More sanctions needed from the EU, Ukraine experts agree
February 1, 2022
Reading Time: 4minutes
American and European experts believe that there is a clear understanding now that the Kremlin’s steady drumbeat of war and Putin’s designs are not only about security in Ukraine but about security in Europe and globally.
“The idea of a Europe, whole, free and at peace is in the balance,” said Jonathan Katz, Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, during a briefing on Ukraine’s security situation and strategies to strengthen its resilience on January 26th. The “Strengthening the Security Resilience of Ukraine: Military, Energy, Cyber” webinar was organized in collaboration with the Reanimation Package of Reforms, the German Marshall Fund (GMF) of the United States, and the Transatlantic Democracy Working Group.
“The idea of a Europe, whole, free and at peace is in the balance.”
~ Jonathan Katz
The experts discussed Ukraine’s military and cyber security resilience and how the European Union, United States, NATO and other partners can support Ukraine’s National Resilience System.
There has been a significant wave of bomb threats targeting schools, metro stations, trade centers, and other public places in Ukraine, said a GMF fellow Olena Prokopenko.
“Ukraine is facing an unprecedented military threat from Russia and, arguably, the highest risk of a large-scale invasion that we can remember,” Prokopenko said. “Along with Russia’s military buildup at Ukraine’s borders, we are observing its escalated hybrid warfare… particularly major cyberattacks on government websites and also state databases that carry citizens’ personal data.”
The recent cyberattack on Ukrainian institutions and confirmed reports of Russian saboteurs already in Ukraine point to continued subversive efforts to destabilize and harm Ukraine by the Kremlin.
The attack also highlights areas of vulnerability in Ukraine’s economy, critical infrastructure and security.
“Today Ukraine is fighting on several fronts, including to restore its sovereign territorial boundaries while also fending off threats to its energy, cyber, and information security,” Prokopenko said.
In response, Ukraine has introduced a National Resilience System that includes measures to enable the state and Ukrainian society to identify, prevent, and mitigate the impact of threats to national security, including critical infrastructure.
“There is no doubt that a Russian invasion is being taken very seriously by the United States and our Transatlantic partners, both on the diplomatic and deterrence front,” said Orest Deychakiwsky, a former senior advisor at the Helsinki Commission, during the event.
Deychakiwsky said that the level of interaction and coordination with Ukraine’s allies has been “intense”.
“Although there are some differences among allies, it is necessary to keep as united a front as possible because there are few things that Putin wants more than a divided NATO or EU. And that would be a disaster for Ukraine, for European security and indeed for global security,” he said.
Deychakiwsky believes that Putin will continue to do whatever he can to destabilize and undermine Ukraine, given Putin’s imperial ambitions and his “pathological obsession with Ukraine, whose very nationhood and separate identity he denies.”
“Putin [believes] that a democratic, successful Ukraine could serve as an example to the Russian people, posing a threat to his power,” Deychakiwsky said.
Prokopenko said it is critical that NATO offers Ukraine clear prospects of NATO membership conditioned on tangible reform deliverables.
A Member of the Ukrainian Parliament believes obtaining a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine should be a priority; since Ukraine was not offered MAP, Russia has been emboldened to take aggressive action.
“Our partners should understand [that] we fight for all the democratic world, not only for Ukraine,” said Yehor Cherniev, Head of Ukraine’s Permanent Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
Cherniev said that Ukraine’s adherence to the NATO-Ukraine Annual National Program and inclusion in the NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner program had provided an essential boost for Ukraine’s defensive capabilities and military interoperability with NATO partners.
“Ukraine has already been collaborating with NATO in international missions as well as in exercises and training activities, demonstrating that Ukraine is a reliable partner,” Cherniev said.
In terms of additional assistance, Cherniev said that Ukraine needs more weapons, training, and diplomatic support to strengthen Ukraine’s security position and resilience and deter further Russian aggression.
“A full-scale invasion starts with aircraft bombing, missiles and ancillary weaponry,” Cherniev said. “That’s why we need more anti-aircraft systems, anti-missile systems, anti-ship systems, because one of the scenarios is that an invasion can be from the Azov Sea or from Crimea.”
Political analyst at the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation Maria Zolkina acknowledged the importance of arms and new technologies that are being delivered to Ukraine but said that some of the NATO member states, in response to Russia’s concerns, may be ready to agree at some point to decrease the intensity of relations between NATO and Ukraine.
“One of our fears is that there should not be any compromises about how actively Ukraine and NATO should cooperate,” she said.
All participants agreed that placing sanctions on Russia is crucial to mitigate any further action from Putin.
Zolkina said that the U.S. and EU should agree on a package of severe sanctions against Russia and launch them regardless of what form or model of aggression Russia initiates against Ukraine.
Prokopenko said that, besides increasing sanctions, Western partners should also significantly increase their defence and cyber security assistance to Ukraine.
“We believe that the international community should adopt legislation envisaging strong personal sanctions against Russia’s leadership, its defense and banking sectors in Russia and the Nord Stream II pipeline in case of further aggression against Ukraine,” she said.
But a fellow of GMF in Belgium said that there is no general agreement on the holistic strategy of the European Union to address this crisis.
“One strategy on which there is agreement in Brussels is to raise the costs for Putin through economic sanctions, with some NATO members also providing Ukraine technology and military equipment,” said Bruno Lete.
Lete said that even though there is agreement on raising the cost through sanctions, countries still don’t agree on how high to raise the cost for Putin.
“I think this is still a major issue here in Brussels,” he said.
Lete said that Ukraine should take advantage of any possible investment program available at NATO.
“I also think that an important task for NATO and for the EU is to keep on supporting Ukrainian democracy, because democracy is the biggest threat to the Kremlin,” Lete said.
This article is written under the Local Journalism Initiative agreement