The Russian and western visions of European security have profoundly different ideational roots: balance of power embedded in realist geopolitics versus liberal rules-based order. Russia is a revisionist power aiming to re-establish a European security order based on the balance of power, including a recognition of its empire and sphere of influence. Russia’s aggressive pursuit of this vision has forced the West to defend the rules-based liberal order in Europe and beyond.
This report analyses the main sources and implications of Russia’s discontent with the post-Cold War European security order, which eventually led to the invasion of Ukraine. The disagreements are likely to endure beyond the war in Ukraine, leading to a new Cold War. The paper identifies three scenarios for the future of the European security order, the most likely one being a dual order, with the liberal rules-based order further strengthened and enlarged among western countries including Ukraine, while Russia will hold on to its imperialist ambitions but being forced to accept a much more limited sphere of influence than the former Soviet or tsarist empires.
As long as the worldview that underlies Russia’s foreign policy does not change, any new balance of power will be temporary and under threat of renewed aggression once Russia has regained strength. In order to make it more sustainable, the West will need to eliminate grey zones, ensure credible deterrence and defence, and consistently weaken Russia’s ability to rebuild its military might.
Download and read: Europe’s Broken Order and the Prospect of a New Cold War (PDF)