At 89 Initiative, We #StandWithUkraine

Photo: Markus Spiske, Unsplash

By Michael Cottakis, 89 Initiative Director

Without provocation, the Russian government has invaded the independent sovereign state of Ukraine. At no stage since the Second World War has Europe faced such a critical threat.

The entire 89 community, encompassing over 5,000 researchers and public policy professionals, and representing every country in Europe, stands in resolute solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their fight against the colonial designs of Vladimir Putin. Their fight is a European and global one. It is a fight for a free and open international order, a liberal democratic society. We stand with Ukraine, whose proud citizens are demonstrating an appetite for the fight which we now must steadfastly support, since it is surely our struggle as much as theirs. This week a new chapter has been opened in the history of Europe and the wider world. Posterity will judge our collective response.

“89 Netherlands stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and the country’s non-Ukrainian residents during this unprovoked and pervasive attack. As we in Maastricht recently celebrated 30 years of the Maastricht Treaty, we are deeply pained to see that the vision of a free Europe of sovereign nations, which so inspired the forefathers of the European Community is again under threat. Dear Ukraine, haw pin!”

Akudo McGee Osuagwu, Head of 89 Netherlands

“At this critical time for peace, security and peoples’ right to sovereignty, 89 Greece stands in solidarity with Ukrainian people. We are immensely shocked and saddened by the events in the country and we strongly condemn these aggressive actions taken by the Russian Federation. Each victim of this war, each refugee that violently displaced, each child that squeezes into shelters instead of playing or being at school, is a blow to humanity. In this war, let peace win.”

Marina Zoi Saoulidou, Head of 89 Greece

“The painful images coming from Ukraine remind us that freedom is not granted. The unprovoked act of aggression of Putin’s Russia calls for unity from the European and global community that advocates for peace. 89 London believes in democracy and the respect of sovereignty, and stands in solidarity with President Zelensky and his Government, Ukranian citizens, and all those suffering from this conflict.”

Francesca Sardi, Head of Research at 89 London

The Russian president has stoked the embers of an earlier international system which today we abhor. He has provided a dystopian vision of what a future world may look like. But it is not a vision we will ever choose. Our collective response to this brutal invasion will determine whether Ukraine becomes the dangerous norm, or is seen with hindsight as the great wake-up call for Europe and the west – the shuddering spasm that jolted a post-Cold War world of navel-gazing and internal division out of its stuporous state. To ensure it is the latter, we call on European governments to #StandWithUkraine. They must do this by: 

  • Allowing every Ukrainian wishing to flee the warzone a safe port of call for an indefinite period. Where housing resources are lacking, governments should encourage their citizens to welcome Ukrainian refugees into their homes.
  • Continuing to impose the harshest possible sanctions on the Russian government and its pillars of support, while expelling all intelligence and covert military personnel who may be operating in their countries. Europe must work collectively to absorb the cost of sanctions symmetrically, as these will burden some countries considerably more than others.
  • Sending all manner of aid to the people of Ukraine, including food, clothing, and financial support. This should involve a moratorium on debt repayments and, soon after, a redemption of all sovereign debt.

security for both states despite their efforts for further European defence
cooperation. The agreement builds on the NATO Charter and the EU’s Lisbon
Treaty’s Article 42 rather than circumventing them.
Secondly, concerning strategic autonomy, it is hard for the deal to be a step
towards that direction, given that the very concept of strategic autonomy is highly
contested. Notably, the two quintessential EU states – Germany and France – do not
agree on its content. For France and President Macron, the EU should move towards
a direction that will eventually allow the EU to be independent of NATO and the US
in security and defence matters. As things stand, the forces of EU member states
cannot mobilise without NATO’s logistical support. Additionally, despite the launch
of PESCO and the European Defence Fund, the EU is far from achieving the
interoperability needed for Macron’s vision of strategic autonomy to materialise.
Germany’s views on the matter diverge since the view from Berlin is that, although
Europe should do more regarding its security, the US and NATO should remain the
foundational pillar of European security.
Given that these two actors have differing ideas on what strategic autonomy
is, the Greco-French agreement at best seems closer to the start of a “coalition of
the willing”. In that case, some EU member states led by France would be ready to
become strategically autonomous from the US and NATO, while the rest would
continue to view NATO and the US as their security umbrella. In short, without
further integration on other fronts like fiscal policy, it would be highly unlikely that
the EU will be able to formulate a common interest in the realm of security that
would eventually lead to an accepted notion of strategic autonomy.
Conclusively, the deal is of great significance to both parties because it
illustrates their deepening cooperation, enhances the Greek Navy’s capabilities, and
simultaneously, softens the blow to President Macron from the fallout from the
AUKUS deal. Nonetheless, it is vital to place the deal on its true footing. It is
doubtful that France would come to Greece’s aid in the Aegean if Turkey ever
attacked. Given the impact that geopolitical crises in the Middle East and
Afghanistan will have on migration and refugee flows, it is more likely that despite
the hard talk exchanged between Macron and Erdogan, France would seek to find a
modus vivendi with Turkey to mitigate those challenges. Moreover, for Greece to
“break from its introversion”, to use a phrase the Greek Foreign Minister likes, itwould need more than an arms deal. Specifically, the country will need to escape
from its cycle of debt, given its exceptionally high debt-to-GDP ratio, and show that
it can use the opportunity of the EU Recovery Fund(NextGenEU) to reform its
economy. Finally, even though the Greek armed forces need modernisation, the
Greek government should be careful to strike a balance between modernisation and
an arms race. The Greco-Turkish dispute over the Aegean cannot be solved by an
arms race that would burden the struggling economies of both countries.

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