According to a senior European Union official, European states are likely to debate their role in security assurances that may be provided to Ukraine as part of a prospective peace settlement following Russia’s more violent onslaught on the country.
The remarks come after negotiations between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators last week raised the issue of other assurances — outside of NATO’s Article 5 mutual-assistance provision — that the West is ready to underwrite if Moscow ceases its offensive.
“As soon as the war is over — or perhaps, in connection with the cessation of hostilities — we need to think what kind of guarantees will be offered to Ukraine,” said Charles Fries, the deputy secretary-general for common security and defense policy and crisis response at the European External Action Service. He was speaking April 4 at an event in Washington organized by the Atlantic Council think tank.
Fries defined the sweet spot for security guarantees as “something between more than Budapest but, of course, less than Article 5,” referring to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, a now-obsolete treaty designed to ensure Ukraine’s security after Kyiv gave up its nuclear weapons in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“So that’s a question for the next weeks, which has to be addressed,” Fries said.
“It’s a key issue, but the EU as such is not directly involved,” he said. Rather, select nations might take action individually, Fries added, noting that he hadn’t seen a list of who might come forward.
On the Western side, the initial signatories of the Budapest Memorandum include the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.
Last week, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, Olha Stefanishyna, stated that her administration envisaged a security-guarantees regime supported by Budapest Memorandum signatories as well as the United Nations Security Council.
“We have already confirmed agreement on that from Great Britain, from Germany and from Turkey,” Stefanishyna said during a March 31 online event sponsored by the German Marshall Fund of the United States think tank. She was speaking from Kyiv.
According to Sean Monaghan, an analyst at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, the legal structure of any security assurances the West can gather for Ukraine will be unimportant in the end. More essential, and more difficult, he said Defense News, will be European populations’ willingness to support them militarily.
“The force and dedication of NATO Article 5 have had more than 70 years to build,” Monaghan added. “That would have to happen overnight with Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, according to Stefanishyna, the Ukrainian government has painted a red line around the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty in any post-war discussions. Kyiv would also oppose any deal aiming at whitewashing Russian war crimes committed during the invasion, she warned.
As Ukrainian authorities come to grips with the fact that NATO advantages are no longer on the table, they are doubling down on the European Union and a prospective fast-track membership proposal.
Stefanishyna anticipates that before the end of the year, the European Commission will have published its evaluation of Ukraine’s eligibility under the Copenhagen criteria. These criteria call for an examination of potential members’ democracy, rule of law, human rights, and monetary and economic fitness.