Photo: European leaders meet in France to discuss Russia's invasion and Ukraine's EU membership
Source: Deutsche Welle
In the last week of March, the summits of the European Union, NATO and the Group of Seven took place in Brussels. The central topic of the summits, as expected, was the war in Ukraine and countering the aggression of the Russian Federation. After the announcement of the results of the events, it became clear that Ukraine's partner countries will maintain their assistance at the existing level. The EU did not support the idea of Ukraine's fast-track accession to the EU, while the North Atlantic Alliance, in turn, confirmed that it would not come into direct confrontation with Russia and would pursue a policy of deterrence. The decision to provide offensive weapons was not also made. The lack of such important political decisions distances the partner countries from the Russian-Ukrainian war and strikes at Ukraine’s negotiating positions. At the same time, the support of international partners remains an extremely important factor in countering Russia, which will affect the duration of this war.
An important signal was the decision of the Group of Seven to strengthen sanctions. As Nicholas Mulder noted in his article for Foreign Affairs, sanctions against Russia are the toughest measures ever imposed against a state of Russia’s size and power. In the space of less than three weeks, the United States and its allies have cut major Russian banks off from the global financial system; blocked the export of high-tech components in unison with Asian allies; seized the overseas assets of hundreds of wealthy oligarchs; revoked trade treaties with Moscow; banned Russian airlines from North Atlantic airspace: restricted Russian oil sales to the United States and United Kingdom; blocked all foreign investment in the Russian economy from their jurisdiction; and frozen $403 billion out of the $630 billion in foreign assets of the Central Bank of Russia. As a result, a week after the invasion, the ruble fell by a third against the dollar, and stock prices of many Russian companies have also felled.
However, according to OECD forecasts, Russia's GDP will shrink by only 10-15% this year. Thus, the measures currently taken by the EU and the US, even given their unprecedented scale, are not enough. The macroeconomic situation in Russia also managed to stabilize as of March 31, 2022. The dollar could be bought at the rate of 80. World brands still operate in Russia, pay taxes and salaries to Russians. Although the United States has already announced the release of strategic oil reserves, and the United Kingdom may take identical decision in the near future, embargo on the purchase of Russian oil is still not imposed. This gives the Putin regime the opportunity to exist, to continue its aggression and to hold better negotiating positions.
No matter how powerful the economic sanctions are, the territories can only be returned in a military way. Looking at security cooperation, we can conclude that NATO has compromised itself as a security organization. The Allies were unable to agree on military assistance through the Alliance and ignored the call of Volodymyr Zelenskyy to provide the state with offensive weapons, 1% of all NATO tanks, artillery and fighter jets. European countries and the US fear being drawn into a direct confrontation with Russia and have so far avoided this step. Thus, the liberation of the territories occupied by Russia is slowing down. At present, military-technical cooperation mainly takes place at the bilateral level. A number of countries have resorted to an unprecedented level of support. Among these countries, Spain unexpectedly appeared, which has already sent 10 aircraft with weapons to Ukraine. Undoubtedly, the United States and the United Kingdom play a key role, while the CEE countries also provide significant support.
The status quo may change following a UK decision. According to the Minister of Defense of the United Kingdom Ben Wallace, Ukraine will receive more lethal weapons to counter Russian aggression, in particular, longer-range artillery and more anti-aircraft missiles. The domino effect was launched on April 1, when the German government approved the supply of infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine from the reserves of the former GDR, which are now in the Czech Republic, although the German government had previously blocked this decision. This is a big change and now we can expect that after Germany and Great Britain, other European countries, as well as the United States will not delay the supply of artillery, shells, tanks and aircraft. Such support would allow Ukraine's military-political leadership to conduct operations to liberate the occupied cities, including those where a humanitarian catastrophe is already taking place.
A strong, democratic Ukraine, as The Economist's article “Why Ukraine Must Win”, aptly points out, would thwart Russia’s expansionism—because its borders would be secure. NATO would become correspondingly less of a drain on budgets and diplomacy. The United States would be freer to attend to its growing rivalry with China. Ukraine's integration into Europe's security architecture would strengthen it and contribute to the concept of European autonomy. In terms of security, the European Union would be a subject, with one of the continent's most capable armies. The leaders of France and Germany should take a stronger stance and take into account not only the short-term consequences of supporting Ukraine, but also the long-term ones.
However, now a number of European countries are still taking half measures. Some of them did not support or criticized sanctions against Russia at all. The leaders among them are Hungary and Serbia. These two countries actually took the side of Russia in this conflict. The position of the leaders of the two states did not remain without attention of Ukraine, NATO and the EU. The agenda of Viktor Orban and Aleksandar Vucic is incompatible with the democratic values professed by the countries of the Euro-Atlantic space. According to Ukrainian Prisma analyst Sergyi Gerasimchuk, despite Orban's attempts to copy Putin, now he is more able to follow the path of Lukashenka. The leader of Hungary, trying to get preferences both from Russia and Europe at the same time, chooses the path of the autocrats of the post-Soviet countries.
The policy of every such autocrat has failed. Serbia's position for the European security architecture is even more ominous given its partnership with Russia, which could lead to destabilization in the Balkans. In an article for The Hill, political expert Robert Creamer calls for sanctions against Serbia because of the anti-democratic actions of the leadership of this state. So, those states are rallying around Russia, whose governments gravitate towards authoritarianism in spite of democratic values.
The struggle of the Ukrainian people is not only a struggle for the right to be an independent and sovereign nation. The outcome of this war will have a significant impact on the further development of the continent and will define the role of democracy as an ideology that unites free countries seeking development and peaceful coexistence.
At present, the North Atlantic Alliance is focused on internal security and is concerned only with ensuring that the war does not extend beyond Ukraine, as NATO Secretary General Jan Stoltenberg has repeatedly stated. However, the war in Ukraine has already gone beyond its territories. Revisionist Russia will not give up its aggressive aspirations, and the CEE countries will never be sure of their own security next to such a neighbor. As NATO countries are limited to "deterring" Russia and avoiding direct confrontation, the future of the European order depends on Ukraine's success in the war against the occupant. In order to effectively counter the enemy, Ukraine needs offensive weapons that will allow to carry out operations to liberate the occupied cities. It is important that the leaders of Europe and the United States realize that the old world order is almost completely destroyed, that it is not working, and that its foundations have been undermined by Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine. The democratic world is under attack and ordinary citizens of developed countries are increasingly feeling it, while the term "rule-based order" is becoming as anachronistic as institutionalist theories. That is why today it is extremely important to lay the foundation for the creation of a just system of international relations, which is possible only in case Ukraine wins this war.
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URL: https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2022/03/30/under-unprecedented-sanctions-how-is-the- russian-economy-faring
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