On 22 May 2023, the ICDS hosted esteemed guests from the UK. Representing the Labour International Group were Wayne David, MP for Caerphilly in South Wales, Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North, Gary Kent, Clerk of the Labour International Group, and Paul Mason, writer and political commentator. Dr Kristi Raik, Deputy Director of the ICDS and Head of the Foreign Policy Programme, gave an overview of the ICDS’s work with a focus on the war in Ukraine, as well as its implications for European security. Today’s developments on the battlefield in Ukraine will shape the future security order in Europe and beyond, she said.
Following the end of the Cold War, for a brief moment, it seemed that Russia could be brought into the common European order — an attempt to achieve that failed due to Russia’s own actions and refusal to give up its imperialistic ambitions. The Baltic states, however, have always shared the sense that we needed to do our best to integrate into the European structures so that Russia would not be able to keep us in its orbit. This allowed us to build the security and economic prosperity that our societies enjoy now.
Despite Vladimir Putin’s Munich speech in 2007, the war in Georgia, and the annexation of Crimea, the West has, nevertheless, continued to live in disbelief about Russia and Russian revisionism. It changed in December 2021 when Moscow presented its draft security accords to the US and NATO.
In 2023, Vladimir Putin still believes that time is on his side, and we must prove him wrong, Dr Raik said. This is why our focus has to be on helping Ukraine win this war. So far, Western support has been coming in small portions and with too much caution – adjusted by Russia’s threats to escalate and nuclear coercion.
Regardless of the outcomes of the war, we must realise that there is no way back. Common order in Europe that involves Russia will require the latter to change – potentially assisted by a crushing military defeat in Ukraine – and may not be possible in years or even decades after the war is over.
In the meantime, there are several lessons from the Russian aggression that we must learn and have already learned.
First, both NATO and the EU are enlarging as a direct consequence of this unjustifiable aggression. Second, Europe needs more military capability and hard power, acquiring which is a painful process. Third, we cannot have positive economic interdependency – which has long been the pillar of European thinking – with countries like Russia and China. We thus need to take a closer look at the vulnerabilities that it has created, decouple, and diversify. We tried this approach, it did not work out, Dr Raik concluded.
Other issues discussed around the table included:
- interconnection between threats to Taiwan and security in Eastern Europe.
- what the end of the war in Ukraine looks like and what the prospects of Ukraine’s membership in NATO are.
- US foreign and security policy in Europe in light of the upcoming presidential election and the US-China competition in the long term.
- anti-Putin opposition in exile in Europe, as well as the West’s naivety and unrealistic expectations of their influence on Russia’s future trajectory.
- engagement of the Global South.
- Russian minority in Estonia following the war in Ukraine.
- Russian influence over Western academia.
The delegation is visiting Estonia as part of a dialogue between the British Labour Party and the German Social-Democratic Party, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Labour International Group.