Written by ForceApp BV Security & Defense Expert
It is true that the Russian invasion in Ukraine, occurred on February 24th, altered substantially the security architecture in Europe. The intensity of Russia’s military operation and the way it decided to invade reminds international community the dark ages of WWII. Of course, it is not the first time that Europe has witnessed large scale military operations in Europe since the end of WWII. Other significant cases are: the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in 1974, and the Yugoslav war in 1990’s. What is different, though, is that due to this war, a substantial alteration would occur in the security architecture already formed in 1945. So, the Russian invasion has caused systemic alterations as the international community has entered into a new “Cold War”. This new “Cold War” era can be also confirmed due to the neutralization of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), as it cannot take any decision for war in Ukraine, since Russia -a permanent member of the UNSC- vetoes every decision related to it.
Concerning the Russian invasion itself, Putin intends to demilitarize the entire territory of Ukraine. This is the reason why, from the very beginning, the Russian army conducted military operations almost all across the Ukrainian territory, including the Kiev’s suburbs. Furthermore, Putin’s goal is Ukraine to proceed to government alteration by establishing a pro-Russian regime similar to the Belarus one -during the last few days, though, Kremlin has taken a step back regarding this demand. Finally, Russia’s last demand is to reassure that Ukraine will never enter NATO, and to achieve this Russia intends to force Ukraine change its constitution.
However, besides the Russian invasion and the war in Ukraine, the West’s reaction to the Russian invasion triggered even more the dramatic alteration of the security architecture in Europe. More specifically, on the one hand, the German Chancellor, Scholtz, has announced an armament program for a value of 100 billion euros. It is the first time since the end of WWII, where Germany announces such a program. This program will inevitably lead to balance of power alteration within and outside the Western coalition. It is obvious that this decision abolishes the “Ostpolitik” and the relation Berlin has developed with Moscow. Upon this decision the entire European security architecture will be constructed by taking Russia as an enemy and for sure not as a partner as Germany used to behave to Russia -e.g., the construction of Nord Stream 1 and 2. This would make both the EU member-states and the NATO member-states to adopt a common stance towards Russia, a fact that was not the case until now. In addition, the military balances would alter substantially within the EU as now France would not be the only military great power of the EU. It is possible Germany to rise as the EU’s first military power -it already plays the leading role in economy. This, subsequently, is possible to cause attrition between Germany and France. Furthermore, the military strength increase of Germany is in favor of the US interests, as the US has started re-orienting its main focus from Europe and the Middle East to the Southern Pacific and China. So, a strong Germany would function as a guarantee for the US against the Russian aggression -this argument can be strengthened if one adds the parameter of energy and the German Chancellor announcement of the creation of three LNG terminals in Germany. Finally, a militarily stronger Germany does not necessarily mean a militarily stronger EU.
On the other hand, the EU has decided to provide 450 million euros lethal military equipment to Ukraine -a third country- and 50 million euros for non-lethal supplies. Although, the EU response was quick, coordinated, and united, this does not mean a stronger Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), since the decision for assisting Ukraine was taken on an intergovernmental level -not supranational one-, as there are institutional limitations, and on several occasions, the lack of political will of some member states to cede to the EU the jurisdictions related to security and defense. Therefore, these remain an exclusive jurisdiction of the member-states. Moreover, it is uncertain if the decision about Ukraine would lead to EU’s strategic autonomy, since the goals are approximately the same with the goals NATO has set. Therefore, one would only be able to realize if the EU can become strategically autonomous, when its goals would be separated from the NATO ones -e.g., the potential sanctions imposition over Turkey. What is true, though, is the fact that EU’s strategic autonomy is on the table.
The majority of the scholars believed that Putin would have not conducted a large-scale war against Ukraine. However, Putin conducted large-scale operations and therefore he proved to be completely unpredictable. Hence, no one can be sure about Putin’s next steps. Within this context, both Moldova and Georgia have several good reasons to be afraid of a Russian invasion. First of all, both Moldova and Georgia are not member-states of the EU or NATO. Secondly, they both adopt a pro-western policy. Thirdly, they both have autonomous pro-Russian areas like Donbas in Ukraine. For Moldova it is Transnistria and for Georgia are the areas of South Ossetia and Abkhazia where Putin could base the Russian justification of a potential invasion. Although Russia continues to be aggressive towards other states as well -the latest example being the threats against Finland and Sweden- the materialization of this aggression would be significantly influenced by the Russian results in Ukraine and how easily or not Russia would achieve its strategic goals there.
What is also of interest is the role of Turkey. Turkey is a unique occasion because, besides being a NATO member-state, it has close relations with Russia, while being the major defense partner of Ukraine too. Therefore, Turkey tries to balance between the Western and the Eastern bloc aiming at playing the role of the mediator -within this context was the meeting between the Russian and the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs in Attalea. This is the reason why it delayed to close the straits leading to the Black Sea -according to Montre treaty-, and when it did it, the Russian ships have already passed through the straits, while the American ones were blocked from the Black Sea. Within the same framework, Turkey is against of imposing tough economic sanctions against Russia. It is uncertain, though, for how long Turkey would be allowed by the US and NATO to pretend the neutral country, since it is inseparable part of NATO and the wider Western alliance.
All in all, one concludes that all these developments would cause significant alteration in the European and International security architecture, as the international community enters to a period of a new “Cold War” where the states are divided into two main speres of influence. Within this context, China seems to choose the Russian side, and this makes the international security situation even more fragile than it already is. The upcoming security challenges would be great and dramatic, as it is obvious that after the Russian invasion the international system has returned to traditional ways and means of conducting war. Geopolitics and power politics would become again the norm in the international system and within this context the EU must try to find its international role. It is also uncertain if the war in Europe would end soon, since it depends on the success of the Russian army on the battlefield, and on the strategic objectives the Russian president has set.