Good Analysis from Fredrik Löjdquist

Fredrik Löjdquist – Director of the Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies (SCEEUS) at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs Previously Sweden’s Ambassador to the OSCE & for Hybrid Threats. Here also in private capacity.

1.A thread on where we are in the Russia crisis. We don’t know what will happen next. Either it will be a Russian military escalation against Ukraine in the next weeks, or not. There are rational arguments for either way from a Russian POV.

2. Clear risk that absence of escalation will be misinterpreted as de-escalation, it is not. Russia’s long-term strategic goals remain the same: a) political control over Ukraine & establishing a zone of influence around it, with less than fully sovereign countries

3. b) shift in military balance in Europe, i e weakened USA & NATO and strengthened Russia, leaving Eastern parts of Europe indefensible c) new security order in Europe, away from Helsinki & Paris twrds an order where military might, not right, sets the parameters & has final say

4. d) regime security, i e no more talk abt democracy and human rights. – All in all a more permanent tectonic shift to Russia’s advantage in the European security system. These are long-term, strategic goals, they are antagonistic to the existing European security order.

5. The means to achieve these goals, military & hybrid threats and blackmail, are also antagonistic. Kremlin’s ambitions & goals will not change or go away. This is not a problem that can be solved, but must be managed. It requires a long-term, structured approach.

6. Kremlin has the initiative & has set the agenda, West has reacted on a playing field defined by Russia. Putin has already achieved much: a) West willing to discuss military posture in Europe (scope of exercises, arms control etc) b) no more talk about democracy & human rights

7. c) nor any more talk abt Crimea, Georgia & Moldova d) renewed pressure on Kyiv to make concessions on its sovereignty e) “respect” for Russia’s great power status & full attention of world leaders, many of them travelling to Moscow

8. e) part of the Western commentariat trying to see the Russian angle, looking for compromises at the arithmetic mean, prepared to compromise the basic principles of int’l law & OSCE principles in the name of “realism” & political expediency.

9. All of this is a slippery slope, undermining the European security order and amounts to the “moral hazard” of security policy. Trying to find short term fixes & compromises undermines long term security.

10. Minsk agreements implementation is a minefield, which could mean a number of violations of principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity & right to choose own security arrangements. Important to remember that UN Charter art 51, right to self-defense, is key to security.

11. Forcing Kyiv to make concessions on its sovereignty, territorial integrity and self-determination will not solve problems, it will create more problems, also for other countries. Ukraine is not a suitable pawn sacrifice.

12. Sometimes constructive ambiguity is a useful and necessary diplomatic tool. However, there is also destructive ambiguity.

13. Ultimately, what’s at stake is whether using military violence to achieve political goals is something that should be condoned in today’s Europe or not. This has far-reaching consequences far beyond Ukraine.

14. Again, this is not a Ukraine crisis, it’s a Russia crisis, part of which that concerns Ukraine, but not only. The responsibility & solution lay in Moscow, not in Kyiv, nor in Brussels or Washington.

15. No war in the next weeks will not mean that the problem has gone away. Absence of escalation should not be mistaken for de-escalation. Short-term sighs of relief are not an adequate way to manage a long-term, structural problem.

16. Putin has clearly shown that status quo (which in itself was problematic) is no longer an option. Patience is a Russian virtue. It should be Western one as well.

17. We must make sure that our pain threshold isn’t numbed, that we don’t get used to & accept “new facts on the ground” & constantly moving baselines. The criteria to judge & measure what’s going on are int’l law & underlying principles/commitments of the European security order

18. These are rules & norms that everyone has signed up to. They are not flexible and for open for creative interpretations. Accountability is key for upholding any rules-based order. Violations must come at a cost.

19. Finally, a new European (dis-)order is more likely to be established by default, de facto, by tacitly, silently & implicitly accepting a series of violations of the key principles (as “necessary compromises”) than being put on paper “de jure”.