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Ukraine and its discontents

The outcome of the war in Ukraine will be determined by three key actors – Ukraine, Russia and the West. However, all three operate as if they are in different time dimensions. One of the features of this “totally new era” is that clocks are ticking on all sides, but the speed seems different.

Since February 24th, Ukraine has been at the forefront of global media and we have been inundated with both short and long-term predictions about the war as it progresses. It has led to endless analysis, some profound, some superficial, some objective, some ideological, some partisan and much contradictory. We all want to know how this tragic conflict will end, whether Ukraine prevails and remains free or Vladimir Putin’s Russia conquers its neighbour. What would either development mean for the future of the West? What would be the status of the external and internal enemies of liberal democracy that have grown during the last decade and have been somewhat muted since February?

July 15, 2022 - Samuel Abrahám

Germany’s Russia policy must change

While Germans are slowly learning that Ukraine is a nation with a unique language and culture now threatened with annihilation by Russia, the country’s traditional longing for accommodation with Moscow is already starting to re-emerge in national discourse. In Germany, we have yet to understand that it is a Russian war against which the Ukrainians are defending themselves militarily. Russia must lose and Ukraine must win in order for it to have a future.

There is one key thing that I have learned since Vladimir Putin openly declared war on Ukraine and attacked it by land, sea and air. In Germany, people prefer to speak of peace rather than talk about war. In many conversations and discussions that I engage in privately or publicly, I not only need to explain, but often have to justify myself for being in favour of Germany and the EU supporting Ukraine in its defence against this attack. I am often accused of being emotional. Of course I am emotional. I too, take this war personally. This is what a Ukrainian friend said about herself a few weeks ago.

July 15, 2022 - Rebecca Harms

How a free Belarus can join the anti-Putin coalition

Since the spurious presidential elections of 2020 and subsequent protests, as well as the repressions that have been taking place, we know that Alyaksandr Lukashenka does not represent Belarus. Even more importantly, regardless of the scale of repressions, the Belarusian nation is not the dictator’s property. It continues to fight for its freedom and independence and could be a vital force in ending Russian imperialism once and for all.

The anti-Putin coalition is divided on the question of what tactics should be used against Russia at the time of its war against Ukraine. The main problem in this dispute involves two key conflicting ideas. The first believes that we should take advantage of Putin’s huge mistake of starting a war in Ukraine and now must do everything possible to get rid of Russian imperialism in Central and Eastern Europe.

July 15, 2022 - Paweł Kowal

Macron’s Eastern Europe rethink

The war in Ukraine and its effects are forcing the newly re-elected French president, Emmanuel Macron, to reshape his foreign policy in the region. As an inflation boom and energy crisis loom, Macron must also reconsider his strategies for Russia, the Balkans and non-EU states such as Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

At home, President Emmanuel Macron recently obtained a rock-solid political victory, whatever the pundits might say to minimise his feat. The incumbent managed to be elected for a second time, whereas his two direct predecessors (and political patrons) Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, failed even to make it to the second round of their second presidential races. Moreover, Macron defeated Marine Le Pen (for the second time) by a large, increased and indisputable majority.

July 15, 2022 - Cyrille Bret

Overcoming imperial trauma

Perhaps Poland’s own troubled relationship with Europe and European values, flirtations with quasi-Russian authoritarianism, nationalism and xenophobia, underpinned by aggression, prejudice and contempt – are all symptoms of our unresolved contest with imperial Russia. In other words, we are not Eurosceptic at all. We would truly like to be Europeans, but are restrained by unfinished business with Russia.

News of the Russian invasion of Ukraine caught me off guard in Greece, to where I travelled for a few days of spring and peace, the deficit of both we often find chronic. We are experiencing a seemingly eternal pre-spring, arranged for, by and into variable tones of depression, aggression, despair and sterile dynamism. This is underlined by a repressed impression of pointlessness, sterility, perpetually alternating frost and thawing of the spirit. We anticipate war and an inability to find peace.

July 14, 2022 - Piotr Augustyniak

Central European sensitivity towards Ukraine

After Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, people who live in Central and Eastern Europe were able to quickly assess the situation and express their empathy for Ukrainians. They felt a sense of connection with them and started to help them straight away.

We have always had difficulty when trying to explain what it means when we say “Europe”. Indeed, this concept is dynamic and has undergone many changes over time. That is why in his “Letters to the European Deputies” (Lettres aux députés européens), a Swiss writer and promoter of European federalism in the 1950s, Denis de Rougemont, wrote that it was difficult to place Europe in one space and time. Clearly, the Europe which is seen from nearby, from within or on the periphery, is different from the Europe that is seen from afar. For example, from a remote continent.

July 14, 2022 - Kinga Gajda

The power of local diplomacy

Local networks and “sister city agreements” have become an opportunity for local governments to express their outrage directly to Russian cities or partners. Since the end of February, cities like Glasgow, Turku, Tokyo and Tallinn have suspended their relations with their sister cities in protest of the invasion.

In 1986, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance to divest city funds from banks connected to the South African government. Hundreds of US cities and states adopted similar policies in the last years of the Cold War, lending a hand to national decision-makers – and sometimes pushing them – to end apartheid. These actions were part of a longstanding tradition of local government diplomacy that has continued during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In March, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that she was suspending sister city ties with Moscow. “While this is not a decision I enter into lightly”, Mayor Lightfoot explained, “we must send an unambiguous message: we strongly condemn all actions by the Putin regime.”

July 14, 2022 - Cristian Cantir

In the footsteps of Viktor Orbán’s invincibility

Viktor Orbán’s thoughts about the Hungarian people almost always appear in his speeches. If you search for the term "Hungarian people" on Orbán’s personal site, a peculiar universe unfolds in front of your eyes. Certainly, his target is not the liberal Budapest intelligentsia, but rather ordinary Hungarians, a group that Orbán knows best – and grants him victory.

Whatever the expression means, Hungary has degraded into a “partly-free” democracy in recent years according to Freedom House. We are now both geographically and politically halfway between Germany and Belarus. Our democratic institutions still stand but they are like houses whose only renovation has been the façade – they look nice from the street but if one enters, destruction is obvious. This is because the caretaker was not appointed as the result of the residents’ trust but that of the local real estate tycoon. According to the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, Hungary’s media ranks 85th, behind Guinea and ahead of Israel. It was 23rd in 2010. No other country has slid down about five places on an annual basis.

July 14, 2022 - Szabolcs Vörös

The borders of solidarity

When Russia started its open aggression against Ukraine on February 24th, millions of Ukrainians started to flee from the rockets that were now falling on their homes and cities. Clearly, the most obvious direction of escape was to the West, and Poland in particular. However, it was not so clear how Poland would react to this inflow of migrants. A huge conventional war in the 21st century in a neighbouring country was once something unimaginable. As a result, it was difficult for the nation to prepare.

July 14, 2022 - Paulina Siegień

The war in Ukraine as a test for “Global Britain”

The United Kingdom has been one of the most prominent supporters of Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24th. There is a broad elite consensus behind the UK’s hard-line position towards Russia and strong public backing for its support for Ukraine. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been eager to emphasise Britain’s leading role in providing military and diplomatic support to the country, seizing the opportunity to try to shift the national conversation away from a series of domestic scandals.

July 14, 2022 - Alex Nice

The ghosts of Poltava

In May 2022, as a result of Russia’s renewed war of aggression against Ukraine, Sweden broke its long-standing official position of military non-alignment and applied to join NATO. The success of this application will depend very much on the goodwill of Turkey. While this whole situation will seem very odd to the casual outside observer, there is an interesting historical backstory that connects Sweden, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

July 14, 2022 - Matthew Kott

Germany still struggles to understand its Eastern neighbours

The full-fledged Russian invasion of Ukraine has deeply shocked Germany and its political elite to the core. Ukraine and the West expected Berlin to step up and show leadership in this war. But has anything changed substantively in German foreign policy and its intellectual and institutional ability to handle this invasion? The answers are mixed and disappointing to many in Ukraine and Europe.

July 14, 2022 - Mattia Nelles

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