War in Ukraine

Map of Russia’s invasion to Ukraine (Colourbox)

The U.S. and European intelligence services were alarming the world about Russia’s preparations for the war against Ukraine since November 2021. Nevertheless, due to its scale and resulting atrocities, and the consequences it produces, Russia’s war against Ukraine resembles a “black swan” event.

Following the failure of Russia’s initial ‘blitzkrieg’ plan, Ukraine continues resisting, more united as ever. The West responded to the invasion by unprecedented, coordinated sanctions, including the sanctions against Russia’s Central Bank and against hundreds of Putin’s regime’s allies. Numerous private companies suspended their operation on or left Russia’s market. Facing the economic consequences of sanctions and severe international isolation, the Kremlin uses monstrous propaganda, passes laws to conquer public discontent and continues the war. It also engages into a massive stand-off with the West, including nuclear threats and threats to bomb convoys with Western arms supplies to Ukraine. China expresses its support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity but seems not to use its influence over Kremlin to stop the aggression. Amid the hostilities, Ukraine gets EU Candidate status and proceeds to fulfilling related political conditions. The EU also takes steps to reduce its energy dependence on Russia and strengthen defense capabilities. Peace talks with Russia are on hold, and ever less actors at the West believe Russia would abide by the conditions of any peace deal.

We have been following these developments closely during the last month and suggest you reading several pieces produced on the eve of the war and shortly afterwards.

Rabinovych, M., Egert, O. (2022, 25 August) Why Does Ukraine not Adjust to EU Transport Rules? The JCMS IDEAS Blog

The contribution explores complex array of factors behind Ukraine’s compliance challenges in the transport and infrastructure domain, stressing the ambitiousness of “homework” Ukraine has to implement to move forward in terms of potential enlargement negotiations with the EU.

Rabinovych, M. (2022, 18 July) Learning the Lessons from the Minsk Peace Process: Why Can Fragile Peace Be Dangerous? Peace News Network

The contribution explains the challenges of the Minsk I and Minsk II Agreements, which were aimed at resolving the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, and warns against fragile peace that may result from hybrid politico-legal peace agreements in light of the current war and prospective peace talks with Russia.

Rabinovych, M. (2022, 9 June) War and revolution in Ukraine: a European story. UiA Democracy in Action Blog

The blog post narrates the story of Ukraine’s recent history through the prism of mass mobilization and war.

Rabinovych, M. (2022, 23 March) The Russia-Ukraine war: A watershed moment for EU foreign policy? LSE EUROPP Blog.

The war does not only dramatically challenge Ukraine and Russia. It also presents a ‘watershed moment’ for the EU as a foreign policy actor, as the EU does not only impose unprecedented sanctions over Russia but uses the European Peace Facility to supply weapons to Ukraine, offers a generous collective protection scheme for refugees and starts the consideration of Ukraine’s EU membership application.

Rabinovych, M. (2022, 17 March) Ukraina vil bli EU-medlem midt under krigen med Russland. Fædrelandsvennen.

The piece traces back the history of the EU-Ukraine relations and assesses the chances for Ukraine to become a Candidate country while at war.

The full text of the chronicle is available at the UiA website.

Tymczuk., A., Sverdljuk, J., Rabinovych, M., Ryndyk, O. (2022, 15 March) Ukraina i den akademiske blindsonen. Khrono.

The contribution argues for the importance of developing Ukrainian Studies in Norway beyond the current “Russia and Ukraine” track, rooted in the Norwegian academic tradition. This is particularly important amid the global trend to decolonize academia.

Rabinovych, M. (2022, 2 March) Det kan vi lære av Russlands krig mot Ukraina. Fædrelandsvennen.

Combining professional and personal perspectives, “Lowering the Bar” project post-doc Maryna Rabinovych writes about the surrealism of the war for Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Southeast of Ukraine, experiencing strongest Russia’s attacks, and discusses why autocracies threaten peace worldwide. The piece suggests several steps for the West to strengthen its stance towards autocracies and counter propaganda they produce.

The open-access version is available at the University of Agder website.

Eide, O., Moseid, P. (2022, 25 February) Vi overgir oss aldri. Fædrelandsvennen.

Director of Security Programmes at the “Lowering the Bar” partner organization Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism” Dr. Anna Shelest, project leader Dr. Anne Pintsch and Dr. Maryna Rabinovych in talk with journalists from Fæderlandsvennen to discuss the reasons for the war, Ukraine’s positions and assistance expected from the international community.

Burkhardt, F., Wittke, C., Rabinovych, M., & Bescotti, E. (2022, 17 February). What Makes a Citizen? Russia’s Passportization of the Donbas. Russian Analytical Digest, 277, 2-4.

Written several days before the war’s start, the piece explains Russia’s policy of passportization at the occupied territories in Eastern Ukraine and the way Russia used this policy to justify its aggressive moves in Eastern Ukraine.

Rabinovych, M. (2022, 13 February) How Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU has helped increase the country’s resilience to Russian pressure? LSE EUROPP Blog.

Also written before the war, the blog entry discusses the role of the EU in transforming Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and attack on Eastern Ukraine in 2014 and improving its resilience to current aggression.

Blog # 1

Why is the East important for the North?

Source: Colourbox

Maryna Rabinovych, Post-Doctoral Researcher at the University of Agder

The “Lowering the Bar” project focuses on how the EU and Ukraine negotiate compliance while implementing the ambitious Association Agreement. A question that necessarily arises in this context is “Why is the East important for the North?” In this blogpost, we would like to highlight four key reasons why the North shall care about the East. Here we understand “the North” as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland, while the “East” is limited to the EU’s associated Neighbours, that is Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

The first reason is security. The Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea back in 2014 and its continuing sponsorship of the unrest in Eastern Ukraine demonstrates the weakness of international law when it comes to violations committed by powerful states. It is also illustrative of how protracted and challenging political negotiations can be when violations by such states are concerned. Launched in 2015, the Minsk Peace Process, which was intended to end the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, has been in stalemate for already three years, with no new alternatives on offer. The stalemate is to a great extent a consequence of Russia’s relatively high bargaining power (secured, amongst others, through its power over gas and oil supplies in Europe) and continuous denial of its role in the conflict, despite active support to the so-called “rebels”. Thus, preserving sovereignty and territorial integrity in the East and building these countries’ defence and economic capacity is crucial for limiting the Russian Federation’s possible future destructive action in the Baltics and the North. While one may think such action is hardly realistic, let us remember the 2008 Russo-Georgian War or the above-mentioned annexation of Crimea. Hardly anybody thought such events could have been possible, yet they happened and continue taking place. Though a direct Russia-driven escalation in the Baltics or the North is hardly conceivable, defence agencies at least in the Baltics regard Russia as a potential military threat to their countries, as well as NATO collective defence systems, more generally. Recently, Russian Federation military aircraft have been found crossing the airspace of Estonia and Lithuania without permission. Therefore, the East can be understood as an outpost of the whole post-World War II architecture, with its principles of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders, that is equally important for all countries in the world.

Secondly, nowadays security goes far beyond the absence of an armed conflict. Contemporary hybrid paths of fostering power politics and confrontation stretch to economy and trade, cybersecurity, energy, health, media, migration, citizenship and foreign politics domains. Apart from the military, Russia uses economic instruments, energy (in particular, the new “Nord-Stream II” gas pipeline) and sophisticated disinformation tools to destabilize Ukraine. Furthermore, all three EU’s “associated” Eastern Neighbours (i.e., Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia that signed Association Agreements with the EU) experience pressure due to Russia’s support for unrecognized de-facto states in the region. These are the Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” in Ukraine, Transnistria in Moldova, as well as South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia. With this, Ukraine and – to a lesser extent – Moldova and Georgia represent “laboratories of resilience-building” against hybrid threats. Notably, the North is also not immune to hybrid attacks, with Russia being blamed for cyber-attacks on Norwegian authorities in 2017 and 2020, and its “mock attack” on Norwegian Arctic radar in 2018. While the number of autocratic powers in the world is unlikely to decrease soon, learning how to oppose hybrid threats embedded into power politics becomes essential for states worldwide, including the North.

The third reason why the North should care about the East deals with economic cooperation prospects and business internationalization projects. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia signed Association Agreements with the EU including “deep” liberalization of trade. This means not only free trade in goods but also free trade in services and liberalized public procurement and financial markets. By virtue of the Association Agreements, domestic legislation in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia also becomes ever closer to EU law. The Agreements and the changes in domestic legal frameworks in these countries offer an impetus for cooperation for the North, with Finland and Sweden being EU Members, and the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement bringing together the EU, on the one hand, and Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, on the other hand. Apart from export and import opportunities, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia offer chances for investors to build up exciting projects, such as the building of a new hydroelectric power plant in Georgia – the biggest Norway-supported power plant abroad – and provide Northern companies access to highly qualified, yet not such an expensive labour as in Nordic countries. Moreover, the associated Neighbours are involved in numerous EU-funded cooperation schemes, such as Erasmus and Horizon Europe in the education and research domains and the Fund for Regional Cooperation under the EEA and Norway Grants. Such development cooperation channels offer various economic actors both for-profit and non-for-profit chances to do things together.

Last but not least, both the East and the North belong to “broader Europe”, meaning the Nordic countries and those in Eastern Europe may have different cooperation and integration arrangements with the EU but still belong to Europe in ideational, normative and cultural domains. Economic freedom, market economy, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, gender equality and non-discrimination – these are the “benchmarks” the EU, the Nordic countries regardless of the format of their relations with the EU and the countries in the East subscribe to. Particularly these “benchmarks” may not only help both the Eastern and Northern countries counter external military and hybrid threats but further nurture the common space of values and prosperity. Though the associated Eastern Neighbours may still encounter democracy, human rights and rule of law challenges (and no country is entirely immune against them), common discourses and institutionalized cooperation structures may to at least some extent serve as “vaccines” for Europe to continue adhering to the path it selected.