Russia`s aggression against Ukraine in February 2022 has shaken the world and caused immeasurable suffering and destruction in the invaded country. All indications are that the war will drag on into 2024.
The war irretrievably destroyed the European security architecture that was anchored in the Charter of Paris (1990) after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War.
To this day, the conflict is highly dynamic: militarily and politically. The ambitions, goals and achievements were and are as dynamic as the politics of the actors involved. Even if the EU itself is not a military actor, it has become an important one, not only supporting Kiev financially, but also financing European arms supplies to Ukraine, helping refugees, imposing sanctions on Russia and making Ukraine one of the candidates for EU membership. While there is at least a consensus on a European future for Ukraine, which, however, still has to be shaped, the question of future relations with Russia is completely open.
A look at recent history: as soon as the Soviet empire collapsed, the European peoples under its rule strove to find their own way. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria became members of the European Union one after the other. Ukraine remained in a grey zone: was it a border or a buffer state?
Soon after consolidating his power at home, Putin did everything he could to make Russia a (military) world power again. He justified his increasingly aggressive foreign policy with an amalgam of conservative, anti-communist, nationalist, pan-Slavic, anti-Western and neo-imperialist ideas. Thus he formed the idea of an ideologically, politically, culturally, geopolitically and identity-politically defined "Russian world" (Russkiy mir), which questions the existing state borders and explicitly includes the diaspora. An approach also supported by the Russian Orthodox Church, which aims to make the "Russian world" once again an outpost of Christian civilization.
Unfortunately, unlike in most Central and Eastern European capitals, neither this doctrine nor the security concerns of the CEE countries in particular towards Russia was taken seriously in the wider West until Russia attacked Ukraine with full force. Against this background, the long-discussed question of whether security on the European continent can only be organized with or against Russia took on a completely different meaning. Peaceful coexistence with Putin's Russian world is hardly conceivable at present. In the near future, European security must be defended against Russia. European leaders have acted with remarkable unity, determination and speed since the initial shock a year and a half ago.
A major challenge remains to reconcile the open-ended war effort with the economic and social dynamics and interests of the EU and within the EU itself.
On the other hand, there are still different views in Europe on how the war could, or should, end, what kind of post-war security architecture should be built. How the reconstruction of Ukraine and its permanent anchoring in the West should be managed. And how much scope there would be for resuming economic relations with Russia after the end of the war.
The conference will address these and related questions from different perspectives.