DGAP Responds: Russian Invasion of Ukraine
DGAP experts have commented on February 24 on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and on how Germany and Europe should immediately respond to it. Read their assessments here.
Transatlantic Relations & NATO
The German government must realize that this completely unjustified war will have serious consequences
This ruthless, unlawful, and abhorrent aggression by Putin’s Russia is a turning point. The West can only respond with maximum unity as it will be judged by its response for a very long time – not only by Russia itself, which now poses an imminent threat to all of us, but also by other autocratic regimes such as China. Russia must be immediately and completely isolated politically and economically with measures that include the harshest sanctions imaginable. Because the NATO-Russia Founding Act became obsolete today, NATO must deploy substantial combat units to its eastern flank quickly and permanently. The German government must realize that this completely unjustified war will have serious consequences – and it must make that crystal clear to the country’s citizens time and again. Germany needs both a security policy that is substantially better funded and a completely different economic policy. The West, and Germany in particular, have made Russia strong for many years. A radical turnaround is now necessary. There is no way around the fact that Germany must once again become defensible. Hopefully it is not too late for that.
Russia & Technology
The EU should closely coordinate technological sanctions with the United States
The EU should closely coordinate technological sanctions with the United States. Despite Russia’s proclaimed independence from foreign technologies and six years of IT import substitution, the country remains highly dependent on Western – and mostly US – tech in its economy and daily use. The introduction of sanctions on the supply of products from US companies and equipment manufactured using US technology to Russia will hit both the consumer market and the companies that produce equipment for commercial and government needs hard. With the Foreign Direct Product Rule, the United States could introduce an especially powerful mechanism. If it were to come into effect, any US hardware or software product would be targeted – even if that product is made by a foreign entity outside of the United States if it is based on US technology.
Europe’s long-established dependence on fossil fuels has made it highly vulnerable
Europe’s long-established dependence on fossil fuels has made it highly vulnerable to arbitrary acts of aggression by nondemocratic states that affect the prices and supply of these fuels. Russia’s ability to significantly influence energy prices in EU member states is a strategic and unnecessary disadvantage for the EU that could have already been reduced by an increased deployment of renewable energy. Whereas price shocks will continue in the short-term – even if sanctions on Russian fossil fuel imports are imposed – price stabilization must be achieved in the mid-term through a rapid transformation of energy systems. Germany should lead this development by cutting red tape for new solar and wind power plants. It should create more accessible, less bureaucratic financing options for companies and private households to implement this transition and increase energy efficiency.
This unprecedented case of Russian aggression should trigger unprecedented sanctions
The Western allies need to increase their support to Ukraine, respond to Russia’s violation of international law, and increase their resilience. The EU should ramp up its financial and humanitarian aid to Kyiv and open itself up to Ukrainian refugees. This unprecedented case of Russian aggression should trigger unprecedented sanctions that include full blocking sanctions against the country’s biggest banks Sberbank, VTB, and Gazprombank. Russia should be excluded from SWIFT to impede both its revenues and its spending. It should also face an embargo on defense tech to limit its revenues from selling arms. These sanctions should be implemented until Russian forces leave Ukraine without regular prolongation. Exemptions should not be granted even if they are demanded by some countries. Moreover, the EU needs to strengthen sanction compliance, for example by countering shell company systems. NATO should increase its military support for Ukraine, especially in cyberspace and by expanding its presence on its eastern flank. While the Alliance should not be restrained by the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which Russia violated, military contacts to Russia should not be abandoned. These can help avoid unintended escalations, the risk of which is particularly high against the backdrop of Western support for Ukraine.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine constitutes a blatant violation of international law
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine constitutes a blatant violation of international law and the fundamental values of the UN. In this context, it is important to demonstrate that the UN, as the main institution responsible for the preservation of international peace, is not toothless – despite its Security Council being deadlocked by Russia. The “Uniting for Peace” mechanism, which evolved in the context of the Cold War when the Security Council was unable to maintain and restore international peace due to its veto system, enables the UN General Assembly to step in if the Security Council fails to fulfil its primary responsibility to restore peace. If at least seven members of the Council, including non-permanent members, or a majority in the General Assembly request it, the Assembly may meet for an emergency session within 24 hours. The Assembly would then be equipped to recommend not only non-forceful measures but also the deployment of peacekeeping forces to Ukraine. Together with other members, Germany should thus support the main aim of the UN and consider forming an alliance to activate the mechanism and help protect both Ukraine and international peace.
Democracy & European Affairs
Unfortunately, once again, the West has shown its naivety about Russia
Peace in Europe has come to an end. Russia has attacked its neighbor without reason, warning, or mercy. Not only military targets are being shelled, but also residential buildings and hospitals. Ukrainians are resisting bravely and prepared for guerrilla warfare, but they need financial, logistical, military, and humanitarian assistance. If the West wants to help – and save the remnants of its credibility – it must introduce sanctions that will push the Kremlin’s thugs against a wall and put pressure on Russian society to resist its dictator.
Unfortunately, once again, the West has shown its naivety about Russia. When will it understand that those of us who come from the countries between Russia and Germany are not Russophobes but just know Russia? When we warn, it is worth listening. Neither Germany nor the whole West supported Ukraine, although they could have by providing it with more serious defensive weapons than short-range anti-tank missiles. The words of European Council President Charles Michel will go down in history: “We had signals that the situation [in Ukraine] had deteriorated. But we had no idea that such an invasion could take place.” How is that possible?
Ukraine can still be helped, however, by isolating Russia economically, disconnecting it from the SWIFT banking system, freezing the assets of all Russian oligarchs linked to the Kremlin, and reversing trade dependence in natural resources. The EU should have already formed a gas union to buy gas collectively like it does Uranium, which it then distributes among member states. True, such sanctions will also hurt the West, but this should have been addressed earlier: in 2010, 2014, or at least a year ago.
Technology & Cyber Security
Regarding Ukraine, Europe should increase cyber support to the Ukrainian government and military
Following Vladimir Putin’s baseless claims of genocide to justify Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, the conflict is escalating to a full-scale invasion. Russia’s cyber aggression could escalate in turn. Significantly, several forms of wiper malware – malware that destroys data and software on networks, sometimes masquerading as ransomware – have already been discovered on Ukrainian networks. The latest, HermeticWiper, has also leaked onto the networks of two members of NATO and the EU, Latvia and Lithuania.
Europe’s cyber authorities must lean on network operators to detect and report anomalies. Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security has already issued warnings to German companies. These warnings, like those issued by authorities in the UK and US, call for heightened security alerts in the event of cascading destruction akin to that seen from the 2017 wiper malware NotPetya. In the G7, NATO, and EU, Europe must prepare a coordinated response to a potential marked uptick of ransomware attacks, especially if Russia gives cover to cyber criminals to act with impunity outside Russian territory. Europe must also join the US and UK in swiftly attributing Russia’s cyberattacks and should impose timely, proportionate costs against Russia for any attacks in its territory.
Regarding Ukraine, Europe should increase cyber support to the Ukrainian government and military to protect command and control from cyber interference and help secure communications. Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, and Romania have already joined forces to send a Cyber Rapid Response Team to Ukraine, the first deployment under the EU’s PESCO cooperation framework. Germany, France, and Italy should follow suit. Europe should also look for options to help protect Ukraine’s internet connectivity from a cyber or kinetic onslaught.
Security & Defense
Now, for the first time since the tragedy of Yugoslavia, a European country has launched a full-scale military attack against its neighbor
Russia’s blatant aggression against Ukraine marks the end of an era. Although there has been war in Ukraine for eight years, it had been limited in scale and intensity. Now, for the first time since the tragedy of Yugoslavia, a European country has launched a full-scale military attack against its neighbor. The EU needs to focus its actions to assist Ukraine on three areas:
1. Helping Ukraine to fight for its existence by providing everything that its government has asked for, including lethal military assistance. The time for having reservations about lethal military assistance possibly leading to an escalation is over; escalation is here.
2. Punishing the ruthless rulers in the Kremlin without causing undue harm to Russia and its people. The EU needs to use all the tools and means at its disposal. Given that the Russian regime has shown no restraint, there is no need for the EU to be reserved either. Its agenda should include seizing assets, blocking accounts, revoking visas, banning propaganda outlets concealed as normal media channels, and terminating projects in which the Russian state is involved, particularly the construction of nuclear power plants.
3. Supporting Ukrainian civilians who are seeking refuge from the war in either parts of Ukraine that are still safe or other countries. The first refugees have already arrived in Poland, Romania, and Hungary. Many more will come and may stay for months, possibly years. Hence, the EU and its member states urgently need to offer material forms of solidarity and support to those countries where most refugees arrive. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism, which has been already activated, needs to be used and, in close, real-time coordination, combined with bilateral frameworks of assistance.
Extremism & Terrorism
Germany, Europe, and their Western allies need to start depriving Russia of this opportunity to emotionalize and misrepresent its actions
Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine was accompanied by specific language from Vladimir Putin. It employed highly securitized rhetoric that depicted Russia as being surrounded and threatened by extremists and terrorists. This is in line with a long-standing Russian strategy of using counter-extremism and counter-terrorism to justify classified domestic actions against political opponents. This strategy also serves to motivate Russia’s partnerships with controversial international actors, military operations, abductions, and executions abroad. Given today’s events, we can only expect an increase in such rhetoric by Putin. By justifying its acts of war in Ukraine by terming them counter-terrorism, Russia is exploiting the West’s lack of a clear and joint understanding of what counter-terrorism is – resulting in its inability to actively address its misuse. Germany, Europe, and their Western allies need to start depriving Russia of this opportunity to emotionalize and misrepresent its actions. They need to sharpen their understanding of the fight against “terrorism” and “extremism,” as well as the language used to refer to it. In addition, the West needs to address the consequences of its partnerships, measures, and strategies in this light to ensure that it is perceived as a credible actor and partner.
Security & Defense
With Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it is now visible even to the last that the European security order is shattered
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is now visible even to the last that the European Security Order is shattered. If the shooting war ends in Ukraine, peace will not follow. This simplistic black and white rhetoric, standing for good and bad is replaced by a long time of constant conflict. It will be conducted with changing intensity on all possible areas using whatever can act as a means.
Germany has pointed out its historic responsibility for peace in Europe. To get the continent anywhere close to this state, it must accept that its current approach to achieve this honorable aim has just gone up in flames. First, Germany should offer Ukraine massive support for its resurrection and host an exile government if necessary. Second, Berlin should try and win back NATO allies’ trust by making the delivery of promised deterrence contributions by the Bundeswehr a top priority. Third, Berlin should lead European sanctions by offering to take a disproportionate burden of the financial impact.
These three steps are foremost political investments in Germany’s capacity to shape Europe’s future – in leading by historical consciousness, political consistency, and practical solidarity. To respond to the new world of constant conflict, the parallel worlds of internal and external affairs and the compartmentalization of security, defense, economics, industry etc. needs to be transferred into a 360 degree approach to security.
DGAP experts have commented on February 24, 2022, on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and on how Germany and Europe should immediately respond to it. For an interview in German or English, please contact our experts directly via email or reach out to DGAP’s press office (firstname.lastname@example.org, +49 30 25 42 31-32).