and-rescue procedures. Troubled Waters The sovereignty disputes that underpin the tensions between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea go back decades. But it was Beijing’s manoeuvres to take control of Mischief Reef (in the east of the Spratlys) from Manila in 1995 that altered the perceived balance of power between the two states and in the region, setting off the territorial dispute that has now taken a turn for the worse. China’s assertiveness in the sea has grown in the past few years, along with its military capabilities. The brewing territorial dispute made headlines in 2012 when Beijing in effect took control of Scarborough Shoal, an atoll 220km west of the Philippine mainland but within Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), after a maritime altercation. The incident prompted then-President Benigno Aquino to file a case challenging China’s territorial claims under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). On 12 July 2016, the presiding arbitral tribunal ruled in favour of Manila, dismissing China’s claim to all the waters within its “nine-dash line”, which constitute almost the entire South China Sea. But it was a Pyrrhic victory. Beijing not only rejected the adjudication and the subsequent ruling, but it had also already undercut efforts to settle the dispute through legal channels by building and fortifying seven artificial islands in the Spratlys while the case was winding its way through the system. This move fundamentally changed the status quo, enabling Beijing to post permanent garrisons in the area for the first time. By many accounts, China has thus ensured itself control of the sea in any situation below the threshold of armed conflict. A short lull in the maritime dispute appeared to follow. After coming to power in 2016, Aquino’s successor, Rodrigo Duterte, pursued a pragmatic policy toward Beijing. Duterte downplayed the tribunal’s decision and cast sovereignty issues aside, hoping to benefit from Beijing’s economic largesse in exchange. Yet his ambitious gambit did not pay off. Tensions at sea continued in the form of regular standoffs between the country’s coast guard and Chinese vessels. Filipino fisherfolk struggled to reach their traditional fishing grounds, and Manila could not exploit the precious oil and gas reserves within its EEZ to which it is entitled under international law. In March 2021, Chinese ships massed around Whitsun Reef, an unoccupied feature in the sea, ringing alarm bells in Manila, where senior officials voiced public criticism of China’s behaviour for the first time in years. By the end of the Duterte administration, the Philippines had revived its ties with the U.S. and become more assertive still, filing several diplomatic protests with the Chinese government. Elected in 2022, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., Duterte’s successor, was initially disposed toward friendly relations with Beijing, but the relationship soured only a few months into his presidency. Although China remains the Philippines’ top trading partner, Marcos, Jr.’s meetings with President Xi Jinping did not achieve the desired results: Beijing neither agreed to make major new investments nor curtailed its “grey zone” tactics in the South China Sea, understood as coercive actions that remain below the threshold of armed conflict. These rebuffs have helped push Marcos, Jr. toward strengthening ties with Washington, and the Biden administration has, on several occasions, publicly committed that the countries’ Mutual Defence Treaty would be deemed triggered in the event of an armed attack on Philippine warships, aircraft or public vessels. In perhaps the most significant recent development, after a series of high-level visits by U.S. officials to Manila, the two countries agreed to scale up implementation of their Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which gives U.S. troops rotational expanded access to Philippine military bases, and which China perceives as a provocation, especially given these bases’ proximity not just to the South China Sea but also to Taiwan. Manila has also received defence and diplomatic support from a host of other countries, particularly Japan and Australia. Despite the dispute it has with Vietnam over parts of the South China Sea, it has engaged, more quietly, with Hanoi, and acquired maritime defence equipment from India, thus expanding its circle of partners. Joint naval exercises with various countries have included large-scale ones with the U.S. in April, which involved the deployment of missiles that can reach targets almost 1,600km away – something that was sure to draw Beijing’s attention – and took place just after Manila wound up its first-ever trilateral presidential summit with Washington and Tokyo. In the meantime, the Marcos, Jr. administration has pursued what it calls a “transparency initiative”, publicising information about maritime incidents by inviting journalists to join its coast guard ships or posting video recordings of events almost as they are happening. Dramatic footage of Chinese vessels blocking, ramming or attacking its resupply missions to Second Thomas Shoal with water cannons has generated widespread condemnation in the Philippines and abroad. Many consider these tactics to be bullying. For its part, and despite the 2016 ruling, Beijing asserts that Manila is intruding into its waters and maintains that it is demonstrating maximum restraint. China has also recently referred to a so-called gentleman’s agreement under former President Duterte that it says foresaw preserving a status quo in the South China Sea, with Manila ostensibly agreeing to supply only humanitarian goods and no construction materials to the BRP Sierra Madre; Manila denies that there was any such arrangement. Given the Philippines’ determination to continue resupplying its troops on the BRP Sierra Madre, Second Thomas Shoal will likely remain a flashpoint. Due to the constraints imposed at sea by the Chinese maritime militia and coast guard, Manila is starting to look into other means of provisioning its outpost, some of which are likely to irk Beijing even more, such as airdrops or closer U.S. naval escorts. In September 2023, a U.S. plane was in the shoal’s vicinity during a resupply mission, while a U.S. warship passed through waters nearby in December. But the shoal is not the only possible source of tension. Chinese vessels, both official and non-official, sail through many areas where Philippine fisherfolk traditionally work, while other features, such as Scarborough Shoal, are also points of friction. A large-scale encounter or accident at sea could be especially dangerous. Should a Filipino or Chinese national die during such a confrontation, it could stir nationalist sentiments in Manila and Beijing and heighten threat perceptions on both sides. In case of loss of life on the Philippine side, Manila would expect its U.S. ally to assist under the Mutual Defence Treaty, especially given the recent exchanges with Washington on that topic, although the U.S. has not said precisely how it would come to the Philippines’ aid. How such a dangerous situation would evolve depends in large part on Manila’s political decision to invoke the treaty and the choices Washington makes about how to fulfill its commitments. In principle, Beijing and Manila remain open to negotiations. But the bilateral consultative mechanism, a confidence-building measure designed in 2017 to manage maritime issues between the two countries, among other things, has generated no results of note. Meanwhile, efforts to create a Code of Conduct, which aims to reduce tensions at sea by setting up norms and rules between claimants and has been under discussion between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for over two decades, have stagnated. Why the Sea Matters The South China Sea is a vital waterway through which around one third of global shipping passes. Peace and stability in the sea are a prerequisite for safe trade and are demonstrably in the interest of the EU and its member states. At over 40 per cent, the share of the EU’s trade with the rest of the world transiting the sea is even higher than the global average. Instability in the area would deal a major blow to the European economy; even a slight disturbance of shipping routes could result in higher transport costs, shipping delays and acute product shortages. Should there be an escalation that pits China against the U.S. in a direct conflict, the consequences could be catastrophic and global. European positions toward South China Sea disputes have traditionally highlighted the importance of all parties respecting international law and the need for peaceful resolution, while being careful not to take sides. But over the last few years, China’s assertiveness and expanding military capabilities have driven a greater sense of urgency and something of a shift in European thinking. First, the EU and several of its member states have developed “Indo-Pacific” strategies, designed to guide and promote cooperation with countries throughout the region. Secondly, Brussels has increased its diplomatic support for the Philippine position following maritime altercations, offering supportive statements in December 2023 and March 2024. Brussels and several European capitals now back Manila in regularly underlining the importance of UNCLOS and maritime law in the South China Sea context. Meanwhile, Europe’s presence in the region is growing, if slowly and in part symbolically. In 2021, the EU appointed a special envoy for the Indo-Pacific for the first time, while European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen visited Manila in July 2023, the first trip to the Philippines by someone holding that office and an opportunity to express, at the highest level, the EU’s readiness to strengthen cooperation with the government in maritime security, among other areas. A German frigate entered the South China Sea in 2021, and French and Italian ships made port calls in Manila in 2023. In March 2024, the EU and the Philippines agreed to resume negotiations over a free trade agreement, while a month later France announced talks regarding a Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines. While EU interest in the region is rising, European stances on the South China Sea are complex, with member states harbouring different views on maritime disputes in the region and, more broadly, on big-power competition. Some, such as France – which is the only EU member state to have overseas territories in the region (and which has significant EEZ interests there) – see themselves as having stakes higher than others and are keen to participate in the region’s discussions on security. Others, such as Greece and Hungary, are less concerned with maritime flare-ups so far away and tend to ascribe greater importance to maintaining good relations with Beijing. What the EU and Its Member States Can Do As the EU and its most powerful member states are drawn deeper into the South China Sea, they should raise their diplomatic game in the region – both to ensure awareness of mounting tensions and to look for ways to manage corresponding risks. As a practical matter, Brussels could leverage its status as an ASEAN Strategic Partner to seek more participation in that bloc’s security mechanisms and regional forums; the EU and member states could seek higher levels of engagement with regional powers such as Japan, Australia, and South Korea on matters concerning the South China Sea; and Europe could post more diplomats to the region, including permanent defence attachés who speak the language of naval diplomacy. Of particular importance will be maintaining strong lines of communication with Beijing, where Europe is seen as still having some distance from the U.S.-China strategic rivalry, which works to its diplomatic advantage. While to some extent this communication will be traditional bilateral statecraft, it may also mean looking for new opportunities and new channels for dialogue. For example, some member states could also seek to follow the precedent set by France and China in establishing a coordination and deconfliction mechanism between their militaries. Brussels should also continue raising the South China Sea in its engagement with Beijing as it did during the EU-China summit in 2023. Maintaining these channels will become both more difficult and more important if and when the EU and member states expand their operational presence in the region – for example, if they decide to establish a calibrated maritime presence in the South China Sea, as proposed by the EU envoy to the Indo-Pacific. Such a move is still deemed unlikely for now. As for public diplomacy, Brussels and EU member states should consider practical ways to promote principles of the law of the sea in the region, making the case that broader regional support for and adherence to these principles would provide neutral ground for peacefully avoiding and resolving disputes. While it is hard to see this approach appealing to Beijing, which has rebuffed the UNCLOS tribunal’s decision, there could still be benefits in forging closer cooperation among other claimant states. Convenings in Manila and other regional capitals could cover topics related to the continuing disputes but also to cross-cutting themes of regional interest such as fisheries. With negotiations over a regional Code of Conduct stuck, like-minded countries in the region could use these occasions to at least develop common positions on discrete issues that might be addressed by the Code or that could foster regional confidence-building in the South China Sea. Finally, in the realm of capacity building, European governments should continue to strengthen coast guard cooperation with South China Sea claimant states, helping them develop tools and protocols that might be used where appropriate to avoid confrontation and conflict. Since Aquino’s administration, Manila has tried to boost its coast guard capabilities. Given that many of the other claimant states’ vessels in the South China Sea are coast guard ships, and find themselves embroiled in maritime confrontations, a common approach on rules of engagement could help avoid misunderstandings at sea. Building on the EU’s integrated coast guard system, the EU could host or sponsor joint workshops to develop operating principles for the region’s law enforcement vessels and exchange best practices with Philippine authorities. Brussels could also fund agencies such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime to strengthen coast guard expertise on issues such as environmental protection, safety and search-and-rescue procedures. European member states could also participate in joint activities with the Philippine and other ASEAN coast guards to strengthen fisheries control and maritime border protection and deter piracy or smuggling.

Putin and Kim

Ukraine recap: Putin love-in with Kim Jong-un contrasts with western disarray over peace plan

by Jonathan Este

Hotfoot from signing a security pact with North Korea on Wednesday, Vladimir Putin has popped up in Vietnam, another of the few remaining countries where the Russian president is still welcome (or doesn’t face arrest under the war crimes warrant issued by the International Criminal Court last year). Here he was congratulated by the president, To Lam, for his election victory earlier this year and for maintaining stability and continuity in Russia. Putin, meanwhile, made much of the Soviet Union’s historical support for the Vietnamese people’s struggle for independence and unity from the 1950s to the 1970s, referring, without a hint of irony, to Vietnam’s “heroic struggle against foreign invaders”. The visit has been billed as part of Putin’s strategy to promote a new “multipolar” world order, free from US control. But it should be noted that the pragmatic Vietnamese have already hosted Joe Biden and Xi Jinping over the past nine months. Hanoi’s “bamboo diplomacy” depends on the country being “actively neutral” – with one eye on China, Vietnam has also upgraded relations with the US, Australia and South Korea in recent times. So, while there will be plenty of expressions of goodwill from Vietnam’s leadership, they are less likely to commit to anything more concrete as things stand. North Korea knows little of such diplomatic niceties, though, and has fewer choices when it comes to its friends. Very little detail has emerged of the new pact with Russia, except that it would require each country to come to the aid of the other if attacked. But it’s likely that close to the top of the agenda would have been Russia’s military requirements. North Korea’s supplies of artillery and ammunition are thought to have been vital in helping Russia overcome the harsh sanctions imposed by the US as well as Beijing’s unwillingness to directly provide arms for the war in Ukraine. Kim, in turn, wants Russian know-how when it comes to sophisticated military tech as well as economic support when it comes to feeding his country’s starving population. But warm relations between the two countries is nothing new. Official pronouncements emphasised the “traditionally friendly and good” relations between Russia and North Korea “based on the glorious traditions of common history”. For Kim, writes Robert Barnes, a senior lecturer in history at York St John University, this is something of a family affair which harks back to the 1930s when the North Korean leader’s grandfather Kim Il-sung was a relatively unknown Korean communist leading a small guerrilla band fighting the Japanese in Manchuria. Kim spent much of the second world war in the Soviet Union, where he joined the Red Army and rose to the rank of major. After the conflict, he was handpicked by Stalin to lead the Korean Workers’ party and then North Korea when it was established in 1948. The Korean war which followed almost led to a nuclear confrontation between the Soviet Union and the west. Hopefully, concludes Barnes, nothing as dramatic will result from this latest iteration of the relationship between the two countries. But pariah states such as North Korea aren’t the only countries where Putin can command a degree of support, if the recent European parliamentary elections are any guide. As Natasha Lindstaedt notes here, the rise of the far right in EU member states such as Germany, France, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria is throwing up an increasingly powerful group that stands in opposition to EU support for Ukraine. It may seem counterintuitive that such an avowed anti-fascist as Putin is courting extreme right organisations such as Germany’s Alternative for Deutschland party (AfD) or Hungary’s Fidesz party. But Lindstaedt believes that leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán have shown little concern for the institutions of democracy – as shown by Hungary’s adoption of a similar foreign agents’ law which acts to curtail press freedom and the work of NGOs. She concudes: “Putin is seen by the far right as a strong and conservative leader that can defend himself against the liberal west, which is trying to undermine these values.” The west, meanwhile, remains divided over the manner and extent of its support for Ukraine. The good news for Kyiv is that the recent G7 meeting in Puglia, southern Italy, ended in an in-principle agreement to use the US$3 billion (£2.36 billion) interest from US$350 billion of Russian assets frozen in the western banking system to underwrite a US$50 billion loan to Ukraine. But Gregory Stiles and Hugo Dobson, experts in international relations at the University of Sheffield, sound a cautionary note suggesting that the details of how this will work are likely to take months to agree. Meanwhile, they write, five of the seven leaders – US president Joe Biden, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, the UK’s Rishi Sunak and Japan’s Fumio Kishida – all face elections this year which none of them are guaranteed to survive. And, to take just one example, if Biden loses in November to Donald Trump, the likelihood of this deal proceeding becomes significantly reduced. Summit on peace Many of these leaders went on to Switzerland at the weekend for the Summit on Peace in Ukraine. Stefan Wolff, an expert in international security at the University of Birmingham, was following proceedings and concludes that it’s hard to judge the meeting an unqualified success. Out of 160 countries and international organisations invited, only 92 attended. Biden was a no-show and Canada’s premier, Justin Trudeau, was the only G7 leader to stay for both days of the conference. The main problem, writes Wolff, was that the only peace plan on the table was that proposed some time ago by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. This calls for the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, including Crimea, and the payment of reparations for rebuilding his country. Seven other peace plans, proposed by the likes of China (which also failed to send anyone), Brazil, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, a group of African states led by South Africa and the Vatican were not discussed. Most of these call for a ceasefire, which is anathema to Kyiv and its backers in the US and UK, as it would accept, for the time being at least, Russia’s territorial gains on the ground, including the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Putin, meanwhile, was trolling hard from the sidelines, releasing his terms for a ceasefire deal, which are for Ukraine to accept Russian annexation of Crimea and not just the land his troops currently occupy, but all of the four regions he annexed in September 2022. Putin’s column As previously noted here, a season of relative success on the battlefield, has left Putin in a bullish mood. It emerged recently that (despite being seriously disadvantaged by the war in Ukraine and the harsh western sanctions which have ensued) the boss of Russian energy giant plans to build an 80-metre column in St Petersburg to commemorate Peter the Great’s triumph in the great northern war, after which Russia declared itself to be an empire for the first time. As George Gilbert, an expert in Russian history at University of Southampton notes, anything honouring Peter the Great is a sure-fire way of buttering up the Russian president, who sees himself as a latter-day incarnation of the man who built his home town of St Petersburg, glossing over the fact that Peter saw his capital as a way of making Russia more of a west-facing country. Gilbert gives us some historical context about the conflict, in which Russia lined up alongside much of what would become Poland and Germany as well as Britain, by virtue of its king, George I, also being the ruler of Hanover. The key battle, he writes, was at Poltava, which is in the middle of what is now Ukraine, which involved defeating a crack regiment of Cossack cavalry, which you’d have to imagine is very much grist to Putin’s mill. One suspects, though, that it’s Peter the Great’s imperial achievements that Putin wants to emulate most of all.

Energy & Economics
USA and China trade war concept. suitable also as South China Sea conflict

Are tariffs, of all things, the salvation of free trade?

by Dr. Jan Cernicky

We can talk about selective tariffs - but not about protective tariffs - Concerns about the effects of economic dependencies are increasingly overshadowing the benefits of open global trade. - In the current geopolitically charged situation, there may be situations in which trade policy dependencies - for example in the case of rare earths - can be mitigated by state intervention. - In such cases, selective tariffs are the best choice. Subsidies to build up own production capacities are significantly less efficient, more expensive and undermine the market principle. - Protective tariffs for industries whose products are sufficiently available on the global market, such as the automotive and steel industries, should be rejected. - The fundamental goal should be the preservation of rule-based world trade in accordance with WTO rules. Any kind of state intervention must be justified on the basis of solid data. Background During Chinese party leader Xi Jinping's visit to Europe in May, there was once again a lot of talk about economic dependencies. They are seen as a threat to the "economic security" of Germany and Europe. What often seems to fade into the background is that the arguments for a global division of labor remain valid: it enables general prosperity precisely because certain countries and regions concentrate on the production of individual goods and consequently do not produce others themselves. On the other hand, it is also true that the economic damage more than compensates for these advantages if a state such as China uses economic dependencies as political leverage and, in the worst case, stops supplying goods for which it has a monopoly. In principle, China has achieved such a monopoly for refined rare earths and some other smelted metals.1 However, this clearly does not apply to electric cars, steel or solar cells. The reason for such quasi-monopolies is simple: Chinese companies export the products in question so cheaply that production elsewhere in the world is not worthwhile. If this were solely due to the fact that Chinese companies produce better, the only correct response would be to roll up our sleeves and become better ourselves. In the case of rare earths from China, however, the advantage of Chinese manufacturers is largely due to direct and indirect subsidies. In such an environment, in which Chinese producers have massive cost advantages due to politically granted benefits, it is not worthwhile for private companies outside China to build up their own capacities for the production of rare earths, for example. Even if prices were to rise and economic production were possible, this would not be rational; state-supported Chinese companies can easily survive periods of low prices. The usual market mechanism, whereby companies with the most competitive solutions survive, does not apply here. Even technologically superior production methods do not prevail due to Chinese subsidies. Possible reactions The best economic solution is undoubtedly for the state not to react at all and to see the availability of very cheap products that are available for domestic consumption or for further processing as an advantage. The fact that the products in question have been made cheaper by Chinese taxpayers' money can be gratefully accepted. It would be a genuine and courageous system competition not to respond with the same instruments, but to maintain a market economy system and thus exploit the weaknesses of the counter-design. Shaping the economic framework conditions politically in such a way that innovations that provide alternatives to the use of the raw materials in question can be developed more easily would be a reaction that is still justifiable within the framework of the social market economy. This would be, for example, favorable recycling processes. In most cases, such innovations are possible. However, their introduction and application is significantly more expensive than importing standard products from China. If dependence on China is really not justifiable in individual cases,2 there are two possibilities for state intervention in the form of subsidies or tariffs, which may be justifiable in rare individual cases, but are not provided for within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Important indicators for the assessment of dependencies are, for example, the lack of substitutability of the imported good, the degree of concentration of supply in a country and the relevance of the good in question for the domestic economy. However, state intervention to protect domestic production sites, such as is being discussed for electric cars or steel, appears to be explicitly unjustifiable. There is a sufficiently diversified supply of such products on the global market and there is no dependency on just one country. Economic effects of tariffs and subsidies Tariffs and subsidies both aim to compensate for the price difference to cheaper foreign competitors. Tariffs make imports more expensive, while subsidies make domestic production cheaper through state subsidies. Both have a negative welfare effect, but the correlation is more harmful in the case of subsidies. Figure 1 uses a schematic example, which is not based on empirical data, to illustrate the effect if the costs of producing rare earths in Germany were reduced to the level of the import price from China (country 1) through subsidies.   With the subsidies, it is now economically viable for the subsidized companies to produce the rare earths from ore in Germany. The actually cheaper ways of importing rare earths from alternative countries or using other technical solutions remain more expensive and would hardly be used. The goal of reducing dependencies would therefore be achieved in a very expensive way. Large sums of taxpayers' money would be spent on this. In this example, the most expensive possible route is discussed in order to clearly demonstrate the negative consequences. In reality, however, it is very unlikely that the cheapest route in economic terms will be subsidized. This is because there are always many different providers and technical solutions, which means that all the options are often not even known or can only develop in the long term. It is therefore very unlikely that the optimal subsidy recipients will be selected. A benefit is created for a specific, relatively arbitrarily selected application, but not for others. The effectiveness of the market is thus distorted and the competitiveness of the location decreases as a result. As the subsidies compensate for a competitive disadvantage, it is unlikely that high additional tax revenues will be generated. The funds spent are no longer available for other state investments. The result is a loss of welfare on this scale. Only the subsidized companies benefit from this. The price at which rare earths can be purchased in Germany does not change. It is also possible to subsidize production abroad in order to reduce dependence on one country. Such models are being attempted via "raw material partnerships", for example. Such an approach can be significantly cheaper than subsidizing domestic production. In the example (Figure 1), only the significantly lower import price from country 2 would have to be subsidized. However, the other disadvantages of subsidies listed above also apply in this case. In particular, it is even more difficult to obtain all the necessary information for projects abroad and therefore even less likely to choose the most cost-effective option. The targeted tariffs discussed here are intended to respond to dependencies on supplies from a specific country. They are therefore only imposed on imports from this country. Other imports are not affected. To stay with the example, the importer pays a surcharge on the imported rare earths. This makes his product, for which he processes rare earths, more expensive domestically. Manufacturers abroad who are not affected by the duty become more competitive in comparison.    If the tariff rate were set in the same way as above so that the competitive disadvantage for the most expensive option - metal processing in Germany - is compensated for in terms of price, the tariff rate on imports from China would be very high. However, consumers of rare earths in Germany would still have access to the significantly cheaper other options. Metal processing in Germany would therefore remain unprofitable, while imports - now no longer from China, but from country 2 - would continue to be significantly cheaper. However, the price difference to the cheapest processing variant in Germany, in the example (Figure 2) recycling, would no longer be so great, so that this variant would be easier to make economically viable by scaling up or using innovative technical solutions. In reality, the introduction of customs duties would not divert all procurement to a single country; there is no capacity for this anywhere. The result would be a mix of different suppliers, which would make it more worthwhile to drive innovation in Germany. Changes in the price structure between the different providers and processes over time can be tracked by customers in this model - the best process (or the second best, if the best is used in China) then prevails on the market. The welfare loss here arises from the fact that consumption or further processing of the imported products becomes more expensive by at least the difference to the second cheapest source of supply. However, the volume of the welfare loss is significantly lower than in the case of subsidies. It can be argued that tariffs make the prices of downstream products in the supply chain more expensive, whereas subsidies do not. While this is true, it overlooks the fact that the much larger group of companies and consumers who are not directly affected do not suffer any direct additional costs in the case of tariffs, but bear the costs of subsidies through their taxes. Political effects of tariffs and subsidies In terms of their political and structural consequences, subsidies are more harmful than targeted tariffs. This is simply due to the procedure at the end of which individual companies receive a subsidy decision. An "objective" allocation is hardly possible here. On the contrary: the procedure is susceptible to personal relationships, political influence and direct corruption. Furthermore, subsidies that are only granted in one country of the European Union jeopardize the integrity of the European Single Market. Similar problems can arise with customs duties. This happens when they are used to protect certain domestic industries. In the case of targeted, selective tariffs, which are based on clearly defined, objective categories, such as the degree of dependence on a product from a country, there is little scope for political influence once the criteria have been established. Tariffs cannot harm the European single market either, as they can only be imposed at European level anyway. WTO conformity The reduction of tariffs and subsidies within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the predecessor agreement GATT are a central reason for the reduction of global poverty in recent decades and one of the cornerstones of Germany's prosperity. It is therefore self-evident that tariffs and subsidies not only contradict the idea of the WTO. They also contradict its two basic principles: Subsidies for domestic production contradict the non-discrimination principle3, tariffs against individual countries violate the Most Favorite Nation Clause4. There are exceptions for both in the WTO rules. For example, WTO members must notify subsidies so that they can be examined and other countries can object to them if necessary. In principle, subsidies are only intended - and within a narrow framework - for developing countries, which still includes China. However, the notification of subsidies to the WTO hardly works any more. For example, 64 countries (around a third of members) have not even notified their subsidies for 20175. Nevertheless, some of China's subsidies may indeed be legal according to the letter of the WTO rules. But they are certainly not legitimate, as the aim of the WTO is to liberalize world trade and not to cement the opposite. And even if subsidies are known, the WTO cannot take legally binding action against them due to the dispute settlement mechanism blocked by the USA. Consequently, the USA has not reacted to the unresolved problem of China's subsidies within the WTO framework. Although tariffs have been imposed on some Chinese imports, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a huge subsidy program. If the dispute settlement mechanism were to work, the IRA would almost certainly have to be declared WTO-incompatible. However, as this path is blocked, many countries and regions of the world - including Germany and the EU at the forefront - are reacting with their own openly WTO-incompatible subsidy programs. The current subsidy race is constantly creating new reasons to impose subsidies in response to the subsidies of others. This will further damage the multilateral trading system, which has been very successful for Germany in particular. Targeted tariffs, on the other hand, which can be used to eliminate competitive disadvantages caused by subsidies and which are therefore only levied on goods from the subsidizing country, are in principle in line with the basic idea of the WTO. This is because it balances out a distortion of the world market created by subsidies. Therefore, tariffs are generally permitted as a reaction to dumping and subsidies6. A reaction to subsidies via tariffs within the strict WTO framework is currently hardly possible for the reasons mentioned above. In this situation, it should be actively communicated that in an unsatisfactory legal situation, the path of the least evil will be taken with tariffs. At the same time, serious efforts should be made to reform the WTO. Conclusion The argument: "We want to have the production of certain things in Germany because we believe that we would no longer be supplied with them in crisis situations" is not an economic argument. Production for strategic reasons is always a financially subsidized business. Because if there was money to be made, the private sector would do it. Politically, this line of argument is perfectly legitimate - as is the attempt to steer the economy directly in a politically acceptable direction through subsidies. However, this has nothing to do with a social market economy, but rather the opposite. However, if Germany and Europe are to remain committed to the social market economy and open multilateral trade, the only economically sensible response to problematic dependencies from abroad (if one has to respond at all) is to impose targeted, selective tariffs - but certainly not protective tariffs for domestic production sites. The German government should work within the EU to set a clear framework for this and at the same time work on a reform at WTO level to finally reduce the rampant subsidies. Because these - and not tariffs - are currently the biggest threat to the open global trading system that is so important to us. References 1 Vgl. etwa die Darstellung der Abhängigkeiten von für die Energiewende nötigen Metallen in Cernicky (2022):, genaue Zahlen vgl. etwa die Auflistung des BDI: 2 Zum Versuch einer entsprechenden Bewertung vgl. etwa die von der KAS und dem Ifo-Institut durchgeführte Studie zu Abhängigkeiten in Lieferketten, Flach et al (2021): 3 Art. III GATT 4 Art. I GATT/ WTO 5 WTO | 2023 News items - Members reiterate concerns on lack of transparency with subsidy notifications: 6 GATT Art VI, Dumping und Ausgleichzölle 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. 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. The text of this work is licensed under the terms of "Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 international", CC BY-SA 4.0 (available at:

Defense & Security
Hanoi Vietnam - Jan 30 2023: People go about daily life under Vietnamese flags in a narrow residential alleyway called Kham Thien Market in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Convergence in Vietnam, EU Interests a Harbinger of Indo-Pacific Order?

by Richard Ghiasy , Julie Yu-Wen Chen , Jagannath Panda

In March and April, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son’s nearly back-to-back visits to the U.S. and China highlighted Vietnam’s increasing penchant for delicate diplomacy with major powers amid the U.S.-China strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific and Vietnam’s territorial tussles with China especially in the South China Sea (SCS), which Vietnam calls the East Sea. Much of the (perceived) disorder in the Indo-Pacific hails from the SCS, and one of Vietnam’s principal challenges is fostering order on its maritime borders. Therefore, Vietnam—historically distrustful of major powers—has been diversifying its relations by seeking security and defense ties with Indo-Pacific partners like the European Union (EU), India, and Japan, as well as with Russia, a country that poses an “existential threat” to the transatlantic allies. At the same time, Southeast Asia is battling disunity within the region for resolving disputes in the SCS, for instance. The regional multilateralism embodied by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) seems to lack teeth even as China ‘controls’ some of its members using its financial and economic heft. So clearly, efforts beyond Vietnam’s “bamboo diplomacy” that deepen international solidarity are required. In a similar vein, Europe’s reluctant rapprochement with China in recent times amid the EU calling China a strategic challenge but continuing to look for economic engagement is reminiscent of Vietnam and much of Asia’s predicament vis-à-vis China. Moreover, like in Southeast Asia, not every member-country of the EU is embracing the Indo-Pacific construct, led by the U.S. Or even if a member does, like France or Germany, it does not spell the end of a productive relationship with China. Nonetheless, it is clear that the EU has started to take a greater interest in the growing geopolitical situation in the Indo-Pacific, even as the disunity over the extent of the Indo-Pacific priorities, including China, is as apparent. In such a scenario, is it possible for the EU and Vietnam, and by extension ASEAN, to have greater convergence, if not congruence, in their policies? Revisiting Vietnam’s Lack of an Indo-Pacific Tilt The Indo-Pacific, the maritime space and littoral between the western Indian and Pacific Oceans, has become the world’s most geopolitically critical region. In this region, much of the focus and debate among the EU’s more proactive members, such as France, the Netherlands, and Germany, is in response to Chinese unilateralism, trade dependency, and unchecked Sino-U.S. contestation. Several of these EU members have come to understand each other’s positions on the Indo-Pacific. Gradually, there is a realization that it is not just about what the EU and its members seek to accomplish in the region but just as much the perspectives and priorities of key Indo-Pacific resident actors—and their views on European strategies and contributions. Vietnam is one such country that is worthy of greater European strategic attention. Vietnam is known for its “bamboo diplomacy”—a reference to the bamboo plant’s strong roots, sturdy stems, and flexible branches—balancing ties with the two big powers, the U.S. and China. In the words of Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son, Vietnam’s foreign policy caters to “independence, self-reliance, peace, friendship and cooperation, and multilateralization and diversification of external relations and proactive international integration.” However, Hanoi has never officially and fully embraced the term “Indo-Pacific” nor the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific construct although it does recognize that some aspects of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific tenet advocated by the U.S. and its allies are compatible with its national interests. For instance, the order in the Asia-Pacific, a term that Hanoi prefers to use, should be rule-based. This speaks to one of Vietnam’s most important foreign policy priorities: finding peace and stability in the SCS disputes with China and other claimants. However, the order that Vietnam seeks is in more than just the security domain. The goal of development has been the highest priority since Doi Moi (renovation) in 1986. Economic growth is considered the backbone of national security and regime legitimacy. Hanoi’s development of foreign relations can be said to be grounded in its national development experience, with the stress on economic priority leading to national stability and international standing. Vietnam chooses to engage in the Indo-Pacific construct on its terms. Vietnam and EU Convergence On both economic and security fronts, Vietnam and the EU can find converged interests that align closer to each other. Even as Hanoi has not officially adopted the term “Indo-Pacific,” the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy, if implemented well, could address both Vietnam’s economic and security needs. Despite its security and military power limitations in the Indo-Pacific, the EU can still play a crucial role in effectively addressing these needs, which are vital for the EU’s strategic interests as well. The two already have a Framework Participation Agreement. Vietnam is also part of the EU’s Enhancing Security In and With Asia (ESIWA) project, which covers crisis management and cyber security. This also aligns with the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, where Vietnam is considered a “solid” partner. Notably, both the EU and Vietnam face (potential) economic coercion from China. As China is now Vietnam’s largest trading partner, sudden trade restrictions hindering Vietnamese exports to China would dramatically hurt the Vietnamese economy. In this vein, Hanoi welcomed the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), hoping it would give opportunities to diversify its trading partners and thus mitigate the risks of economic coercion from China. On the other hand, the EU and its member-states are also trying to increase economic resilience by diversifying trading partners as they wrestle with economic overdependence on China. So, strategically, Brussels presents an excellent opportunity for Hanoi and vice versa. However, challenges remain. For example, all the EU member-states are still to ratify the Investment Protection Agreement signed along with the EVFTA. Even though this is usually a time-consuming procedure, the imperative to reap benefits as soon as possible has taken a setback amid a challenging geopolitical landscape. Nonetheless, the two sides are concerned about more than just traditional economic development; they are concerned about sustainable development and green transition. For instance, under the EU’s Global Gateway framework, the EU and Vietnam have signed the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), which looks to provide a multi-projects credit facility worth €500 million. This is supposed to be the EU’s primary focus in Vietnam now. Yet, Hanoi’s cautious approach for fear of falling into any potential debt trap could stymie smooth cooperation. Projects involving vast sums of money, such as the JETP, are also practically challenging to push at the moment as officials are afraid to be the targets of the Communist Party of Vietnam’s anti-corruption campaigns. Vietnam would also be keen for ASEAN and the EU as blocs to reinvigorate multilateralism and shore up security cooperation, particularly in the SCS disputes. ASEAN states, in general, are looking to the EU as a non-threatening balancing power to reduce the impact of the China-U.S. strategic competition. Among the potential areas of cooperation between the EU and Vietnam within the ASEAN are regional climate action measures, food security, digitalization, and tech innovation. The two sides must also use their partnership to realize an ASEAN-EU FTA. EU as a Security Balancer? The EU and Vietnam also share their commitment to upholding the rules-based order—an essential component of security cooperation because of the region’s strategic importance. However, improving communication and understanding of maritime incidents more effectively is challenging. The SCS territorial conflict is simmering, particularly between China and the Philippines. In 2016, an arbitration tribunal constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) overwhelmingly ruled in favor of the Philippines, which China rejected. However, the ruling bolstered Vietnam’s claims, which were not openly welcomed by other ASEAN states besides the Philippines. In the absence of an agreement for a code of conduct (CoC) between China and ASEAN, which has been dragging on for years, China’s violations of international law in the SCS, including the latest against Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin, have increased. Against this scenario, Vietnam and the Philippines have signed maritime security deals. At the same time, Vietnam would be reluctant to do anything more drastic, such as support the Philippines in its attempt to draft a “separate” CoC for fear of Chinese retaliation. While Vietnam is less discussed in major global media than the Philippines on the issue, Hanoi is actively using diplomatic means to internationalize the problem, bringing in more players to address complex territorial disputes to safeguard its sovereignty and promote regional peace. In this context, winning the support of the EU and its member-states would be strategically important for Vietnam. The Vietnamese side can facilitate this by providing foreign entities, including the EU, with more transparent and timely information when incidents occur. Naturally, using a media strategy like the Philippines might sensationalize the issue, which might be different from what Hanoi prefers as it walks a tightrope to balance its complex relations with China. However, Hanoi can at least offer foreign diplomats transparent and detailed information in a timely fashion to help them verify and assess the situation on the ground. This will speed up the EU’s and other potential like-minded states’ response to sea incidents and foster ways forward for more multilaterally agreeable forms of modus vivendi in the South China Sea. Ultimately, such a modus should serve China too. EU No Longer a Bystander The EU’s recent stance on the SCS issue has been its respect for a rule-based order and freedom of navigation, strong opposition to unilateral actions, and supporting the ASEAN-led “effective, substantive and legally binding” CoC while mentioning China but not singling it out. This is a change from the EU’s pre-Indo-Pacific embrace when it was a more divided, neutral house. The EU’s heavy dependence on maritime trade through the SCS mandates that the EU can no longer stand as a bystander. However, ASEAN claimant states, particularly Vietnam, would perhaps expect a sharper or clearer position, which the EU has indeed been moving toward. For example, in March 2024, the EU released a statement expressing concerns about the incidents involving “repeated dangerous maneuvers” by the Chinese Coast Guard and Maritime Militia in the SCS. This tilts to the U.S. line, even as the U.S. has been more vocal in directly criticizing China on the SCS, by calling China’s claims “completely unlawful” even before the current events. One could argue that despite the U.S. and its allies having been vocal, this has yet to lead to a concrete resolution of the conflict. However, if the EU cannot send clear signals on the issue, the division among like-minded countries will be seen as weak and exploitable in China’s eyes. Importantly, this is true not just for the SCS disputes but also for China’s coercive activities in general. Therefore, given the convergent non-confrontational, inclusivity-, and economic interests-oriented attitudes of both Vietnam and the EU toward the Asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific region, both sides are primed to embrace the other’s strategic outlook and up their game in the face of a challenging China and efforts to foster order.

Energy & Economics
Hydropower plant in Dubossary, Moldova

Energising eastern Europe: How the EU can enhance energy sovereignty through cooperation with Ukraine and Moldova

by Szymon Kardaś

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Summary • Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the EU has made strengthening energy sovereignty – its own and that of its eastern neighbours – a strategic priority. • Along with Ukraine and Moldova, the EU has created an elaborate legal and institutional framework that provides a platform for energy cooperation. • Through this framework and other measures, the EU and member states have helped significantly strengthen the energy sovereignty of Moldova and Ukraine, in particular helping them to diversify away from Russian fossil fuels and synchronising their electricity grids with that of the EU. • But when it comes to the cleanness and efficiency of their energy, Moldova and Ukraine are still underperforming, despite their potential for green energy generation. Improving the cleanness of their energy would also help strengthen the EU’s energy sovereignty, increasing the mutual benefits of closer energy cooperation. • Ukraine’s vast gas reserves and extensive gas infrastructure, along with its potential for green hydrogen production and the significant development of renewable energy sources in both countries offer opportunities for cooperation with the EU, which could enhance both its energy security and decarbonisation efforts. Introduction Since the beginning of Russia’s war on Ukraine, strengthening energy sovereignty has become one of the most strategic foreign policy goals of the European Union, its member states, and many other countries. Before the war, Russia was the EU’s largest source of imports of crude oil and petroleum products and in 2021 the state-owned energy corporation Gazprom accounted for 41 per cent of the EU’s gas imports. In the aftermath of the invasion, the EU and member states scrambled to reduce their dependency on Moscow for energy supplies, diversifying their suppliers of oil and gas. In 2023, Gazprom’s share of the EU’s gas imports fell to just 8 per cent. But the EU also has a clear interest in strengthening the energy sovereignty of its neighbouring countries, especially of Ukraine and Moldova on its eastern border. The stable functioning of the energy systems of neighbouring countries is one of the cornerstones of their security, and therefore the stability and security of the EU’s immediate neighbourhood. The European Commission has thus identified supporting Ukraine and other countries that are directly or indirectly affected by Russian aggression through long-term international partnerships as among the most important objectives of the EU’s external energy policy. Energy cooperation is also a powerful tool for integration. Energy sovereignty should not be equated with state energy autonomy or autarky; international cooperation within alliances or integration relationships such as the EU is an important component. Political allies can be reliable and secure suppliers of energy resources to import-dependent countries – the United States and Norway, for example, play such a role for many EU countries. The development of energy infrastructure links for gas or electricity between partner states, such as the EU and its eastern neighbours, would enable them to provide mutual support in times of crisis. The EU’s desire to strengthen energy sovereignty throughout its neighbourhood is first and foremost related to the need to reduce dependency on Russia and aid the integration of its neighbours. But strengthening energy sovereignty will also require a reduction in fossil fuel consumption, and is therefore closely linked to achieving one of the EU’s other major strategic goals of climate neutrality by 2050. The diversification of fossil fuel supply sources, while important, is not a long-term solution to the problem of energy sovereignty. Amid the current geopolitical uncertainties and the growing threat of climate change, decision-makers in the EU and in neighbouring countries need to now consider green energy and efficient energy use for a comprehensive approach to energy sovereignty. By strengthening its and its eastern neighbours’ renewable energy potential and optimising energy consumption, the EU can reduce the overall dependence on external suppliers of fossil fuels. The commission’s external energy policy combines these two goals, stating that the EU’s actions should be oriented towards meeting both short-term needs and long-term goals regarding the implementation of the European Green Deal. For this reason, I propose a broader approach to assessing energy sovereignty, which goes beyond the typical prism of security of supply to encompass four elements: • The level of dependence on energy imports, both fossil fuels and electricity; • The cleanness of the energy sector, determined by the importance of renewable energy in a country’s energy mix and the level of decarbonisation of the energy sector; • The level of energy efficiency; • The energy sovereignty narrative used by the state authorities in policy documents, which reflects the strategic direction of the state’s energy sector. This policy brief uses these criteria to analyse the progress that the EU and its eastern neighbours have made towards strengthening each other’s energy sovereignty so far, and sets out the next steps that they should take. It finds that, to date, the EU and its member states have played an important role in strengthening the energy sovereignty of its eastern neighbours by increasing their energy independence, but that Ukraine and Moldova still underperform when it comes to cleanness and efficiency, despite the direction implied by the states’ energy narratives – in part due to setbacks related to the war. Strategic cooperation formats between the EU and its eastern neighbours Over the last decade, the EU has developed a legal framework for cooperation with Moldova and Ukraine, which enables closer cooperation in various spheres, including energy. This approach fits into the EU’s so-called Team Europe external action policy for the two countries, which means that both EU and member state structures and European financial institutions, including the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), are involved in the process. In total, the EBRD has committed to investing $3 billion in 2022 and 2023 to address the Ukrainian economy’s challenges following Russia’s invasion. Both countries are also associated states of the EU, and their bilateral relations with the bloc, including on energy, are governed by the association agreements, which came into force in July 2016 for Moldova and in September 2017 for Ukraine. The European Council’s decision in 2023 to grant both countries EU candidate status and start accession negotiations has further strengthened the relationship. The EU also invited Moldova and Ukraine to join the Energy Community in 2010 and 2011 respectively. The Energy Community’s main objective is to extend the principles and rules of the EU’s internal energy market to the countries of eastern Europe, the Black Sea region, and the Western Balkans, effectively integrating these countries into the EU’s energy market. Members of the Energy Community are obliged to implement EU energy regulations into their own national legal systems and to strengthen energy cooperation with EU countries. Both Moldova and Ukraine have already adopted several important pieces of legislation on the functioning of the gas and electricity markets. Ukraine has successfully implemented regulations liberalising its energy markets, including certifying independent system operators in the gas and electricity markets, and an independent gas storage operator. Furthermore, at the beginning of 2024, the country’s certified electricity operator Ukrenergo joined the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E). Meanwhile Moldova completed the certification of its electricity transmission system operator Moldelectrica as an independent system operator in July 2023 and has taken steps to certify the independent system operator of its gas market. Both Ukraine and Moldova have also adopted the EU’s Regulation on Wholesale Energy Market Integrity and Transparency, which prohibits insider trading and the abuse of market power. In December 2023, Moldova also amended the Law on Natural Gas to help strengthen security of gas supply and storage, further aligning it with the EU’s energy acquis. Towards energy independence The deepening of Ukraine’s and Moldova’s integration with the EU has helped to strengthen their energy sovereignty, helping them in particular to reduce their dependency on Russia. Ukraine and, to an even greater extent, Moldova are dependent on energy imports. In April 2020, Ukraine was able to meet about 65 per cent of its energy needs on its own, while Moldova could only meet about 20 per cent. Although Moldova’s situation has not changed significantly in recent years, Ukraine’s dependence on energy imports fell to 23 per cent in 2022 as a consequence of the decline in the country’s energy consumption due to the war.  Gas Both Moldova and Ukraine have significantly strengthened their energy independence in the gas sector, including through cooperation with the EU and member states. This is particularly the case for Ukraine, whose own gas production now accounts for more than 90 per cent of domestic demand. (As recently as 2010, Kyiv’s dependence on gas imports was over 70 per cent, amounting to 34 billion cubic metres (bcm), which it imported almost entirely from Russia.) According to the 2023 annual data, Ukraine’s gas consumption has fallen by 30 per cent since the start of the war and it now imports gas mainly through Slovakia, but also Hungary, Poland, and Romania (transiting through Moldova). Ukraine’s journey towards independence from Russian gas supplies was, on the one hand, a consequence of political decisions taken by the new authorities in Kyiv, which came to power in 2014 after former president Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown and, in autumn 2015, stopped buying Russian gas. On the other hand, it was made possible by the support provided by EU member states and European financial institutions, which became particularly important following Russia’s full-scale invasion. In the summer of 2022, for example, the EBRD opened a $300m credit line to Ukraine’s national oil and gas company Naftogaz for emergency gas purchases. It also began to cooperate with the Energy Community to provide regular support to Ukraine, including an agreement in June 2023 to guarantee €600m in support for Ukrainian companies operating in the gas, electricity, and hydropower sectors. Unlike Ukraine, Moldova does not produce gas, has no gas storage facilities, and has only trace reserves of its own gas (about 1 bcm as of 31 December 2022), making it completely dependent on gas imports. Chisinau’s success in strengthening its energy sovereignty has nonetheless been impressive: it has significantly diversified its supply sources and achieved complete independence from gas purchases from Russia in December 2022. The EU, European financial institutions, and select member states have played an important role in this regard. The EIB has been financially supporting projects in Moldova since 2008, including those to strengthen energy sovereignty, such as the construction of the Ungheni-Chisinau gas interconnector. But in view of the energy crisis occurring in Europe from 2021 onwards, the EU initiated anti-crisis formats with Moldova as well. For example, the EU-Moldova High Level Energy Dialogue was set up to provide support to Moldova to guarantee the supply of energy resources (especially natural gas) and electricity during the energy crisis, but also to implement long-term energy projects. So far, five rounds of consultations have taken place between the EU and Moldova under this format, through which the partners have discussed crisis support, energy sector reforms, and long-term projects. In October 2021, Poland began supplying gas to Moldova, marking Moldova’s first imports of non-Russian gas in history. In addition to imports from Poland, Moldova managed to launch reverse gas supplies from Slovakia, as well as via the Trans-Balkan pipeline from Romania, and gained access to Ukrainian gas storage facilities, where it could store about 200m cubic metres (m3) of gas. Chisinau’s diversification efforts are continuing, as illustrated by its gas supply agreements with the Greek company DEPA in 2023. Financial support from European institutions, including the EBRD, and member states has also helped to facilitate these diversification efforts by enabling Moldova to finance purchases of gas or electricity from alternative suppliers. In 2022, the EBRD offered a loan of €300m to Moldova, and in October 2023 an agreement was reached for it to provide a further €165m in gas support to the country in the form of loans, with Norway promising an additional €34m gas grant. In addition, in November 2022, the Energy Community Secretariat launched the Energy Community Rescue Scheme initiative to ensure that donors’ financial assistance for Moldova was channelled towards helping the country face the harsh winter ahead. Meanwhile, the Energy Vulnerability Fund, which was established in 2022 by the Moldovan government with support from the EU, Slovakia, and the United Nations Development Programme, played an important role in neutralising the effects of rising gas, electricity, and heating bills in Moldova. Support for Moldova under this mechanism was provided by several European countries including the Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy, and Switzerland. Finally, in 2022 the EU created the energy platform for member states and countries such as Moldova and Ukraine, which is supposed to combine demand, coordinate the use of infrastructure, and facilitate negotiations with international partners for joint purchases of gas and hydrogen. Through this initiative, Ukraine and Moldova have taken part in tenders organised by the European Commission and received 100 per cent and 80 per cent respectively of the volumes requested after the first round of purchases. Oil When it comes to oil, both Moldova and Ukraine are highly dependent on imports, but EU countries have gradually replaced Belarus and Russia as their main suppliers since February 2022, thereby helping to strengthen their energy sovereignty. Moldova is 100 per cent dependent on imports of oil and petroleum products from third countries, with Romania now mainly supplying it with oil products. As a result of the war and Russia’s continued attacks on critical Ukrainian energy infrastructure, including storage facilities for petroleum products and oil, Ukraine has not been able to produce petroleum products on its own – its last operating refinery was closed in April 2022. These products are particularly sensitive for Ukraine, not just for civilian use, but for military needs. Despite its consumption of petrol, diesel, and liquefied petroleum gas falling by 25 per cent, 30 per cent, and 40 per cent respectively from 2021 to 2022, Ukraine has become more dependent on imports – 93 per cent dependent in 2022 compared with 77 per cent in 2021.[1] In 2021, Belarus accounted for about 43 per cent of Ukraine’s gasoline imports, and Belarus and Russia together accounted for about 62 per cent of its diesel imports.[2] In 2022, Ukraine significantly reduced imports from Belarus and Russia, and increased those from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria (these three countries covered 51 per cent of Ukraine’s diesel import needs in 2022), Turkey, Lithuania, Moldova, Greece, Hungary, and several other countries.[3] In 2023, Ukraine did not import petroleum products from either Belarus or Russia.[4]   Electricity Although Moldova and Ukraine are in completely different positions in their efforts to ensure a secure electricity supply, the synchronisation of the two countries’ power grids with the EU system in March 2022 significantly increased their energy sovereignty in this area. This was particularly important for Moldova, where 80 per cent of electricity needs are met by the Russian-owned Inter RAO gas-fired power plant located in the separatist region of Transnistria. In October 2022, following Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Kyiv halted electricity exports to Moldova, leading to some blackouts. Electricity supplies from Transnistria were then completely terminated at the beginning of November. Moldova’s synchronisation with the EU grid allowed it to import electricity from Romania, which in November 2022, met 90 per cent of Moldova’s electricity demand. In June 2023, ENTSO-E increased the capacity of interconnectors connecting the EU with Moldova and Ukraine from 1050 to 1200 megawatts (MW). During the 2022-2023 heating season, around 900,000 households also received subsidies for their electricity bills through the Energy Vulnerability Fund. Although Moldova currently once more imports 70-80 per cent of its electricity from Transnistria, it does so mainly because it is cheaper than electricity from Romania or Ukraine. But the synchronisation of its grid ensures access to alternative sources of supply, minimising the risk of energy blackmail from Russia. In the long term, support from European financial institutions will be important in strengthening Moldova’s security of electricity supply. From 2023 to 2028, the priority of the EBRD’s financial support to Moldova will be fostering energy resilience, including funds for the modernisation of electricity grids. Although Ukraine is essentially self-sufficient in electricity supply, synchronisation with the EU grid has proven important for Kyiv too, enabling it to import electricity from EU countries in crisis situations related to Russian attacks. This has been especially helpful given that in March 2022 Russia captured the important Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which was responsible for 44 per cent of Ukraine’s total generating capacity from nuclear power plants. In 2023, Ukraine also completed the modernisation of a power interconnector with Poland. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism, established back in 2001, proved to be an important crisis mechanism in the context of meeting Ukraine’s short-term energy needs, especially for electricity. As of 31 January 2024, more than 5,900 power generators have been sent to Ukraine via the mechanism, including 2,347 from the EU’s own rescEU reserve stockpiles. In addition to generators, the EU has been delivering other vital energy supplies to Ukraine including transformers, autotransformers, high-voltage equipment, and LED light bulbs. The EIB – which has supported various energy projects in Ukraine since 2007 – has played an important role since the outbreak of the war, funding energy grid projects and repairing the damage inflicted by Russia to energy infrastructure. In December 2023, for example, it provided €133m to enhance the reliability of hydroelectric power plants. Within the Energy Community, the Ukraine Energy Support Fund and the Ukraine Support Task Force have proven to be extremely important in ensuring Ukraine’s energy security during the war, with the Ukraine Energy Support Fund alone providing over €400m in support by December 2023. Under the Ukraine Support Task Force, as of October 2023, 22 EU countries had made nearly 100 deliveries to Ukraine, including power transformers, cables, generators, transportation vehicles, and other equipment crucial for supporting the electricity sector. The Energy Community has also launched the Ukraine Energy Market Observatory, which will closely follow and review all developments related to the broader energy market and corporate governance in Ukraine. Finally, in March 2023, the Energy Community Secretariat signed two memorandums of understanding with the Ukrainian authorities: one on increased cooperation in rebuilding Ukraine’s energy sector and another on the coordination of activities in the area of humanitarian aid for the district heating, water supply, and buildings sector of Ukraine. Green credentials With the help of the EU, member states, and financial institutions, Ukraine and Moldova have been able to dramatically strengthen their energy sovereignty in terms of energy independence. However, their progress towards energy cleanness and efficiency – two other important components of energy sovereignty – has been less impressive. Cleanness Both countries, but especially Moldova, perform poorly when it comes to the share of renewables in their electricity generation. In 2022, renewables accounted for only 15.8 per cent of Ukraine’s electricity generation and 7.1 per cent of Moldova’s electricity – far below the EU and world average of 38.4 per cent and around 30 per cent respectively in 2022. The share of renewables in Moldova and Ukraine also includes the production of electricity from large hydroelectric power plants, whose operation is not fully carbon neutral. However, the development of the renewable energy sources (RES) sector in Ukraine was beginning to gain momentum before the outbreak of the war. At the beginning of 2022, the total installed RES capacity (connected to the grid) reached 9.5 gigawatts (GW) – excluding 0.6GW of RES capacity located in the territories temporarily occupied by Russia before 24 February 2022. About $12 billion was invested in the Ukrainian RES sector between 2009 and 2021 from a variety of sources, including the EBRD, the Black Sea Bank for Trade and Development, and the American International Development Finance Corporation. But, during the first six months of the war, Russia destroyed between 80 and 90 per cent of the generating capacity of wind power plants and around 30 per cent of the capacity of solar power plants in the country, as well as around half of the transmission lines and facilities for the production of electricity in Ukraine. Ongoing military activities, including Russia’s continued attacks on energy infrastructure, are significantly hampering Ukraine’s ability to rebuild these capacities. In an attempt to address this, the G7+ Coordination Group – established in November 2022 and including the Energy Community as well as the EU and its member states – has established a Clean Energy Partnership with the Ukrainian government to support the sustainable recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine, which was officially inaugurated at COP28 in December 2023. Its aim is to support the creation of a modern, secure, decentralised, and cleaner energy system in line with Net Zero in Ukraine and to better integrate the country into the EU. The parties are to support Ukraine in attracting private investors to develop projects to reduce Ukraine’s dependence on fossil fuels, in line with the EU’s energy and climate policy goals. In Moldova, the low share of RES in the energy mix results from a historic lack of interest in projects in this sphere on the part of the authorities. Under the pro-European government led by the Party of Action and Solidarity, which came to power in 2021, this situation has begun to change. The government has expressed interest in accelerating Moldova’s energy transition through the development of renewable projects and is gearing up to initiate the inaugural renewables auctions in the country (between April and June 2024), through which it aims to acquire 105MW of wind power and 60MW of solar projects.  When it comes to the levels of carbon in its electricity, Ukraine boasts much better results. In 2022 the carbon intensity of electricity generated in Ukraine was 271.4 grams of carbon dioxide-equivalents per kilowatt-hour of electricity (gCO2e per kWh), below the EU and global averages of 291.9 gCO2e per kWh and 490.1 gCO2e per kWh respectively. After two years of war, the carbon intensity in Ukraine has dropped further to 194.4 gCO2e per kWh. The large share of nuclear energy in Ukraine’s energy mix (60.5 per cent in 2023) – one of the largest shares globally – primarily accounts for the low carbon footprint of its energy sector. Moldova’s electricity has a much higher carbon intensity, 871.7 gCO2e per kWh in 2022, well above the EU and global averages. Moreover, the energy intensity (the amount of energy required to produce one unit of GDP) in Moldova is 3.4 times higher than the average in EU countries. Buildings account for 58 per cent of the total final energy consumption in Moldova, of which non-residential buildings account for 17 per cent. This makes improving energy efficiency in this sector of crucial importance.  Energy efficiency Both countries also face challenges to improve their energy efficiency, although Ukraine is doing much better than Moldova in this field. According to Energy Community reports, Ukraine’s primary energy consumption and final energy consumption in 2020 were below the targets set for 2030. In the case of Moldova, on the other hand, the 2021 statistics show that both primary and final energy consumption were just over 10 per cent above the 2030 targets. Ukraine’s good performance is largely a consequence of the war and the subsequent drop in electricity consumption of around one-third. Nonetheless, Ukraine is still struggling with high energy intensity in some sectors, notably related to residential buildings, 85 per cent of which date from the Soviet era. Before the invasion, the average level of energy consumption in households was two to three times higher than that in the EU. On top of this, gas plays a significant role in the heating sector, with around 80 per cent of households in Ukraine relying on heat supplies from gas-fired power stations. While the war makes it difficult for Ukraine to implement systemic measures to improve energy efficiency, Ukrainian authorities had integrated this aim into their energy strategy even before Russia’s invasion. In 2018, they established the Energy Efficiency Fund, in close cooperation with the EU and Germany. Since 2014, the EU has also allocated grants under the European Neighbourhood Instrument to support reforms in Ukraine, including those aimed at improving energy efficiency. Ukraine has made significant progress in fulfilling its obligations under the association agreement with the EU regarding the adoption of European energy efficiency legislation. For example, it has developed and enacted a legislative framework to support energy efficiency, including to establish energy-efficient practices across various sectors and reduce energy consumption in buildings. Ukraine is also aligning with European standards by promoting “nearly zero-energy buildings” through the adoption of the Concept and National Plan, which outlines the gradual implementation of regulations over the next five years, followed by new construction requirements after 2025. Moldova adopted an amendment to the energy efficiency law in May 2023, establishing a legal framework for comprehensive planning via the National Energy and Climate Plan. However, it is yet to implement energy efficiency measures, especially according to standards prepared by international institutions. For example, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has prepared a special guide for the implementation of energy efficiency measures and the valorisation of renewable energy sources for public sector buildings. The Energy Community Secretariat has played an important role in the creation of further instruments for energy cooperation between EU member states and the EU’s neighbours which encompass energy efficiency. For instance, EU4Energy – an initiative created jointly with the Council of European Energy Regulators and the International Energy Agency and launched in 2016 – is focusing on Moldova and Ukraine, alongside Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Georgia, in the current second phase of the programme (2021-2025). The initiative is designed to support the aspirations of focus countries to implement sustainable energy policies and foster cooperative regional development of the energy sector. The European Commission’s Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, which aims to bring together European local and regional authorities to voluntarily contribute to increasing energy efficiency and the use of RES, includes many cities and municipalities from Ukraine and Moldova. The EU and member states have also provided support within the framework of the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership fund, a programme set up on Sweden’s initiative in 2009. Of the total budget (€1,355m), €982m was allocated to 25 projects in Ukraine and €114m to seven projects in Moldova. Funds disbursed under the initiative are used, among other purposes, to improve the energy efficiency of healthcare buildings and other public facilities. Energy narratives The current authorities in both countries have shaped a dominant narrative around strengthening energy sovereignty. In March-April 2023, the European Council on Foreign Relations’ network of associate researchers conducted a survey in all EU member states and Ukraine and Moldova on decision-makers’ approach to energy sovereignty following the outbreak of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Questions included the conceptualisation of energy sovereignty, the main challenges and threats in this area, and the measures taken and planned to strengthen it. Our researchers found that the issue of energy sovereignty gained prominence in political circles and public discourse in both countries after the outbreak of the war. The authorities of both countries are taking a comprehensive and innovative approach to energy sovereignty, viewing it not only through the prism of security of supply of raw materials, but also energy efficiency and climate goals. According to statements made by the Ukrainian government, Ukraine plans to become a leading green energy hub in Europe, integrating energy production with green technology development. Ukraine’s minister of energy has underscored the role of renewable energy in enhancing energy security, citing Ukraine’s experience during the war and its contribution to European stability through the synchronisation of power systems. Although the Moldovan authorities have placed special emphasis on the need to find alternative sources of supply due to their longstanding heavy dependence on energy resources from Russia, in the long term they also see energy transition issues as an important component of strengthening energy sovereignty. The government plans to significantly increase the pace of RES projects, aiming to increase their share to 30 per cent of electricity consumption in Moldova by 2030. The elites of both countries also seem to see cooperation with third countries, including the EU and member states, as an important means of strengthening energy sovereignty, not just responding to crisis situations. This is evident in their long-term plans to cooperate with the EU and member states on further projects to strengthen their energy sovereignty. (This applies in particular to the expansion of infrastructure connections.) Moldova is currently focusing primarily on the construction of a high-voltage line from Vulcanesti to Chisinau. This connection is expected to allow the import of electricity from Romania to Moldova on the right bank of the river Dniester within the next few years. (The completion of the line is scheduled for 2025.) Moldova is also interested in the development of joint power generation projects with Romania and in increasing the capacity of the Ungheni-Chisinau gas interconnector. Ukraine is focused on establishing a hydrogen corridor connecting it with Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany. The corridor would enhance Ukraine’s energy security and integrate it into the European energy network, as well as stimulate the growth of Ukraine’s hydrogen industry and enable Ukrainian-produced hydrogen to seamlessly enter the European energy market. Furthermore, in 2024 both countries (along with Slovakia) joined the Vertical Corridor European gas transportation scheme, which brings together the gas transmission system operators of Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania, and aims to enhance energy security and diversification by upgrading their networks to facilitate gas transport from south to north and vice versa. The mutual benefits of cooperation So far, the eastern neighbourhood countries have mainly benefited from the EU’s and member states’ actions in the context of strengthening their own energy sovereignty. However, they both – and especially Ukraine – have the potential to help strengthen the energy sovereignty of the EU and its member states, thanks to their raw materials, RES development, and infrastructure. Ukraine has great potential in the gas sector. Firstly, Ukraine is home to some of the largest proven natural gas reserves in Europe (after Norway), estimated at up to 1.1 trillion m3 in December 2020 (within the internationally recognised borders of Ukraine, that is, including Crimea and other areas occupied by Russia). Ukraine’s gas production is also the second-largest in Europe after Norway and, despite the war, remains at a relatively high level (18.5 bcm in 2022 and 18.7 bcm in 2023). Secondly, Ukraine hosts gas infrastructure that could be useful for the EU as it diversifies its sources of supply. Ukraine’s extensive gas network, which has already enabled the transit of Russian gas for European consumers, could transport gas from the Black Sea or Caspian region via the Trans-Balkan pipeline. This would especially be the case after the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast – which has been under consideration for over a decade. Ukraine could also help Europe to store gas – the country has the largest gas storage system (30 bcm) in Europe and the third-largest by capacity in the world – behind only the US and Russia. This capacity not only ensures Ukraine’s energy security but could also potentially be used by European customers. Some EU companies are already doing this – at the beginning of 2024, around 2 bcm of gas in Ukrainian storage belonged to EU companies, but the potential for exploitation is much greater. Cooperation with Ukraine on hydrogen could further strengthen the EU’s energy sovereignty. According to Ukrainian researchers, with the appropriate development of wind power, Ukraine could produce up to 19.5m tonnes of green hydrogen per year, which would be twice as much as the EU’s annual production plans by 2030. The EU already considers Ukraine one of the three main potential green hydrogen import corridors (along with the North Sea region and the Mediterranean Sea), and in February 2023 signed a memorandum of understanding with Ukraine on a strategic partnership on biomethane, hydrogen, and other synthetic gases. Hydrogen projects that meet the EU’s safety standards can obtain the status of projects of mutual interest under the EU’s Trans-European Networks for Energy Regulation framework. The European Commission’s first list of projects of mutual interest published in November 2023 includes a generic corridor project aiming to transmit hydrogen from Ukraine to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany. Both countries, and especially Ukraine, also have high potential for RES development, which could allow the production of clean energy not only for domestic consumption, but in the case of Ukraine also for export to the EU. Theoretically, Ukraine has the greatest RES potential among south-east European countries, although estimates vary. The Ukrainian government assesses the potential for wind energy development in Ukraine off the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov coasts to be 140GW. Ukrainian scholars, meanwhile, calculate that renewable energy sources in Ukraine could provide up to 874GW in total, including solar (83GW), onshore wind (438GW), and offshore wind (250GW). At a conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine organised in June 2023 in London, the Ukrainian ministry for energy presented plans for investments in the energy sector, showing that by 2050 Ukraine wants to have 230GW of solar and wind generation capacity, 38GW of energy storage capacity, and 69GW of electrolyser capacity to produce green hydrogen. Regardless of which of the above estimates is more realistic, it is clear that Ukraine has the ability to produce large amounts of clean energy. According to the UNECE, bioenergy, hydro, solar, and wind generation could account for almost 80 per cent of Ukraine’s total energy generation by 2050. Moldova also has some potential for the development of RES projects, although significantly less than Ukraine. According to a 2017 report from the International Renewable Energy Agency, Moldova could expand its wind power to 21GW and total RES generation capacity to 27GW. From the perspective of the EU, while Moldova will not become a source of clean energy imports like Ukraine, the development of RES projects in Moldova would nonetheless be beneficial, reducing Moldova’s consumption of fossil fuels and thus also relieving the burden on the EU and member states of providing support to maintain Moldova’s gas supply during crises. Ukraine could also develop biomethane projects. According to the Ukrainian National Committee for Energy Regulation, the country could produce 22 bcm of biomethane per year, some of which could be exported to the EU. Indeed, Ukraine already has the necessary resources and infrastructure, including adequate transmission networks that would not require additional upgrades to transmit biomethane. Ukraine also has large feedstock resources and large areas of arable land to develop the potential for agricultural biomethane production. The EU plans to produce 35 bcm of biomethane per year by 2030 and it is estimated that Ukraine could meet up to 20 per cent of this demand. The EU could also benefit from access to Ukraine’s critical raw materials (CRMs), which are important for the EU’s own energy transition. Ukraine holds resources of most of the raw materials on the EU’s latest list of CRMs, including some that the EU recognises as CRMs of strategic importance. For example, Ukraine has the largest reserves of lithium in Europe, used, amongst other things in the production of batteries for electric cars. In 2021, Ukraine also accounted for around 7 per cent of global titanium production and was the world’s seventh-largest exporter of titanium ore. Titanium dioxide is a valuable chemical that can help to improve the efficiency of batteries by extending both their energy-storing capacity and their lifetime, and – alongside lithium – is one of the CRMs that the EU considers to be strategic. Moreover, Ukraine has some of Europe’s largest reserves of graphite, which is used in energy storage technologies like lithium-ion batteries, as well as deposits of nickel and cobalt, which are important in battery production. Its significant potential for green energy production and its status as the country with the largest nuclear generating capacity in Europe mean that Ukraine could also be a source of low-carbon electricity imports for EU member states. Over the last three decades, Ukraine has exported electricity, and continued to export small amounts to Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and Hungary even in the first year of the war. Due to Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Kyiv was forced to suspend electricity exports in October 2022, but resumed exports of small amounts of electricity to Moldova and EU countries in April 2023. In the long term, especially when the war ends, the EU expects to be able to import clean electricity from Ukraine as part of its REPowerEU initiative. Finally, Ukraine can provide important insights into protecting energy infrastructure across Europe based on its experiences of Russian attacks, which could further strengthen the EU’s energy sovereignty. The security of the EU’s energy infrastructure has become an area of concern, particularly after the damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, the Baltic interconnector, and the cyber-attacks on Danish energy infrastructure. Hurdles ahead Several factors clearly favour closer energy cooperation between the EU and member states and their eastern neighbours, which would strengthen the energy sovereignty of all parties involved. Both the societies and the current authorities in Moldova and Ukraine are unequivocally in favour of the closest possible integration into Western structures, including the EU. In Ukraine, this has been the case since the victory of the “Revolution of Dignity” against the government’s growing ties to Russia and the ensuing fall of the Yanukovych administration in 2014, while Moldova began to take an unequivocally pro-European course in 2021. Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and aggressive policy towards Moldova have further embedded this trend and mean it will likely continue in the long term. The EU has also re-evaluated its strategic thinking, prompting a new focus on its own energy sovereignty and that of its eastern neighbourhood. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU worked rapidly to reduce its dependency on Russian energy supplies and to help its eastern neighbours do the same. However, the ongoing war in Ukraine is hampering the intensification of long-term energy cooperation. In the case of Ukraine, the key issue is the scale of the war damage and the estimated amount of money needed to rebuild Ukraine. The World Bank estimates the total cost of reconstruction at almost $486 billion, which is more than two times the size of Ukraine’s pre-war economy. According to the UN, rebuilding Ukraine’s energy sector alone, which has been seriously damaged by constant shelling, will require an outlay of approximately $47 billion. The EU has announced an additional €50 billion in support between 2024 and 2027 through a new financing instrument, the Ukraine Facility. However, these funds relate to investments in all spheres of state functioning, and it is unclear how much, if any, of this sum will be allocated to energy. Considering Kyiv’s plans regarding investments in green energy (RES and hydrogen) and the development of other sectors, including nuclear and gas, the Ukrainian authorities estimate that the country’s investment needs will reach $400 billion by 2050. Yet Moldova and Ukraine have relatively weak investment climates. Before the war, regulatory instability in Ukraine, including changes in taxation rules for the gas extraction sector, among other factors, made it difficult to attract investors. Moldova also finds it difficult to attract investment, particularly from private actors. And, although positive developments are taking place in Ukraine even during the war (for example, a law adopted in Ukraine introducing favourable conditions for investment in the biogas and biomethane sector, including exemption from income tax for five years, land tax, and VAT and customs duties when importing new equipment and components), it remains unclear how easy it will be to introduce and apply legal regulations after the war. Progress in the implementation of energy and climate policy will also be one of the fundamental challenges in the context of Ukraine’s integration with the EU. In addition to this, specific sectors face further challenges. Despite having great potential for hydrogen production, for example, Ukraine so far has neither a hydrogen strategy, nor a legal framework for the development of hydrogen projects, nor adequate infrastructure. The next steps To achieve the greatest possible synergy in the efforts of the EU and its eastern neighbours to mutually reinforce energy sovereignty, both sides will need to continue taking strategic steps in the coming years. For eastern neighbours Adopt a progressive approach to energy sovereignty Ukraine and Moldova need to translate their narratives about energy sovereignty into a determination to implement them in reality. The eastern neighbourhood countries should permanently change their approach to energy sovereignty and think of it not only in terms of security of supply – energy independence from Russia and diversification of supply sources – but also in terms of clean energy and energy efficiency. This applies especially to Moldova, which should aim to finally and permanently sever its energy relations with Russia not only in the electricity sector, but also in the gas sector, in particular by removing Gazprom from the ownership structure of its largest gas company Moldovagaz (in which Gazprom still holds 51 per cent of the shares). The EU and its eastern neighbours should make the improvement of energy efficiency one of their common strategic goals. Moldova and Ukraine should use the funds made available through the EIB and EBRD to implement steps to improve energy efficiency. In particular, they should exploit and expand the opportunities for projects under the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership. They should also strengthen bilateral cooperation with selected EU member states that have declared their willingness to share their experience in this field. On a bilateral level, France, Germany, Poland, and Sweden are implementing or planning cooperation with their eastern neighbours to improve energy efficiency. Meet Energy Community regulations Ukraine and Moldova should continue to implement reforms in the energy sector, including those stemming from their membership in the Energy Community or related to the process of deepening their integration with the EU. Following the end of the war in Ukraine, it will be important that the two countries take measures against the monopolisation of markets by fully liberalising the electricity and gas markets, ensuring OECD-appropriate governance standards for state-owned energy companies, and making further progress in tariff reforms and subsidy provision by phasing out public service obligations and replacing them with social support for vulnerable energy consumers. These measures will serve to deepen the integration of Moldova and Ukraine with the EU and, consequently, help to increase the resilience of their energy systems. Make infrastructure flexible Both Moldova and Ukraine should prepare for new uses of their transmission infrastructure under the new geopolitical conditions. This is particularly important for Ukraine, which for a decade has acted as a transit country for EU countries’ gas and oil imports from Russia. In December 2024, the transit agreements between Russia and Ukraine will expire, and Ukraine will need to find a new use for its significant gas pipeline network in order to maintain it. The Ukrainian gas pipeline network could be used to export Ukraine’s surplus gas production or to transit gas from other sources. For example, Azerbaijani gas exported via the Trans-Balkan pipeline could travel via Moldova and Ukraine to Slovakia or other EU countries. The Ukrainian government was already considering using it to transport imported gas via a potential LNG terminal on the Ukrainian Black Sea coast before the war. Ukraine and Moldova also need to modernise and expand their electricity grids. In the case of Ukraine, this is necessary due to the continuing destruction associated with Russia’s aggression. However, Moldova also needs grid investments, especially if it is to expand its RES potential in the future. Indeed, the expansion of RES potential requires a sufficiently developed grid capable of absorbing electricity produced by wind or photovoltaic installations into the system. Make use of international cooperation formats Given the multiplicity of cooperation formats in which the eastern neighbourhood countries are involved, it is important to build synergies between them. In addition to the formats already in use in relations with the EU, Kyiv and Chisinau should make use of other, supra-regional cooperation formats that have emerged in central and eastern Europe in the last decade, within which some countries have placed a very strong emphasis on strengthening sovereignty. An example of this is the Three Seas Initiative, a project initiated in 2015 by the presidents of Poland and Croatia that brings together 13 central European countries with the strategic aim of preserving and strengthening the unity of the EU and the Euro-Atlantic space through three pillars: transport, energy, and digital. Poland and Romania have already declared their interest and political will to cooperate with countries such as Moldova and Ukraine under the initiative. For this purpose, Ukraine and Moldova could also make use of the European Political Community, to which 47 European countries belong, including non-EU countries such as the United Kingdom and Turkey. For the EU Ensure comprehensive support to Moldova and Ukraine prior to accession In the dynamic geopolitical situation related to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the EU should be determined not only to pursue the EU integration process of Moldova and Ukraine consistently, but also to strengthen its own capacities to respond to Russia’s attempts to destabilise these eastern neighbours. Only the accession of Ukraine and Moldova to the EU can create a sustainable foundation for strengthening cooperation and using the full potential of all parties to strengthen energy sovereignty. The EU therefore needs to demonstrate its determination to meet this political commitment to Moldova and Ukraine. It should use all existing multilateral formats available to it to tighten political and economic (including energy) cooperation with its eastern neighbours. Individual member states should also look to strengthen their bilateral cooperation with their eastern neighbours. Poland can play a special role in this respect, above all because it is Ukraine’s largest neighbour and is interested in participating in the reconstruction of Ukraine and particularly committed to supporting Moldova’s reform. The new pro-European government formed in December 2023 could also build a coalition for energy cooperation with its eastern neighbours together with Germany or perhaps more broadly with Germany and France as part of the recently reactivated Weimer Triangle. Initiate joint energy projects The EU should plan further joint energy projects with its eastern neighbours. It is a major weakness that, apart from the hydrogen corridor with Ukraine, the list of projects of common and mutual interest published by the EU in November 2023 does not include others concerning the enhancement of infrastructure links between the EU and Ukraine and Moldova. These are notably lacking in the electricity sector. The implementation of these projects will be important for electricity trade between the EU and neighbouring countries, which could strengthen the energy sovereignty of both the EU and its eastern neighbours. At the same time, it is in the interest of the EU and member states that progressive integration, for example in the sphere of electricity markets, is carried out under fair competition conditions between EU players and companies from Ukraine and Moldova. Contribute to security of energy supply Although the EU’s own raw material potential is limited, some countries have resources that could be used to meet part of the needs of the eastern neighbourhood countries. Romania, which has among the most energy resources in Europe, could play a particularly important role in this context. Its gas resources on the Black Sea shelf are estimated at 80-200 billion m3, which would allow it to secure its own needs for about 20 years or, in the medium term, act as an alternative to Russian supplies to other countries in the region, such as Moldova. When it comes to electricity production, Romania boasts a diversified energy mix and a well-developed network of interconnections with neighbouring countries that can operate in two directions (for import and export purposes). Due to its location, Romania could also play the role of a transit country for the transmission of energy resources (for example, gas via the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline) or electricity from third countries. EU member states should support Ukraine in continuing to diversify its nuclear fuel supply sources. Those that have nuclear power in their own energy mixes, including Bulgaria, France, Romania, Slovakia, and Sweden, can provide logistical support for the transport of nuclear fuel from alternative sources, and be partners for enhancing cooperation in the nuclear sphere after the end of the war. The so-called nuclear alliance that has emerged in the EU under the informal leadership of France could be useful in this regard, supporting partnerships with Ukraine to implement joint nuclear projects. Improve eastern neighbours’ energy efficiency In its external energy policy strategy, the EU calls for energy saving and energy efficiency to become priorities on a global scale. It should therefore support neighbouring countries to improve energy efficiency. As postulated, among others, by participants in the Green Deal Ukraine project, the EU and its member states should help their eastern neighbours to develop robust standards for energy efficiency and building materials for both new and renovated buildings, spanning residential and non-residential sectors and the entire construction process. These standards should include monitoring energy efficiency for components and the building process to align with evolving EU efficiency regulations, promoting sustainable practices and long-term decarbonisation goals. Increase investments in the region Energy should become one of the key areas of cooperation to strengthen Moldova’s and Ukraine’s sovereignty and thus their resistance to aggressive, destabilising actions by Russia. Although the EU has so far provided significant financial assistance to Ukraine and Moldova, both directly and in cooperation with European financial institutions, the scale of the needs (especially in Ukraine) requires further efforts in this area. Investment either directly by the EU or by companies from EU countries in Ukraine’s RES sector, the hydrogen corridor, or Ukraine’s gas infrastructure could strengthen EU energy sovereignty by ensuring a secure supply of clean electricity or gas supplies, which will still be needed by EU countries over at least the next decade. To this end, the EU should make use of and provide organisational and expert support for recently created instruments such as AidEnergy – an electronic platform established in March 2023, whereby the EBRD in partnership with other donors and international financial institutions and the Ukrainian Ministry of Energy create a centralised list of energy sector needs. The platform is intended not only to identify the current needs of the Ukrainian energy sector, but also more long-term needs. Considering the long-term investment needs of Ukraine’s energy sector, the EU could also provide support through financial guarantees for the most strategic projects. EU member states and institutions should also continue efforts to confiscate frozen Russian assets, which could be used for the reconstruction of Ukraine, including investments in the energy sector. The law adopted by the EU in February 2024 to set aside windfall profits made on frozen Russian central bank assets is a move in a right direction in this regard. Acknowledgments The author would like to thank experts and people working in the energy sector in institutions and companies in Poland, but also in Ukraine, Slovakia, and Germany, for discussions on the topic covered in this policy brief. Special thanks are also due to those who provided comments on the first version of the text, in particular Susi Dennison. The author would particularly like to thank Flora Bell for her pleasant and fruitful collaboration in editing the final version of the text, especially for her very valuable suggestions, questions, and comments. Thanks are also due to Nastassia Zenovich for the beautiful graphics included in the text. References [1] Argus Eurasia Energy (, weekly report, by subscription, 23 February 2023. [2] Ibid. [3] Ibid. [4] Argus Eurasia Energy (, weekly report, by subscription, 22 January 2024. This policy brief was first published on 11 March by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

Paris, France, 25-04-2024 : Visit of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, for a major speech on Europe at the Sorbonne.

2024 Election Watch: France, the European Union, Germany, and Mexico

by Collin Chapman

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Elections in Europe demonstrate the growing popularity of far right parties as key outsiders gain on critical votes. In France, President Emmanuel Macron has moved to dampen Marine Le Pen’s success in the European Parliament with a snap national election. The election calendar for June has already thrown up some surprises, particularly in the northern hemisphere. To be sure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was re-elected, though with a much-reduced majority which will place limits on his power. But the biggest shock is in Europe where French President Emmanuel Macron decided to call a snap election for 30 June after his most notorious far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, pulled off a decisive victory in the French election for the European Parliament. Macron is taking a massive gamble—that in a national election he can recover some of the popularity he has lost since his re-election as president in 2022, squashing Le Pen’s challenge to his leadership. The initial reaction of the commentariat is that Macron will manage a return to the Élysée palace, largely because the centrist parties holding the middle ground were the overall winners and the Left and the Greens failed to increase, or lost, shares of the vote. “I’ve decided to give you back the choice,” Macron said in an address to the electorate from the Elysée palace. In France, the Rassemblement National (RN) party led by Le Pen won 31.5 percent of the country’s vote, according to early results. In Germany, the three parties in Olaf Scholz’s fragile coalition—the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens, and the liberal FDP—were all overtaken by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which came in second behind the conservative CDU-CSU opposition. Significant gains by nationalist and ultra-conservative parties were also anticipated by exit polls in Austria, Cyprus, Greece, and the Netherlands. In Italy, prime minister Giorgia Meloni cemented her position in her governing coalition, and potentially her hand in negotiations with other European leaders, with her hard-right Brothers of Italy party taking over 28 percent of the vote in the European parliamentary elections. Attention will now turn to the campaign by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, to win another five-year term in office. She has a good record and currently no obvious challenger. Nonetheless, her re-election will hinge on her ability to make uncomfortable choices and deals, taking into account the EU’s clear shift to the right in parliamentary elections on 9 June. Though her centre-right European People’s party won the election, securing 189 seats in the 720-strong assembly, von der Leyen’s allies fared worse and the hard right surged from a fifth to nearly a quarter of seats. Her fate is likely to be decided at an EU summit on 27 June when she will seek the personal backing of the EU’s 27 leaders and aim to demonstrate to them that she has the required support in the European Parliament. Mexico Another remarkable election result this month was in Mexico where the ruling left-wing Morena party won a landslide victory in presidential, congressional, and state elections. While president-elect Claudia Sheinbaum and Morena’s victory on 2 June was not a surprise, the scale of it was. Sheinbaum won more votes than the centre-right Xochiti Galvez across genders, age groups, and in every state bar one, coming in 31 points clear of her rival. After decades of high poverty, glaring inequality, and low wages, the ruling Morena party more than doubled the minimum wage and expanded social programs, endearing itself to Mexico’s long-neglected have-nots. The result has left Mexico’s conservative elite struggling to understand the left’s landslide win, living as they do in gated communities far removed from the lives and feelings of average Mexicans. There are unlikely to be any surprises in the other major election this month—that of Iran on 28 June. Iranian authorities have disqualified prominent moderates as candidates in the snap presidential election, called following the helicopter crash that recently claimed the life of Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s president, and other senior ministers. The field of candidates has been narrowed to five hardliners and one mid-ranking reformist. The United Kingdom has seen a frenzy of election activity this month following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s surprise decision to call an early election on 4 July. Polls show that there is likely to be a change of government to the opposition Labour party, which is currently holding a 22 percent lead, after 14 years’ Conservative government.

Defense & Security
Angry bear against the background of the Russian flag

Boil the bear: The risky path in the face of Russian aggression

by Enrico Tomaselli

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском According to the EU, Russia had set several red lines, but then allowed them to be crossed without reacting. Therefore, gradually increasing the temperature can be a good strategy... Whereas, throughout the first two years of NATO's war against Russia in Ukraine, the record of warmongering was almost equally shared between the US and the UK, more recently it has been attributed to Macron. The reasons are diverse, ranging from the great difficulty France is currently facing to the illusion of being able to take advantage of the German crisis to assume European leadership, including the political dwarfism of its president. But the underlying reason is that European leaders, almost unanimously, have essentially resigned themselves to carrying out the task left by the US: taking on the burden of the conflict in the East, supporting Kiev even beyond the last Ukrainian, if necessary. Also in this case, the reasons why Europeans have convinced themselves that they cannot escape this task are multiple. What matters is understanding how they believe they will do it, when they believe they will do it, and, obviously, if they really believe they can do it. Judging by how interventionist statements are intensifying, it seems that the timeline is not so distant; probably, in the European offices, they envision initiating an operational phase at least after the US elections, also to have a clearer idea of the White House's orientations and the timing of their public announcements. At the same time, the evolution on the battlefield does not seem very compatible with these optimistic forecasts: the arrival of good weather has already revitalized the Russian initiative along the entire front line, and the structural deficiencies of the Ukrainian army are evident. Events, therefore, could accelerate. Regarding the how, it seems quite clear that the idea is to boil the Russian bear like the proverbial frog. Step by step, counting on Moscow wanting to avoid an escalation, they will end up letting things happen without a strong response. In conclusion, it is believed that Russia had set several red lines, but then allowed them to be crossed without reacting. Therefore, gradually increasing the temperature can be a good strategy. Furthermore, the public discourse (the narrative used to prepare public opinion) is a mix of nonsense and half-truths, but reading them carefully, the design becomes clear. Macron puffs up his chest and makes aggressive statements, but then between Ukrainian requests and European readiness, the scheme emerges: start by training the Ukrainians in Ukraine (150,000 men...) so they are closer (and prepared) to the front [1]. After all, NATO countries have been training them for years, only the location changes... One imagines that such a debut would be more acceptable to European citizens, and that after all Moscow would not react beyond "strong protests." Then we'll see from there. Clearly, the weak point is the actual possibility of creating the design according to your own scheme. Firstly, the premise is that Russia behaves exactly as expected in Brussels, which, however, is not at all a fact. As always, caught up in their autism, European leaders do not listen, and even if they do, they do not understand. Here, in fact, we are beyond the light statements of Medvedev; when a diplomat like Lavrov clearly says that if Europeans want war they are prepared, it should not be taken lightly. Moreover, when Monti in turn says that "to build Europe" blood must be shed, he is simply more sincere and pragmatic than Macron. The problem, of course, is that a small-step scheme simply runs the risk of resulting in a series of useless steps. The critical problems of the Ukrainian army are basically three: lack of artillery ammunition, lack of personnel, lack of anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems. For the first one, Europeans are unable to remedy it. Even if the Russian industrial relative production did not grow (as it is happening) and remained at current levels, Europeans would take years and years to match it. As for the second one, the difficulties to solve it would be at least the same. Sending even 20-30,000 men would not have a decisive impact. Firstly, we would be talking about men with no real combat experience, let alone in a war of attrition like the one being fought. The logistic support would be very complicated, as the rear would have to be located in Poland and/or Romania, a thousand kilometers from the front. And anyway, even such a figure would amount to 5,000-6,000 men in combat. Irrelevant. It would be necessary to send at least 200 or 300 thousand men, practically the entire European NATO force, to have any impact. The Europeans could transfer almost all of their missile/anti-aircraft defense systems, leaving their respective countries almost defenseless, but this would also have a limited impact over time: the Russians would exploit the large quantities they have to saturate the defenses and destroy the batteries one after another (as Iran did with Israel). The only thing that could introduce an element of discontinuity would be the intervention of the air force. European fighter-bombers taking off from airfields outside of Ukraine, striking Russian rear areas. But this would inevitably bring the war to European soil, as it is clear that at that point the Russians would strike the departure air bases with their ballistic and hypersonic missiles. The same would happen if missile defense batteries from neighboring countries were used. Furthermore, if this level of intervention were to create problems for the Russian armed forces, it is virtually certain that at that point Moscow would resort to tactical nuclear weapons. Because for Russia, the risk of defeat in this war equates to an existential threat. And here Macron comes into play again, boldly promising the coverage of the French nuclear umbrella, the 'force de frappe'. Unfortunately, the comparison with the Russian Federation is ruthless, and the quantity of French nuclear weapons (as well as the aircraft carriers to deliver them to the target) is ridiculously smaller: At most, France can offer the shelter of a cocktail umbrella, and Moscow would turn Paris into a milkshake. Therefore, the European strategy of boiling the Russian bear slowly – though as stupid as a frog - cannot work. Gradualness simply runs the risk of exacting a very high price (in terms of casualties, wounded, destroyed weapon systems, etc.) without achieving any noteworthy result. On the other hand, an acceleration, by promptly engaging a significant force in combat, is practically equivalent to plunging Europe into a prolonged conflict, without equally managing to change the terms of the equation. Without direct intervention from the US, European countries alone are absolutely incapable of significantly engaging Russia [2]. But direct engagement is exactly what Washington shies away from, and they are very aware that once you put boots on the ground, there's no turning back, and the logic of war drags you deeper and deeper. Something they learned well from Vietnam, and they have never forgotten. Therefore, combat continues to present itself as a gamble. It's like having far fewer chips than your opponent and still betting everything without even holding a pair of twos in your hand. In all of this, of course, we have not taken into account at all the fact that there is no unified point of view - beyond the facade - among the different European capitals. Likely, there are countries - not only Hungary, or Slovakia, but also Germany and Italy... - that secretly hope for an immediate collapse of the Ukrainian army, to render any hypothesis of deploying their own forces useless. Although the scenario briefly described is very realistic, it is clear that there are those who believe that Europeans would have an excellent opportunity in a confrontation with Russia. That this is believed possible among political leaders, although dangerously disheartening, is also plausible; much worse is when it is supported by senior NATO military commanders, whose opinion cannot fail to influence political decisions. And quite a few generals, French, German, and from other countries, seem convinced that they can win the game (or perhaps just dream of a moment of glory, after a lifetime behind a desk or playing war games). [3] Certainly, what happens on the European chessboard also depends on what happens elsewhere, because this is a global game where everything is interconnected. The problem is that European leaders not only lack decision-making power, not even marginally, regarding this dimension, but they also completely lack global vision. The real one, of course, not the one that appears in the news. The coming months, therefore, will be full of consequences for the Europeans, but they will also be largely played as pawns, with their movements directed largely from outside, while the effects will be almost entirely at our expense. And it is clear that the interest of the US is to push the Europeans, but not NATO, to assume the risks and burdens of the conflict, which Washington would like to prolong indefinitely. [4] The inadequacy of leadership is another risk factor, in addition to the objectives. In this context, as we see, these leaders tend to curl up like a hedgehog; aware of their own weakness, both against the enemy they are confronting and their own citizens who do not wish to die for Kiev (not even for Washington), they are increasingly moving towards the militarization of public space, the restriction of democratic spaces, and an authoritarian shift. They wage war on the dissent of their citizens today so that they can wage war on Russia tomorrow. And if the European peoples lose this war, they will be dragged into another one, in which defeat could coincide with the extinction of European civilization as we have known it. Notes [1] According to The New York Times, due to the shortage of troops, the Kiev government has asked the US and NATO to "contribute to the training of 150,000 new recruits" within Ukraine so that they can be deployed to the front lines quicker. Obviously, this is a gigantic absurdity. However, these training camps should be located as far away from the front lines as possible to minimize the risk of being targeted (large troop concentrations are obviously an attractive target), and they would require adequate protection against air attacks; the risks and logistical efforts would far outweigh the minimal benefit of having recruits in training a little closer to the battle line. This is blatantly a ploy to bring NATO military personnel onto the ground. [2] A research done by the British newspaper 'The Daily Mail' established that in the event of an open conflict between NATO and Russia, NATO forces would not be sufficient. Although the strength of the Atlantic Alliance appears superior in numerical terms, this superiority is essentially due to the armed forces of the US, without which it significantly deteriorates. Additionally, the research does not consider, even marginally, factors such as industrial production, experience, combat capability, etc. [3] According to the commander of the combined armed forces of the Alliance in Europe, General Christopher Cavoli (USA), the Russian armed forces "lack the skills and capabilities to operate on the scale necessary to exploit any advances to gain a strategic advantage." [4] In this regard, a reputable American magazine like 'Foreign Affairs' has explicitly indicated this direction, and certainly not by chance. According to the FA, which is obviously closely aligned with the State Department, "European countries must do more [...] They should seriously consider deploying troops in Ukraine to provide logistical support and training, to protect Ukraine's borders and critical infrastructure, or even to defend Ukrainian cities. They must make it clear to Russia that Europe is willing to protect Ukraine's territorial sovereignty". After dismissing the idea that this could lead to World War III, the authors cunningly suggest that "a strictly non-combat mission would be easier to sell in most European capitals". However, they immediately stress that "Europe should consider a direct combat mission to help protect Ukrainian territory". In fact, "since European forces would operate outside the framework and territory of NATO, any losses would not trigger a response under Article 5 and would not involve the United States". And to reassure European leaders - to whom the message is clearly directed - they add: "At a certain point, European leaders must ignore Putin's threats, as they are nothing more than propaganda." The article was translated and licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 ES (Atribución-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 3.0 España).

PARIS, FRANCE - February 8, 2023: French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Elysée Palace

The Impact of the War in Ukraine on the European Union

by Tomasz G. Grosse

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском French and German credibility has reached new lows on the Ukraine issue, risking European security as each seeks to sure up political and geopolitical influence. Solidarity is weak, and arms corporations have proven influential in national decisions for EU integration on security matters. In the numerous crises that hit the European Union (EU) in the 21st century – the role of the so-called “integration engine,” as the French-German duopoly is called – was crucial. However, after Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine in 2022, both integration leaders from Western Europe receded into the background. The leaders of aid for fighting Ukraine were mainly the countries of NATO’s eastern flank, led by Poland and the Baltic states. Germany and France defended themselves against too radical sanctions imposed on Moscow, did not support Kiev, and did not want, among other things, either Ukraine’s accession to the EU nor to NATO. Why did Paris and Berlin distance themselves from Russian aggression in 2022, which violated European values and human rights and also threatened the EU itself? In short, the war hit various economic interests that France and Germany conducted with Vladimir Putin’s regime. An example of this was the expansion of Nord Stream, a gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea, after Putin’s first military aggression against eastern Ukraine in 2014. It is worth recalling that the entire climate transformation in the EU in its initial phase was based on cheap Russian gas. Economic ties were not the only reason for the strange behavior of Berlin and Paris in the face of Moscow’s aggression. Geopolitical considerations were even more important. The elites of Western Europe have traditionally, with minor interruptions, cooperated with Russia and considered it an important economic and political partner. The geopolitical goal of both Western European countries was to seek strategic autonomy from Washington and rapprochement with Moscow and Beijing. Historically, Central Eastern Europe has been treated as an area of influence of Berlin and Moscow, which they share or (less frequently) compete for. Before 2022, for Berlin, this sphere of influence included the Central European countries and the Baltic states; for Moscow, this included Belarus and Ukraine. This is why, among other things, Western Europe distanced itself from Moscow’s aggression in 2022. It did not want to spoil relations with Moscow. It also did not want to provoke even greater Russian aggression, fearing a full-scale war with NATO. Western Europe wanted to reach an agreement with Putin as quickly as possible and return to the previous economic and geopolitical arrangement. However, in 2024, there was a clear change in Western Europe’s position towards the war in Ukraine. First, Germany increased its financial and military assistance, although it continued to block the delivery to Kiev of the most modern weapons requested by President Volodymyr Zelensky. France and Germany increased the scope of sanctions imposed on Moscow, although they were still full of loopholes that allowed the Kremlin to avoid them. Meanwhile, Berlin and Paris unblocked their veto on Ukraine’s accession to the EU, nevertheless they continued to maintain their opposition to Kiev’s membership in NATO. Under the influence of both Western European countries, the EU’s financial and military assistance to Kiev increased. It was still too small in relation to Ukraine’s needs, and Brussels faced great problems and delays in fulfilling aid declarations. The most radicalized person was President Emmanuel Macron who announced in 2024 that he would send troops to Ukraine. In the same year, German politicians proposed that NATO troops should protect the sky over western Ukraine from the territory of Romania and Poland. What caused this radical turn in Berlin and Paris? First of all, it turned out that both countries were losing credibility in NATO and the EU, and thus political influence in Central Europe and Ukraine. What was no less dangerous – especially for German politicians – was the growing dissatisfaction with their attitude in the US. The Germans feared that Washington would lose trust in Berlin and focus on NATO’s eastern flank, mainly Warsaw. Furthermore, Germany and France believed less and less in renewing good relations with Moscow. They also had little hope that their “neutral attitude” could protect Europe from further aggression by Putin, including his attack on NATO and EU countries. At this point, both Western European countries launched a diplomatic offensive to introduce changes in the European Union. It was primarily about revising EU treaties to strengthen the political influence of the two largest countries in Western Europe. Therefore, it was proposed, among others, the abolition of voting based on unanimity in foreign and defense policy, which gave a decision-making advantage to the countries with the greatest voting power (Germany and France). In addition, efforts were made to strengthen the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). The main goal was to increase the production of ammunition and weapons from EU funds. Typically, such actions were aimed at strengthening the potential of arms corporations in Western Europe, as well as limiting arms exports from outside the EU, including from the US and South Korea. It goes without saying that in the event of a real threat from the East, the EU should not limit the transportation of weapons from non-European allies, because Europe itself produces too little ammunition and weapons. Nevertheless, subsequent actions of the European Commission after 2022 clearly rewarded aid for German and French corporations, as well as restricting access to arms imports from outside the EU. These attempts to strengthen the strategic autonomy of the EU against Washington are short-sighted in the face of a real threat on the EU and NATO. Moreover, instead of primarily supporting coordination within NATO, France and Germany have sought to duplicate the structures of the North Atlantic Alliance, focusing on the expansion of EU’s rapid reaction forces (rather than NATO’s rapid reaction forces), which were much more modest in terms of numbers and equipment. In other words, their goals were political, not real defense. The idea was to strengthen Franco-German leadership in Europe, and this was to be achieved by supporting the development of EU structures in the area of security. All these aspirations to expand the CSDP could encounter serious obstacles in implementation. First, Germany and France often disagree on EU security considerations, particularly when it comes to their own national interests. For example, the French were disappointed with Germany’s decision to purchase the American F-35 multi-role fighter capable of carrying nuclear warheads. This affected plans to build a sixth-generation aircraft in cooperation between German, French, and Spanish corporations. Moreover, Berlin was developing its own anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense project in the EU (European Sky Shield Initiative), to which it did not invite the French, and even competed with their own European defense program (La défense aérienne du continent). Therefore, Macron criticized the German shield initiative, which he considered hasty and incomplete. Instead, he promoted a truly “European initiative,” where the French arms industry is the dominant force. Secondly, the actions of France and Germany in the field of defense have been delayed and ineffective. More than two years after the announcement of the famous Zeitenwende, the modernisation of the Bundeswehr, the federal government in Berlin managed to order only eighteen Leopard 2 tanks and twelve Panzerhaubitz 2000. Thirdly, it became increasingly clear early on that Germany and France were not ready to defend NATO’s eastern flank in solidarity, wanting rather to show initiative and leadership in order to maintain geopolitical influence in Europe. In terms of real security, their subsequent ideas were controversial. They were certainly beneficial to their arms corporations. For all these reasons, the credibility of Germany and France has been trending downwards on eastern EU security considerations. For the time being, it is difficult to predict whether the plans of Paris and Berlin will ultimately be implemented and whether cooperation within the CSDP will be strengthened. However, if this does not happen, it will paradoxically be a good solution for the security of the eastern flank. Efforts to defend it will be focused within NATO and, above all, located in the countries most at risk from Moscow’s aggression. This analysis is based on a recent article published by the Journal of International Affairs.

Defense & Security
Troop carrier and tank with Ukrainian flag, Ukraine

The War in Ukraine among contemporary Armed Conflicts

by Anton Bebler

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Abstract The war in Ukraine is the biggest, bloodiest and longest war in Europe since 1945. Its initial stage holds similarities with several other armed conflicts and wars in the last 50 years on Cyprus and in the territories of the former Soviet Union and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). Among the cases in ex-Yugoslavia the greatest similarity is seen with the war in Croatia (1991–1995). These conflicts stemmed from almost simultaneous breakdowns of two multinational ‘socialist federations’ and their communist regimes. The dissimilarity of the second stage of the war in Ukraine and the war in Croatia is primarily due to the processes of NATO and EU enlargement coupled with the USA’s policy of using NATO enlargement and Ukraine as tools to harm and weaken Russia. The conflict about Ukraine developed into an indirect war between Russia and the US-led West, where Ukraine is the West’s proxy and the main victim. The final outcome of the war in Ukraine will be decided on the battlefield and not around a diplomatic table. Still, it will be very different from that in Croatia. Responsibility for the war in Ukraine and its consequences must be shared between the two direct belligerents, the co-responsible USA and other NATO members. Introduction Among about four dozen contemporary wars, the armed conflict in Ukraine since 2014 stands out as an exceptional event. It involves in its second stage four nuclear powers –one as a direct belligerent and three as providers of many-sided assistance to the second belligerent, with the presence of military personnel of all four nuclear powers on the territory of Ukraine. The war has been the biggest, bloodiest and longest war in Europe since 1945. It has also produced a strong impact on Europe and the broader international community. According to two measures (at least), the war in Ukraine has been exceeded by a number of other wars since 1945, namely those occurring in Asia and Africa. In terms of mortality, it has been exceeded by the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Algeria, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and Iraq. In terms of duration, it is unlikely to be longer than the wars in Vietnam, Algeria, Sudan and Afghanistan. Among all these armed conflicts, the war in Ukraine may be sharply distinguished by the reverse ratio between military and civilian mortality. In the European framework, the central trigger of the first stage of the war in Ukraine was similar to what caused the armed conflicts and outright wars occurring between 1974 and 1999 on Cyprus, in Moldova, Georgia, the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan as well as on the territory of the SFRY. Among the former, the first stage of the war in Ukraine most resembled the war in Croatia (1991–1995). The war in Croatia, which started prior to its international recognition, and the war in Ukraine 22 years after its recognition as an independent state, display a number of similarities that not accidental. The second stage of the war in Ukraine has had several similarities with the war in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1999) which ended up with forceful separation of Kosovo from Serbia. The similarities The wars in Croatia and Ukraine involved two adversary pairs of neighboring and partly overlapping Slavic nations. These wars unfolded in the territories of two defunct ‘socialist federations’ – the SFRY and the USSR. The causes of both wars were closely related to the almost simultaneous breakdowns of these two federations in 1991 and the demise of their communist regimes that had preceded and caused the breakdowns. The institutional structure of the SFRY was modelled after and closely resembled the structure of the older ‘socialist federation’, the USSR. Shared features of the two included the division of each federation into full-fledged republics and autonomies. Most or all of these federal units were ethnically designated. The minorities of the biggest ethnic groups (Serbs and Russians) were not accorded autonomy within other republics. In both cases, war followed the declarations of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘autonomy’ and referenda organized by some members of the Serbian community in southwest Croatia and some members of the Russian and Russian-speaking community living in Eastern Ukraine. In each case, the central governments refused to negotiate with the insurgents and decided to suppress them militarily. The armed conflicts in Croatia and Ukraine developed into partly different combinations of civil and interstate wars. The civil war component referred to an armed conflict between the ultranationalist regime in the former second-most populous republic on one hand, and part of the biggest national minority related to the largest ethnic group in the former federation, on the other. The civil war deepened the divisions based on loyalty within both the Serbian community in Croatia and the Russian community in Ukraine. Each war was fought almost exclusively on the territory of the former second-most populous republic, which suffered the most. In both wars, the two sides were responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian law. International sanctions were applied in these two wars. The causes of each war were tangibly related to profound geopolitical changes underway in Europe about 35 years ago. These changes entailed the slackening and termination of the Cold War between two military-political blocs and the wave of liberal-democratic transformation of political systems in Eastern Europe. Over the span of 3 years, about 30 different state entities declared their sovereignty in the area of 3 ‘socialist federations’ (Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia). Of these, 23 entities survived and soon gained universal recognition as sovereign states, including Croatia and Ukraine. The specificity of the war in Ukraine Ancestors of today’s Russians and Ukrainians shared in the distant past close to 400 years of common history in Kievan Rus. In the XIII century this large state formation was destroyed by the invasion of Tatars-Mongols. The subsequent centuries-long domination of Lithuanian and Polish feudal rulers over the ancestors of today’s Ukrainians contributed greatly to their cultural and language distancing from the Russians. In 1648, the Cossack ancestors of some of today’s Ukrainians rebelled against Polish feudal rule, in 1654 begged for protection and voluntarily submitted themselves to Moscow Tsardom. For two and a half centuries, until 1917 they remained as part of the Russian empire, named Ruthenia and later Malorossiya. In 1918, an independent state was proclaimed under the new name Ukrainian People’s Republic. The name Ukraine remained under the Bolsheviks and in 1922 Soviet Ukraine became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union. Over several decades, the territory of Soviet Ukraine was more than doubled by Moscow in several successive stages in 1920–1922, 1939–1940, 1945–1947 and 1954. This was accomplished by including into it the lands of Novorossiya, with millions of Russian and Russian-speaking people in the East and South, as well as annexed parts of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and part of Moldova in the West. In all of these cases, this was done without their population’s consent. In 1992, all these territorial gains became parts of independent Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, whereas the collective rights of the Russian and Russian-speaking population were left unprotected. From 1945 for more than four and a half decades Ukraine enjoyed Moscow’s symbolic gift – the status of a UN founding member although it had been a constituing part of another UN founding member (USSR). When Ukraine, at Moscow’s initiative attained independence it did not have to apply for UN membership which from then on it deserved. Divergent political and economic developments in the two independent states exposed a number of different interests and of problems unresolved at the time of separation. These issues, in somewhat different combinations during the two stages of the war contributed to three groups of conflictual relations: (1) between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, (2) inside Ukraine and (3) between the Russian Federation and the West, primarily USA. The non-recognition of collective minority rights by the Ukrainian authorities became a growing political problem with the rise of Ukrainian ultranationalism. Combined with divergent attitudes in Western and Eastern parts of the country concerning Ukraine’s relations with Russia, EU and NATO, language-related problems contributed tangibly to political explosions in Ukraine in February/March 2014. Since 1991, two processes have altered the geopolitical map of Europe. These are the Eastward expansion of the US-dominated NATO along with the closely intertwined enlargement of the European Union. The first stage of these two processes in 1990–1991 – the absorption of Eastern Germany into both organizations – had no impact on the internal crisis in Yugoslavia, including the conflict in Croatia. Two decades later, however, the process of NATO expansion had already reached the borders of both Ukraine and Russia, thereby adding a very real extra-regional component to the conflict in and about Ukraine. For over two decades, one of the USA’s geostrategic goals has been by fostering ‘color revolutions’ to bring about regime change in the post-Soviet space, including Ukraine and also Russia. By using Ukraine as a tool, the USA has endeavored to harm and weaken Russia. Under US pressure and notwithstanding German and French objections, at the NATO summit held in Bucharest in April 2008 Ukraine was promised membership in the alliance, yet without stating a date. Openly and strongly opposed by Russia, this decision unleashed a chain of events, 6 years later leading to a war in Ukraine. The European Union and its policy of Eastern neighborhood negatively contributed to these developments. The prospect of an association agreement with the EU deepened the internal political conflict in Ukraine and motivated a mass protest movement that was exploited in February 2014 to stage a US-guided coup d’état in Kyiv. The combination of Ukraine’s promised membership in NATO and the new regime in Kyiv fully dependent on the USA foretold that Russia would certainly lose its old naval base in Sevastopol, for which it had paid high rent since 1992. Moreover, as a NATO naval and air base, Sevastopol would pose a direct threat to Russia and its geopolitical position in the Black Sea and Mediterranean area. To thwart this threat, lightly armed detachments of Russian marines, already legally stationed on Crimea, were ordered to move in unmarked uniforms to take control of the entire peninsula. They did so without facing any resistance, on Kyiv’s strict orders, from the about 22,000 Ukrainian troops or inflicting any casualties. The Ukrainian officialdom then simply vacated Crimea. This takeover was soon followed by a successful referendum accompanied by international observers on approving Crimea’s legal separation from Ukraine and it rejoining Russia. Moscow thus took back Nikita Khrushchev’s present to Ukraine on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of its unification with Russia. First stage of the war in Ukraine Closely related to the dramatic developments in Kyiv, there were uprisings in several Ukrainian cities and proclamations of ‘‘sovereignty’’ and ‘‘autonomy’’ in Lugansk and Donetsk. These uprisings largely featured protests against the discriminatory measures adopted by the new authorities against the Russian and Russian-speaking population. The ultranationalist regime in Kyiv responded on 13 April 2014 by branding the protesters ‘‘terrorists’’, declaring a “wide anti-terrorist operation” and entrusting the Ukrainian Army to carry it out. This military operation launched the first stage of the war in Ukraine. In its attacks on the Donbas autonomists, the Ukrainian Army employed bombers, tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery while battalions of Ukrainian ultranationalist volunteers with neo-Nazi leanings and financed by Ukrainian oligarchs used artillery and light weapons. On the defending side, there were about 35,000 members of the territorial people’s militias of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as well as Russian and other (including Serbian) volunteers. The Russian Federation offered multi-sided support to the two besieged republics, encompassing financial, material, humanitarian and military assistance. Russian professional military personnel were integrated into the local militias and did not operate as separate and regular units of the Russian Army. At the same time, the US and British armed forces offered very sizeable material and other military assistance to the Ukrainian Army, also involving thousands of advisors and instructors. In numbers, they were comparable to the Russian military personnel on the other side of the frontline. By February 2022, this armed conflict had led to 14,000 to 20,000 dead. Two armistice agreements, Minsk 1 and Minsk 2, did not halt the Ukrainian shelling of Ukrainian territory, which was responsible for thousands of casualties among the civilian population of the two self-proclaimed republics. These attacks continued for more than 9 years, accompanied by gross violations of international humanitarian law. In February 2015, Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine signed the Minsk 2 agreement. It was co-signed by the leaders of Germany, France and Russia and unanimously adopted as a resolution by the UN Security Council, thereby becoming part of international law. The Minsk 2 agreement provided for peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbas. Nonetheless, Petro Poroshenko and his successor Volodimir Zelenski refused to implement most of Ukraine’s 12 obligations, including the key provisions under which Ukraine was to grant constitutionally guaranteed autonomy to the Russian and Russian-speaking population in Donbas. In addition, Zelenski reneged on his pre-election promise that saw him win the election in 2019 and did not stop the war. Second stage of the war in Ukraine On 21 March 2021, Zelenski blatantly violated the Minsk 2 agreement and international law by ordering the Ukrainian Army to liberate the territories of the two republics and Crimea. The bulk of the Ukrainian Army was then relocated to their vicinity, clearly visible by Russian satellites. Instead of peaceful resolution of the conflict, Zelenski, no doubt with the USA’s full approval, thus decided on full-scale military suppression of the Donbas autonomists and on reconquering Crimea, well aware that it would provoke a strong reaction from Russia. On 16 February 2022, upon his order the Ukrainian Army initiated the second and much more violent stage of the war. From that date on, the intensity of Ukrainian shelling started to grow from several tens to 1,500 explosions daily. Combined with movements of Ukrainian troops, this strongly indicated that a massive attack was coming as part of implementation of the March 2021 order. It was very similar to the Georgian offensive against the self-proclaimed Republic of Southern Ossetia on 7 August 2008. This escalation was no doubt coordinated with US President Joe Biden, who publicly predicted that Russia would invade on 16 February 2022. Ukraine’s stepping up the level of violence successfully provoked a predictable Russian response. On the political and legal levels, this entailed the Russian Federation’s recognition of the two republics as independent states, signing two agreements on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance, accepting their pleas for assistance and protection in line with Art. 51 of the UN Charter and invoking the Responsibility for Protect. In the latter the Russian Federation used a very similar justification as did NATO in 1999 for its aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On the military level, Putin was faced with the real prospect of Ukraine quashing the two client Russian-speaking parastates. This would have submitted their discriminated Russian and Russian-speaking majority population to retribution by the Ukrainian ultranationalist and assimilationist regime, causing it to flee en masse across the border. He later explained that moral duty is higher than legality. Putin could not, also for domestic reasons, afford a humiliating political defeat similar to that suffered by Slobodan Milosevic in Croatia in August 1995. Unlike in August 2008 in Georgia, he did not wait for an all-out Ukrainian attack. Putin knew full well that stronger Western sanctions than those currently in place would follow, even if Russia’s response to the Ukrainian offensive were only moderate. Probably on the basis of a faulty assessment of both Ukraine’s capacity and determination to resist and the West’s response, he precipitously and knowingly in violation of international law ordered a ‘special military operation’ with an invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by a limited contingent of Russian land forces. This move was combined with extensive destruction of the Ukrainian air force, the air defense system, and other military infrastructure. Ignoring an axiom of military science, an invading force of some 90,000 Russian land troops was sent against the Ukrainian Army thrice superior in numbers. It was also grossly insufficient and unprepared to accomplish the officially declared task of “demilitarizing” and “denazifying” entire Ukraine. In spite of its shortcomings, this force managed to swiftly occupy additional 15% or so of Ukrainian territory (some as a diversion and only temporarily) and effectively protected the two republics. It additionally established and secured a land bridge between Crimea and Donbas, made the Azov Sea part of Russia’s internal waters, took control of the largest European nuclear power station at Zaporizhie, and deprived Ukraine of its stocks of plutonium and uranium. These stocks would have been sufficient to make Ukraine the world’s fourth-strongest nuclear power. The latter was an effective response to Zelenski’s earlier declaration that Ukraine was intending to again acquire nuclear weapons. Preventing this dangerous prospect certainly served as an additional and important incentive for Putin’s decision. For USA, the by far most frequent transgressor of international law, provoking Russia into an act of aggression fitted nicely with the their strategic goal. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine provided a perfect occasion for demonizing and isolating it internationally and for uniting the West under USA’s guidance on imposing on Russia an unprecedented array of drastic economic and other sanctions. These punitive measures were expected to quickly ruin the Russian economy, hopefully bring down Vladimir Putin’s regime, defeat Russia militarily without losing American lives, and cause the fragmentation of Russia into several states (as elaborated earlier publicly by Zbigniew Brzezinski and the RAND Corporation). However, these hopes have not materialized. Moreover, the effects of the Western sanctions proved to be more harmful to the EU economies than to Russia while in no way helping Ukraine. The two wars compared Still officially undeclared by both direct belligerents, the war in Ukraine is already twice as long as the war in Croatia, and is still ongoing. There are also other important differences caused by the mismatch between Croatia and Ukraine in the size of their population and territory (approximately 1:10), and by the different configuration and extent of the theatres of war. Further, there are differences in the size and structure of the armed forces involved, in the disparities between Serbia’s and Russia’s military capabilities compared to the respective capabilities of Croatia and Ukraine. The war in Ukraine in its second stage is also unlike the war in Croatia due to the massive use of particular weapons systems (notably drones and missiles). Vast differences also exist in the direct involvement of international organizations and other external actors in the two wars. In the autumn of 1991, the European Economic Community (EEC) sent Croatia its first mission of white-clad and unarmed observers who as impartial intermediaries tried unsuccessfully to stop the armed clashes between the Croatian police and Serbian insurgents. The United Nations established UNPROFOR (UN Protection Force) in February 1992, operating from Zagreb. It was followed by UNCRO (UN Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia) in 1995–1998, UNTAES (UN Transitional Administration in Eastern Croatia) in 1996–1998, and UNMOP (UN Mission of Observers in Prevlaka) in 1996–1997. For several years, the UN-supported International Conference on Former Yugoslavia was active operating from Geneva. In comparison, there have been no UN or EU peacekeeping or observer missions in Ukraine. The UN General assembly has adopted a number of resolutions related to the war in Ukraine. In several resolutions it deplored and condemned Russia’s invasion with huge majorities for and only five votes against. The OSCE had no observer missions in Croatia, but deployed two such missions in Ukraine, notably the sizeable OSCE Special Monitoring Mission from 2015 until March 2022. In addition, the OSCE played an active role in facilitating the Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 ceasefire agreements. Extra-regional states were not openly involved in the war in Croatia. In 1991–1992, the Croatian forces included 456 foreign fighters (British, French, German, accompanied by about 2,000 private American military instructors. On the other hand, Ukraine has received huge support from several dozen foreign states, in particular the USA, as well as other NATO and EU members in the form of heavy arms, ammunition, training, intelligence, economic and humanitarian assistance. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, since 2022, 13.387 foreign fighters, mercenaries and volunteers joined the Ukrainian Army of whom 5.962 lost their lives. Polish citizens have been most numerous in both categories – 2.960 enlisted and 1.497 dead. They are followed by Americans and others. This strong external involvement transformed the local war into an extra-regional armed conflict between Russia and the US-led collective West, with Ukraine acting and sacrificing its soldiers and itself as the West’s proxy. The war in Croatia and its outcome were closely linked with the war in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, while there has been no similar regional linkage of the war in Ukraine. The war in Ukraine has also had by far a bigger international political and economic impact on other countries, not only in Europe, than the war in Croatia. Most importantly, there are enormous differences between the two wars in the number of dead (at least 1:25), number of refugees and displaced persons (approximately 1:25), and extent of destruction and amount of economic damage (at least 1:20). The war has inflicted considerably greater damage on Ukraine as a state and on Ukrainian society than the war did on Croatia. Since 2014, the population under Kyiv’s control has so far been reduced by at least one-third and the territory by close to one-fifth. It is estimated that the Ukrainian Army, National Guard and volunteers have suffered well over 400,000 deaths. Ukraine has also lost a good deal of its industrial capacity, agriculture, energy generation and critical infrastructure. The war’s continuation suits the USA’s geostrategic, chiefly anti-Russian objectives, whereas Ukraine is paying a horrible price for them. The dragging on war of attrition is sapping Ukraine’s ability to sustain itself, at least in its already rump shape. It increases the probability of Ukraine becoming (again) a landlocked country on less than a half of its territory internationally recognized since 1992. The first stage of the war in Ukraine and the war in Croatia revealed substantial similarities as far as their causes and destructive consequences were concerned. On the other hand the second stage of the war in Ukraine strongly differs by being predominantly an interstate war and the first interstate armed conflict in Europe caused by NATO enlargement. As a result, the war in Ukraine is sharply distinguished by its magnitude, destructive outcomes, violations of international humanitarian law, international impact, and the involvement of great powers. At the beginning of the second stage of the war in Ukraine, the Russian Army pre-empted the anticipated Ukrainian version of an offensive akin to the Croatian operations “Flash” and “Storm”. It not only prevented the possibility of Volodimir Zelenski’s triumphant entrance in Donetsk like Franjo Tudjman’s entrance in Knin. The Russian Federation also annexed four Ukrainian provinces with Russian and Russian-speaking majorities in their populations and the Russian Army occupied a good share of them. In 2014 and 2022, Moscow thus took back a considerable part of former Novorossiya given to Soviet Ukraine in 1920 and 1954. Unlike in Croatia, but like in Kosovo (1999) the war in Ukraine has extended the list of the more than three dozen new or de facto changed borders between European states since 1945. Responsibility for the war in Ukraine In a speech given at the UN General Assembly, US President Joe Biden ascribed Russia with full responsibility for the war in Ukraine. Yet, in fact, a number of states are directly responsible or co-responsible for its outbreak and continuation, including notably USA. First, the war was initiated by the Ukrainian Army in April 2014 according to orders of the Ukrainian interim Presidency. Under two subsequent Presidents Poroshenko and Zelenski, Ukraine violated two armistice agreements and sabotaged realization of the Minsk 2 agreement on peaceful resolution of the Donbas conflict. President Zelenski failed to fulfil his pre-election pledge to end the war, a pledge that had seen him win the election in 2019. On 21 March 2021, he ordered the Ukrainian Army to attack Donbas and Crimea in direct violation of both the Minsk 2 agreement and of international law. The Ukrainian leadership’s orders to steeply increase the artillery shelling of Donetsk from February 16, 2022 on, together with the movement of troops provoked an invasion by the Russian army. This led to the armed conflict transforming from an internal to largely an interstate war. In April 2022, President Zelenski reneged on an initialed agreement with the Russian Federation on resolving the conflict, as forged with assistance from the leaders of Israel and Turkey as intermediaries. Ukraine is responsible for the casualties and damage caused by its forces in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation. On the other hand, the Russian Federation has grossly violated the UN Charter, the Helsinki principles, and a dozen international treaties and agreements by which it guaranteed Ukraine’s security and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders. In February 2014, it committed an act of aggression by occupying and annexing Crimea. On 24 February 2022, it committed a second act of aggression by invading, occupying and annexing four Ukrainian provinces. The Russian Federation is responsible for the casualties and huge damage the Russian armed forces have caused on Ukrainian territory. The leading NATO members are co-responsible for the outbreak and continuation of the interstate conflict and war in and over Ukraine. This primarily applies to the USA, which knowingly unleashed a chain reaction in the conflictual relations between NATO and Russia. The USA used NATO to embroil EU in this conflict, even though that contradicts the objective economic and other interests of many EU members, notably Germany. This chain reaction led to the political conflict deteriorating into a war in which the USA is using Ukraine as a tool to harm and weaken Russia. Germany and France with their swindling signatures under the Minsk 2 agreement and with subsequent policies for 7 years allowed Ukraine’s sabotaging of peaceful solution of the Donbas conflict. As leaders in the European Union’s collective foreign policy, they encouraged and supported Ukraine’s active preparations for a war with Russia. The Western powers became co-responsible for the transformation from a relatively limited internal war in Ukraine into a wider, much more lethal, bloody and destructive, predominantly interstate war. In April 2022, the USA and Great Britain prevented the conclusion of an initialed Russian-Ukrainian agreement on resolving the conflict. The members of NATO and EU by politically encouraging and by providing arms and funds to Ukraine have been enabling the continuation of this war. Without this intrusion, the war in Ukraine would already be over and very probably on better terms for Ukraine than there will actually be. The NATO and EU members will certainly fail to achieve their main declared goal – Ukraine’s victory and hence Russia’s military and political defeat. This applies chiefly to the leader of the West. After that in Afghanistan, the USA will suffer one more political defeat. On the other hand, the USA has this time been rather successful in realizing several related goals. The USA has solidified its hegemony in the Western camp and in most of Europe, reactivated NATO, attracted two new members Finland and Sweden, bolstered its dominant role in the alliance, subordinated even further and simultaneously economically and politically weakened the European Union, for quite some time poisoned Germany’s and the EU’s relations with Russia, and inflicted very considerable economic and political damage on Russia. Conclusion Ukraine is today much farther away from accomplishing its cardinal strategic goal – to re-establish its sovereignty on the entire internationally recognized territory – than it was in February 2022, let alone in February 2014. Moreover, another goal remains unattained. It was stated in Zelenski’s decree as a condition for lifting the prohibition on any negotiations with the Russian Federation – to remove Putin from the position of President. However, with his mandate expired in May 2024 Zelenski himself will certainly be out of his presidential office much sooner than Putin will be from his. On the other hand, the Russian Federation has achieved some of its strategic goals, albeit not the two declared principal ones – Ukraine’s permanent “neutralization” and “demilitarization”. Due to the two sides’ mutually excluding objectives, the final outcome of the war in Ukraine will not be decided around a diplomatic table as a compromise. Like what happened in Croatia in August 1995 and very recently in September 2023 with the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh, it will be decided on the battlefield. Still, the outcome will be very different from both cases mentioned above and certainly will not be viewed as just by both belligerents. Just like how almost all wars end. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY Baud, Jacques (2023): Ukraine entre Guerre et Paix. Paris, Max Milo. Bebler, Anton (ed.). (2015): ‘Frozen conflicts’ in Europe. Opladen, Barbara Budrich. 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