November 29, 2022

Building European Security Against Russia – A View From Estonia

A statue depicting St. Michael, the patron saint of the Ukrainian capital in Kyiv, Ukraine
A statue depicting St. Michael, the patron saint of the Ukrainian capital in Kyiv, Ukraine

With Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, major conventional war returned to Europe in a manner unseen since the two world wars and the end of the Cold War—three occasions during the 20th century when the borders, norms, institutions, and balance of power ordering interstate relations on the continent and beyond experienced an unparalleled upheaval.

The future trajectory of Western-Russian relations will depend on domestic developments in Russia. In the foreseeable future, Russia is likely to remain a major threat to European security for two main reasons: it will not give up its imperial ambitions to (re-)establish a sphere of influence, using force if necessary, and it will not become a stable democracy.

In the coming years, the US and Europe—working through NATO and the EU—will have to rebuild and reinforce their ability to defend and protect themselves against the threat posed by a weakened, but no less dangerous Russia. What is required today is clear strategic choices, maintenance of transatlantic and European unity, and serious investment in European defence capabilities. Finally, looking to the future beyond Putin’s regime, it will be crucial to base Western forward strategy on an objective assessment of Russia’s actual development and not wishful thinking. Now Europe is at a turning point again. It is high time it realized that there can be no security with Russia until profound transformations have taken place.

This paper explores lessons that can be learnt from the war in Ukraine and suggests elements of a new strategic approach to European security. It outlines seven points on which NATO and the EU should revise their policy on Russia and European security, learning from the war in Ukraine, as well as the mistakes and failures of the past three decades.

Download and read: Building European Security Against Russia (PDF)