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Diplomacy
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 et.al.), 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. Brzezinski, Zbigniew (1997): Geostrategy for Eurasia. Foreign Affairs 76 (5): 56–68. Goldstein, Ivo (2008): Hrvaška zgodovina. Ljubljana, Društvo Slovenska Matica. Larrabee, F. Stephen, Peter A. Wilson and John Gordon (2015): The Ukrainian Crisis and European Security. Santa Monica, RAND Corporation. Maver, Aleš (2023): Ukrajina: Od Igre Prestolov do Vojne za Samostojnost. Celje, Celjska Mohorjeva Družba. Pleiner, H. (2023): Der Konflict um die Ukraine. ÖMZ 5: 571–583. Wien. Plokhy, Serhii (2022): Vrata Evrope: zgodovina Ukrajine. Ljubljana, UMCO.

Diplomacy
Chess from flags of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. Relations between Russia and China and military cooperation

China, Russia, Iran, North Korea: the new autocrat pact?

by Radu Vranceanu , Marc Guyot

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском It has to be said that the "liberal democratic" model, combining political democracy and a market economy, has struggled to gain traction on a global scale. Instead, in some countries, a hybrid type of regime, which could be defined as "autocratic liberal", has imposed itself over time. This model is based on leadership with little or no democracy, which nonetheless relies on a mix of dirigisme and a market economy to ensure economic growth. The "CRINK" or the alliance of authoritarian powers In contrast to liberal democracies, authoritarian regimes prioritize economic growth as an end in itself. For instance, in China, growth targets are often set by the authorities, with society expected to adapt regardless of the sacrifices involved. The leaders' priority is supremacy in civil and military technologies and control of resources. In such a framework, improving people's standard of living is merely a collateral benefit, subordinate to the primary objective and dispensable as deemed necessary. While respect for human rights is a fundamental pillar of liberal democracies, it is neither a priority nor a constraint for the leaders of these authoritarian nations. In general, their leaders are openly opposed to "Western hegemony". Many leaders of emerging countries show their sympathy for these authoritarian countries; at the very least, they trade with them without any problem. On the military and defence front, the liberal democracies of Europe and North America are grouped around NATO. The United States, as the leader of this organization, has consistently allocated more than 3.4% of its GDP to military spending for many years and boasts substantial armed forces, exemplified by its operation of eleven aircraft carriers as of 2023. Until a few months ago, in Western countries, the invasion of Ukraine was seen more as an isolated Russian action, blamed on Vladimir Putin's hubris. The possibility of coordination between autocrats was not envisaged. However, this perspective is rapidly evolving. In a report to the Senate in April 2024, General Chris Cavoli, Commander of the US Armed Forces in Europe, highlighted the emergence of an "axis of adversaries", which includes China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. On 6 April, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the BBC in an interview that China, Russia, Iran and North Korea were increasingly cooperating against Western democracies and were now forming an "alliance of authoritarian powers". We propose to use the acronym CRINK to denote this informal coalition sharing common economic and strategic interests. Beneath the surface of various incidents, there appears to be tangible coordination among the CRINK countries. Beyond coincidences Since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has deployed a significant portion of its armed forces to advance into Ukrainian territory, marking the largest conflict in Europe since the Second World War and resulting in numerous military and civilian casualties. Ukraine has recently reported the loss of 31,000 servicemen since the conflict's onset, a figure that may be underestimated, while Russian losses are believed to be even higher. Despite these casualties, Russia continues to maintain the intensity of its war effort. To date, the Russian army in Ukraine estimated to consist of around 470,000 personnel, representing a 15% increase since the invasion began. Meanwhile, China has escalated the frequency of its military maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait and increased surveillance activities in the region. The simultaneous occurrence of Russian expansionism toward the West and China's heightened communication efforts regarding Taiwan does not appear to be coincidental. This hypothesis gains credence from the numerous summit meetings between the leaders of both nations in 2023, as well as their resounding declarations of unwavering friendship, particularly evident when they announced their "comprehensive strategic partnership for a new era" on November 11. On April 12th, the United States publicly disclosed classified documents revealing that Beijing was supplying Russia with engines for drones and cruise missiles, in addition to military electronic components and satellite surveillance technology. Iran has been escalating its production of enriched uranium and, according to the US military, is providing support to Hamas and attacks on commercial vessels by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. In response to targeted Israeli strikes, Tehran launched a swarm of drones and missiles against military targets in Israel on the night of April 13th - marking its first direct attack. The destabilization of the Red Sea region and the ongoing conflicts in the Gaza Strip, as well as increasingly in southern Lebanon, appear to signify Iran's efforts to weaken the United States' military effectiveness. This strategy forces the US to maintain a presence on multiple fronts, which in turn reduces the availability of American arms and munitions for Ukraine. Meanwhile, North Korea is intensifying its provocations by conducting launches of very long-range ballistic missiles and issuing threats of nuclear attacks against South Korea. Mutual sanctions In economic terms, the "war" between the two blocs has already begun. The United States and its allies have been implementing though economic sanctions on Iran for several years, and on North Korea and Russia since 2022. Primarily, these sanctions aim to restrict the ability of these nations to modernize their defense industrial base. In the case of Iran, to slow down its military nuclear program. While there is no overt conflict between China and the West, both the United States and European countries have been pursuing economic decoupling from China for some time. In 2017, convinced that China was not adhering to its commitments regarding free two-way trade, Donald Trump initiated an economic offensive against China by imposing heavy tariffs. Beijing responded by imposing equivalent tariffs on US products. Trump's strategic objectives were twofold: first, to reduce American economic reliance on China, and second, to slow down Chinese technological advancements in the military field by embargoing the export of militarily sensitive American technologies. Joe Biden has not only continued but also reinforced the policy of economic decoupling, intensifying the tariff war and advocating for a "made-in-USA" strategy. Additionally, he has tightened controls on military components bound for China, extending beyond the strict embargo on exports to Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Since December 2023, companies benefiting from subsidies under the microprocessor development program (CHIPS Act of 2022) have been barred from engaging with countries deemed “concerns”. The official list of these countries includes all CRINK members. Europeans have also adopted a strategy aimed at diminishing their reliance on China and revitalizing their industrial sector. It is noteworthy, for instance, that 50% of the world's nitrocellulose fiber exports originate from China, despite these fibers being crucial components for shells, which are currently in short supply on the Ukrainian front. In 2022, the EU implemented a directive safeguarding the single market against subsidized imports from third countries, primarily targeting China. Subsequently, in September 2023, the EU established an anti-coercion mechanism designed to counter countries attempting to dictate policy changes within EU Member States by imposing trade restrictions. Lithuania, for example, faced restrictive trade measures imposed by China after signing a trade agreement with Taiwan in 2021. On the other hand, Russia relied on the threat of cutting off gas supplies to weaken European economic and military support for Ukraine—a strategy that ultimately failed as Europe swiftly diversified its gas sources by turning to alternative countries. Nevertheless, CRINK members, alongside nations like India and Brazil, facilitated Russia's resilience to economic sanctions by not only replacing its former customers and suppliers but also by redirecting trade flows towards Asia. In the first quarter of 2024, Russia's trade surplus reached $22 billion, compared to $15.4 billion during the same period in 2023. According to The Economist, China's imports of Russian oil have surged from 100,000 barrels per day before the war to 500,000 barrels per day at present. In exchange, Chinese exports to Russia are projected to exceed $100 billion in 2023. Since autumn 2023, China has also implemented restrictions on graphite exports, a crucial conductor for electronic components. Satellite imagery indicates that North Korea and Russia have established an arms-for-oil swap program, while Iran is supplying substantial quantities of drones and military technology to Russia as part of an extensive commercial partnership, which includes the construction of a railway line between the two nations. American ambiguities and hesitations During the peak of the Cold War, the United States prepared to engage in two major conflicts simultaneously. The National Defense Strategic Review of 2022 outlines the goal of securing victory in a potential confrontation first in the Indo-Pacific region, given the threat from China, followed by Europe, in response to the Russian challenge. This somewhat ambiguous prioritization and the realities of the global arms race may indicate potential challenges for the U.S. if faced with fighting two major wars concurrently on separate fronts. As the conflict in Ukraine persists, Western public support for the nation appears to wane. Divisions within the US Congress regarding public spending, influenced by Donald Trump's Republican allies, led to a six-month delay in the approval of the latest aid package for Ukraine. On April 20, the US Congress finally approved $60 billion in aid. The shift in stance from US Congressman Mike Johnson, a close ally of Donald Trump who had long opposed aid for Ukraine, and the subdued response from Trump himself, hint at a potential shift in awareness, possibly influenced by new military intelligence. In the interim, European leaders have partially stepped into the fray, despite constraints stemming from the fragility of their defense industry. Figures like Rishi Sunak, Emmanuel Macron, Georgia Meloni, and Olaf Scholz, alongside other EU leaders, have exhibited robust support for Ukraine, underscored by the signing of decade-long bilateral agreements in February 2024. The Czech Republic has succeeded in setting up a European program for the purchase of artillery ammunition and is due to deliver the first stocks in June. Propelled by European impetus, NATO is contemplating a five-year initiative to fund the acquisition of weapon systems and munitions, with an agreement reached in April to deploy new air defense systems. By 2023, Europe's military spending will have reached $588 billion, 62% more than in 2014. Although European arms and munitions production still trails behind Russia, it is gradually gaining traction. In this context, an increasing number of voices are emphasizing the mistake of viewing the war in Ukraine in isolation, without considering the broader geopolitical landscape and coordination among the CRINK countries. This argument has likely resonated with more hesitant members of the US Congress. Should Russia succeed in asserting its dominance in Ukraine, it's highly probable that this would serve as the initial move in a troubling domino effect. Empowered by this triumph and riding on a favorable momentum, other autocratic regimes could follow suit, embarking on similar actions in territories they lay claim to. The cost of stemming this process would be far greater than that of preventing the first piece from falling.

Defense & Security
USA und Nordkorea. Concept fight, War, Business Competition, Summit

Collapse of the Security Council Panel of Experts and the United States' persecutory obsession with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

by Jesús Aise Sotolongo

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Regarding Linda Thomas-Greenfield's visit to the Republic of Korea. At the end of last March (March 28th), due to Russia's veto and China's abstention in the UN Security Council, it did not extend the mandate of the Panel of Experts of the Sanctions Committee overseeing the implementation of punitive measures against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). This joint action by two of the global powers in the multilateral body has destabilized Washington, which angrily seeks an alternative that allows it to maintain its persecutory actions. Panel of Experts It is pertinent to detail that 18 years ago, under Resolution 1718 (2006), the Security Council established the Experts Group or Panel of Experts of the Sanctions Committee to oversee penalties imposed on the DPRK, which is comprised of eight specialists. In compliance with Resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017), 2375 (2017), and 2397 (2017), the Experts Group has, among other functions: 1. Assist the Sanctions Committee in executing its mandate, as outlined in paragraph 12 of Resolution 1718 (2006) and paragraph 25 of Resolution 1874 (2009); ● Gather, examine, and analyze information provided by Member States, relevant United Nations bodies, and other stakeholders regarding the implementation of measures, particularly focusing on instances of non-compliance; ● Formulate recommendations on actions that the Council, the Committee, or Member States could consider in order to enhance the implementation of measures; ● Submit a midterm report to the Committee and, following deliberations with it, present such report to the Security Council; ● Assist Member States in preparing and submitting national reports on the implementation of specific measures they have adopted to effectively implement the provisions of relevant resolutions; ● Support the Committee's efforts in further developing, improving, and drafting guidance notes for the implementation of resolutions. The members of the Panel of Experts are appointed by the General Secretary of the United Nations, upon the proposal of the referred Sanctions Committee. Members of the Panel of Experts have specialized expertise in areas such as nuclear issues, control of weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms, customs and export controls, non-proliferation policy, trade, finance and economics, air and maritime transportation, and missile and related technologies. The Security Council has urged all States to fully cooperate with the Panel of Experts, particularly by providing any information they possess regarding the implementation of measures. States are encouraged to respond to all requests promptly and comprehensively for information and to invite the Panel of Experts to conduct visits and investigate alleged violations of the sanction’s regime, including inspecting assets seized by national authorities. Its current mandate will expire on April 30, 2024, in compliance with paragraph 1 of Security Council resolution 2680 (2023). Russia’s veto Moscow defended its veto in the Security Council against the renewal of international sanctions monitoring on Pyongyang, stating that it reflects "its current interests." Russia, with its veto, and China, with its abstention, blocked the renewal of the Panel of Experts, and while the sanctions will remain in effect, these actions paralyze the scrutiny of the experts. Russia's so-called "current interests" sparked varied responses ranging from vehement criticism to concerns and speculation. Criticism focuses on Moscow's position undermining multilateral efforts to monitor measures implemented by Pyongyang that circumvent sanctions aimed at blocking its missile-nuclear development, which, according to critics, has implications for international security. Meanwhile, concerns are directed towards the alleged support that the DPRK receives from its regional allies, (Russia and China) for its missile-nuclear development, countries with marked ideological differences and high levels of conflict with the United States. Meanwhile, speculations refer to Moscow's motivations being linked to the support that Russia receives from Pyongyang in arms and ammunition needed for its military operation in Ukraine. Regardless of criticisms, concerns, and speculations, the reality is that we are witnessing the culmination of a gamble that Russia and China have been making in the Security Council for a long time, proposing various initiatives to ease rather than strengthen the sanctions regime and relax its implementation. Meanwhile, their respective governments have issued official statements blaming US hostility and its allies as the fundamental cause for the DPRK choosing nuclear weapons and their delivery systems as the basis of its national defense and continuing to expand and perfect them. Russia's veto and China's abstention have led to the collapse of a structure that has long been in question for a long time, because it could not prevent violations of sanctions by an increasing number of UN Member States. Additionally, it represents a significant victory for the DPRK, which harbored deep animosity towards the Panel of Experts. Furthermore, it confirms the current state of Russo-North Korean and Sino-North Korean political-diplomatic relations in a context of various armed conflicts, both real and potential, that have been shaking the planet. Opposing positions in the General Assembly On April 12th, 2024, the UN General Assembly discussed Russia's veto. Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, argued that his country exercised the veto because UN sanctions against the DPRK have had no significant effect and have only caused a humanitarian crisis for the North Korean people. Meanwhile, China's alternate representative, Geng Shuang, stated that the Korean War has long ended, but the Cold War is still persisting. He reiterated his country's position that "there will be no resolution of the problems if the security concerns of all parties, including the DPRK, remain unaddressed," calling on all actors to work together to adopt a path to peace. He said that tensions are hindering these efforts, and that dialogue is needed, and the Security Council must play an active role. Using a typically Chinese allegory, he stated that "sanctions should not be carved in stone" and added that "harsh sanctions" against the DPRK have had a negative effect on the humanitarian situation in the country. Regarding Russia's new proposal, he expressed hope that Council members will work productively to extend the mandate of the panel of experts, a phrase that justifies China's abstention rather than a veto. The representative of the Republic of Korea to the UN, Hwang Joon Kook, condemned Russia's veto and criticized the military collaboration between Moscow and Pyongyang. He argued that it was vetoed because "Russia did not want the watchtower, the panel, to light its dark spot." He asserted that the Panel had included in its recent report that it had been investigating reports of the arms agreement between the Russian Federation and the DPRK, which constitute a clear violation of multiple Security Council resolutions. Meanwhile, Robert Wood, alternate representative of the United States, said: "...we need to uphold our obligations." He stated that, as the sponsor of the resolution to extend the work of the Panel of Experts, his delegation had sought a broad compromise and that China and Russia had had ample opportunities to discuss sanctions reform in the council. Instead, Russia gave to the Council members an ultimatum that sought one of two outcomes: to avoid sanctions against the DPRK or to silence the panel's investigations, including Moscow's acquisition of arms from Pyongyang for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Russia's veto undermines the architecture of peace and security and deprives action on one of the Council's most pressing issues, that of peace on the Korean Peninsula. "Russia is already threatening to end the mandate of the UN Sanctions Committee that helps the Security Council monitor and take actions to deter threats to international peace and security (...) that is why it is crucial for all of us to raise our voices today in support of the non-proliferation regime, and opposition to the attempts to silence the information, we need to uphold our obligations." Meanwhile, the DPRK ambassador to the UN, Kim Song, said: "The DPRK greatly appreciates the veto by the Russian Federation..." and argued that the Council's sanctions on his country are a product of U.S. hostile policy. "If the DPRK's position of possessing nuclear weapons for self-defense is a threat to international peace and security, as claimed by the United States and its followers, we should first properly discuss why the United States is not considered a threat to international peace and security, even though it is the only country in the world to have used a nuclear weapon..." As can be seen, the contrasts in statements reflect the adversarial positions of the parties most directly involved in the issue. United States seeks for alternatives As expected, Washington immediately began plotting countermeasures in the face of the imminent dissolution of the Group that it had controlled for years. The United States representative to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, during her recent visit to the Republic of Korea, was tasked with addressing this issue, although no concrete proposals were heard. The agenda crafted for the U.S. Ambassador to the UN included several meetings, even with North Korean defectors, and culminated in a visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas, a moment she deemed opportune to express her concern that the DPRK could freely develop missiles without the oversight of the sanctions monitoring body. She stated that Washington is considering "out-of-the-box" options to monitor Pyongyang's compliance with sanctions. "All possibilities are on the table," and her government is "working closely with South Korea and Japan to seek creative and original ways to move forward" in this regard. At the same time, she urged Russia and China to reverse course, to stop rewarding the "misbehavior of the DPRK," and to protect it from sanctions, which allow it to carry out activities on its weapons programs. The diplomat called on Moscow and Beijing to reverse course and urge Pyongyang to choose diplomacy, come to the negotiating table, and engage in constructive dialogue. Considering all possibilities, she stated that it could be within the UN General Assembly, "entities outside of it." We see that Washington is exploring alternative ways to the Group of Experts to continue investigating Pyongyang's sanction violations. During the press conference, Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said, "I look forward to collaborating with both the Republic of Korea and Japan, but also with like-minded countries, to try to develop options both within and outside of the UN. The point here is that we cannot allow the work that the panel of experts was doing to lapse." The U.S. representative to the UN added that Russia and China, which abstained from voting in favor of the extension, will continue to try to block international efforts to maintain monitoring of UN sanctions against the DPRK. She criticized Russia for violating these sanctions with its purchases of North Korean arms and, also China for shielding the North, stating, "I don't expect them to cooperate or agree with any effort we make to find another path, but that won't stop us from finding that path in the future." Recently, Marcus Noland, Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and an expert on Korean affairs, has proposed: ● That the UN General Assembly plays a more significant role in maintaining pressure on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs. This proposal emerged amid the debate over Russia's veto of a resolution to extend the mandate of the panel of experts monitoring sanctions on the DPRK. ● The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), launched on May 31st, 2003, during the George W. Bush era, represents a coalition outside the UN framework, composed of 112 members so far. It aims to stop the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related materials to and from States and non-State actors of proliferation concern. This initiative is part of the foundations of the global regime against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and has maintained strong support as a presidential priority in each of the US’s administrations since its inception. It is known that Washington, in its attempt to ensure the diversification of tools to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and, apparently, foreseeing the eventual deactivation of the Panel of Experts, is seeking to strengthen and expand the PSI. Its active role in this direction involves contributing with experts, diplomats, financiers, military personnel, customs officials, and police; organizing meetings, workshops, and exercises with other States supporting the PSI; and working with specific partner States to enhance their capacity to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. ● Following the example of the United States and South Korea, who recently launched an Enhanced Disruption Working Group and jointly sanctioned six individuals and two entities based in Russia, China, and the United Arab Emirates for supporting the DPRK's weapons of mass destruction programs. According to the expert, in the absence of the Panel of Experts, these sanction’s activities can be expanded and could involve countries allied with the United States. ● Utilization of the Egmont Group, a state-led network of financial intelligence units with 174 members that shares information and collaborates on illicit financial activities. It does not have a mandate in the sanctions area, but that does not mean it cannot be granted one, and if so, the Group could assume an intensified role in monitoring North Korea's sanctions evasion in the financial sphere. The pronouncements of the US Ambassador to the UN at the DMZ suggest that the US State Department is paying attention to Marcus Noland's proposals, which, so far, are identified as the most precise ones that have emerged. However, for now, except for the UN General Assembly, which, due to its plurality, is not likely to be able to assume supervisory functions, the rest of the alternatives lack the authority of the UN as the Panel of Experts of the Sanctions Committee had. Some considerations As the DPRK strengthened its missile and nuclear capabilities, casting doubt on the effectiveness of the sanction’s regime and the performance of the Sanctions Committee's Panel of Experts, this monitoring instrument of the Security Council appeared increasingly biased and uncompromising. Despite Washington and its top allies were intensifying their demands on the State Members to comply with the measures included in the resolutions, many governments avoided implementing the sanctions or did so only partially, in addition, they often failed to submit their reports. The calls from the Chairman of the Sanctions Committee for all Member States to submit their national reports on the implementation of the resolutions comprising the sanction's regime were becoming more frequent, with representatives being reminded that these reports are mandatory. Of all the UN Member States, fewer and fewer delegations were submitting their reports, and some never did. To mitigate the apathy, the Committee held meetings with Regional Groups to ascertain the technical assistance and training needs of Member States for the effective implementation of Security Council resolutions at the national level. It became evident that the most determined to challenge the Panel of Experts were Russia and China, which in the multilateral arena deployed various initiatives to ease the sanctions regime and vetoed new resolutions, while at the same time, they relativized their application bilaterally. Everything seems to indicate that Moscow and Beijing were gauging the "loophole" through which to penetrate and cause the implosion of the Panel of Experts and saw the opportunity by vetoing its extension, which will take effect on April 30. We are witnessing exasperated actions from Washington and its top allies to at least attempt to maintain oversight to contain the nuclearization of the DPRK when they have been unable to do so through other means. However, at the same time, it is observed that the main powers in conflict with the United States are aligned with Pyongyang on various fronts, including the multilateral space, something that is strategically very favorable for all three parties. References Agustín Menéndez. Matando al mensajero: sobre Corea del Norte y las Naciones Unidas – Reporte Asia. Disponible en: https://reporteasia.com/opinion/2024/04/16/matando-mensajero-corea-del-norte-naciones-unidas/ Marcus Noland. Hobbling sanctions on North Korea: Russia and the demise of the UN’s Panel of Experts. Disponible en: https://www.piie.com/blogs/realtime-economics/2024/hobbling-sanctions-north-korea-russia-and-demise-uns-panel-experts Chad O´Carroll. UN General Assembly could monitor North Korea Sanctions, Countries Suggest. Disponible en: https://www.nknews.org/2024/04/un-general-assembly-could-monitor-north-korea-sanctions-countries-suggest/ KBS WORLD. S. Korea Envoy: Russia Vetoed UN Panel Extension to Hide it´s ´Dark Spot´. Disponible en: https://world.kbs.co.kr/service/news_view.htm?lang=e&Seq_Code=184836 UN News General Assembly debates Russia´s veto of DPR Korea sanction Panel. Disponible en: https://news.un.org/en/story/2024/04/1148431 Newsroom Infobae. La embajadora de EEUU ante la ONU visita la Zona Desmilitarizada entre las dos Coreas. Disponible en: https://www.infobae.com/america/agencias/2024/04/16/la-embajadora-de-eeuu-ante-la-onu-visita-la-zona-desmilitarizada-entre-las-dos-coreas/ Ifang Bremer. US exploring alternatives to North Korea sanction panel in and out of UN: Envoy. Disponible en: https://www.nknews.org/2024/04/us-exploring-alternatives-to-north-korea-sanctions-panel-in-and-out-of-un-envoy/ Kim Tong Hyung. Envoy says US determined to monitor North Korea nukes, through UN or otherwise. Disponible en:https://apnews.com/article/us-north-korea-un-sanctions-monitoring-panel-experts-2064dd5d479a672711945f2c6aa6f1 United States Mission to the United Nations. Readout of Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield´s Meeting with Young North Korean Escapees in the-Republic-of-Korea. Disponible en: https://usun.usmission.gov/readout-of-ambassador-linda-thomas-greenfields-meeting-with-young-north-korean-escapees-in-the-republic-of-korea/ Korea Times. US to seek ways to continue sanction monitoring on NK despite uncooperative Russia, China: Envoy. Disponible en: https://m.koreatimes.co.kr/pages/article.asp?newsIdx=372893 United Nations. Security Council Fail to Extend Mandate for Expert Panel Assisting Sanction Committee on Democratic People´s Republic of Korea. Disponible en: https://press.un.org/en/2024/sc15648.doc.htm U.S. DEPARTMENT of STATE. Proliferation Security Initiative. About the Proliferation Security Initiative. Disponible en: http://www.state.gov/proliferation-security-initiative EGMONT GROUP OF FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNITS. Disponible en: https://egmontgroup.org/

Defense & Security
Solomon Islands

Russia and China co-ordinate on disinformation in Solomon Islands elections

by Albert Zhang , Adam Ziogas

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Moscow and Beijing likely worked together to sow disinformation globally that was propagated locally by political parties in the lead-up to Solomon Islands’ national and provincial elections on 17 April 2024. Both countries’ propaganda systems accused the United States, without evidence, of using its foreign aid and networks across the country to interfere in voting and of preparing to foment riots and orchestrate regime change in response to an unsatisfactory election result. This campaign adds to a growing body of evidence showing that China’s and Russia’s ‘no limits’ partnership extends to coordinating their disinformation campaigns in the Indo-Pacific. The narratives haven’t gained widespread attention or media coverage in Solomon Islands. Australia, the United States and other Pacific partners should nonetheless be concerned, as Russia and China can be expected to learn from this campaign and will likely use the lessons to further improve their influence operations in the region. Individually, China and Russia are adept and expert at pushing disinformation to disrupt other nations but, by coordinating their efforts, they have a force-multiplier effect. The campaign consisted of an alleged ‘leaked’ letter, articles published on authoritarian state-controlled media outlets and a fringe journal publication, which were then shared and amplified on social media platforms. A fortnight before election day, an unknown author by the name of Richard Anderson published an explosive article in CovertAction Magazine alleging that the US was seeking regime change in Solomon Islands. The US-based magazine was co-founded in 1978 by the late Philip Agee, a former CIA officer who after his retirement became a vocal critic of the agency and of US policy and had reported links with Soviet and Cuban intelligence. The magazine was set up ‘on the initiative of the KGB’, the Soviet Union’s main intelligence agency, according to a book by KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin and British intelligence historian Christopher Andrew. Anderson had no previous history of writing for CovertAction Magazine. A week after that article was published, Russian state-controlled media agency Sputnik further fuelled the allegations, writing that the US was ‘plotting [an] electoral coup’. This article cited an anonymous source who had ‘intimate familiarity’ with the activities of USAID, the main United States foreign aid and international development agency. This mirrored how Anderson is described in his CovertAction Magazine bio, though Sputnik’s article did not explicitly mention him or his article. Sputnik’s claims were amplified four days later by the Chinese state-controlled tabloid newspaper the Global Times, which did directly reference Anderson’s article and has the potential to legitimise these narratives to an audience the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively targeting. During the same period, a poorly fabricated letter from an unconfirmed (and potentially non-existent) IFES project consultant was circulated among Solomon Islanders by an unknown source claiming that the US was seeking a ‘democratic transition by violent means in necessary circumstances.’ The text in this letter mirrored language used by Sputnik’s alleged anonymous source. Figure 1: Paragraph from Sputnik article (top) and a screenshot of the alleged IFES letter (bottom).     To be clear, there is no evidence that the US, or any other country, is supporting violent riots or interfering in Solomon Islands. Ann Marie Yastishock, US Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, has strongly refuted these allegations. This is not the first time the CCP-controlled media has spread disinformation in Solomon Islands or accused the US of seeking to instigate riots in the country. Following the 2021 Honiara riots, the CCP falsely accused Australia, the US and Taiwan of organising the riots, fomenting unrest and discrediting the relationship between Solomon Islands and China. In contrast, Russian media outlets also covered the 2021 Honiara riots but didn’t promote any explicit accusations of US or foreign interference. This time, China and Russia have been in lockstep. In the lead-up to the April elections, Russian state media was more direct and damning in its reporting with the release of Sputnik’s original article and in the subsequent coordination and dissemination of false narratives alongside Chinese state media. While Sputnik published only one follow-up article to the initial investigation, China’s Global Times was more prolific and varied, with six articles alleging US meddling in Solomon Islands. Of these six articles, four explicitly referenced Sputnik’s claims and two referenced US influence operations in more general terms. The indications of Russia-China propaganda coordination in this campaign were further supported by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) post on 19 April 2024 titled ‘The Hypocrisy and Facts of the United States Foreign Aid’. The post on their website claims the US is giving aid to Solomon Islands, among other countries, only because it sees it as a political threat. This was the first article ever published by the MFA to smear USAID. Moscow, however, has consistently campaigned against USAID since it ejected the US agency from Russia in 2012 for ‘meddling in politics’. Russian media has pushed a consistent narrative that the organisation is a US imperialist tool of regime change, accusing it of fomenting civil unrest and coup attempts as far afield as Belarus, Cuba, Georgia and Mexico. However, this latest attack against USAID appears to be the first where Russia’s narratives are working to the benefit of CCP interests. It’s been clear since at least 2018 that Russian and Chinese state media are converging on media narratives that serve their governments’ strategic and political interests. According to leaked documents from Russian state broadcaster VGTRK, Russian and Chinese propaganda entities also signed an agreement to ‘further cooperate in the field of information exchange, promoting objective, comprehensive and accurate coverage of the most important world events’. While previous ASPI research has demonstrated Russian and Chinese state-coordinated narratives on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the repeated re-airing of Sputnik’s conspiratorial claims of interference in Solomon Islands’ elections in Global Times articles indicates this propaganda cooperation is now a global initiative. There was also some evidence of amplification by inauthentic accounts on social media of these narratives, but they were limited and it is unclear whether they were state linked. For example, one X account with the handle @jv79628 shared the original Sputnik investigation. The account posts links almost exclusively from Sputnik, Global Times, Australian website Pearls and Irritations and videos with artificial intelligence-generated voices from the pro-CCP YouTube channel Chinese Revival, which may be linked to the Shadow Play network previously uncovered by ASPI. Other accounts sharing the original Sputnik report, such as @de22580171, pose as pro-Russian US citizens. They share articles mostly from Sputnik or Russia Today. At the time of publication of this report, Russia’s and China’s state media articles, and the accusations contained in them, have had minimal reach into online Pacific communities. In the public Solomon Islands Facebook groups ASPI viewed, online discourse remains more focussed on the emergence of new coalitions and the election of a new Prime Minister than on discussion of foreign influence or interference. According to Meta’s social monitoring tool, CrowdTangle, none of the articles from the Global Times have been shared in open and public Solomon Islands Facebook groups. However, Sputnik’s first article may have been more successful in reinforcing anti-Western sentiments in outgoing Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s O.U.R. Party, who are strong contenders to be part of the coalition that forms the next government. That article was posted on the O.U.R. Party Solomon Islands Facebook page, which is run by the party, on 10 April. It was reshared to several public Facebook groups in Solomon Islands, including news aggregation sites and local island forum pages. This is significant because it is the first time a news article has been posted on the O.U.R. Party Solomon Islands Facebook page, which typically shares positive images of the party’s activities and political campaigns. As of 1 May 2024, the post (below) has had over 180 interactions, which is higher than the average number of interactions a typical post has on this page. Figure 2: Screenshot of Sputnik article posted in O.U.R Party Solomon Islands Facebook page.     Sogavare, a founding member of the O.U.R. Party, has made similar remarks about ‘foreign forces’ previously. According to an article published in the Solomon Star, when US Ambassador Yastishock visited Solomon Islands in late March to present her letter of credentials to Governor-General John Oti, Sogavare claimed foreign forces were ‘intervening in the national general election’ and ‘may fund some political parties and plan to stage another riot during the election to disrupt the electoral process and undermine social stability’. Despite the low online interaction so far, the barrage of US regime change allegations lays the foundation for future narratives that may resurface if Solomon Islands experiences future unrest. Beijing and Moscow can be expected to learn from these disinformation efforts, leaving the US, Australia and their Pacific partners no room for complacency about the threat the regimes pose, nor the need for effective strategic communication. The Russian and Chinese governments are seeking to destabilise the Pacific’s information environment by using disinformation campaigns and influence operations to undermine traditional partnerships. In this digital age, leaders of governments and civil society across the region need to consistently confront and counter baseless lies pushed by authoritarian state media, such as accusations that the governments of Australia and the US are instigating riots. If they fail to do so, partnerships with, and trust in, democratic countries are at risk of deteriorating, which can reduce the development benefits provided to Pacific Island Countries by Western partners. Australia, the US, and other close Pacific partners, such as Japan, New Zealand and the European Union, must take a stronger stance against false and misleading information that is starting to circulate in the region as a result of authoritarian state-backed disinformation campaigns. These nations must also better support and encourage local media and governments to take further steps to identify and combat false information online. This includes providing more training packages and opportunities for dialogue on media-government communication procedures to tackle disinformation and misinformation. Countering the effects of disinformation requires ongoing efforts to call out false statements, educate the public, and build country-wide resilience in the information environment. Greater transparency and public awareness campaigns from the region’s partners can also help to ‘prebunk’—or anticipate and delegitimise—disinformation and alleviate concerns about malign activity.

Defense & Security
The flag of Russia painted on a wall. Military cooperation between Russia and North Korea

Russia and North Korea: Current State and Prospects of Relations

by Konstantin Asmolov

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to North Korea, or the DPRK, which has been under discussion since January 2024, could not only be perceived as a reciprocal visit after the North Korean leader’s visit to the Russian Far East in the fall of 2023 but also as an extremely important step in bolstering relations between Moscow and Pyongyang. Vladimir Putin visited North Korea in 2020, and along with the inter-Korean summit between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in 2000, this was a landmark event that allowed the DPRK to overcome its foreign policy isolation and Russia to embark on its “pivot to the East.” One could say that the Russian president’s visit to a country, which the Collective West had brandished as a “pariah” state, was a demonstration of Moscow’s reluctance to join the collective condemnation of the Pyongyang regime. Russian-North Korean relations have seen both ups and downs due to Russia’s view on the DPRK’s aspiration to join the nuclear club. On the one hand, Moscow understands Pyongyang’s position, but on the other hand, it does not accept it because it would destroy the existing world order built on the authority of the UN and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Moscow has rather tried to play by the established international rules, and although Russian and U.S. diplomats could argue at length about the extent of sanctions following another nuclear test or missile launch, the idea that every step by the DPRK toward becoming a nuclear power would generate opposition was never questioned. However, since the late 2000s and even more so since the early 2010s, the world has been moving towards a new model of the world order, or rather, it has been a gradual transformation of the old one. The confrontation between the “Collective West” and the “Global South” intensified; the UN and other structures began to turn into a system of justifying double standards, losing the role of an impartial arbiter; and war began making its comeback to politics. In this precarious environment, we see the malfunction of the accepted mechanisms and, although the contours of the new world order have not yet been defined, many elements of the traditional structure of global security are losing their significance. The common political, economic and information space is giving way to the era of blocs, which, due to the competition in the Russia-China-U.S. triangle, inevitably affect Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula. In the meantime, the “Asian NATO,” which was being formed after the trilateral summit in Camp David, seeks to justify its existence by a hypothetical alliance between Moscow and Pyongyang or Pyongyang and Beijing, positioned as an alliance of authoritarian regimes threatening democracy and democratic values. Meanwhile, this cooperation is unproven, to put it mildly, and it is based on innuendos or facts that at best (highly likely) can be regarded as circumstantial rather than direct evidence. Note that the intensification of speculations about some secret arms deals between Moscow and Pyongyang did not begin on the eve of Kim Jong-un’s visit to Russia. This narrative has been on since June-August 2023, against the backdrop of the apparent failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which had suffocated from a shortage of ammunition, among other reasons. This is why the campaign could be viewed as putting pressure on Seoul to reconsider its policy on the supply of ammunition and lethal weapons to Ukraine. In this context, one of the options for further unfolding of events is the so-called “self-fulfilling prophecy” coming true, when cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang may become a response to the actions of their adversaries within the framework of the “security dilemma.” North Korean statements in late 2023 and early 2024 about a radical change in inter-Korean policy and rejection of the unification paradigm caused a stir in expert circles and were even positioned as preparations for a forceful solution to the inter-Korean problem, even though it was more like a model of “non-peaceful coexistence” – something similar to the Soviet-American confrontation in the Cold War era. Meanwhile, South Korean President Yun Seok-yol’s speech in honor of the March First Movement for Independence in 2024, where he actually declared that the liberation of Korea would be fully accomplished only after the elimination of the DPRK, which should take place with the help of the international community, went virtually unnoticed, although in terms of inflaming regional tensions this was a much more serious step. As a result, a more substantial revision of Moscow’s policy toward Pyongyang is expected from the Russian president’s visit to North Korea. The most radical forecasts concern the legitimization of military or military-technological cooperation and, more importantly, Russia’s withdrawal from the regime of international sanctions against the DPRK. As preliminary steps in this direction, Western experts refer to Russia’s position in the UN Security Council, where it first blocked the attempts of the United States and its satellites to further increase sanctions pressure on Pyongyang, and then, using its veto, paralyzed the official group of experts that formally monitored the sanctions regime and its violations that, in fact, proved to be nothing else than another instrument of pressure and name-calling. In this context, Russia’s withdrawal from the sanction regime seems logical, but Moscow is now seriously weighing the risks. On one side of the scale is the benefit of expanding cooperation with the DPRK, as many of its areas are currently blocked by sanctions. On the other is restrictions through the UN, since a situation when a permanent member of the Security Council, which voted in favor of sanctions, openly violates the relevant resolution, will clearly become a reason for a new round of pressure. The arguments that Russia as an aggressor should be expelled from the UN or deprived of its veto power periodically leak into the public domain, and these will have to be reckoned with. That is why Russia’s position currently boils down to the fact that it is against new sanctions, but intends to comply with the old ones, although proceeding from the principle of “what is not forbidden is allowed.” Therefore, when speaking about further expansion of cooperation between the two nations, it is necessary to divide this cooperation into several levels of involvement, the depth of each to depend on a whole set of factors. First of all, the level of confrontation between Russia and the Collective West, the regional situation in Northeast Asia and on the Korean Peninsula, and, to a much lesser extent, on the military and political situation on Russia’s borders. It is not quite likely that Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un sign a number of documents “on the transition to the next level” straight off. Rather, this will be a matter of developing a road map, where a system of cooperation will be worked out in advance, depending on the further development of the situation, with preliminary preparations being made first. The first level of cooperation involves advances in existing areas for collaboration – their intensification is already clearly visible from the increased contacts between the two states in certain areas. First of all, this is the search for ways of economic cooperation that would not violate sanctions or exploit the “gray zones,” at best, to avoid direct accusations. Such work is carried out, including through an intergovernmental commission. The intensification of economic ties, which Western experts pass off as the consequences of the “arms deal,” indirectly proves this, since we are talking about the movement of ships with unknown cargo on board. Second, it is the further development of transportation and communication infrastructure: we can expect not only the construction of a cross-border road bridge and the emergence of a regular railroad service, but also the arrival of Russian cellular communications in the DPRK or the connection of certain segments of the DPRK to the Russian Internet. It is not a question of replacing the existing intranet with something more, but those who have the right or ability to go online will do better. At the same time, cooperation of hacker groups or the training of North Korean specialists in such things will not be possible at the current level of cooperation, but only at the next level, where both countries will be galvanized by a common threat. Third, there are prospects for cooperation in technology. Yet, so far, we’ve been talking not so much about transferring offensive military technologies to the North, but rather about North Korean satellites being launched on Russian carrier rockets, for example, or Russian computing power helping calculate the processes by which a nuclear test will be dictated only by political rather than technological necessity. Fourth, there are prospects for cooperation in tourism, which does not fall under sanctions, given that the DPRK has been investing in attempts to create appropriate infrastructure organized according to European standards. The first group of tourists has already started visiting the DPRK, and if the “first pancake” is not a blob, more tourists will flock to the DPRK from Russia than even from China, as the Chinese have not been visiting Pyongyang too eagerly, despite the fact that the tourist cluster in Wonsan and the modernized cluster in the Kumgang Mountains were originally intended for them. Finally, cooperation in education, healthcare, sports, and culture is very important. Contacts at the level of ministers or their deputies are the clearest sign of diplomatic activity intensification in the spring of 2024. In the future, it may even be a question of saturating North Korean medical centers with Russian equipment or opening a branch of a Russian hospital in Pyongyang with Russian medical staff and modern equipment, designed not only for Russians or other foreigners, but also for the local population. The next level of engagement implies that Moscow and Pyongyang may enter into covert cooperation that violates the sanctions regime but does not directly disregard the UN resolution. Here, it is primarily a matter of using North Korean labor, which has earned a good reputation for its combination of value for money, the lack of criminal inclinations, and relative invisibility not only in Russia’s Far East. Some Russian officials have already announced their desire to import North Korean construction workers, so some Western experts have already accused the countries of organizing such cooperation under the guise of importing students, for example, who, according to Russian law, have the right to work part-time. Other potential areas of cooperation include increased supplies of energy or prohibited dual-use goods that would nevertheless be used for peaceful purposes. In essence, everything that the Western media and biased experts have long accused Moscow and Pyongyang of doing would finally become a reality at this stage. The next level of engagement implies that Russia may bluntly despise the sanctions regime in favor of a full-scale cooperation with the North, including in the military-technical domain. In particular, North Korean construction workers may openly travel to Russia’s Far East under this arrangement. As for military-technical cooperation, Russian carriers will then start launching satellites for dual or military purposes, plus Moscow may start transferring something useful to Pyongyang – more likely elements of technology rather than military equipment. In the extreme case, we could talk about single samples as prototypes for subsequent localization. The same may apply to the transfer of North Korean technologies to Russia, not so much as direct supplies of weapons or armaments, but rather as the creation of opportunities for screwdriver assembly or other options of creating equipment clones. Theoretically, it is possible that the DPRK, while rearming its military units and switching from old to new equipment – for example, from 152 mm caliber to 155 mm caliber – will be dropping “obsolete ammunition” to Russia. However, such options look highly unlikely, because the possibility of an inter-Korean conflict is not going anywhere, and the experience of the North Korean Defense Forces shows how quickly peacetime ammunition stocks are depleted in the event of their use by the standards of a full-scale military conflict rather than a local skirmish. The final level of cooperation, where all restrictions are lifted, can only be possible in case of extreme necessity, as the author believes, because it is associated with too high a level of associated risks. Thus, despite the fact that some representatives of Russia’s patriotic camp would like to take literally the statement that “Russia and the DPRK are in the same trench,” any option of internationalization of the conflict on the Russian side, in the author’s opinion, is not worth the consequences. First, it opens the door for similar actions on either side, which is fraught with volunteers from NATO appearing in sufficient numbers. Second, this would cause logistical and communication problems. Third, a significant part of the Russian mass consciousness will perceive such a step as a weakness of the Kremlin, failing to complete the SMO without external assistance. That is why the author believes that the consequences of the Russian president’s visit to the DPRK are unlikely to have a quick and direct impact on the course of the special military operation. Moreover, in any case, the implementation of the summit decisions will take some time, and the more extensive they are, the more time will be needed to put them into practice. And given the international situation, it will be difficult to separate the long-term consequences of the summit from the reaction to a possible change in the current situation. Anyway, when Vladimir Putin’s visit to North Korea takes place, this will be a landmark demonstration of the new level of relations between the two nations and Moscow’s diplomatic support for Pyongyang. Specific agreements may well be classified as secret, which is why “Scheherazade stops the allowed speeches,” preferring to deal with the analysis of events that have already taken place.

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

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

by Stefan Wolff , Tetyana Malyarenko

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

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

NATO anniversary 2024 - 75 years of the defense alliance

by Christina Bellmann

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français What is required of member states between now and the Alliance's anniversary summit in Washington D.C. from July 9 to 11 75 years after its founding, NATO is facing an unprecedented set of challenges. The global security landscape is changing rapidly - from the ongoing war in Ukraine to crucial elections on both sides of the Atlantic. The summit in Washington D.C. will not only be a celebration of the past, but also a crucial marker for the future direction of the Alliance.  NATO is in troubled waters ahead of its 75th birthday - on the one hand, it is not 'brain dead' but offers protection to new members - on the other hand, the challenges are enormous in view of the war in Ukraine.  In the third year of the war, the military situation in Ukraine is serious. The military is coming under increasing pressure and European partners are delivering too little and too slowly.  Western support must be stepped up in order to influence the outcome of the war - Russia's future behavior towards its neighbors also depends on this.  Elections will be held on both sides of the Atlantic in 2024 - the US presidential election in November will be particularly decisive for NATO.  Two thirds of NATO member states are well on the way to meeting the two percent national defense spending target - Germany in particular must ensure that this target is met in the long term.  Now it is up to the leadership of larger countries such as Germany, France and Poland to develop traction in European defense in order to present a future US president with a resilient burden-sharing balance sheet and not leave Ukraine - and the European security order - in the lurch. Return to the core mission In the 75th year of its existence, the North Atlantic Defense Alliance has returned to its core mission: deterrence and defense against a territorial aggressor. NATO defense planning will be reviewed for its resilience before the NATO summit in Washington D.C. from 9 to 11 July 2024. What challenges does the Alliance face in its anniversary year and what needs to happen between now and the NATO summit to make the summit a success? The state of the Alliance ahead of the summit NATO is in difficult waters ahead of its 75th anniversary. On the one hand, it has proven since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression that it is capable of acting and not brain-dead. The two new members, Finland and Sweden, have given up their decades of neutrality because their populations are convinced that they are better protected against Russian aggression within the 30 allies, despite the excellent condition of their military. On the other hand, the admission process has taken much longer than was to be expected given the high level of interoperability of both countries with NATO standards. It took a good twenty months since the application was submitted for both flags to fly on the flagpoles in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels - the internal blockade by Turkey and Hungary is an expression of the Alliance's challenge to maintain a united front against the Russian threat. The Vilnius decision of 2023 to adhere to the previous two percent target for annual defense spending as a percentage of national gross domestic product (GDP) as a minimum figure in future and even to strive for additional spending beyond this is an enormous effort for the members of the alliance - and the biggest point of criticism from its sceptics. The implementation of this goal goes hand in hand with the further development of the defense posture, which was also decided in Vilnius. This includes new regional defense plans that provide for more combat-capable troops that can be deployed more quickly. The Washington summit will show how far the Alliance has come in this respect in a year - gaps between targets and actual capabilities would consequently have to be covered by investments that go beyond the two percent GDP contributions. There are also a number of other important events and factors that will influence the summit. Ukraine's military situation In the third year of the war, the military situation in Ukraine is serious. The fighting has largely turned into a war of position, with high casualties on both sides. The sluggish supply of support from the West means that the Ukrainians have to make do with significantly less than their defense needs. The European Union has failed to meet its promise to deliver one million 155-millimetre shells within a year (by March 2024), while the Russian war economy is producing supplies in multiple shifts. This imbalance is making itself painfully felt in the Ukrainian defense - due to the material deficit, nowhere near enough Russian positions can be eliminated and Russian attacks repelled, and Ukrainian personnel on the front line are depleted. President Volodymyr Zelensky is coming under increasing pressure to mobilize fresh forces for the front. As a result, the Ukrainian military is having to give up some of its terrain in order to conserve material and personnel and take up the most sustainable defensive position possible for the coming weeks and months until relief hopefully comes. comes.1 The Czech initiative to procure half a million rounds in 155 millimeter caliber and 300,000 rounds in 122 millimeter caliber on the world market for Ukraine by June 2024 is urgently needed - but it does not change the fact that Europe and the West are delivering too little and too late, despite the efforts that have been made so far and must continue to be made.2 Even if the US and Europe were to produce at full speed, it would only be half of what Russia produces and receives in support from its allies. Western support therefore urgently needs to be ramped up, as it is of crucial importance for the outcome of the war - and for Russia's future behavior in its neighborhood. Upcoming elections A series of landmark elections will take place on both sides of the Atlantic in the run-up to the summit. The US presidential elections in November 2024 will be of the greatest importance for the future direction of NATO. To date, the USA has been the largest single supporter of Ukraine in the military field; in addition, the USA has decisive weight in the coordination of concrete support from NATO countries - the German Chancellor has repeatedly oriented himself towards US arms deliveries when it comes to the question of German support or even made this a condition for his own commitments.3 While the Democrats in the US Congress continue to support aid packages to Ukraine, the Republican Party is dominated by voices around presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for this "European war" to be left to the Europeans and for domestic challenges to be addressed instead.4 This has led to a months-long blockade of further aid amounting to 60 billion US dollars in the US House of Representatives, which is led by a wafer-thin majority of Republicans. Ukraine urgently needs these supplies to avert shortages in ammunition and air defense. At the time of publication of this Monitor, a release of the funds is not in sight. In terms of foreign policy, there is a bipartisan consensus that the real danger for the USA lies in a systemic conflict with China. Among Republican supporters, impatience with the continuation of the war is increasing, while approval for further support for Ukraine is decreasing. The mood among the general population is similar: between April 2022 and September 2023, the view that the US is doing "too much" for Ukraine increased (from 14% to 41%).5 On the European side, the most important milestone for further support for Ukraine is the election of the new European Parliament from 6 to 9 June 2024. Since the outbreak of the war, approval ratings in the EU for support for Ukraine have been remarkably stable.6 Even in the face of a sometimes difficult economic environment in the 20 eurozone states, approval ratings for the continuation of aid to Ukraine have only fallen slightly in a few EU states - starting from a high level. While the broad center of the EP groups (EPP, S&D and Renew) are united in their support for Ukraine and the transatlantic alliance, the foreign and security policy positioning of the far-right parties of the ECR and ID groups and the non-attached groups is not always clear. According to Nicolai von Ondarza and Max Becker from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), while the ECR parliamentary group "largely plays a constructive and compatible role" in foreign and security policy, including with regard to NATO and Ukraine, parts of the ID parliamentary group such as the French Rassemblement National (RN) or the German AfD either voted against resolutions critical of Russia in parliament or abstained.7 According to Olaf Wientzek from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, both the ECR and ID can expect significant seat gains in the upcoming EP elections.8 In terms of numbers, the ID and ECR groups are competing with Renew to be the third strongest force behind the EPP and S&D - according to current estimates, they all have between 80 and 90 seats. It would be conceivable for the currently non-attached Hungarian Fidesz (currently 13 MEPs) to join both the ECR and ID. In view of the increasing co-decision role of parliament - including for further Ukraine support packages - it is important for the EU how these parties and party alliances position themselves in terms of foreign and security policy.9 In fact, parties in the ID faction represent Russian propaganda within Europe in order to exert influence through disinformation, subversion and mobilization and thus undermine the social consensus with regard to Ukraine and NATO.10 This may also become apparent in individual elections, such as in the eastern German states in September 2024. Economic pressure - prioritizing defence? Global inflation averaged 6.2% in 2023. Current forecasts assume falling inflation rates in the Euro-Atlantic region over the course of 2024 to 2026.11 At the same time, however, global economic growth of 3.1% (2024) and an expected 3.2% (2025) compared to the previous year is well below the projections for the post-pandemic recovery.12 The combination of higher consumer prices and slower economic recovery continues to pose the risk of declining approval for strong support within the populations of the European Ukraine-supporting states. Protests in the face of announcements of cuts in various policy areas have demonstrated this in Germany and Europe over the past year. This does not make it easy to prioritize defence spending from a national perspective for the coming years. In the case of Germany, the defense budget is competing with all other departments in the budget negotiations for 2025, which are calling for an increase in social spending and investments in view of the current burdens on the population.13 At the same time, inflation does not stop at military procurement. As early as 2022, Germany therefore had to cancel a number of planned procurement projects due to increased costs.14 The cost increase also affects the maintenance of existing equipment and personnel. Even if Germany nominally reaches the two percent target in 2024, the increases in national defense spending within the Alliance will actually be lower when adjusted for inflation. Systemic threat from China The increasing systemic confrontation with China is not only identified in the US national security strategy; for the first time, China was classified as a concrete threat by NATO in its Strategic Concept of 2022. China is threatening to annex the democratically governed island of Taiwan to its territory, possibly by military means.15 This would have enormous global escalation potential and far-reaching effects on important international sea routes. Concerns about free trade routes are leading to a convergence of threat perceptions on both sides of the Atlantic. As a result, many European partners are rethinking their relations with China - as is Germany in its China strategy. China's global ambition to restructure the existing multilateral order according to its own ideas does not only affect Taiwan's independence. China's supremacy in key technical and industrial sectors as well as critical infrastructure, rare raw materials and supply chains would lead to a deepening of existing dependencies. Because the USA sees China as a systemic threat to international order, freedom and prosperity, it has been refocusing its efforts since President Obama took office. European NATO partners are therefore expected to invest in Europe's security themselves. Only greater burden-sharing by the Europeans would enable the USA to focus its attention more strongly on the Indo-Pacific. Challenges in new dimensions In addition to the geopolitical challenges outlined above, NATO designated space in 2019 as an additional battlefield to the existing fields - land, air, sea and cyberspace - due to its increased importance.16 In recent decades, China has rapidly expanded its presence in space in both the civilian and military sectors.17 The war in Ukraine has once again underlined the importance of satellite-based intelligence and the significance of connected weapons for combat. In addition, the effects of man-made climate change, which also have an impact on security in the Euro-Atlantic alliance area, have recently become increasingly apparent. At the 2021 NATO summit in Brussels, the Alliance set itself the goal of becoming a leading international organization in understanding and adapting to the effects of climate change on security.18 To this end, it adopted the "Climate Change and Security Action Plan". The NATO countries' homework A successful NATO summit in the anniversary year 2024 would send an important signal of the unity and defense capability of the Euro-Atlantic alliance in the face of Russia's breach of international law in a time of systemic competition. NATO member states are confronted with a complex threat situation ahead of the next summit in Washington D.C.. These give rise to various requirements: More NATO members must reach the two percent target In financial terms, the Washington summit will probably be considered a success if a substantial number of member states reach the two percent target. In 2023, this was the case for eleven countries (Poland, USA, Greece, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Latvia, UK, Slovakia).19 In February 2024, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on the sidelines of a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group in Brussels that 18 countries would reach the target by the summit.20 Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Denmark, Albania and North Macedonia are the countries that have recently reached the target.21 The newest NATO member, Sweden, increases the number to.19 Achieving the two percent target for defense spending is not an end in itself. The discussion within NATO as to whether one should deviate from the numerical contribution target and instead assess the actual capabilities contributed by the individual member states is not a new one. Amounts of money to measure collective defense remain the simplest way to approximate burden-sharing within NATO - and until all countries have achieved this, it will remain the relevant metric in the political discussion. From NATO's perspective, the gap between the desired capabilities listed in the defense plans and the troop contingents registered by the member states has widened steadily of late. In reality, there is no way around increased defense spending in order to adequately equip the required personnel, who would have to be subordinate to the NATO Supreme Allied Commander (SACEUR) in an emergency - from a military perspective, the demand is therefore increasingly being made that two percent should be the minimum target. In order to achieve all the required capabilities, larger contributions are needed from all nations. Due to the threat situation and political pressure, it seems possible that 21 countries, i.e. two thirds of the member states, will meet the two percent target by the NATO summit in Washington. In addition to the 19 countries mentioned above, these are France22 and Montenegro.23 Turkey wants to achieve the target by 2025,24 although this commitment is uncertain in view of the poor economic situation. Italy wants to spend two percent within the next two years25, while Norway should reach the target by 2026 according to Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere26. Slovenia has set 2027 as the target date for meeting the commitments27, while Portugal, Spain and Belgium have set 2030 as the target date. Canada (1.38%), Croatia (1.79%) and Luxembourg (0.72%) have not provided any information. Reduce bureaucracy, speed up procurement In material terms, the main aim is to convert the increased defense spending into "material on the farm" in a timely manner. To achieve this, the planning and procurement processes in many European countries need to be accelerated, made less bureaucratic and at the same time better coordinated. The common European defense will require massive improvements in the coming years. Some announcements have already been made during the pre-election campaign for the European Parliament; here, too, what counts is how the announcements are implemented after the election. Progress must also be made in the area of research and development in order to invest scarce resources in state-of-the-art systems. The question of joint development versus off-the-shelf procurement of available equipment will also have to be decided in many cases. A rethink in European procurement is essential for this. This is primarily the responsibility of the European nation states: long-term contracts with the arms industry must be concluded urgently, cooperation initiated and loans granted for production. Strengthening EU-NATO cooperation and NATO partnership policy NATO's Strategic Concept and the EU's Strategic Compass show a strong convergence in threat analysis. The EU has effective starting points and tools, particularly for cross-cutting challenges such as combating climate change, the threat of hybrid attacks and the protection of critical infrastructure. With the European Peace Facility and other instruments, a concrete institutional framework has been created to strengthen the European pillar in NATO and contribute to fairer burden-sharing on both sides of the Atlantic. The EU and NATO should further intensify the exchange on common challenges and utilize the strengths of the respective forum. In addition to the partnership with the EU, the member states should continue to promote NATO's partnership policy. 2024 marks the 25th anniversary of NATO's eastward enlargement and the 30th anniversary of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. In view of a global confrontation with Russia and an increasingly aggressive China, it is worth taking a look at the instruments that were devised during the Cold War with a view to 'like-minded' partners outside the Alliance. NATO's partnership policy - adapted to the new circumstances - is an ideal instrument for forging close ties with democratic nations in the Indo-Pacific that share NATO's interests and values.28 Investing in interoperability NATO must continue to act as a "guardian of standards" in favor of military interoperability. This year's major exercises as part of "Steadfast Defender 2024" and "Quadriga 2024" will show, among other things, which weaknesses still exist in the various dimensions of interoperability in practical tests. In addition, care must be taken to ensure that military innovations from pioneers within NATO do not leave the Alliance's other allies behind in technical terms. This does not mean that technological progress is slowed down in a race to the bottom; instead, member states with lower expenditure on research and development must be enabled to catch up more quickly - especially in areas such as space technology and the use of artificial intelligence in warfare, it is becoming increasingly important to avoid the technological gap between the members of the alliance. What does this mean for Germany? The Federal Chancellor's announcement on February 27, 2022 that the establishment of the 100 billion euro special fund heralded a turning point in Germany's security policy was seen everywhere in Germany and within the Alliance as the right decision in view of Russia's aggression. In his speech, Olaf Scholz emphasized that Germany was not seeking this expenditure to please allies. The special fund serves national security. However, the acute threat to European security remains and although the NATO target will be reached in 2024, the future of Germany's defense budget is anything but certain. However, investment in the Bundeswehr's defense capabilities is essential to contribute to credible deterrence. The foundation for securing sustainable defense spending in Germany's medium-term financial planning must be laid now, otherwise two percent - depending on the spending status of the special fund - may already be unattainable in 2026, when the regular federal budget is once again used as the basis for calculating the NATO target. As the budget for 2025 will not yet have been decided at the NATO summit in July 2024, the Chancellor will need to make a credible commitment to the allies that Germany will not fall behind. The Bundeswehr will also have to stretch itself enormously in order to achieve the troop levels announced for the new defense plans. The number of servicewomen and men is currently stagnating at just under 182,000. 29 In order to be able to provide the brigade in Lithuania in addition to the nationally required forces and to meet the division commitment for 2026, the Bundeswehr must come significantly closer to the target figure of 203,300 active servicewomen and men by 2027.30 The questions of how many of the 182,000 soldiers available on paper are also willing to become part of the brigade in Lithuania and how many of the total number are actually deployable in an emergency have not even been asked at this point. What counts now - political leadership The security situation in Europe is serious and NATO has no shortage of challenges in its 75th year of existence. It is in good shape to meet these challenges and has welcomed two strong nations into its ranks, Finland and Sweden. However, it is now important not to let up in the efforts that have been agreed. A united external stance is key here, as the current NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg never tires of emphasizing. His successor will have to continue this. Even more important, however, are actual, concrete and substantial actions - the English expression "put one's money where one's mouth is" must be the leitmotif of all European NATO nations in view of the US elections at the end of the year, regardless of the outcome. Ultimately, political leadership is what counts within the alliance in virtually all the areas mentioned - and it matters now. Many smaller countries in Europe look to the larger member states such as Germany, France and Poland for leadership. This applies both in terms of sustainable compliance with the two percent target and when it comes to political agreement and cooperation in the field of armaments. Here, the larger states have a role model and leadership function that can develop traction and pressure on the Alliance as a whole. This political leadership will be more important than ever for the European representatives in NATO in 2024. At the moment, however, it seems questionable whether the current leadership vacuum can be filled before the NATO summit. Germany, France and Poland have not yet been able to develop a jointly coordinated stance that could have a positive effect. It is therefore also questionable whether the NATO summit will be able to send important signals beyond the minimum objectives. The US presidential election hangs over everything like a sword of Damocles - the erratic leadership style of another US President Donald Trump could be difficult to reconcile with the strategic goals of the alliance. Imprint This publication of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V. is for information purposes only. It may not be used by political parties or election campaigners or helpers for the purpose of election advertising. This applies to federal, state and local elections as well as elections to the European Parliament. Publisher: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V., 2024, Berlin Design: yellow too, Pasiek Horntrich GbR Produced with the financial support of the Federal Republic of Germany. References 1 Reisner, Markus: So ernst ist die Lage an der Front. In: Streitkräfte und Strategien Podcast, NDR Info, 12.03.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/0ne7 2 Zachová, Aneta: Tschechische Initiative: Munition für Ukraine könnte im Juni eintreffen. Euractiv, 13.03.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/gofh 3 Besonders eindrücklich bleibt das Beispiel der Lieferung schwerer Waffen in Erinnerung: so rang sich Bundeskanzler Scholz zur Freigabe der Lieferung Leopard-Panzer deutscher Fertigung erst nach amerikanischer Zusage von Abrams-Panzern von militärisch zweifelhaftem Mehrwert durch. 4 Dress, Brad: Ramaswamy isolates himself on Ukraine with proposed Putin pact. In: The Hill, 01.09.2023, online unter: https://ogy.de/c9ow 5 Hutzler, Alexandra: How initial US support for aiding Ukraine has come to a standstill 2 years later. ABC News, 24.02.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/h0z6 6 Grand, Camille u.a.: European public opinion remains supportive of Ukraine. Bruegel, 05.06.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/ipbu 7 von Ondarza, Nicolai und Becker, Max: Geostrategie von rechts außen: Wie sich EU-Gegner und Rechtsaußenparteien außen- und sicherheitspolitisch positionieren. SWP-aktuell, 01.03.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/a62v 8 Wientzek, Dr. Olaf: EVP-Parteienbarometer Februar 2024 - Die Lage der Europäischen Volkspartei in der EU. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 06.03.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/fv9b 9 s. Footnote 7 10 Klein, Margarete: Putins „Wiederwahl“: Wie der Kriegsverlauf die innenpolitische Stabilität Russlands bestimmt. In: SWP-Podcast, 06.03.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/7i5s 11 Potrafke, Prof. Dr. Niklas: Economic Experts Survey: Wirtschaftsexperten erwarten Rückgang der Inflation weltweit (3. Quartal 2023). ifo-Institut, 19. Oktober 2023, online unter: https://ogy.de/wunq 12 Umersbach, Bruno: Wachstum des weltweiten realen Bruttoinlandsprodukts (BIP) von 1980 bis 2024. Statista, 07.02.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/5ohz 13 Petersen, Volker: Ampel droht Zerreißprobe: Vier Gründe, warum der Haushalt 2025 so gefährlich ist. N-tv, 07.03.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/9fcl 14 Specht, Frank u.a.: Regierung kürzt mehrere Rüstungsprojekte. Handelsblatt, 24.10.2022, online unter: https://ogy.de/71z3 15 Vgl. Wurzel, Steffen u.a.: Worum es im Konflikt um Taiwan geht. Deutschlandfunk, 12.04.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/ddc1 16 Vogel, Dominic: Bundeswehr und Weltraum - Das Weltraumoperationszentrum als Einstieg in multidimensionale Operationen. Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, 01.10.2020, online unter: https://ogy.de/c7m1 17 Rose, Frank A.: Managing China‘s rise in outer space. Brookings, letzter Zugriff am 18.09.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/374g 18 Vgl. Kertysova, Katarina: Implementing NATO’s Climate Security Agenda: Challenges Ahead. In: NATO Review, 10.08.2023, online unter: https://ogy.de/ho94 19 Vgl. Statista: Defense expenditures of NATO countries as a percentage of gross domestic product in 2023. Abgerufen am 18.09.2023 online unter https://ogy.de/wtsb 20 Neuhann, Florian: Ukraine-Kontaktgruppe in Brüssel: Eine Krisensitzung - und ein Tabubruch? ZDF heute, 14.02.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/rezf 21 Mendelson, Ben: Diese Nato-Länder halten 2024 das Zwei-Prozent-Ziel ein. Handelsblatt, 15.02.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/quiu 22 Kayali, Laura: France will reach NATO defense spending target in 2024. Politico, 15.02.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/7vdd 23 https://icds.ee/en/defence-spending-who-is-doing-what/ 24 Vgl. Daily Sabah: Türkiye’s defense spending expected to constitute 2% of GDP by 2025. 21.10.2022, online unter https://ogy.de/xtbr 25 Vgl. Decode39: Defence spending: Rome’s path towards the 2% target. 20.07.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/c0g3 26 Waldwyn, Karl: Norwegian defence chief sounds alarm and raises sights. In: Military Balance Blog, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 23.06.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/8b4a 27 Vgl. Army Technology: Russian threat driving Slovenia’s defence budget increase. 02.08.2022, online unter https://ogy.de/c5y7 28 Vgl. Kamp, Dr. Karl-Heinz: Allianz der Interessen. In: IP, Ausgabe September/Oktober 29 Vgl. Bundeswehr. Stand: 31.07.2023, abgerufen am 19.09.2023, online unter: https://ogy.de/m69j 30 Bundeswehr: Ambitioniertes Ziel: 203.000 Soldatinnen und Soldaten bis 2027. Online unter https://ogy.de/3pzs

Diplomacy
Belarus, Minsk, House of Government and Vladimir Lenin Monument

Ostracizing Minsk May Not Be in the West’s Interests

by Grigory Ioffe

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

Defense & Security
Russia and Ukraine Chess Figures

Dissecting the Realist Argument for Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

by Oguejiofor Princewilliams Odera

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français On 24 February 2022, Russian troops pushed into Ukraine from multiple fronts, bombarding cities like Kharkiv and the capital Kyiv. The invasion plunged Europe into its worst security crisis in decades and prompted a massive outpouring of military aid and economic sanctions on Russia from NATO and Western allies (Ramzy 2022). There were warning signs beforehand, as Russia had massed over 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders for months and issued demands to roll back NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe (Roth, Dan, David and Nana 2022). Yet the full-scale invasion still came as a shock via its violation of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and the fundamental principle of the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force (United Nations 2022). From a liberal perspective emphasizing democratic norms, international law, and human rights, Russia’s actions were indefensible and morally reprehensible. However, six key realist arguments can explain Russia’s rationale for the Ukraine invasion; security dilemmas and geographical insecurity, attempt to regain a sphere of influence, implementation of an offensive realist strategy, revisionism against the U.S.-led liberal international order, diversionary war theory, and autocratic insecurity and domestic politics. Realist Theory and Core Tenets Realism is one of the leading theories in the study of international relations, originating from thinkers like Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and later articulated by 20th century scholars like E.H. Carr, Hans Morgenthau, and Kenneth Waltz (Burchill, Andrew and Richard 2013). It posits that international politics is characterized by anarchy and a struggle for power between sovereign nation-states pursuing their own national interests (Waltz 1979). Key assumptions underpin the bulk of realism: 1. States are the primary actors and the fundamental units of analysis in the anarchic international system with no supranational authority. 2. All states possess offensive military capabilities that render them potentially dangerous to one another. 3. States can never be certain of other states’ future intentions or actions, leading to mistrust and worst-case scenario planning. 4. In this self-help system, states must look out for their own national interests and survival as the principal motive (Waltz 1979; Mearsheimer 2014). 5. While economic and cultural factors are important, military force and power politics take primacy in realist analysis. Realism tends to view human nature as flawed and egoistic, distrustful of lofty ideals like global peace or international cooperation. It emphasizes pragmatism over moral principles and ethics, assuming states will act opportunistically when their interests require it (Carr 1964). The accumulation of military capabilities and economic power is seen as a means for states to increase their relative power and security in an anarchic, zero-sum world (Mearsheimer 2001). Classical realists, such as Hans Morgenthau, place a significant emphasis on human nature and decision-making elites in their understanding of international relations. They argue that politics is governed by objective laws rooted in human nature (Chimni 2017). Morgenthau, in particular, has been described as one of the most important political thinkers of the 20th century and one of the greatest realist thinkers of all times (Chimni 2017). Classical realists believe that their pessimistic vision of human nature is reflected in politics and international relations. In contrast, neorealists or structural realists, like Kenneth Waltz, emphasize the constraints imposed by the anarchic structure of the international system (Lobell 2017). Waltz’s neorealism, first outlined in his 1979 book Theory of International Politics, argues that power is the most important factor in international relations. He posits that the nature of the international structure is defined by its ordering principle, anarchy, and by the distribution of capabilities (measured by the number of great powers within the international system) (Waltz 1979). Within the neorealist school, there are two main schools of thought: defensive realism and offensive realism. Defensive realists, following Waltz, argue that states merely aim to maintain the existing balance of power for survival. They assert that the anarchical structure of the international system encourages states to maintain moderate and reserved policies to attain security. They contend that aggressive expansion upsets the tendency of states to conform to the balance of power theory, thereby decreasing the primary objective of the state, which they argue is ensuring its security (Lobell 2017). On the other hand, offensive realists like John J. Mearsheimer see states as persistently seeking opportunities for relative gain and hegemony when possible. Mearsheimer, in his groundbreaking work “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics”, argues that states seek to maximize their power and influence to achieve security through domination and hegemony. He contends that only by creating an imbalance of power in its own favour will a state be able to maximize its security (Üstündağ 2020; Wivel 2017). The Realist Rationale for Russian Invasion of Ukraine Ukraine shares a 1,500-mile border with Russia, and its core territory was formerly part of Russia until 1991 (Plokhy 2023). From Moscow’s perspective, the prospect of Ukraine aligning with the West and integrating with NATO was an existential threat to Russian power that it could not accept (Lindsay 2022). Realists argue that a Ukraine aligned with NATO could enable the deployment of offensive weaponry close to Russia’s borders and threaten its access to the Black Sea, a warm water port it has coveted for centuries (McCallion 2023). As the core of realist theory warns, the basic structure of an anarchic and self-help system means states can never feel secure about other states’ future intentions or actions (Waltz 1979). When one state enhances its security, it undermines another’s. According to Mearsheimer, “Because no state can ever be sure that other states will not use their offensive capabilities for aggressive purposes, every state is compelled to look for ways to guarantee its own survival” (2014, 77). Seen from this perspective, Russia’s invasion can be rationalized as a pre-emptive move to neutralize what it saw as an imminent strategic threat. Closely related to arguments about great power status is the realist notion of states pursuing spheres of influence or buffer zones to enhance their security. The realist argument is that all great powers in history, including Russia, have sought to control the security dynamics in adjacent regions by maintaining relations with nearby smaller states that are aligned with their interests (Mearsheimer 2019). Ukraine, with its geostrategic position between Russia and Europe, is viewed as critically important terrain in Russia’s desired sphere of influence. Realists argue that rather than the expansion of Western liberal democracy, Russia was fundamentally motivated to invade to reestablish a favourable balance of power, security arrangements, and compliant buffer states on its periphery (Trenin 2022). Allowing Ukraine to align itself closely with NATO and host potential offensive forces was seen as a step too far by Moscow. Beyond defensively reacting to perceived security threats in the region, it can be inferred that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reflects a calculated strategy of offensive realism – persistent and opportunistic efforts to enhance its power economically and militarily to establish regional hegemony (Mearsheimer 2001). Under this view, Putin aimed to take advantage of a window of opportunity and weakness in the West to redraw boundaries and spheres of influence in Europe. Putin is said to want to rebuild a Russian sphere of influence in eastern Europe, principally embracing former Soviet republics such as now independent Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine. He has frequently bemoaned their “loss” after the Soviet Union collapsed. Putin may also hope to demonstrate to the west (and Russians) that the country is still a superpower. (Tisdall 2022, para. 2). Related to the offensive realism interpretation, some realists frame Russia’s invasion as an act of revisionism against the U.S.-dominated liberal international order that emerged after the Cold War (Kotoulas 2022). For decades, Russia complained about perceived encirclement by NATO and about what it viewed as disrespect and disregard for its interests in relation to Ukraine and its own sphere of influence (Sakwa 2022). The realist view is that even after the demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. and its allies continued to expand in ways that threatened Russia’s core interests and left it feeling boxed in by the steady eastward march of NATO (Smith and Dawson 2022). From this perspective, Russia eventually decided it needed to upset the liberal order and use brute force to re-establish itself as a great power capable of exerting sway on its periphery. Russia under Putin has no intention of entering into an American-run liberal world order but instead wants a multipolar world in which Russia enjoys a blocking position if not an outright veto. This is because Putin himself is ideologically averse to western liberalism (Grant 2022). By forcefully altering borders and facts on the ground in Ukraine, the realist argument suggests Russia aimed to disrupt the Western-centric world order and assert its regional dominance. Another realist interpretation views Russia’s invasion through the lens of diversionary war theory – the idea that leaders may provoke external conflict to divert public attention from domestic turmoil or unpopular policies (Levy and Vakili 1992). There is precedent for Russian leaders using force abroad for domestic purposes, from Stalin’s invasion of Finland in 1939 to Putin’s wars in Chechnya and 2008 invasion of Georgia (Ferraro 2023). From this view, Putin faced a host of domestic challenges in 2022, from economic malaise, rampant corruption and wealth inequality, to the prospect of more anti-regime protests like those in 2020 and early 2022 (Sharifulin 2023; McHugh 2023). “The Russian invasion of Ukraine could have been an attempt by Putin to garner popularity by invoking a distorted interpretation of Russia’s history and playing on Russian nationalism” (Rogers and Yi 2022, para. 3). From the foregoing it is obvious that launching a nationalist, irredentist campaign to reconquer historically Russian lands in Ukraine may have been calculated to bolster Putin’s domestic standing and shift discussion away from internal grievances. The realist logic is that leaders will take aggressive foreign policy actions when domestic audiences become restive, to rally patriotic support and legitimacy. Finally, another related realist explanation rooted in Russia’s domestic politics is the theory of autocratic insecurity, or fear among authoritarian leaders like Putin that if they compromise or appear weak, it could undermine their regime survival (Kuchins and Zevelev 2012). This aligns with defensive realist logic, where states will act pre-emptively and uncompromisingly when core interests and stakes are their very existence. The argument is that Putin saw the 2022 events in Ukraine as an existential threat to his regime’s survival and legitimacy, given its claims to defend ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking populations in Ukraine (Pifer 2023). A miscalculation that resulted in losing influence over Ukraine could inflame nationalist opposition at home and tarnish Putin’s carefully cultivated strongman image. It is evident that Putin’s war is motivated by longstanding concerns that if Russia doesn’t reassert its control over the territories it traditionally dominated, his regime – along with Russia’s status as a great power – will be undermined. The autocratic insecurity thesis suggests Putin felt he had to escalate in Ukraine to ensure his own political survival and Russia’s place as a relevant great power. Counterarguments and Moral Debates While the realist perspective offers several compelling interpretations of Russia’s strategic calculations and motivations underlying the Ukraine invasion, it leaves many fundamental questions unanswered and provokes heated moral debates. First, even if Russia felt genuine security concerns or resented Western encroachment, it had many alternative foreign policy options short of a full-scale war that caused catastrophic death and suffering. Failure to pursue diplomacy or de-escalation is difficult for realists to fully explain or justify. Second, a core tenet of the Westphalian system of nation-states is that countries cannot violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of others through force or aggression. Russia’s actions obliterated this international norm, raising questions about the validity of applying an amoral, power-politics lens that glosses over legal and human rights considerations (Kampmann 2021). Just as a burglar cannot be the judge of his own cause, you cannot allow a nation to be the sole arbiter of its own interests against those of the rest of the world whenever that happens to militate against the general interest and settlements Third, a consistently neglected component in realist thought is the key role of ideological and domestic factors in shaping interests and threat perceptions. Putin’s Russkiy Mir (“Russian World”) ideology views Ukraine as an artificial state and integral part of the greater Russia – a visceral belief that drove many of his decisions as much as geopolitical power calculations (Suslov 2022). The invasion thus cannot be fully explained without understanding the pseudo-historical mythmaking that permeated the Kremlin’s worldview. Finally, while providing interesting insights into Russia’s strategic cost-benefit analysis, realist arguments struggle to wrestle with the ethics and wisdom behind the invasion. Even if the goals aligned with maximizing Russia’s national interests, the terrible human costs and economic damage now suffered by Russia itself cast the decision as potentially catastrophic and self-defeating overreach. Conclusion In conclusion, the realist theoretical prism of international relations offers several potentially compelling rationales for Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine – security dilemmas, spheres of influence, offensive realism, revisionism against the liberal order, diversionary war, and autocratic insecurity. These arguments help elucidate how Russia assessed its strategic interests and the potential costs and benefits surrounding the attack. At the same time, the realist perspective is limited in several respects. It glosses over the war’s violation of international law and sovereignty norms. It cannot fully explain Russia’s diplomatic misfires or the moral dimensions surrounding humanitarian atrocities and the terrible destruction inflicted. And its focus on systemic incentives neglects the key role Russian domestic politics, pseudo-historical mythos, and Putin’s own ideological zealotry played in driving the conflict. 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