icon caret Arrow Down Arrow Left Arrow Right Arrow Up Line Camera icon set icon set Ellipsis icon set Facebook Favorite Globe Hamburger List Mail Map Marker Map Microphone Minus PDF Play Print RSS Search Share Trash Crisiswatch Alerts and Trends Box - 1080/761 Copy Twitter Video Camera  copyview Whatsapp Youtube
The Ukraine War: Europe’s Critical Challenge
The Ukraine War: Europe’s Critical Challenge
Members of self-defence battalions take part in a rally to commemorate demonstrators who were killed during the 2014 Maidan protests in Kiev, Ukraine, 20 February 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Briefing 85 / Europe & Central Asia

乌克兰:军事僵局,政治危机

在历经长达三年的冲突以及一万人死亡之后,俄罗斯证明了它能动摇并掌控乌克兰。基辅当局或许仍可以胜利,但前提是它必须根除腐败,并且美国和欧盟坚持制裁手段——直至俄罗斯从乌克兰东部全面撤军为止。

概述

俄罗斯对乌克兰的军事干预已持续近三年,造成了一万人死亡,并且仍继续全面影响着乌克兰的政治生活。冲突及明斯克和平进程虽均陷入僵局,但分割线两边却几乎每天都有伤亡。僵局中,乌克兰则受害最深。事实上,俄罗斯已经接近其主要目标,即破坏乌克兰稳定,影响其政策选择。不过,俄罗斯胜利所产生的影响远不止于乌克兰当地。俄罗斯在顿巴斯小试牛刀,其也是在试探美国和欧盟的底线。该军事胜利会强化俄罗斯的信号——即,它将不惜一切手段地维护其所认为的国家利益。从长远角度而言,乌克兰仍有机会取得胜利,但前提是它要能铲除腐败现象,使其不再吞噬民众对波罗申科政府的支持。美国和欧盟必须从两方面加以协助:一方面,对乌克兰施加更大的压力,敦促其加快改革;另一方面,对俄罗斯展开——包括制裁在内的——强硬外交,使普京总统彻底意识到,除非从东乌克兰全面撤军,否则其将受到坚决抵制。

乌克兰与俄罗斯对抗的主要策略是拖延战术:面对在俄罗斯武力逼迫下乌克兰签署的不平等条约——2015年《明斯克协议》,波罗申科总统顽固抵制,并将此辩解为国内民众在政治上难以接受协议中的关键条款。该拖延战术虽在处理与俄罗斯的危机部分上有效,但波罗申科却将同样的战术应用于处理另一关键问题——国内的反腐斗争。政府的不作为使民众寒心,也警醒了乌克兰的国际支持者们。自唐纳德•特朗普当选美国总统以来,俄罗斯的风格日渐强硬。乌克兰的盟友们也越来越担心放任腐败所将导致的严重后果,波罗申科政权内某资深政治人物近日则警告了预防危机组织——“普京已占得先机”。

乌克兰方面日益倍感受孤立。加入欧盟的希望一再落空。乌克兰高级官员对欧盟颇有微词,并批评美国的军事援助欠缺诚意。同时,更具潜在危害力的则是,随着军队腐败的指控逐一浮出水面,其体现了乌克兰官员对贯彻改革和反腐倡廉上的无能或无心,而这也消耗了美国和欧洲的耐心和国内的支持率。波罗申科政府的无能殆尽了他与社运分子的关系,尽管当初是独立广场运动将他推到了政权上。乌克兰公共舆论和政府部门日益意识到,本国高层领导人的腐败已然不可救药。

乌克兰日益加剧的对执政的失望和民怨或很快会造成严重后果。一直以来,俄罗斯在乌克兰实行双轨政策,其最终目标是肃清西方势力在乌克兰——该国被俄罗斯认为是其拥有“优先权益”的典型——的影响力。若两个顿巴斯政治体能得以成功巩固,那俄便能够说服自己的民众——北约自苏联解体以来对俄罗斯边界势不可挡的侵略终于结束。俄罗斯还鼓励并协助亲俄派在乌克兰各级立法机关内大幅扩张影响力。这一努力虽尚未成功,但随着物价上涨、丑闻不断、总统及其盟友的支持率在民调中日渐下滑,俄罗斯的目标如今至少有了一些实现的可能性。

各派政治家都相信,大概在2017年上半年,波罗申科在拉达(议会)中拥有的多数派优势将会崩溃,而新的选举会随之到来。在议会中不断取得胜利的党派对俄罗斯的世界观表示认同,并在很大程度上热衷于恢复独立广场运动之前的政治局势。其中一位至少在私下里强调了其与俄罗斯的紧密联系。议会中存在的一大批亲俄政客则将进一步削弱改革派,并可能激发民众运动,正如2004年和2014年一样。

为了维持局面,乌克兰的美国、欧盟和其他支持者需要持续对俄罗斯的压力,并加大对乌克兰当局的压力。它们应该提醒俄方,若要西方停止制裁、并且重新认可其国际大国地位,俄罗斯应从东乌克兰全面撤军。在就乌克兰或欧洲相关事务、与俄罗斯展开对话时,美国和欧盟应将主权问题列入首要议题。其还应提醒俄罗斯的是,俄必须毫不含糊地、全力以赴地解散顿巴斯分裂势力,并尊重该地区所有独立政体的主权,如此则可开辟俄罗斯与西方以及乌克兰之间的互利合作的新时代。然而这个主张却难以推销:俄罗斯不打算在顿巴斯问题上屈服,且似乎相信欧洲和美国的局势正朝着有利于俄罗斯的方向转变。

盟友们也必须对乌克兰领导层采取更强硬的路线。它们可以着手向总统有效指控其亲密伙伴和商业伙伴的腐败行为、坚持要求他在一些案件中采取更及时的态度、罢免涉案人员、杜绝他们侵占国家财政的渠道、加大彻查力度,并在证据确凿的前提下,加快审判进程。为了维护其在国内外的声望,乌克兰领导层应坚决根除腐败。

基辅/布鲁塞尔,2016年12月19日

The Ukraine War: Europe’s Critical Challenge

More than two months ago, the Russian assault on Ukraine transformed a regional conflict into a war that poses the gravest risk to international peace and security in decades. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to keep supporting Kyiv, while averting escalation and laying the groundwork for post-war European security arrangements.

Russia’s military assault on Ukraine, now in its fourteenth week, has deeply unsettled European security and is likely to have profound implications for the EU itself. On 24 February, Russian forces attacked Ukraine from the north, south and east, transforming a simmering eight-year conflict in the country’s eastern Donbas region into a war that arguably poses the gravest risk to international peace and security in decades. Russian forces encountered stiff Ukrainian resistance, soon reinforced by Western-supplied weapons and body armour, forcing Moscow at least to postpone its goals of overthrowing the government in Kyiv and bringing Ukraine back into Moscow’s sphere of influence. Russia now seemingly seeks, in the near term, to maintain control of captured territory connecting Russia to Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and to gain land in Donbas beyond what Russian-backed separatists controlled as of 24 February. Even with more limited objectives, however, its forces appear to be struggling along some front lines, though precise battlefield dynamics are hard to gauge. The Kremlin continues to describe Kyiv’s government as “Nazis”, moreover, suggesting that its overall aims have not changed.

Meanwhile, the rhetoric of some leaders in the Western countries that back Ukraine – including EU member states and their transatlantic partners – suggests that their goals in the war have expanded. Western leaders continue to say they will not fight Russia directly, but they are sending heavier weaponry and allocating greater resources for Ukraine. Some hint that their aim is Russia’s strategic defeat, including a Ukrainian victory that recovers for Kyiv all the territory it has lost to Moscow since 2014, Russian reparations payments and war crimes tribunals. This approach risks raising the stakes to where neither side has room for compromise and edging toward an escalation into direct conflict between NATO and Russia.

Since Russia’s invasion, the EU and its member states have faced a difficult balancing act. They have simultaneously sought to support Ukraine while avoiding too grave a risk of escalation. While genuine peace talks appear some way off, European leaders should aim to create, as best possible, incentives for both sides to get to talks and lay the groundwork for greater stability in a European security order that will continue to evolve in the years to come.

As they work toward these goals, the EU and its member states should:

  • Keep sending weapons and non-lethal material and financial assistance to help Ukraine hold the line against Russia’s invasion, but improve oversight regarding those deliveries. EU leaders should also refrain from providing training on Ukrainian soil and continue to avoid engagement of their own or allied, or partner forces in the fight.
     
  • Emphasise publicly that they will follow Kyiv’s lead as to what peace deal or other violence reduction arrangements are acceptable. They should not push Ukraine to agree to anything not in its interests – such as a ceasefire whose terms would lay the ground for a fresh Russian offensive. Nor should they use language suggesting that Ukrainian victory requires Russian acceptance of Kyiv’s sovereignty over all Ukraine’s territory, including Crimea, which some Western leaders have veered toward doing. If battlefield conditions create a situation where Ukraine is better served by a deal that accepts Russian control of some Ukrainian land – still a more than plausible outcome, especially in the case of Crimea – Kyiv should feel supported in taking that deal.
     
  • Think through which of the sanctions levelled against Russia they might lift if there is a deal acceptable to Ukraine; these might include, for example, those that harm ordinary Russians the most.
     
  • Assess forms of closer EU association for Ukraine, which could include better trade and political relations, given that a fast-tracked EU accession process is unlikely, notwithstanding enthusiasm in some quarters for Kyiv’s membership request.
     
  • Continue to welcome and provide for Ukrainian refugees, recognising their specific and gender-differentiated needs, and increase aid to help Kyiv cope with a surging number of internally displaced people.
     

A War Full of Surprises

Russia’s war in Ukraine has confounded early expectations and dealt Moscow a series of setbacks. Most analysts – Ukrainian, Russian and Western – expected Russia’s larger, better-equipped army to rapidly overcome Ukraine’s smaller numbers. Instead, Russian forces turned out to be ill-prepared, quickly demoralised and poorly disciplined – drawing wide condemnation for reports of looting and brutal attacks on civilians. Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, bolstered by Western-supplied anti-tank weapons, air defences such as Stinger missiles, ordnance and body armour, proved determined and resourceful, shattering Russian hopes of an early victory. Within weeks, Russian troops had withdrawn from northern and central Ukraine and redefined their mission. Now, it appears that Russia’s immediate goal is to gain control of the entirety of Donbas and retain the strip of land in the south connecting Crimea to Russia.

The cohesion and extent of [the West's] initial response appeared to exceed expectations.

The West also produced surprises. The cohesion and extent of its initial response appeared to exceed expectations, not just in Moscow, but perhaps also on the part of Western leaders themselves. Partly as a result, Russia’s advance faltered. Admiration for Ukraine’s charismatic president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, accordingly grew in the West, along with revulsion at Russia’s initiation and conduct of the war. To date, Russia has done little beyond issue verbal threats to counter Western action. Western governments have thus found themselves both facing domestic pressure and with the political manoeuvring room to take measures that just months earlier might have seemed fanciful.

One pillar of the Western response is material support for the war effort. NATO has respected certain lines, for example, rejecting Ukrainian requests to impose a “no-fly zone” out of concern that this measure would escalate to direct conflict with Russia. But as Ukraine holds out and its dwindling Soviet-era supplies threaten to hamper its capacity to keep doing so, Western governments are becoming readier to supply increasingly heavy and sophisticated weaponry that requires more training and logistics, and which they had previously held back for fear it might fall into Russian hands. The EU itself has approved the release of €2 billion of weaponry, largely to recompense member states for their bilateral transfers to Ukraine, and coordinated the response to Kyiv’s requests for more. Western states have also provided intelligence, sometimes creating the impression that they are behind some of Russia’s biggest battlefield losses.

Sanctions are another pillar of the Western response. Going far beyond the sanctions levied in 2014 and 2015 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its intervention in eastern Ukraine, the EU and U.S. came together around a series of far-reaching new measures. These have, in effect, divorced Russian banks from global financial markets, spurred many Western firms to leave the country and hindered many Russian customers who wish to make transactions abroad. Western countries have frozen about $300 billion worth of Russia’s gold and foreign currency reserves. Germany suspended Russia’s Nord Stream II gas pipeline, and the EU banned new investment in the Russian energy and defence sectors, in addition to placing other limitations on transport and Russian media. Having stopped coal imports, EU member states are discussing a ban on Russian oil. So far, the EU is unlikely to include gas in its sanctions due to concerns about how sustainable that move would be, given how many member states use significant amounts of Russian gas and how much a cutoff could hurt industry and households in those countries. (For its part, the U.S. banned imports of Russian coal, oil and gas in March.) Other sanctions targeted President Vladimir Putin, other senior officials, business leaders close to the Kremlin and their respective families.

Worries of a Wider War

While neither Moscow nor NATO wants war with the other, both sides have used rhetoric and signalling that can only escalate tensions. Moscow has indicated that it sees the Ukraine war as a proxy conflict with the U.S.-led West, which it describes as a puppeteer pulling strings attached to Zelenskyy and his ministers. Increasingly, Russian officials say they are in fact fighting NATO in Ukraine. Western leaders, particularly the EU’s partners in the U.S. and UK, have indicated that they may expect the war to end with war crimes tribunals for Russian officials, and have even hinted at a regime change in Russia. They have also spoken openly about the need to ensure that Russia emerges from this conflict weakened.

From the standpoint of European security, there is a logic to aiming at weakening Russia, reducing European dependency on its energy and commodities, and promising that those responsible for atrocities will be held to account. An enervated Russia would, in theory, be less likely to threaten other countries on the continent or in its neighbourhood. Trying those responsible for horrific abuses would, in addition to providing a measure of justice for the victims, signal a commitment to values that European states see as an enduring strength of theirs.

The perils of escalation are significant.

But the danger of such talk, as war still rages, is that the Kremlin will conclude that Western states aim to destroy Russia’s government, if not Russia itself, increasing the risk that Moscow itself takes more extraordinary measures. The perils of escalation are significant, given that Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, and has repeatedly made barely veiled threats to use it. President Putin commented on the invasion’s first day that anyone who interfered would face “consequences such as they have never seen in their history”.

In reality, the odds of nuclear use remain low, but they are still too high to be cavalier about. Russia’s nuclear doctrine permits using a weapon only in the face of an existential threat to the state, although Western intelligence agencies wonder whether in fact the bar for the Kremlin would be lower (and indeed states are not always bound by their doctrine when push comes to shove). In terms of what might push Moscow over the edge of nuclear use, it seems unlikely that battlefield failures alone would do so, as that would dramatically increase the risk of escalation with NATO – precisely what Russia wishes to prevent – and serve no direct military purpose that could not be accomplished with conventional weapons. By contrast, should NATO enter the war, that would certainly qualify as an existential threat, as would, most likely, a concerted effort by other countries to forcibly change Russia’s government. Although Western governments have thus far avoided direct involvement, the escalated rhetoric comes with risks – particularly if it leads Western states to espouse or imply goals that can be accomplished only with such direct involvement, for instance, if Ukraine proves unable to decisively push back Russian forces on its own.

A parallel risk is that Moscow escalates against NATO, risking in turn a stronger NATO response. Faced with ever more substantial Western arms deliveries to Ukraine and training missions to enable Ukrainian soldiers to use those weapons, the Kremlin could increasingly see itself as at war with the West in more than just rhetoric, leading it to strike targets in NATO member states rather than Ukraine. While such action, too, is unlikely at present, any such attack would likely compel a response from NATO, rendering Moscow’s fears self-fulfilling. If Western trainers deploy to Ukrainian soil and are struck by Russian weapons, moreover, NATO members may also feel bound to retaliate.

What the EU Can Do

Broadly speaking, EU policies, together with those of other Western states, should seek to balance the imperatives of supporting Ukraine, minimising risks of an escalation into direct NATO-Russia war and creating incentives for an end – even if that starts as a temporary pause – to the war on terms Kyiv can accept. Thus far, the low-level negotiations that have continued sporadically throughout the conflict seem unlikely to lead to a lasting solution. Each of Kyiv and Moscow continues to believe that gains on the battlefield can force the other to back down and acquiesce to greater concessions. But, at some point, both may determine that their interests are better served by seeking some form of settlement, even if they appear far from reaching that conclusion today. The EU and its member states can take several measures to keep the danger of escalation down, encourage an end to violence and prepare for what comes next.

It is critical that European governments avoid measures that run too high a risk of widening the war.

The first relates to the nature of weapons supplies. The continued provision of conventional weapons to Kyiv helps position Ukraine to secure more palatable terms when it and Moscow are ready for serious peace negotiations. At the same time, it is critical that European governments avoid measures that run too high a risk of widening the war.

As they continue to provide assistance, donor countries can do better in how they provide and account for it. They should continue to avoid placing trainers or other forces on the ground in Ukraine. They should also keep training efforts as quiet as possible, wherever they take place. Accountability for weapons deliveries is important, given the vast quantity of armaments that have entered Ukraine since February. Already, Crisis Group has heard reports of diversion of both lethal and non-lethal supplies for personal gain. With volunteers engaged to a great extent in the delivery of both military and civilian assistance, foreign partners like the EU Advisory Mission in Ukraine can work with local civil society organisations to develop and enforce mechanisms for tracking deliveries. Although monitoring this assistance while fighting rages remains a major hurdle, the EU should work with Ukrainian authorities to ensure all efforts are made to keep their weapon stocks in check and prevent corrupt practices that will keep assistance from reaching those who need it. Brussels should reinforce the monitoring of its supplies by verifying the traceability of sensitive material, Ukraine’s stockpile management and respect for international law.

When it comes to the language they use to talk about the war, the EU and other Western states should emphasise that any arrangement for ending it that is acceptable to Kyiv will be acceptable to them too. They should not pressure Ukraine to agree to anything that is not in its interests, such as a ceasefire whose terms would leave Russia in a favourable position for a new phase of hostilities. But, importantly, they should also avoid suggesting that Moscow will need to accept Kyiv’s sovereignty over the whole of Ukraine’s territory, including Crimea, before Kyiv can consider itself to have prevailed. If Kyiv concludes that its interests are better served by a deal that accepts Russian control of some Ukrainian land – something it may well do – the West should back it in that assessment.

As for Moscow, while thus far signs from the Kremlin of compromise are sparse, it would still be worth the EU laying out which of the sanctions crippling Russia’s economy could be eased once Moscow has signed and fulfilled a deal acceptable to Ukraine – perhaps, in some narrow cases, in exchange for progress on, say, enabling Ukrainian grain to safely transit through the Black Sea for export. Generally speaking, EU sanctions, and those of the West more broadly, fall into four rough, overlapping categories: those punishing Russia as a whole; those punishing individuals perceived to be responsible for or strongly linked to the war; economic and trade restrictions that deprive Russia of revenue; and similar constraints that weaken Russia’s strategic capacity, including that of its military.

Many of the penalties in the third and fourth categories seem likely to outlast the war: those intended to limit Russian military capacity, such as constraints on Russian import of certain technologies, appear set to be long-term European policy; some economic measures, which fall in the third category, particularly those that also serve to wean European states off of Russian oil and gas, are also likely to stay. The latter reflect a profound rethink of energy security in Europe that is leading to long-term investment in renewables and new liquified natural gas infrastructure, as well as contracts with alternative suppliers.

Sanctions cutting Russia off from global financial markets ... could be put on the table.

But the first and second types of sanctions – punitive measures against the Russian state and certain individuals – could be eased or lifted in exchange for specified Russian actions. Arguably, too, sanctions cutting Russia off from global financial markets – which fall in the fourth category, because they would hamper military rebuilding after the war but also hit Russia’s economy as a whole and punish ordinary Russians – could be put on the table. Governments could also encourage private firms that have left Russia to return, at least in some cases. Improved access to foreign transactions would make it easier for Russians to purchase VPNs, for example, increasing their exposure to non-Kremlin sources of information, and for the government’s opponents who have left Russia to establish themselves abroad.

European states must also start thinking about how a deal on Ukraine might further reshape the security order and define their own terms for how to make that safer. Already, the changes, such as the Finnish and Swedish applications to join NATO, are profound. In reality, Ukraine and broader European security are likely to remain interdependent issues for the foreseeable future. Although a deal between Moscow and Kyiv will probably be necessary to end the war, it will also likely be precarious, with both sides frustrated by the concessions they made. The dangers will likely grow in the months and years to follow, as Russia, Ukraine and European states build up forces and capabilities with the aim of deterring one another or, in Russia’s case, having the option to relaunch an offensive.

Any agreement should thus be accompanied by a broader diplomatic effort involving the major military powers in Europe, including the U.S., to seek a wider settlement. It will inevitably be tremendously challenging to negotiate, given the collapse in Russia-West relations to date and the near certainty that any deal over Ukraine would likely make the bad blood worse. Still, an agreement that redefines the parameters for weapons deployments, exercises and activities across the continent would be a sustainable approach. While such a deal seems like a remote prospect, it is not too early for European leaders to start talking behind closed doors about what it might entail and what they might be willing to limit in exchange for limits on Russia.

Relatedly, European leaders will also need to continue managing Ukraine’s expectations for its future relationship with the EU. Even though President Zelenskyy’s request for membership met with some enthusiasm, a fast-tracked EU accession process remains contentious among European leaders, difficult to define, and therefore unlikely. Still, prospects for increased cooperation between Brussels and Kyiv might be part of Ukraine’s own assessment of elements that make settlement of the war more acceptable. The EU should look at other forms of closer association for Ukraine, which could include better trade and political relations, while not over-promising with respect to EU membership.  Whatever the EU does with regard to Ukraine will shape expectations and policies, with regard to other aspiring members, including Georgia, Moldova and the countries of the Western Balkans.

In the more immediate future, Western countries will need to continue pouring in humanitarian aid. They should continue financially supporting both Ukrainian refugees who now live elsewhere in Europe and the large population of internally displaced people in Ukraine itself – many of whom will not have homes to return to. Because most of the refugees are women, host countries should pay special attention to their needs. The EU can assist host countries and local women’s groups in providing adequate health care, including support for those who seek aid in getting urgent access to sexual and reproductive health services. Host countries can also protect refugees from trafficking and other forms of gender-differentiated abuse they might encounter and ensure decent child care as refugees seek employment. At the same time, the EU should keep working on the financial dimension of its humanitarian assistance. The release of €3.5 billion to help member states cope with the needs of displaced Ukrainians seems insufficient, as the war uproots more and more people.