Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Europe is re-arming realizing the Russian military threat

Photo: The NYT

For years, the European Union tried to avoid confrontation with the Russian Federation. Majority of EU leaders have mostly focused their attention on economic prosperity and soft diplomacy. Such a policy allowed the Russian Federation to use the weaknesses of the Europeans and carry out an aggressive policy using its hybrid influence against its European partners. After the start of the full-scale invasion of the Russian army into Ukraine, the European states found themselves in a difficult situation, because they realized that in the event of a major war, they would not be able to resist for a long time. A large number of weapons, even in such developed democracies as Germany, was in condition not suitable for use. The number of ammunitions was extremely limited. European states were and still are full of Russian agents.

However, despite such problems, the European Union has demonstrated its ability to adapt to new conditions. In the first months of the war, European officials began to fight Russian hybrid influence. On the one hand, large-scale work was carried out to diversify the purchase of energy carriers. On the other hand, a number of member states have banned the activities of Russian propaganda media. Although, there is still a lot of work to be done, since Russians still work in international organizations, such as the IAEA or the OSCE, and some Russian mass media continue to broadcast in EU countries

Progress in the perception of the threat from the Russian Federation can be traced in the defense sector as well. The countries of the European Union began to actively rearm. Poland is creating one of the largest armies on the continent. France increases its defense budget by almost 30%. Britain will spend an additional £5 billion on its military and plans to increase defense spending to 2.5% of GDP as part of a renewed strategy to counter growing threats from China and Russia. Plans for rearmament were outlined in 2022 by Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz. It should be emphasized that, at the same time, European countries are gradually increasing the volume of arms supplies to Ukraine. If at the beginning of the war, the United States of America pushed the EU to increase military aid to Ukraine, now the EU has significantly changed the approach. This indicates a shift in the worldview of European high-ranking officials.

Previously, statements that Ukraine was defending the eastern flank of Europe were not taken seriously. Now it has become obvious and the security of NATO countries depends on the success of Ukraine. Ukraine fights for its territories, destroying Russian military potential, which strengthens the security of European states. Also, the duration of the Russian-Ukrainian war directly affects the economic development of the countries of the continent, which suffer from the Russian war to a greater extent than the United States. Ukraine has received about 50 billion in financial aid from EU countries and European financial institutions since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Growth in the Eurozone fell from 5.3% in 2021 to a projected 0.8% in 2023. Headline inflation rose from 0.3% in 2020 to 2.6% in 2021 and then to 8.4% in 2022. Food prices in January 2023 increased by 14.1% compared to a year earlier. This is the price of the ambitions of the Kremlin leadership.

Therefore, there is currently an increase in military aid to Ukraine from the countries of the European continent and Great Britain. The USA still remains the main partner of Ukraine, while France and Great Britain were the first to provide tanks to Ukraine. Ukraine received the largest number of tanks from Poland. The same Poland, together with Slovakia, undertook to provide 33 MiG-29 fighters. The Europeans hope for a fast end to the Russian-Ukrainian war and provide more and more of their own resources for Ukraine. This also applies to the production of ammunition for artillery. The European Commission proposed a plan worth 2 billion euros for purchase ammunition for Ukraine. On March 15, during a debate in the European Parliament, deputies called on the European Commission to publish the technical details of this plan as quickly as possible, so that it could be implemented in the shortest possible time and thus respond to Ukraine's requests for artillery ammunition deliveries.European high-ranking officials have repeatedly declared their intention to continue supporting Ukraine as long as necessary. These calls, as well as actions aimed at strengthening the offensive potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, send a clear signal to the Russian leadership that Russia will not win in Ukraine and the Ukrainian army will have the resources to continue the fight.

However, the vision of ending the war among European countries remains different. Polish President Andrzej Duda said that Ukraine must win the lasting peace to prevail. The vision of Ukraine's victory from Warsaw does not raise any questions. However, the rhetoric of the leaders of the countries of Western Europe is somewhat different from the countries of Eastern Europe. Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron reject the possibility of negotiations with Russia at the current stage. At the beginning of March, Olaf Scholz, speaking in the German parliament, said: “Is Putin even ready for negotiations on a return to these principles and a just peace? Nothing indicates this at the moment”.

However, Germany and France are ready for negotiations with Russia. Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly advocated for the preservation of Putin's face, against the humiliation of Russia and the need to provide the Russian Federation with security guarantees. The strengthening of Ukraine's offensive capabilities by the two EU leaders is happening precisely to force Russia to negotiate. Representatives of intellectual elites also have such sentiments. For example, the chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, published an article in which the status of Crimea is questioned, the question of security guarantees for Russia through Ukraine's refusal to join NATO as well as the need to establish a ceasefire without the prior withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine are mentioned. This article does not reflect the official position of the German government, but it is indicative.

Ukraine currently has serious support from partner countries. European states have stepped up their assistance in an attempt to provide Ukraine with sufficient capabilities to carry out effective counter-offensive actions. However, Ukrainian diplomacy faces serious obstacles, because in conditions of limited resources and overwhelming dependence on partner countries, the desire to return all the occupied territories may not coincide with the vision of a number of key partners and threatens with attempts to put the issue of the return of the ORDLO and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea outside the brackets of negotiations, and also questions Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic choice. The search for compromises with Russia at the end of the current stage of the Russian-Ukrainian war, in turn, threatens to preserve the vulnerability of the European security architecture leaving space for future crises that could potentially arise as a result of today's mistakes.


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