Lecture by the Razumkov Centre Military Programmes Director M. Sunhurovskyi for the NaUKMA School for Policy Analysis

October 03, 2022

Lecture by the Razumkov Centre Military Programmes Director M. Sunhurovskyi for the NaUKMA School for Policy Analysis upon the interim results of research under the project "Role and place of Ukraine in the future European and Euro-Atlantic security systems", carried out with support of Hanns Seidel Stiftung Ukraine


The lecture examines the main lessons of the war that are clear today, the key trends in the international security environment, scenarios for the end of the war. For preparation of the material, opinions expressed by many domestic and foreign experts were used, including some critical statements of the Russian political scientist Andrei Kortunov regarding Russia.

Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine has changed the world and will cause tectonic shifts in the perception of security, mechanisms of its provision, response to crises and their resolution. Stakeholders become increasingly aware (unfortunately, slowly, and not all) that the "normality" to which the Kremlin is trying to accustom the world has nothing to do with the norms of the international law and the real state of affairs.

The Kremlin regime (in the broadest sense) has thrown off the mask, under which the real face of Putin hides — an international terrorist, a murderer, a rapist, a looter, a liar — personifying everything, for which the Russian armed forces received indulgence in Ukraine, along with those who determine and implement the Russian domestic and foreign policy. A question arises: is this the face of Putin that some Western politicians hope to preserve?

In order to prevent the recurrence of the horrors of war and the breakdown of the system of international law, the international peace-loving community must reform and strengthen the security system both at the global and regional levels. If, for certain reasons, the structures responsible for implementation of the security mechanisms are not ready to do so, then the public must find ways to force reforms — through public diplomacy, elections, protest actions, criticism in mass media, etc.

The war was the result of a larger process that began practically with the end of the Cold War — a coalition under the flags of the West, led by the United States, and, conditionally, the non-West, led by China, which gradually replaced the USSR, striving to acquire allies that defend common values. This process is sometimes called a civilisational rift. The countries on the "borders" of these coalitions become victims, hit by wars (Georgia, Ukraine) or conflicts (not necessarily armed) on a smaller scale (some Balkan, Asian, African, Latin American countries).

In view of this, we can note the presence of mutually directed processes: on the one hand, the results of the war affect the leading actors looking for a new world order, on the other, the vision of the future world order by these actors will determine the scale of aid to Ukraine, the power of pressure on Russia, thus influencing the outcome of the war. At the same time, it would be a mistake not to take into account the determination with which Ukraine is fighting for its independence and territorial integrity, as well as the processes of erosion in the Russian leadership and the still unorganised protest actions within the zombie population called the "Russian people". We will see which of these processes will be decisive soon.

The intermediate results and expected consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war provide an opportunity to learn important lessons:

  • Russia's war against Ukraine, its violation of the principles of international law, disregard of the warnings of other states and international organisations finally highlighted the imperial, invasive nature of Russia's policy, and confirmed that the rule of law does not work in Russia.
  • The green light to economic cooperation with authoritarian states (China, Russia) regardless of security issues, "purely commercial" projects with the companies of these states contribute to their export of political corruption, economic and political dependence on them.
  • Attempts to establish constructive relations with Russia on the part of the USA (the "thaw" during J. Bush Sr. and the "reset" during J. Bush Jr.), Germany ("economic modernisation" during H. Schröder and A. Merkel), France (during F. Mitterrand, J. Chirac and early N. Sarkozy), at the same time disdaining the imperial essence of the Kremlin regimes (at all times), as well as the successful integration of Russia — not without such Western aid — in the world economy contributed to its economic growth, stability, strengthening of political influence on the international scene, and on the security situation in the world by intentionally creating problems and crises, and offering its services to solve them. The climax was the war with Georgia (2008) and the beginning of the war with Ukraine (2014), which turned into open aggression on February 24, 2022.
  • In a similar way, China, the regimes of Iraq, Iran, etc., which were later recognised as enemies of the West, were rising. In addition to other geopolitical factors, the notorious preference of prices over values, noted by many experts, was a key driver.
  • The hybridity of international conflicts and crises is characterised by the emergence of non-traditional weapons: energy resources, political corruption, aggressive propaganda, to which food has been added recently. The use of this weapon by the aggressor characterises it as a vile, insidious, and cruel actor. The main areas of use of these types of weapons by Russia currently include:
  • “shame lessons” for the West (using the memories of the Asian and African countries about their colonial past, inequality between the North and the South, spreading fakes about the origin of COVID-19 and unfair distribution of vaccines);
  • undermining the unity of Europe by deepening the energy crisis and provoking discontent of the population of European countries during the winter period;
  • hopes to undermine the stability of the EU countries, divert their attention from the war in Ukraine due to migration or lack of grain, the supply of which from the Ukrainian ports was blocked by Russia itself;
  • gaining ground on the international scene through Russia's opposition to the "bad" West; mitigating the consequences of sanctions with smuggling schemes; weakening the economic potential of Ukraine, cutting it from Western aid.

In addition, the war highlighted serious problems in global and regional security systems:

  • The practice of veto in the UN Security Council slows down or makes it impossible to make decisions on the settlement of conflicts that directly or indirectly affect the interests of permanent members of the Security Council. It is unacceptable that in the case of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, is a recognised aggressor that vetoes down decisions related to the settlement of this conflict. This goes against common sense and requires an immediate reform of the UN.
  • Continuing the subject of the UN, the security system has not demonstrated the political will and efficiency of coercive mechanisms for conflict resolution, compliance with international norms. Peace coercion operations stipulated by the UN Charter have practically disappeared from the arsenal of the Security Council, due to the lack of political will, financial, military and technical resources, veto on such decisions. The UN attempts to avoid complex problems led to their deepening, instead of solving. Giving priority to political settlement of armed conflicts leads to their freezing with subsequent escalation. Such was the conflict in Donbas, which, after Russia accumulated the necessary forces, turned into a full-scale aggression against Ukraine.
  • The initial phase of Russia's war against Ukraine, its ultimatums to NATO, subsequent nuclear blackmail of the United States and Europe proved the need for the means of early detection of risks, prevention of threats, adequate and efficient response not only to direct aggression, but also to threats of it.
  • The lesson for Ukraine is that the problem of its security does not lie in NATO's unwillingness to provide the necessary assistance — the fact is that the Alliance tried to maintain the image of a peaceful alliance that makes every effort to avoid direct conflict with a nuclear state. The real problem of Ukraine is that it found itself outside the framework of the Alliance, and with the beginning of the war it practically stopped attempts to join it. Instead, the Office of the President prioritised preparation of an utopian Treaty on Security Guarantees and search for ways to create an "alternative NATO". At the same time, efforts were focused on Ukraine obtaining the status of a candidate for EU membership. However, it would be more appropriate to appeal to the EU for arms supplies to Ukraine, since these processes are regulated by its legislation, and not by the position of the NATO leadership.

Let us try to identify the key trends in the international security environment

The war in Ukraine initiated fateful global processes, led to uncertainty, unpredictability and nervousness in the behaviour of individual actors. Forecasting the future, defining strategic and tactical priorities, and coordinating cooperation of countries within the framework of joint actions to overcome the crisis have become much more difficult.

Currently, a progressive process of strengthening and consolidation of the collective West is observed, as marked by the admission of Finland and Sweden to NATO, a change in the approaches of European states to collective and national security. This can be most clearly seen by the examples of Germany, Great Britain, Poland, and other European countries willing to significantly strengthen their armed forces, military and political role in Europe. Political solidarity of the West was shown by the very quick approval of unprecedented sanctions against Russia and aid programmes for Ukraine, as well as their pressure on Russia in such organisations as the UN Security Council, G-20, and the Council of Europe.

Despite certain disagreements on such issues as the "military" or "diplomatic" way of resolving the conflict, the scale and forms of military and technical assistance to Ukraine, the attitude to the Russian future after the end of the war, the collective West found the strength to be unanimous in responding to the Russian aggression for more than six months now.

At the same time, the world is witnessing an increase in the number of hybrid regimes that often claim regional hegemony and are critical or even hostile to the West, its values, and ways of implementing them. Political developments in India, Turkey, and other countries that the West would like to see among its allies cause the greatest concern in the West. This trend, started with the end of the Cold War, or maybe with the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, gained strength during the "Arab Spring", Brexit, aggravation of conflicts in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and especially during the coronavirus pandemic. But, along with doubts about the historical correctness of the West, its inability to adequately respond to these crises contributed to the strengthening of its instinct of self-preservation. The powerful challenge posed by Russian aggression against Ukraine activated the existing mechanisms for response to a danger.

The West's confrontation with China and Russia is gaining global proportions. The countries of Southeast and Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America are increasingly becoming the objects of increased attention and rivalry. "Competition for souls" takes place against the background of the efforts of some countries, such as India, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, to become regional leaders. The success of their competition will depend on the attractiveness of economic bonuses and models of socio-economic development offered by the West and China. The competition will take place against the background of increasing fundamental economic, political, social and environmental problems both in the West and in China. China will try to expand its global influence through the Belt and Road projects, taking a leading role in the SCO while pursuing an offensive hegemonic policy in the Indo-Pacific region. From the US, we can expect large-scale regional projects involving the countries of the global South, and involvement of new participants in such structures as AUKUS, QUAD, Five Eyes.

The process of promoting Western values ​​and uniting a large group of European and "non-Western" countries under the collective umbrella of the West will be complicated by:

  • preservation of differences between the "Anglo-Saxon", "continental-European" and "Islamic" models of socio-economic development;
  • disagreements regarding policies in regions where the interests of leading Western countries are represented;
  • different readiness for exhaustive competition with China and its allies, readiness of some European countries to make concessions for short-term economic gain;
  • the tendency of developed democracies to trust bureaucratic procedures to the detriment of flexibility and speed of decision-making.

The competition will be exhausting and long. The readiness of the West and Beijing for economic and political compromises will depend on the future balance of power in specific regions and sectors of economy. But the main condition for the possibility of such competitions is the absence of an atmosphere of military danger. For this reason, Russia's participation becomes undesirable. Russia, most likely, will be assigned the role of a platform for competition, which will require its demilitarisation and radical reformation of the state system.

Until the beginning of these processes, the West will focus on maximum geopolitical, military, strategic and economic isolation of Russia. The inertia in the perception of Russia by other countries is being overcome: from a useful economic partner and an indispensable component of the international security system to a malicious violator of the international law, a source of danger, an international terrorist, the relations with which are toxic.  

The inability of the West to resist the nuclear blackmail of Putin's Russia, to prevent its use of nuclear weapons, will be tantamount to recognising the worthlessness of the US and its allies' nuclear arsenal as a means of deterrence, encourage Russia to intensify the game of ultimatums, will mean the collapse of the entire system of nuclear deterrence and non-proliferation, and will prompt many countries to acquire nuclear capabilities, which will call into question the very existence of humanity.

Beijing's attitude towards Russia and its role in stirring up Russia's aggressiveness are not known for sure. On the one hand, China is connected with the West, primarily — the US, by strong economic ties, which predisposes it to comply with anti-Russian sanctions. On the other hand, China is openly hostile to the US presence in the Indo-Pacific region, especially its support for Taiwan. Beijing has significant economic (and probably political) influence over Russia, which enables it to use it as a battering ram in anti-Western politics. This opinion is prompted by a very symptomatic chronology of outbursts of the Kremlin’s aggression: the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing — Putin's visit to Beijing — war in Georgia; 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi — a meeting of Putin and Xi in Sochi — occupation of Crimea and parts of Donbas; 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing — Putin's visit to Beijing — full-scale aggression against Ukraine. The question remains, if Putin’s latest outburst of aggressiveness — the announcement of mobilisation, annexation of the occupied territories, the threat of nuclear weapons — met a positive or negative response from Xi during the SCO summit?

The war highlighted problems regarding the efficiency of existing economic and security alliances. The main problems here include errors in risk assessment, failure to prevent crises, late response, irresponsible attitude of some members to resource needs. Against this background, apocalyptic conclusions are heard about the end of the era of globalisation, large alliances and transition to network structures in the form of autonomous regional and subregional unions. Signs of such processes take place and are aimed at finding ways to achieve internal solidarity and stability of alliances and coalitions. Examples include

  • the Northern European Defense Union, the Visegrad Four, the Lublin Triangle, the Three Seas project;
  • Boris Johnson's initiative to create a new military-political and economic union outside the EU under the auspices of Great Britain with the participation of Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Turkey;
  • Emmanuel Macron's idea, which has already begun to materialise, to create a "European political community" with all the countries of Western Balkans, Ukraine and Moldova plus the EU members;
  • the coalition of states formed to help Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression (the so-called "Ramstein" and "Copenhagen" processes).

However, in absence of convincing evidence of the efficiency and sustainability of the new entities, the process will go along several parallel paths: reforming existing economic and security institutions; formation of more stable subregional structures and flexible situational coalitions within them; development of interregional and global partnerships.

This conclusion is confirmed by the results of an expert survey conducted by Razumkov Center together with the School for Policy Analysis, where one of the questions was: "What, in your opinion, will be the main scenarios of the future international security system?"












1. Disintegration of existing and formation of new pan- and sub-regional alliances, situational coalitions







2. Strengthening of sub-regional (sectoral) unions, alliances and reformatting of existing institutions based on agreements among new entities







3. Preservation of the existing security institutions with their substantial reformation and strengthening the role of sub-regional entities







5% of experts believes that at the global level (the UN system) security structures are threatened by the collapse of existing and the formation of new inter- and subregional alliances, situational coalitions. 28% believes that such processes can take place at the level of the EU, OSCE, and 20% — at the level of NATO. However, the majority of experts (65-80%) considers such changes unlikely.

3/4 of experts believes that processes at the global and European levels related to the strengthening of subregional (sectoral) unions, alliances and reformatting of existing institutions based on agreements between new entities are possible. In NATO, such a process is considered possible by 2/3 of respondents. 

Most experts (75%, in NATO — 85%) consider the most probable trend of changes in security structures at the global and regional levels to be the preservation of the existing security institutions with their significant reformation and increase in the role of subregional entities.

Steps in these directions have already begun in both democratic and authoritarian countries, due to which the rivalry between them will reach a higher level.

Collective opposition to Russia has already turned into one of the symbols of the renewed Western unity. This directly affects the strategy of defeating Russia (about which a certain consensus was formed in the democratic countries, formulated in the documents of the EU, G7, NATO summits), as well as the duration of the war and the perception of the future of Ukraine and Russia. Such a strategy may look like this:

  • if the West promptly provides all necessary weapons, Ukraine wins a complete victory over Russia; in the best case, the war may end by the end of 2022 — a desirable option for everyone; under the condition of dosed supplies of weapons, it may last for years — an undesirable option;
  • extension of sanctions with the aim of depriving Russia of its ability to resume aggression;
  • rebuilding Ukraine, strengthening its security sector to a level that ensures security and stability;

The internal processes in Russia caused by the military defeat and sanctions may lead to its partial or complete reformatting, which should fundamentally change the attitude towards it in the world. In the anti-Russian camp, calls to prevent Russia’s collapse have become louder lately — perhaps because of the hope for preferences during the development of the destroyed Russian market or a lack of imagination of the world without a nuclear blackmailer. Fears of an uncontrolled sale of Russia's nuclear potential can hardly be considered valid, because such a problem can be eliminated by joint efforts, as evidenced by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Two diametrically opposed options of Russia’s future may be:

  1. "Prevention of Russia’s disintegration", meaning preservation of the existing regime with cosmetic changes in its political system, since the introduction of democratic foundations of the state system in Russia is tantamount to its disintegration. Natural death, physical removal or deprivation of power of the "tsar" Putin may have rather a symbolic meaning, but will not guarantee Russia's renunciation of imperial encroachments, since the Russian "elites" and society are deeply zombified (with some exceptions, that have a marginal character) with hatred for "fascist" Ukraine and the "decaying" West. Under these conditions, the probability that a progressive political force ready to promote the values ​​of democracy and market economy will come to power in Russia in the near future is close to zero. Deterring Russia's aggressiveness can be achieved by forcing it (by sanctions) to resume participation in the Adapted Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, from which it withdrew before the attack on Georgia. According to the Treaty, Russia was to withdraw heavy weapons beyond the Urals and to observe flank restrictions.
  2. Reformatting the Russian political and administrative system, dividing its military potential among new entities and controlled destruction of its nuclear arsenal. This is a very difficult task that requires solidarity in the UN and of the nuclear states, but it is justified, in view of the threat of a nuclear apocalypse caused by Russia.

As for Ukraine, it can hope for a worthy place in the new world order, global and regional economic and security systems only in the case of a complete victory over Russia. Under the condition of freezing the conflict, it will be perceived as a victim country, not a fully-fledged actor. After the victory, many will want to join the camp of the winners. Instead, in the case of a "failure to win", all responsibility will rest with Ukraine, because a ceasefire halfway to victory will be its decision, to which no one forced it.

To some extent, the answer to the question of stability of the Western unity depends on the results of the Russo-Ukrainian war. The victory of the West and the disappearance of Russia from the list of existential threats will become the basis for the preservation of Western unity for a long period, a significant factor of legitimisation of the US leadership, an impulse for the adaptation of multilateral institutions that ensure coordination of the foreign and defence policies of the Western countries to the new conditions.

The victory of Russia and capitulation of Ukraine will cause aggravation of old and emergence of new rifts in the West, the search for those responsible for the defeat, destructive processes at the national and international level. Even a "half-victory" of the West, i.e. leaving Russia a chance to "get up from its knees", which will later turn into the restoration of its aggressiveness, will mean a major foreign policy defeat for the USA, encourage the opponents of the West led by China to greater pressure on the leading Western countries and the system of Western values.

There are three main scenarios for the end of the war, which are hotly debated.

  1. Negotiations on a cease-fire with the contact line as of the beginning of the negotiations (practically, on Russian terms); freezing of the conflict. The issues of deoccupation of Donbass and Crimea will be subject to a compromise; sanctions against Russia remain, but efforts are being made to soften or cancel them; Officially or unofficially, restrictions on military and technical assistance to Ukraine are introduced. Surrender of Ukraine.
  2. Pushing Russian troops to the demarcation line as of February 23, 2022; negotiations on providing security guarantees to Ukraine; negotiations on the fate of the occupied territories of Donbas and Crimea.

Such a scenario seems to find support in certain political circles of Western countries: Germany, France, Italy, and the marginal part of the US Republican Party.

There is no confidence in Russia's consent to discuss the fate of Separate Regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and, especially, Crimea when they are under its control. Also, despite the assurances of the representatives of the President's Office about the readiness of the leading Western countries to provide security guarantees to Ukraine, in fact it is about their readiness to discuss these issues, and clearly not about military guarantees, except for assistance with weapons.

Through negotiations, it is may be possible to achieve Russia's temporary concession on certain issues that are not critical for it in exchange for lifting some sanctions. This will encourage Russia to replenish its forces and resources and resume aggression, using the occupied territories as a springboard.

The real guarantee of security, at least for Ukraine and East European countries, is to deprive the Kremlin regime (both current and future) of opportunities for aggression.

  1. Complete restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and capitulation of Russia, including:
  • successful counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine using the Western aid and restoration of borders as of 1991;
  • Russian reparations for the damage caused to Ukraine;
  • conclusion of a legally binding document defining the terms of border demarcation, verification mechanisms and responsibility for violation.

The scenario of a complete defeat of Russia and its deprivation of opportunities to unleash aggression against its neighbours reflects the views of the political elite of most Western countries (the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Poland, the Baltic states, etc.), and corresponds to the wishes of the patriotic majority of Ukrainians.


1. Please assess the probability of each of the following scenarios for the end of the war







1. Beginning of negotiations on a ceasefire at the actual line of contact (practically, freezing the conflict on Russia’s terms)




2. Withdrawal (expulsion) of Russian troops to the border as of February 24, 2022, and peace talks




3. Pushing Russian troops to the 1991 borders; legal confirmation of the results




Not very encouraging assessments of experts are caused, according to their comments, by the following considerations:

  • the real goal of the USA is not the victory of Ukraine, but maximum exhaustion of Russia under the pressure of sanctions, as evidenced by the pace of military and technical assistance to Ukraine;
  • Western partners "pushing" Ukraine into negotiations with Russia;
  • limited resources for the Ukrainian counteroffensive, so that the pace of deoccupation will be determined by the Western aid and internal processes within Russia.

By the way, 80% of foreign experts rated scenario 3 as unlikely.

As an alternative scenario, and in view of the danger of tactical nuclear strikes, the actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine may be limited to long-range strikes at the enemy's forces.

The experts' answers to the question "How long do you think Ukraine can relax in case of implementation of the corresponding scenarios of the end of the war?" sounded a dissonance.


2. How long do you think Ukraine can relax in case of implementation of the corresponding scenarios of the end of the war?



up to 1 year



more than 10 years

1. Beginning of negotiations on a ceasefire at the actual contact line (freezing the conflict on Russia’s terms)





2. Withdrawal (expulsion) of Russian troops to the border as of February 24, 2022, and beginning of peace talks





3. Pushing Russian troops to the borders as of 1991; official documentation of the results





Thus, scenarios 1 and 2 mean "not a victory" for Ukraine, just a bit of rest. So, they cannot be considered acceptable for Ukraine.

The survey was conducted before the victories in the East and South of Ukraine and the Yalta European Strategy conference, where the views of the Ukrainian leadership on the end of the war and the possibility of talks with Russia were voiced.

For the full text in Ukrainian, see https://razumkov.org.ua/statti/mizhnarodne-bezpekove-seredovyshche-pid-chas-viiny-v-ukraini-lektsiia

Mykola Sunhurovskyi

Director, Military Programmes

Born in 1951 in Moscow.


Orenburg Higher Military Air Defence Forces School (1972);

Kyiv Air Defence Forces Academy (1982);

Higher School of Entrepreneurship, Kyiv Institute of National Economy (1991).

Ph. D. in Technical Sciences, Senior Research Fellow, the author of more than 90 publications.

Colonel (Ret.) with 31 years of military service, half of that term — at research institutions. Research profile — systems analysis, strategic planning, analysis methods, national security.


Most recent position in state bodies — Department Chief at the Analytical Service of Ukraine's NSDC Staff;

Since December 1999 — Razumkov Centre Programme Co-ordinator;

Since February 2000 — Freelance Consultant to the National Security and Defence Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

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