The War in Ukraine

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The War in Ukraine
Issues for Europe

  Annem Naga Bindhu Madhuri

About the Author
Annem Naga Bindhu Madhuri is a postgraduate scholar at University of Madras. The comment is published as an outcome of the War in Ukraine workshop held on 05 August in collaboration with University of Madras and India-Office KAS Office, New Delhi. 

The Ukraine war, which erupted in 2014, has impacted Europe at political, economic, and security levels. Stemming from Russia's annexation of Crimea and the subsequent war in eastern Ukraine, this protracted war has significantly reshaped diplomatic relations, tested regional security mechanisms, and raised questions about the future of Europe’s unity. Reasons which led to the war, integrating Ukraine into the NATO and EU and Strategic control over Ukraine as Russia’s Policy Priority. The Russia-Ukraine war has the potential to reshape Europe’s perceptions of security. Amid concerns of a possible Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its consequences, public debate has depicted Europe as divided and weak. However, a pan-European poll held by the Council of Europe on Foreign Relations revealed surprising unity among Europeans. Respondents from Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Sweden, representing a massive portion of the EU population, agreed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 is likely and that Europe has a responsibility to defend Ukraine. 

The war has sparked a geopolitical awakening among Europeans, prompting them to consider the possibility of war in Europe seriously. The survey highlighted the need for Europe’s governments to plan for various contingencies to reduce the impact on citizens, as well as the importance of addressing different countries' distinct concerns over war. Overall, the war has brought the question of Europe’s security order to the forefront and underlined the necessity of coordinated responses to Russia’s aggression. This introduction seeks to explore the effects of the Ukraine war on Europe, highlighting the key outcomes that have unfolded during this intense period (Krastev & Leonard, 2022).

First, geopolitical debates and theories in the West. The war in Ukraine and Russia's actions have disrupted Europe's security governance, sparking significant debate and theories in the West. European and Transatlantic leaders perceive Russia as a global security threat, responding with military measures and sanctions. The war intensified geopolitical tensions and triggered discussions about Europe's security architecture. Scholars are divided in their assessments, with some emphasising state-centric realism and power rivalry, while others note the EU's preference for cooperative norms and its unique non-state, economically-focused, and normative approach. The Ukraine war revived neo-classical geopolitics, emphasising territorial rivalry, but the EU's distinctive features and the complex interplay of norms and power in the Russia-West relationship complicate the geopolitical discourse (Averre, 2016; Raik, 2019).

Second, energy security crisis. The war has exposed Europe's energy security vulnerabilities, highlighting the region's heavy dependence on Russia’s hydrocarbon imports, despite the ongoing focus on green policies and climate efforts. This war prompted the search for alternative energy sources and an unfortunate reliance on more polluting fuels. While Europe's Green Deal faces challenges, it underscores the need to prioritise energy security. The interdependence between Russia and Europe in oil and gas trade has shaped their economies, leading to the EU's efforts to standardise energy trade through measures like the third energy package. The war has pushed the EU to transition to an EU-level approach, enhancing its bargaining power and bolstering energy security through investments in diversifying energy sources, aligning with the goal of long-term energy independence (Prisecaru, 2022; Ozawa, 2022).

Third, negative economic impact. Russia's 2022 attack on Ukraine is set to have severe economic repercussions for Europe, including higher inflation and supply chain disruptions. Europe's heavy reliance on Russia’s oil and gas exports may lead to increased energy prices and reduced economic growth. The war-induced uncertainty could hinder consumption and investment, negatively impacting the eurozone's GDP growth. Financial markets are disrupted, affecting global and regional economies. Vulnerable sectors like automotive and shipping face inflation-related risks, potentially causing deflation and turmoil. Emerging economies in Europe and Central Asia, already affected by the pandemic, face further strain. Energy dependence on Russia poses inflation and trade risks, while sanctions, trade restrictions, and a refugee crisis exacerbate economic turmoil (Mbah & Wasum, 2022; Khudaykulova, Yuanqiong, & Khudaykulov, 2022).

Fourth, humanitarian consequences. The war has had severe humanitarian consequences for Europe, with a significant influx of Ukrainian refugees seeking safety in neighbouring countries, notably Poland. This surge has strained humanitarian resources and social cohesion, with Poland issuing over 295,000 work permits to Ukrainian migrants in 2020 and providing medical care and benefits. Russia's invasion has created a humanitarian crisis, resulting in over four million refugees and seven million internally displaced people. Attacks on hospitals and environmental concerns add to the complex humanitarian challenges (Lewtak et al., 2022; Jankowski & Gujski, 2022).

Fifth, peace negotiations and conflict resolution. Europe has actively engaged in peace negotiations and conflict resolution efforts to address the Ukraine war and restore regional stability. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) played a pivotal role by mediating between conflicting parties, deploying monitoring missions, and fostering dialogue. Projects like the National Dialogue Project, human rights assessments, and crisis management aimed to de-escalate tensions and promote dialogue between Ukraine and Russia (Sinambela & Arsyad, 2023). Proposed peace processes include weapon withdrawal, prisoner exchanges, UN-supervised demilitarised zones, and political agreements. Various mediators like France, Germany, and Turkey, along with international leaders like India and China, seek peace, but trust deficits and geopolitical complexities remain challenges (Waslekar, 2023).

Navigating the war in Ukraine demands a multi-pronged approach to ensure lasting stability, security, and cooperation in Europe. EU member states can take efforts to mediate and facilitate diplomatic negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. Building on the OSCE's initiatives, sustained dialogue and confidence-building measures are essential to achieve a comprehensive ceasefire and address territorial disputes. Europe should expedite energy diversification plans, investing in renewable sources and reducing reliance on Russia’s hydrocarbons. Strengthening energy cooperation within the EU and exploring new trade partnerships can enhance energy security and mitigate the impact of potential disruptions. Constructive engagement with Russia is crucial to address the underlying issues and prevent further escalations. Broad-based initiatives that engage diverse stakeholders, including India, China, and other neutral parties, can help in resolution. The trajectory for Europe post-Ukraine war entails persistent efforts towards conflict resolution, energy security, humanitarian support, and strengthened regional cooperation.

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