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May Brief: Alternative strategies for Ukraine?

EU must increase internal support, as well as forge international alliances if the isolationist against Russia is to succeed.

May Brief: Alternative strategies for Ukraine?

Montag, 12. Februar 2024

Alternative strategies for Ukraine?

To avoid war in Europe, the EU’s most effective tool of foreign policy has been the

‘enlargement’ process. However, with the Russian violation of Ukraine’s

sovereignty, new strategies must be sought. After more than two years of fighting

the conflict has stalled, and likely no party will prevail anytime soon. Recognising

the huge financial, political, and military investment that the West has already

poured into Ukraine, what are the tools at its disposal to continue supporting


The most obvious answer is to continue the economic and military support.

However, this line of support has been proven be sufficient to upkeep the military

conflict. It is not enough to regain Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, which stands as

a defeat to the rule-based system that the West has been building in recent

decades. Keeping in mind the absolute need of Ukraine to keep receiving these

funds to continue the war effort in the short term, complementary actions are

needed to repel Russia from Ukrainian soil.

Strengthening the sanctions Russia has been evading for two years would be a

start. It has been documented how the ‘brains’ of Russian missiles are powered by

Western technology, which is illegally imported from countries that geographically

border Russia. Extending the sanctions on sensible technology to companies that

have been proven to illegally smuggle Western components to Russian companies

would significantly damage Russia’s ability to upkeep its war effort.

Russia has also been able to maintain many alliances at the international level.

Few to no countries outside the West have joined the isolation effort against

Russia, and big players like China and India have instead increased their

partnership with Russia. The EU could offer third-party countries trade deals

and/or easier visa procedures to sway them to distance themselves from Russia, to

create a wider coalition of countries to isolate Russia. We have already seen the

possible effects widespread isolation can have on Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and

with the 1973 OPEC embargo.

A third way can be to counter Russia’s physical influence in third countries.

Examples are Russia’s armed personnel deployed all over Africa, its military

medical teams deployed in Italy at the start of COVID-19, and companies to build

nuclear power plants from southeast Asia so to sub-Saharan Africa. Taking away

the threat of Russian retorsion through its in-loco personnel would give more

leeway to states to act independently. It is important to remember that Russia’s

influence must be counted only at a political level. Fostering the already present

Russian phobia of its people and culture would only contribute to pouring gasoline

on the fire.

Changing Russia’s behaviour on the international scene will require patience and a lot of effort, and the war in Ukraine proved the West cannot do it alone. Isolating

Russia physically and through sanctions is needed to win in the short term, but if

we look at the next decades, the West must convince ‘the rest’ to share its

principles of condemnation towards any country that violates territorial



Alessandro Cercaci

Alessandro Cercaci


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