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MALTATODAY 8 January 2023

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13 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 8 JANUARY 2023 is a degree of consensus that Europe needs to bolster its economic resilience further, it must end its energy depend- ence on Russia and it must invest more in its defence and security," Attard continues. But the invasion has also highlight- ed additional key issues. One of them is Europe's visible de- pendance on the United States to safeguard European securi- ty and defence. "Without the massive US military and polit- ical aid and support, Ukraine would have succumbed to the special military operation within a few weeks. These cir- cumstances have provided sig- nificant food for thought and reinforced the notion that de- spite all the political statements made by Europe, the continent remains very much dependent on the US for its very own se- curity and defence." This, Attard says, raises the question of how long will the US continue to show this same level of commitment towards European Security and de- fence for, particularly within a context where its global dom- inance continues to be chal- lenged by the emerging might of China. "Will the US shift its focus towards China and place Europe on the backburner? How would Europe respond to a repeat scenario similar to the one in Ukraine where US po- litical and military support is lacking?" He underlines the need for Europe to review its military spending, focusing on invest- ment gaps, and to take initia- tives to strengthen the Euro- pean defence industrial and technological base in order to render it more capable and in- dependent. "A stronger and militarily more capable Europe that takes a more active role in its own security and defence is a must going forward. Such capacity building must begin in earnest immediately and before it may be too late. The EU must also achieve, in full, comple- mentarity with NATO in order to create the right conditions for the US to remain commit- ted towards the European Se- curity and Defence architecture without perceiving it to be such a burden." On the diplomatic front, Dr Valentina Cassar, an academic and lecturer who focuses on US and Russian security policies, European Security and Defence and nuclear politics, highlight- ed the importance of keeping the channels for dialogue with Russia open. "Russia's retreat from the global norms and international liberal order and the strain in relations between Russia and the West and indeed between Russia and Ukraine were not new to 2022, but date back al- most a decade, and most no- tably to 2014 when Russia an- nexed the Crimean peninsula," Cassar told MaltaToday. She argues that the war has entrenched the cracks within the international system that have long been present. "This was an international system where most states were more focused on domestic political and economic challenges and whose stamina for defending the international liberal order was strained." However, Dr. Cassar notes, the war has galvanised con- victions in support of Ukraine and the defence of democracy, sovereignty, and the rule of law. One result of this is higher than expected support for Ukraine by the international communi- ty, she says, "particularly high- er than expected by Russia, and the solidarity and collaboration between members of the trans- atlantic community, Europeans and other allies has been re- vived." "All this has bolstered the remarkable resistance shown by the Ukrainian people and their government, and strained Russia's expectations for a rap- id war and swift collapse of Ukraine's control over its terri- tories." Dr. Cassar said that the Ukrainians' staunch resistance and spirited defence since 2014 indicates that the war will likely extend into a stalemate and a protracted conflict "that unfor- tunately has the possibility to extend over an indefinite peri- od of time." She expects Russia's efforts to remain focused on maintain- ing control of territories within the East of Ukraine whilst also weakening Ukraine's capabil- ities and morale by targeting its infrastructure. "This, as we have seen, is particularly per- tinent in the context of a cold winter, where energy has been a predominant target." But Russia also faces domestic political, logistical and infra- structural challenges, whereby it must sustain its war effort both in terms of manpower, ca- pabilities, and domestic politi- cal support which may be fur- ther strained by the economic repercussions of the war and subsequent sanctions. In this respect, Russia's domestic po- litical stability will be a crucial factor that may determine the extent of Russia's engagement in Ukraine, Dr. Cassar predicts. In the meantime, she points out, Russia has also been fo- cused on shoring up its own bi- lateral and international align- ments, short of direct support, in the course of the war. "In this respect, the maintenance of Russia's relationship with China will be increasingly im- portant." Ukraine's' resistance will con- tinue to depend on sustaining morale as well as guaranteeing continued support from its al- lies, particularly in terms of capabilities and weapons from the United States and other NATO allies. "Over the past ten months we have witnessed a revived raison d'etre within NATO, whereby the alliance has seen a galva- nised coherence amongst its members, but also the faster ac- cession process for Finland and Sweden." This, Dr. Cassar says, is a reflection of the wider de- bate on European security that is taking place both within and outside NATO. "For Malta and other neutral states within the EU, this has led to much debate over how we define our neutrality, what neutrality means within the current world order, and how to constructively reconcile this with the reality of our integra- tion within the broader trans- atlantic and European frame- works." For the coming year, Dr. Cas- sar said she would expect more focused dialogue amongst EU member states aimed towards continuing to support Ukraine and the defence of democracy and sovereignty through initia- tives that will complement the provision of capabilities and infrastructure that larger states are able to provide. "I believe we will also see discussion that is more focused on providing assistance, whilst also main- taining national capabilities in the long term." Over the past months, many observers and states have also emphasised the importance of dialogue and negotiation, said Dr. Cassar, pointing out that recently, Putin himself had in- dicated an openness to the pos- sibility of peace talks. "Whilst the likelihood of peace talks – or their success – between Russia and Ukraine may be slim due to the entrenched demands of both sides, we should keep in mind the importance of di- alogue between other states, in particular that between the United States and Russia, par- ticularly regarding nuclear arms control and the renewal of the New Strategic Arms Reduc- tion Treaty between the two su- perpowers." MaltaToday also spoke to Robert Young Pelton, a veter- an investigative journalist and documentary film director who specialises in high-risk report- ing from war zones for his view on how the conflict will pan out this year. The Canadian-Amer- ican expressed cautious opti- mism for Ukraine's cause, and that a ceasefire was probable in 2023. "Ukraine is winning at great cost and with the intense sup- port of America and Europe. As our congress shifts to the right, the level of support for Ukraine might shrink and tough ques- tions on why America is pay- ing Ukraine to furiously grind down the Russian army will be asked. Putin will insist that he has won - his internal messag- ing seems very fluid - since he will still be clinging on to bits of Ukraine's east and Crimea." "Zelensky may face some tough questions from Ukraini- ans about when life can return to normal. There will likely be a ceasefire in 2023 while both sides work furiously to under- mine each other using clandes- tine and non-military means. The only difference is that Pu- tin has turned Russia into a pa- riah state for investors, tourism and sales of natural wealth." Young Pelton says he believes that Ukraine will ultimately benefit from their now clear identification as part of Europe and the West. "But ultimately this 8-year-old war is not over yet. For Putin at least." Vladimir Putin's request for a ceasefire at Christmas was rebuffed by the energised Ukrainians. The tide of the war has ebbed and flowed and the situation remains fluid, although there is consensus that the Ukrainian armed forces have exceeded expectations, even enjoying some spectacular successes. Western assessments about the capabilities of the Russian military were shown to have been, at least partially, overestimated

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