Security Risks Caused by the War in Ukraine: Internal and Regional Dimension

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Although after the war ends, Ukraine will most certainly keep its status of an independent state, the final quality of its statehood and nationhood is undefined. Russia’s ongoing destruction of Ukraine has already changed its demographic, economic and social structure with the most severe long-term consequences. After the war, Ukraine will still exist, but it will be a different Ukraine with all consequences for its immediate and broader international environment....

Although after the war ends, Ukraine will most certainly keep its status of an independent state, the final quality of its statehood and nationhood is undefined. Russia’s ongoing destruction of Ukraine has already changed its demographic, economic and social structure with the most severe long-term consequences. After the war, Ukraine will still exist, but it will be a different Ukraine with all consequences for its immediate and broader international environment.

After the failure of its initial strategy of depriving Ukraine of its sovereignty (by changing it into a Russian protectorate or by dividing it and incorporating a major part into Russia), Moscow has adopted a new strategy consisting in destruction of economic, demographic and infrastructural basis of Ukraine. The logics of political decisions and the course of military actions performed by Russia after its retreat from Kiev’s foreground in spring 2022 demonstrate the following logics: if Ukraine cannot be eliminated from the international system as an independent actor with autonomous decision-making structures based on a national interest (institutionally separate and politically independent from the one defined by the Kremlin), it should be physically transformed into a country destitute of any capability of maintaining and increasing its potential. In Russia’s logic, if the mental spirit (the subjective factor) of the Ukrainian statehood can’t be broken, that the physical infrastructure should be. If it’s impossible to turn Ukrainians into Russians and thus to make Eastern Ukraine functionally (if not formally) a part of Russia, it should be turned into a no-man’s land. If the economic and demographic potential of this territory can’t work for Russia’s favor, it shall not work for anyone (and especially not for the most anti-Russian country of Europe that Ukraine will most certainly remain for indefinite future).

Although the initial Russian plan of de-activating Ukrainian sovereignty didn’t work, the plan “B“ of making it unlivable is under “successful“ (technically speaking) implementation. Virtually every week of the war brings new examples of Russian “creativity“ in turning Ukraine into a territory with no infrastructure and no population. In this state, although Ukraine remains a sovereign state and may possibly regain some of the lost territories in the foreseeable future, there will hardly be any material and human potential to build institutional and social structures of a modern state. And this assumption applies not only to the Russian-occupied Eastern regions but to Ukraine as a whole.

The ongoing hostilities affect all major security domains:

Food security: the vast part of Ukrainian agricultural potential is paralyzed due to technical and environmental damages caused by Russian actions;

Demographic security: Ukraine is losing an important part of its young and mid-age population due to emigration and war hostilities;

Economic security: Ukraine’s economic potential is decreasing due to the physical and financial destruction of working places, the brake of trade routes and the outflux of manpower;

Health security: the public health aid is non-existent on occupied territories and nearly paralyzed in the rest of the country: the number of ill and injured raises while the financing is turned to war effort, cadres emigrate and the infrastructure is destroyed;

Employment security: the war economy can’t guarantee any secure jobs except for the army and security service that is in turn, economically unproductive and depending on the external support. Existing workplaces disappear, no investments are imaginable in the current situation;

Protection and improvement of family structures: families are divided inside the country (by the war) as well as externally (by emigration). Perspectives of the re-integration of combatants into society as well as the re-emigration of war and economic refugees are undefined;

City security: The totality of Ukrainian cities under occupation turned into no-law zones managed by criminals, mercenaries and corrupt elements of Russian army and the occupational administration. Due to raising poverty on one hand and the lack of police forces on another, the rest of Ukraine risks to confront a raising city violence;

Good governance and quality of institutions: even before the war, this was the principal obstacle of improving the quality of life (to stop the emigration and give Ukraine a developing impact) and de-block the process of integration with Western structures. Combined with the overall damage caused by war hostilities, it is no less actual but certainly more difficult to implement

Access to public goods: In the practical aspect, with every month of hostilities, the financial and technical capabilities of delivering public goods shrink, leading to a further decrease of the living standards and ultimately motivating the population to leave the country. In the ideological aspect, Ukraine (both on national, regional and local levels) becomes a country unable to provide modern living standards, that compromises the pro-European modernization discourse and legitimize Russia’s thesis describing Ukraine as a ‘failed state’ incapable of existence.

Access to education: no reconstruction or modernization (and Ukraine will have to do both at the same time) is possible without a vast layer of highly-educated population ready and eager to stay inside a country and contribute to the elaboration and realization progress-oriented projects (the external assistance may help in the short term, but not in a strategic prospect). The loss of intellectual potential together with the devastation of education infrastructure is and will stay in the long-term, one of the major factors restraining Ukraine from an efficient reconstruction and restructuring of all domains responsible for building and keeping security.

In sum, it is important to conclude, that although after the war Ukraine will remain a sovereign state (independently of its exact final territorial shape), it has all the chances to become dysfunctional in many domains: incapable of aggregating a material potential to support its existence – starting with the question of external defense and internal security – in a long term (and this is exactly the aim that Russia wants to achieve after its failure to neutralize the Ukrainian factor in the short term). Ukraine will have no means to guarantee all abovementioned spheres of security and, given the fact of its geographical location (which makes the consequences of the internal turmoil happening inside Ukraine difficult to isolate from the rest of Europe), the countries that may be potentially affected are confronted by a need to elaborate a strategy towards the post-war Ukraine. This strategy has to contain answers to the following fundamental (in terms of a conceptual approach) questions:
  • Is Ukraine a part of Europe and shall it be institutionally (UE and NATO accession)?
  • If yes, is Europe (the West in case of NATO) ready to integrate Ukraine in its actual post-conflict state (to internalize all security risks coming from Ukraine)?
  • If not, in what forms (other than the integration with the West) shall the security risks coming from Ukrainian territory be neutralized?
Russia is conceptually and technically ready to respond to the challenges presented by the actual state of affairs in Ukraine. Conceptually, Moscow wants Ukraine to become a buffer zone between itself and the West with no perspective of being successfully integrated to the latter. Technically, it continues to make Ukraine unlivable and ungovernable internally and thus unable to integrate with the West. On the other hand, the viable long-term strategy towards the future of Ukraine (the plan of confronting all abovementioned security risks) does not exist. This conceptual disproportion makes it difficult, not to say impossible to forecast the exact duration, the size and consequences of the risks created by the situation in Ukraine that may project into adjacent regions. Given the extent, the intensity and potential duration of risks created by the war in Ukraine, the consultation process and elaboration of a comprehensive proactive strategy towards Ukraine by potentially interested actors (including the EU, USA and Türkiye) is an urgent need.
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