Ukraine – one year on


A year ago, we woke up to the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine. The initial shock has given way to a new normal – a war in the centre of Europe for the first time since World War II and an aggressive Russia that will not stop at anything.  A fragile consensus has emerged on both sides of the North Atlantic that Ukraine has to be supported at any price, as even a limited victory for Russia will only invite more aggression, not only against Ukraine but against other countries.


There are still those that on the left and right extremes of European politics who continue to be clearly outside this consensus, though for different reasons; the left in its naivety, calling for negotiations (what part of Ukraine and its population are they willing to give up to the Russian butchers? What would be an acceptable outcome of such negotiations, I wonder), the right because it is Russophile, prefers cheap energy over freedom and is part of an anti-democratic front, which includes Trump, some of the Brexiters and Hungary’s Orban.


The Great Power hypothesis (as pushed by Mearsheimer) has been completely discredited. As much as I have referred to Russia as aggressor so far, it is not the country Russia that has decided to brutally invade Ukraine, but its autocratic dictator Putin, with support of its elite. This is not a struggle between Great Powers but between democracy and autocracy. Which again means that negotiations and settlements as done in the 19th century between European powers are not an option.


The economic fallout for Western and Central Europe has been less severe than feared. Adjustments in Europe’s energy markets have been quicker than expected. Doomsayers that predicted a collapse of German manufacturing if cut off from Russian energy have been proven wrong.  There is thus the tendency to go back to normality (and I am guilty as charged). However, as important as gains on the battlefield in Ukraine are, this struggle against autocracy is a long-run with many enemies within the EU, ranging (as mentioned above), from the current Hungarian government to many populist parties across Europe, mostly (though not exclusively) on the political right.