June 4, 2024No Comments

US Military Aid to Ukraine: A Pivotal Move Amid Ongoing Conflict and Global Implications

By Maida Pollinari - Russia Team

The war between Russia and Ukraine, now in its third year, continues to be intensely volatile and dynamic. Recent developments, particularly the approval of a significant US military aid package, mark a critical juncture in international support for Ukraine. This article delves into the US decision, its ripple effects across Europe, and the broader implications for all parties involved.

US Military Aid Package to Ukraine

On April 24, 2024, US President Joe Biden approved a substantial $61 billion aid package for Ukraine. This decision concluded prolonged and intense negotiations within the US Congress, characterised by a bipartisan struggle. Notably, Republican Mike Johnson, initially a staunch opponent, reversed his stance after a confidential briefing, citing the existential threat posed by an "axis of evil" comprising Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, and Iran. Johnson emphasised that supporting Ukraine was crucial to US national security and a testament to American leadership in defending democracy.

Strategic and Political Motivations

Analysts suggest that this aid package is not only a pragmatic political move but also a strategic necessity. The aid aims to stabilise Ukraine's frontlines, mitigating fears of a Russian breakthrough or Ukrainian collapse. This stabilisation is crucial as it sets the stage for potential Ukrainian offensives in the coming months. Furthermore, the timing of this aid is significant given the approaching US presidential elections. Prolonging the conflict could adversely affect former President Donald Trump's approval ratings, possibly benefiting Biden among undecided voters.

European Response

The US decision has resonated strongly across Europe, prompting several nations to announce their own aid packages. On April 23, 2024, during a visit to Warsaw, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled the UK's largest military aid package to date for Ukraine, worth £500 million. Sunak underscored the importance of defending Ukraine not just for regional security but for the entire European continent, warning that a victorious Putin would not halt at Poland's border.

Similarly, Sweden has committed 13 billion kronor ($1.23 billion) in military aid, marking the largest Scandinavian contribution. The Czech Republic has pledged to deliver at least 1.5 million artillery shells by year's end, part of a covert supply strategy involving unnamed countries, likely including some BRICS nations like India and South Africa.

Broader Implications and Russian Reaction

The widespread European support highlights a unified front against Russian offensive and a collective effort towards Ukraine's post-war reconstruction. However, the approval of the US aid package has not been well-received by Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov condemned the decision, suggesting it would enrich the US at Ukraine's expense and result in further Ukrainian casualties. Former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev expressed hostility, wishing for internal US turmoil, while President Putin acknowledged the increased costs of Russia's military operations and committed to record war spending of 6% of GDP in 2024.

Economic and Military Considerations

Despite current economic stability, bolstered by domestic fiscal policies and import substitution, Russia's financial sustainability remains uncertain. Continued Western support is vital for Ukraine, especially given the critical timing of arms deliveries and their deployment on the battlefield. This window of delay provides the Russian military with opportunities to target Ukrainian infrastructure, particularly its energy sector. Moscow's propaganda leverages these delays to project Western disunity and ongoing internal US discord, which Russia finds reassuring.

Source: Image by Beverly Lussier from Pixabay

Future Outlook

The conflict's trajectory remains uncertain, with the upcoming US presidential elections poised to influence future dynamics and support for Ukraine. The sustained cohesion and determination of Western allies are essential for Ukraine's long-term resilience against Russian aggression. The new aid package from the US represents a pivotal moment, demonstrating substantial international support for Ukraine with profound implications for the global power balance and the conflict's future.


In summary, the approval of the $61 billion US military aid package signifies a crucial step in international backing for Ukraine. The response from European nations further consolidates a collective stance against Russian offensive, highlighting a significant geopolitical shift. Meanwhile, Russian reactions underscore the persistent challenges and the importance of continued, coordinated support for Ukraine. The coming months and years will be decisive in shaping the conflict's outcome and the broader geopolitical landscape.

May 17, 2024No Comments

U.S. Ukraine Aid: A Part of a Larger Strategy

U.S. Ukraine aid needs to be part of a larger strategic vision that aims for Russian defeat in Ukraine. 

Author: Samuel Dempsey - USA Team

Four days after President Biden approved the $61 billion in military aid, on April 28, 2024, Ukraine received the first wave of anti-armor rockets, missiles, and 155-millimeter artillery shells. While Ukraine welcomed the needed U.S. aid, it came months late considering the on-the-ground requirements of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. As a result, much of this aid package is attempting to make up for lost time and reinforce the depleted defence supply chain.

In H.R.815 - Making emergency supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2024, and for other purposes, $23 billion of the aid supplement replenishes military stockpiles, enabling future U.S. military transfers to Ukraine; $14 billion is designated for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which allows the DoD to buy advanced new weapon systems for Ukraine directly from U.S. defence contractors; $11 billion will fund current U.S. military operations in the region, and about $8 billion goes to non-military assistance through a loan to the Ukrainian government to cover basic operating costs. 

The supplement comes at a time when Russia is increasingly exerting pressure across the 600-mile front line. Ukrainian brigades are spread thin, with little time for recuperation or new training, and much of the aid, including separate packages from the U.K. and Germany, will take months to arrive to truly bolster Ukraine’s defences on the ground. 

As Jack Waltling, an expert in land warfare at RUSI, discussed in Foreign Affairs, at present Russia has a “ten-to-one advantage over Ukraine in available artillery,” and with the new U.S. aid package, this is projected to shrink to “three to one in some regions.” This is a substantial improvement, but he argues that current Western support has only come in time to “stave off a Ukrainian collapse.” As Eugene Rumer at the Carnegie Endowment observed, the calculations vehemently demonstrate that even with support from the U.S. and allies, “the size of Russia’s population, economy, stocks of military hardware, and defense-industrial base far exceeds those of Ukraine.” 

The new supplement's legislation acknowledges this reality and emphasizes the need to agree on a new multi-year support strategy "to hasten Ukrainian victory against Russia's invasion forces." This U.S. supplement is very likely the only piece of Ukraine aid that will be able to take effect before the next U.S. presidential election, and despite having aspirational goals for greater support, it has focused on buying more time. Given the possible change in U.S. administration and the confidence and firmness with which Russia is continuing this illegal invasion, even recently allegedly conducting an assassination attempt against President Zelenskyy, the question is: how does this supplement fit within a greater Ukraine strategy of the United States? 

U.S. Stated Goals  

The April 24 Ukraine supplement was the Biden administration's fifty-sixth allotment of DoD inventory equipment to Ukraine since August 2021. Post-Russian invasion, the Biden administration has stood behind Ukraine, with the official Department of State position being that the U.S. and allies are “united in support of Ukraine in response to Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified war against Ukraine.” The U.S. has demonstrated this by asserting that Kyiv will determine the war’s outcome. As Alexander Ward at Politico pointed out, this has resulted in a strategic misalignment, where the U.S. perceives its support as a means to either force Russia back or negotiate a settlement with Russia, while the Zelenskyy administration maintains that Ukraine will not relent until it reaches its pre-2014 borders, including Crimea. According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, "only Russia's defeat and the restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity will guarantee stability and peace," and "the Black Sea must become a sea of NATO, peace, and stability."

After the recent U.S. supplement passed, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that Ukraine throughout the rest of the year will have the capacity to “hold the line” and “to ensure Ukraine withstands the Russian assault,” with the chance to enable Ukraine in 2025 “to move forward to recapture the territory that the Russians have taken from them.” Concurrently, Avril D. Haines, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, told Congress that, in addition to the anticipated Russian offensive this month, Russia has the means to break through the Eastern Ukrainian front lines. According to Director Haines’ statements, the current U.S. strategy may now come up short, and according to Sullivan’s statements, the U.S. strategy has postponed any possible Ukrainian counteroffensive to 2025. Even then, numerous analysts, including Olga Tokariuk at Chatham House, have stressed that any future Ukrainian military offensive or even the ability to maintain a stable frontline is contingent upon a “steady flow of Western military assistance,” including with approval from the White House. 

If the U.S., regardless of administration, wants to back Ukraine’s goal of the Black Sea being "a sea of NATO peace and stability," a clear articulation of its own political goals is required to ensure a sound strategic vision.

A U.S. Strategy for Ukrainian Victory and Russian Defeat   

“Russia can lose. And it should lose, for the sake of the world — and for its own sake,” wrote Timothy Snyder, a Levin Professor of History at Yale. Snyder, in his CNN opinion piece and while lecturing at the University Club of New York, articulated the four principal reasons for which a Russian defeat is necessary in Ukraine: (1) For an imperial power to restrain its imperial ambitions, defeat is necessarySnyder argued that the European project itself is only the result of lost imperial wars around the world after WWII. (2) If Russia wins, it not only affirms its imperial ambitions but also demonstrates to the rest of the world that imperial conquest is an option. (3) Historically, the most effective Western policy towards Russia is an effective U.S. policy towards Ukraine, i.e., supporting their self-determination and strategic objectives that align with Western values and systems has positive indirect impacts on developments in Russia. (4) Russia's history is replete with defeats; the Crimean War in 1856, the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, World War I in 1917, the Soviet Union's defeat by Poland in 1920, by Nazi Germany in 1945, and Afghanistan's decade-long invasion in 1979 are just a few examples. Snyder argues that in each case, Russia lost without existential risk.

In addition, Snyder emphasizes that Russia’s greatest successes in its invasion of Ukraine (still minor in total scale) occurred in the last six months when the U.S. “was delaying Ukraine aid rather than supplying it.” As Jack Waltling also emphasized, a Ukrainian defeat would also signal to Russia that it has and can defeat the West through prolonged exhaustion. 

To develop a cognizant and successful strategy towards Russia, the U.S. must first articulate the requirement of a Russian defeat in Ukraine.

Source: Image by MotionStudios from Pixabay

Strategic Steps to Russian Defeat

As Rob Lee, a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Eurasia Program, wrote over X, Ukraine’s three primary hurdles are: ammunition, manpower, and fortifications. Lee, alongside colleagues Michael Kofman and Dara Massicot, propose a strategy “premised on three central elements: hold, build, and strike.” The strategy and commentary do an excellent job of articulating how the Ukrainian Armed Forces can, in the face of Russia’s growing manpower, distribute and train current brigades, absorb Russian offensives, and create challenges for Russia “far behind the front lines.” 

Creating threats and challenges deeper behind the front lines is an immediate way in which the U.S. can support Ukraine’s ability to hold the front and fortify further. As Mark T. Kimmitt, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, wrote, the U.S. and allies must loosen restrictions on military aid that inhibit cross-border attacks and prevent Ukraine from targeting Russia in the Black Sea. Loosening these restrictions will immediately add a new dimension to Russian risk, giving Ukrainians more space and time to develop a successful counter-offensive. Any alleviation of pressure from the front will provide the currently stagnant and exhausted Ukrainian brigades with the necessary resources for recuperation and training.

A key area of support could be a financing strategy that enhances Ukraine's ability to acquire munitions. Recent Ukraine aid legislation allows for the potential use of frozen Russian central bank assets for reconstruction efforts. Building on the Council of Europe proposal that references U.S. initiatives, the international community could explore the establishment of a multilateral legal mechanism to manage these assets. This mechanism could potentially provide compensation for reconstruction costs and free up Ukrainian resources for munitions procurement. Allies and partners hold approximately $300 billion in frozen Russian assets, with the U.S. holding at least $38 billion. Additionally, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has proposed a $100 billion fund for Ukraine's defenses, although this proposal faces internal opposition within the Alliance. Such a fund could facilitate greater coordination of security aid for Ukraine.

After the signing of Ukraine aid and in the lead-up to a challenging election, the Biden administration may be inclined to place Ukraine on the back burner of political communication. Yet, the discussion and growth of a larger Ukraine strategy must be articulated not only on the international stage but also communicated to the general American public. “It’s the president’s responsibility to make the case to the American people why Ukraine and our support matter. While he has done this a few times, the narrative has not been clear enough to most Americans,” said Alina Polyakova to Politico, president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis. At the NATO Washington Summit this July, the U.S. has the opportunity to hone its strategic vision and make these initiatives a primary agenda while presenting its case to the American people as to why the United States should support Ukraine and ensure Russian defeat. Whether it's Trump or Biden in the Oval Office come January 2025, Ukraine will need assistance, and the American people will need to know why. 

March 18, 2024No Comments

Dr Rosario Formicola on F-16 as a game changer in Ukrainian War 

Dr Rosario Formicola active duty aviator Italian Air-force talks about on the potential change in the situation on the frontline in Ukraine with the transfer of F-16 aircraft to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Dr. Rosario Formicola delivers a presentation on the importance and specifics of the transfer of F16 aircraft to Ukraine. The specificity and importance of this factor in changing the balance on the battlefield and its impact on the security system in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. The advantages, problems and potential benefits for the Ukrainian Armed Forces are described. Due to the specifics of his duties, the doctor does not disclose some technical data, but gives a clear picture of the consequences of the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine. 

According to the expert, the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine will significantly strengthen the troops, will be a big obstacle and challenge for Russia, but unfortunately the needs of the frontline in Ukraine require not only a much larger number of aircraft but also a huge effort to build the necessary infrastructure for maintenance. For obvious reasons, the doctor does not disclose specific figures or technical specifications, but gives an assessment of the implications and issues of this issue.

Interviewers: Igor Shchebetun - Russia Team

January 2, 2024No Comments

The fragile unity of Europe after the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Authors: Federico Alistair D'Alessio and Alessandro Spada - UK & European Affairs Team.

EU’s response

The European Union has firmly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling for an immediate ceasefire, military withdrawal and the respect of Ukrainian independence and territorial integrity.

European institutions have repeatedly denounced Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine, especially the indiscriminate attacks towards civilian infrastructures, hence accusing Russia of violating international law. Member states have thus strengthened both individual and economic sanctions against Russia while providing Ukraine with military equipment, humanitarian aid and financial support. For fear of an expansion of the conflict, several European governments have also significantly increased their own military spending.

While the Kremlin’s actions were unanimously condemned, the EU approach was not warmly welcomed by everyone in the European community, including the unconditional military support for Ukraine.

Division within the EU

Three apparent factions have emerged. Northern and post-communist member states fiercely supported Ukraine in the war, fearing a Russian victory that would threaten their national security. Western European countries such as France, Germany and Spain insist on vigorous diplomatic efforts and have adopted a more cautious approach. Lastly, the third bloc is composed of those members who have refused to send weapons and have expressed a rather ambiguous stance on the war, such as Hungary and, to a lesser extent, Bulgaria.

Among the first group, the Baltic states and Poland have been the most loyal partners of Ukraine for obvious historical and geopolitical reasons.

Baltic states

The firm reaction of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia did not come as a surprise, given their past experiences with invasions and annexations by the Kremlin. Their warnings on the threat posed by Russia in Central and Eastern Europe were mostly ignored or downplayed by their partners and accused of Russophobia by the Kremlin.

The Baltic States substantially increased their military spending and gradually abandoned their dependence on Russian energy after the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea. Since the 2022 invasion, they have actively supported Kiev with military and humanitarian aid as they feel the fate of their nations is tightly linked to Ukraine.

They believe the only way to achieve peace is to help Ukraine win the war and force Russia back to its borders, as stated by Estonian PM Kaja Kallas. In addition, the Baltics have regularly called for stronger EU and NATO action, fearing that their allies would lose the momentum to stop Russia once and for all. As of December 2023, all three Baltic states rank in the top five GDP contributors of government support to Ukraine.


Likewise, Poland declared not only full military, financial and humanitarian support for Ukraine, but also the intention of defeating Russia on all fronts as a way to achieve peace. Growing anti-Russian sentiment is evident among Poles, with a peak of 94% viewing Putin as a serious threat post-Ukraine invasion. This sharp rise has consequently brought to more positive attitudes (around 90%) towards the US, NATO and the EU.

In addition to welcoming over 3 million Ukrainian refugees, the Polish government has also mediated between Ukraine and the US, advocating for adequate protection and high-end military equipment. Moreover, their push for Ukraine's EU and NATO integration has significantly reduced EU criticism regarding the rule of law in Poland.

Nevertheless, recent grain embargo disputes have strained relations with Ukraine, leading to a Polish weapons supply halt and a potentially damaging impact on both nations.

United Kingdom

Despite the UK leaving the EU, it is crucial to also analyse the reaction of the British government given its historical role as a security guarantor in Europe. On November 16, 2023, Foreign Secretary David Cameron reaffirmed support for Ukraine against Putin's aggression. The UK, a leading supporter, provides significant military, humanitarian, and financial aid, ranking as the third-largest donor behind the US and Germany. It was the first to supply cruise missilesand depleted uranium munitions to Kyiv and additionally implemented a series of sanctions against Moscow. The British Government advocates for a shorter Ukraine's path to NATO membership by removing the need for a Membership Action Plan, as a result of the summit held in Vilnius last July. Furthermore, secret talks between UK officials and key Russian representatives have reportedly taken place, discussing security matters such as grain shortages and nuclear safety.

Source: Dusan_Cvetanovic / Pixabay 


While President Macron has supported Ukraine since the outbreak of the conflict, he has kept a more diplomatic stance in comparison to other European leaders. A few weeks before Russia's invasion, he attempted to dissuade Putin and emphasised avoiding humiliation for diplomatic solutions. During an April visit to China, Macron urged Xi Jinping for a mediation in favour of a return to the “negotiating table”. Despite fewer arms transfers (data from Sept. 26, 2022, to Nov. 30, 2023) to Ukraine compared to some NATO allies, France ultimately backs Ukraine's NATO accession to increase pressure on Russia and pave the way for post-war negotiations.


The full-scale invasion of Ukraine forced Germany to reassess its role in the world, shifting from "chequebook diplomacy" to increased military involvement. As the second-largest arms supplier (commitments Jan. 24, 2022, to Oct. 31, 2023) of Ukraine after the US, Germany has invested €100 billion in a military fund for modern weapons and committed to meeting NATO's 2% GDP defence spending target. Chancellor Olaf Scholz also encouraged China to use its influence to promote diplomatic solutions. Germany opposes immediate NATO membership for Ukraine, fearing direct conflict with Russia and citing unresolved border conflicts as a hindrance. Additionally, Germany is pushing for a reform plan where the conditions listed must be met in order to initiate a discussion on the membership.


As previously mentioned, Hungary has condemned Russian aggression while adopting a questionable approach to dealing with the Kremlin.

Firstly, PM Viktor Orbán decided to abstain from sending military support to Kiev and even agreed on a new gas deal with Moscow a few months after the invasion started. In addition, state-controlled media outlets have continued to spread pro-Russian propaganda, including criticism against the sanctions imposed on Russia. Orban has also recently requested the EU to reassess their strategy in the war while threatening to halt all support to Ukraine.

This peculiar reaction to the Russian invasion reflects the local population as well. According to a recent poll, only 33% of Hungarians consider Russia a major military threat. Another vital figure to mention is the Hungarian perception of the US and Russia: only 17% believe the United States are an important partner, comparable to the 11% that think Russia is. This data openly displays how divergent Budapest’s attitude is from the rest of the EU.


The EU’s unified reaction was initially seen as an opportunity to create a new and common geopolitical strategy. Despite claims of unity, the EU is increasingly divided between those prioritising peace diplomatically and those insisting on justice achieved solely through a Russian military defeat.

This crisis has also exposed the union’s reliance on the US and NATO in terms of defence and intelligence. This is mainly due to the fact that the EU was conceived as a political and economic institution, rather than a military power. However, given that European cohesion has also emerged thanks to continuous information provided by Washington, this poses the risk of condemning Europe to political and military irrelevance. Historical security leaders, such as the UK and France, face several challenges - with Germany expected to play a pivotal role.

Moreover, debates on EU military independence versus complementarity with NATO face growing divisions among member states, evident in recent controversies and wavering support for Ukraine - such as the case of neighbouring Slovakia. The question remains whether the EU can establish an independent defence system amid increasing uncertainties.

December 22, 2023No Comments

Forging Futures: The Role of Transitional Justice and Victim Participation in Trials for Post-Conflict Ukraine

Author: Eleanora Takitzi - Russia Team

What Is Transitional Justice?

Justice for the victims of international crimes encompasses a crucial facet of post-conflict societies. Albeit its significance, justice for victims remains a highly elusive, subjective concept that amalgamates elements of both retributive and transitional justice. To explain, retributive justice represents the traditional punishment of the wrongdoer, whereas transitional justice focuses on the needs of the victims, thus prioritising reparations and the establishment of a truthful record of events. Particularly, reparations are a symbolic way of compensation for the suffering of the victims, taking either monetary or non-monetary forms by means of collective or moral reparations. On the other hand, truth establishment can be pursued through different avenues, ranging from truth commissions and forensic investigations to witness testimonies and formal apologies.

Arguably, retributive justice, in the form of legal accountability, comprises a pivotal aspect, with many victims expecting to see the wrongdoers punished for their crimes. However, in recent times, transitional justice frameworks, with a growing emphasis on the participation of victims in trials, have gained significant traction, largely spurred by the Ukraine-Russia conflict.  

Victim Participation in Trials: Why Is It Controversial?

Victim participation in trials is a relatively novel development in the field of international criminal law, originating in the French criminal procedure that permits victims to participate in trials as parties against the accused and claim reparations. Victim participation in trials, however, is frequently opposed due to the principle of equality of arms under international law, whereby the parties involved in a trial, namely the prosecution and defence, should be able to present their case under circumstances that do not place them in an unfavourable position against their opponent. If victims are allowed to participate as a third, separate party in direct opposition to the accused alongside the prosecutor, then the accused’s rights of the accused will undoubtedly be affected. 

Victim Participation in Trials: Why Is It Important for Post-Conflict Ukraine?

Despite the present contestations over the participation of victims in trials under international law, many experts have used their voices to explain the value of victim participation in equipping victims with a reparative effect. 

In particular, the establishment of truth is the cornerstone of the rule of law, with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights remarking that victims are entitled to “the full and complete truth as to the events that transpired”. Although the truth is objective, it is never one-sided; accordingly, adopting a pluralist approach whereby the victims are granted the possibility to hear the perpetrators exposing their own truth and narrating the events from their perspective establishes a fuller record of events. In turn, a (more) complete version of the truth can bring victims closer to healing and recuperation.

What is more, victim participation bestows on victims a platform where they can have their voice and suffering heard. Not only would such visibility empower victims, but also it would foster national reconciliation by affirming a sense of humanity in the highly technical and legalistic environment of trials.

Source: : https://unsplash.com/photos/woman-holding-sword-statue-during-daytime-DZpc4UY8ZtY

Lastly, reparations are powerful mechanisms to compensate for the harm and loss suffered by victims. As the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, explain, reparations are “arguably the most victim-centred justice mechanism available and the most significant means of making a difference in the lives of victims” (para 26). Indeed, reparations can contribute to the rebuilding of post-conflict societies, thus bolstering confidence in the state apparatus and leading to more durable peace.

Some Concluding Remarks

According to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, states must “act both against perpetrators and on behalf of victims” (para 26). Judging from the manifest resoluteness of the international community to condemn Russia’s activities and hold culpable individuals accountable, the concept of transitional justice harbours the potential for practical deployment to the advantage of post-conflict Ukraine, despite legal reservations. The prospect of allowing victims to participate in the trials of individuals who have committed, authorised, or overseen atrocities on Ukrainian soil during the conflict would serve as a beacon of justice and empowerment for the victims. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the active involvement of victims in trials would send a powerful message against impunity, reiterating the commitment of the international arena to uphold legal accountability and achieve justice for the most aggrieved by the conflict, the victims. As the Victims Commissioner elucidates, “the time has come to re-conceptualise the status of victims so that they are seen as active participants from the point the crime is committed throughout the criminal justice process and beyond”.

August 4, 2023No Comments

Dr. Sergii Masol on international criminal law in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian war

In this podcast episode, Dr. Sergii Masol talks about the ongoing violation of human rights in Ukraine from the perspective of the law. This small, but informative, talk covers the nature of human rights and international criminal law; the Ukranian Conflict; and the legal status of mercenary groups (e.g. Wagner Group).

Dr. Sergii Masol is Humboldt postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Cologne. Sergii obtained his doctorate in law from the European University Institute in Florence, where he also worked as a research assistant.

Interviewer: Vittoria Brunazzo - Human Rights Team

April 4, 2023No Comments

Germany and other European countries supply Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine

Authors: Alessandro Spada, Francesca Belotti and Januaria Gizzi - UK & European Affairs Team

Exactly one year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, both countries are at an impasse. On the one hand, Moscow has not obtained as many territories as it had wanted; on the other hand, the Ukrainian resistance has yet to make any progress in defeating Putin. This might be due to the lack of weapons at Kyiv's disposal. Indeed, until a few days ago, only lighter weaponry was given to Zelensky's troops to keep their line of defence intact. Unfortunately, a war cannot be won by playing only defence, so Kyiv has started asking its Western allies for additional support. In particular, Germany and the USA were asked to supply its high-tech Leopard 2 tanks, although, with initial insecurity, such a wish was finally granted.

The reasons behind the reluctance

The main reasons Germany was reluctant to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine are the following. The first one is certainly linked to the vast historical significance of World Wars One and Two. German modern-day leaders feel the weight of history, meaning that they feel a deep responsibility for the death of millions of Russians during the two world wars. Indeed, as the aggressor in two world wars, many Germans opt for a cautious line of being Ukraine's leading supplier of battle tanks. Moreover, this decision would be a further break for Berlin with its post-World War Two non-belligerent policy.

The second reason is related to German society. A significant segment of the population, particularly situated in the former communist German Democratic Republic, feels traditionally close to Russia and has an aversion to the values and functioning of Western society. Shortly before Christmas, 40% of Germans who took part in a poll said they recognized the Kremlin's justification to invade Ukraine, blaming the West for the eastward expansion of the Nato military alliance. In addition, according to a Jan. 19 poll, only 46% of Germans were in favour compared to 43% who opposed the supply of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

The third reason is Scholz's governing coalition and even the SPD. The German Chancellor Scholz couldn't ignore the strong pacifist wings inside both major parties to its governing coalition, the Social Democrats and the Greens. Especially, many Social Democrats voters live in former East Germany, which has been more sympathetic to Moscow".

Another reason for such reluctance would be that the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, wouldn't have authorized any Leopard 2 tank supply to Ukraine unless the US government agreed to send M1 Abrams tanks.

Lastly, granting Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine could mean overstepping Germany's position as a mere weapons supplier and cause a military escalation.


The two sides' reactions

Ultimately, the decision of Germany to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine generated some reactions at the international level. How did Russia react to this decision? Can we consider this decision proof that the Western powers are escalating into war more than before?

From a realist perspective, we could say that Russia perceived this decision as a proper threat, which will most likely reflect in Russia counter-attacking or entering a defensive approach towards Germany and the West in particular. Hence, in a statement, the Russian Embassy said that the current conflict would escalate to a new level.

Western powers play an essential role in understanding the reactions. First of all, NATO utterly supported Germany's decision, making clear that it would help Ukraine win against Russia. From this, Russia's threat perception has significantly increased, allowing Russia to undermine the Western powers consequently. Interestingly, the position of Britain in this given context reflected on Rishi Sunak, the current Prime Minister, to underpin Steffen Hebestreit's decision-making. Thus, the British Prime Minister clearly expressed his position on Twitter by saying, "The right decision by NATO Allies and friends to send main battle tanks to Ukraine. Alongside Challenger 2s, they will strengthen Ukraine's defensive firepower," and "Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace.".

In a nutshell, the decision to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine was made to help it defend itself better, but it was not made lightly. The fears of becoming too involved in a war "that is not ours to fight", the weight of history, and the pacifistic forces within Germany's main parties were all weighed carefully before lending the peculiar tanks to Ukraine. Unfortunately, this is not the end of the conflict or the requests. Indeed, the day after the announcement made by the Chancellery, a new request for fighter jets was filed by Kyiv in order to switch strategy to an attack-based one. Western ally has yet to respond positively to a possible supply of fighter jets, but all remains to be seen. Will the West stand by, or will it contribute even more than it already has?

March 14, 2023No Comments

Dr Marco Bocchese on international relations and law concerning the Ukraine-Russia war

Marco Bocchese is an Assistant Professor at the Webster Vienna private University specialized in international relations and law. He also got a PhD at Northwestern University in International Relations.

In this session, Dr Marco Bocchese talks about the relationship between international law and the Ukraine-Russia war, with specific reference to private paramilitary organisations and nuclear weapons. He also discusses the impact the war has had on international relations.

Interviewers: Patrick René Haasler and Eleanora Takitzi - Russia & the Post-Soviet Team

March 13, 2023No Comments

Prof. Inderjeet Parmar on the US and the world in 2023

Prof. Inderjeet Parmar talks about the United States domestic and foreign policy in 2023. Parmar is a professor of international politics at the City, University of London, and co-editor of the book series "Routledge Studies in US Foreign Policy".

In this session, he discusses the future of the Republican Party and former President Trump heading towards the 2024 elections, before shifting the focus overseas. The main issues addressed are American interests in the Indo-Pacific, including discussions on India, QUAD, and Taiwan, the Ukraine war and its impact on the international order, and the special relationship between the US and the UK.

Interviewers: Giovanni Luca Catucci and Anurag Mishra - US Team

November 21, 2022No Comments

Hypersonic Missiles: A sum zero game to Strategic Stability

Authors: Andre Carvalho and Marco Verrochio.

On March 19 for the first time, TV channels broadcasted that Russia successfully used two Kinzhal type hypersonic missiles in the war against Ukraine. It was the first time hypersonic missiles have been used in combat despite President Putin's presentation of the Kinzhal missile in March 2018. Non-specialized media started to be attracted by these new weapons, especially due to their high performance and their abilities to escape countermeasures. A Hypersonic missile, in some aspects, goes far beyond the capabilities of other conventional supersonic missiles. Supersonic missiles fly between 1.000 km/h and 5.000 km/h, while hypersonic missiles travel above 5.000 km/h, reaching about 25.000 km/h. Moreover, they fly at unusual altitudes and can change trajectory and target during the route.

Hypersonic missles can be devided in two categories. Hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) and Hypersonic Cruise Missiles (HCMs). Usually, an HCM is launched by an aircraft and uses scramjets engines to sustain a speed above 5.000 Km/h. The Russian Kinzhal missile and the American Boeing X-51 are in this category. On the other hand, a rocket boosts the HGV to reach high speed and high altitude, usually above 100.000 feet. The HGV plays as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle using manoeuvres to maintain stability and to avoid detection by ground-based radars and sensors, maintaining the target unpredictable until a few seconds before the strike. Examples of HGVs include the Chinese Dong Feng-17, the Russian Avangard and the US PGS program. The primary concern regarding HGVs is their possibility of carrying a nuclear warhead. It increases the crisis instability in a confrontation, giving an advantage to the country striking first.

Nonetheless, the dyadic categorization between HCM and HGV ends up oversimplifying the hypersonic design possibilities, mainly because conventional ballistic missiles can also travel at hypersonic speed. According to a SIPRI report, HGVs and HCMs travel slower than ballistic missiles. In the same way, Maneuverable Re-entry Vehicles (MaRVs) – such as the Chinese DF- 21 Carrier Killer – can perform in-flight manoeuvres pulling high-G turns at hypersonic speed. Therefore, what differentiates HGVs and HCMs from other missile systems is the combination of speed with endoatmospheric maneuverability while maintaining hypersonic speed throughout the flight.

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal on a MiG-31KImage SourceWikimedia Commons

The mix of maneuverability, hypersonic speed, unpredictability of trajectory and the capability of conducting effective flights in low altitude can be considered both an advantage and a challenge for global security, especially strategic stability. The US, China and Russia are the nations on the forefront in this technology. Tod ay, d eveloping hypersonic missiles requires ad vanced technological development and massive investments. For this reason, they are prod uced in limited numbers. Nonetheless, other countries such as India, Brazil, the UK, Australia, and Japan are also interested in planning a series of investments and conducting tests of scramjet vehicles. As time goes on, the knowledge and the use of strategic foreign investments will increase the proliferation of these weapons. In a contingency scenario, hypersonic missiles will give a tremendous advantage to the aggressor since the combination of speed, maneuverability and their limited detectability by ground-based radars can result in target ambiguity, inaccurate warning times, and ineffective defence. The Rand Corporation had already warned about the proliferation of this technology proposing a non-proliferation agreement sponsored by major players (e.g. USA, China, and Russia) based on the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). However, the geopolitical tension between US and China and the war in Ukraine demonstrated little interest in multilateral talks, especially on strategic weapons.

It is worth mentioning that, even though non-proliferation talks are relevant, there is a trend among analysts to magnify the potential destructive effects of emerging technologies before their actual introduction and use. This happened in the past with the introduction of strategic bombers and still happens nowadays with hypersonic technology. High-speed delivering missiles have been around for years. Now, new strides in precision, range and maneuverability make them the new trend that competing states seek to acquire to increase their relative power positions.

In the current situation, hypersonic missiles are still on a development stage and their use in conflict is limited to single actions. They are included in the arrays of solutions to strike strategic targets but the reason for their use is still more for deterrence purposes rather than an effective means for military service. Nonetheless, they still exert a significant impact on strategic stability. Regarding deterrence, the speed and precision of hypersonic weapons will leave the option for a decapitating first strike always open, which is inherently destabilizing. Crisis stability can also become unstable due to the hypersonic impact on deterrence since it compresses the decision- making time to just a few minutes, resulting in a first-mover advantage.

For Western analysts, the Kinzhal in Ukraine was a warning from Putin that Russia would not hesitate to resort to advanced technological weapons, destabilizing the global balance of power. Although the world is a dangerous place with or without hypersonic weapons, an arms control arrangement would be necessary. In the future will be essential to strengthen stability, putting a set of limitations on the ‘action-reaction’ cycle that keeps significant players involved in arms race dynamics. However, it is paramount to acknowledge that any agreement regarding hypersonic weapons that limits the speed and range of vehicles would hardly be ratified. There is more chance of success limiting range and speed would affect a large scale of existing ballistic missiles that have a considerable strategic effect and are significantly cheaper than hypersonic missiles. In addition, as mentioned before, several other countries are on the path of pursuit of hypersonic speed and have their indigenous R&D programmes, which makes the possibility of an agreement even more difficult to achieve.

Nowadays, the prospects for hypersonic defence are still low. However, some strides are being made identifying that a robust ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance), along with space-based systems, are key factors for tracking a hypersonic missile for the entirety of its trajectory, enabling multiple interception attempts. Therefore, until the international environment will be ready the only hopes to counter hypersonic missiles lies in developing effective countermeasures for the near future.