Since February 24th, 2022, the world has witnessed Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which has become a serious challenge to many countries but particularly to those in the Euro-Atlantic community. A year and a half of brutal aggression has compelled Western governments to elaborate and implement a range of complex decisions at unprecedented scales and on a very short timelines. Further, Russia’s invasion has tested West’s ability to predict and assess security threats and to generate and sustain adequate political attention to the crisis. The shocking massacre of Israelis by Hamas on October 7th, 2023, has forced Western policy makers to react quickly to another crisis in another part of the world. Understandably, the Ukrainian government’s anxiety has increased with the uncertainty as to how it might be possible for the West would cope with two crisis situations simultaneously, and what—if anything— Kyiv should do about the situation in Israel.
In the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war, and in the wider Russo-Western conflict, both sides compete over international influence as well as over how Ukraine and Russia are governed. While most would agree with this general assessment, prominent scholars like John J. Mearsheimer and others have argued that the West caused these confrontations by aggressively expanding its influence and preferred regime type into Ukraine, thus forcing Russia’s hand. However, while Russia’s perceptions of NATO evidently played a role in its decisions, a recent study finds that Mearsheimer’s arguments are at best incomplete and at worst simply false.
A team of seven African presidents led an initiative in mid-June 2023 to attempt to make peace in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. For most observers, this intervention raised interesting questions: How can states from a continent ravaged by wars and conflicts have the courage, credibility, and conviction to intervene in a European conflict? Moreover, how can countries without power and leverage intervene in a conflict in which other more powerful actors have failed? What did they expect to achieve from this intervention? This article suggests that the African team sought to invoke the dire economic consequences occasioned by the Russia-Ukraine conflict on Africa to exert moral leverage on the disputing parties to end the war. Combined with the desperate economic situation, the African leaders found strength in their neutrality to make a case for a peaceful approach to a conflict that has had global ramifications. The initiative did not seek to mediate the conflict; rather, it was a modest diplomatic plea for peace in the face of a deteriorating situation.
On 23 and 24 June, armed columns of the Wagner Group made their way from occupied Ukrainian territory toward Moscow, passing through Rostov and Voronezh. The declared goal of these Russian mercenaries under the leadership of oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin was to depose Russian Minister of Defense Sergei K. Shoigu and Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery V. Gerasimov. Prigozhin accused both of having betrayed Russia in its war against Ukraine.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine—established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2022—published its report on 15 March 2023, detailing numerous violations of international human rights, criminal and humanitarian law, primarily carried out by Russian forces. Such commissions of inquiry are essential when other enforcement mechanisms are blocked, and can provide avenues for accountability in national, regional, and international courts. The full-scale attention of international institutions on Ukraine is a critical moment to strengthen the work of international fact-finding missions for future and existing armed conflicts.
Just as leaders from across the world gathered in New York to address challenges to global peace and stability, the Russian president Putin declared mobilisation in Russia for the third time in its history. This step, which had formerly was ruled out by Russian officials, indicates that the Kremlin does not have any viable options but to escalate. Even though Putin still prefers to call the war a “special military operation”, he has virtually introduced martial laws across the entire spectrum of Russian economy and society, doubling down on the only gamble that he thinks can still pay off.