Russia’s Aggression: European Perspectives and Responses
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As fighting between Russia and Ukraine intensifies, attention has been focused on the global community and its responses to the war. A sense of European weakness in the face of Russia’s aggression and concern for the future of other former members of the Soviet empire—most notably the Baltics—has grown. In this event, we considered European perspectives and responses to the war and how EU’s most vulnerable Eastern European members can protect themselves.
“There is a crisis of the Russian system of power. There is a huge problem with Vladimir Putin. But, our arguments could not be heard properly because of loaded interests and games—political, economic, and industrial games— in most of our countries. And also, because most of the experts and politicians, were really stuck with an obsolete paradigm of what Russia’s foreign and defense policies were. And so, what I hope is that in a few weeks, when we have a little more time, we are not overwhelmed by the emergency situation. That we don’t forget what we’ve been going through, we don’t forget the misjudgments, the indulgence, benevolence towards Putin and that we actually start working on a new, more serious basis of international security and how we deal with the security of the in-between states—the states that are stuck between Putin’s system and Europe."
“Now he [Emmanuel Macron] has the right analysis, Putin is the threat. His regime is the threat and Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus… when they get rid of the dictator. Will be in the same security space as all other European countries. And tonight, Emmanuel Macron will be declaring his candidacy and in fact, I will be commenting after this on television. And I am now absolutely sure that he is capable of understanding what went wrong and going for a policy that is both short-term, medium-term, and long-term. This is the most important. We’ve never had the right timeline in our policies. And also, even more important, Emmanual Macron and his government—and most of the political class in France—understand that is no reason to go for a national policy in France. We have to go European, NATO, Transatlantic, and the UN. This is what he’s working on… but in the meantime, the Ukrainians are the victims.”
"Of course strategy, as everyone knows in every country and throughout history, strategy is difficult and complicated and the Russian military leadership has faced typical problems. Not only in terms of trying to understand and cope with the adversary in a difficult international environment but also within its own system. Because strategy really is about coordinating your own orchestra or conducting your own orchestra and the Russian policy landscape is very rarely harmonious. And as I think we’re seeing today, there’s been an extended problem of practice about how do you manage command and control? This is a permanent feature of Russian military history."
“This is a question of a Russia challenge and how we deal with this. It is in the era of global power competition. I would observe that we started talking about great power competition in 2017. The Russian leadership explicitly came to this conclusion in 2007—if not a year or two before—implicitly. But we are in an era of global power competition and I think this concept challenges us to think of bigger terms beyond the immediate future. For the last how many months, we have been thinking in term of imminence… We’ve been thinking imminence all the time. We might even say that the raising of the nuclear weapon suddenly meant that futures is not something that we do, but that we must indeed be doing, quite to the contrary, thinking through foresight. ”
"With delivery of weapons, with sanctions, with everything else, it’s really something which we were not able to expect and that is what really shows for me… what we’re seeing in some type of metaphorical way, that this war will change the whole world. So really, I see that Russia will be different, Ukraine will be different, and the EU will be different, after the war.”
“The EU provided 1.2 billion in financial assistance immediately, last week we voted… And now we are speaking about the creation of a virtual fund, which will be called the 'Free Ukraine Fund…' We are looking for the fund which will assist Ukraine to rebuild, to restore the economy, after the war will be finished, to restore also its infrastructure.”
“Those sanctions are quite heavy as you know. It is again, it’s amazing that the EU was able to agree quite rapidly, part of sanctions that were prepared before. There were those sanctions which were agreed between Americans, with Canadians, with the British, and which were used to try to convince Putin not to go into the War. But you know, when the war started, the sanctions were applied and then some other sanctions were added. Of course, the most painful sanctions were against the central bank and its reserves.”
This event is part of the Wilson Center's Hindsight Up Front | Ukraine initiative.
Professor, School of International Affairs, Sciences Po University, Paris
Senior Associate Fellow, Royal United Services Institute, London; Non-Resident Associate Fellow, NATO Defense College
The Kennan Institute is the premier U.S. center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, and the region through research and exchange. Read more
Global Europe Program
The Global Europe Program addresses vital issues affecting the European continent, U.S.-European relations, and Europe’s ties with the rest of the world. It does this through scholars-in-residence, seminars, policy study groups, media commentary, international conferences and publications. Activities cover a wide range of topics, from the role of NATO, the European Union and the OSCE to European energy security, trade disputes, challenges to democracy, and counter-terrorism. The program investigates European approaches to policy issues of importance to the United States, including globalization, digital transformation, climate, migration, global governance, and relations with Russia and Eurasia, China and the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. Read more