Blog post

What security guarantees can the EU provide to Ukraine?

Recommended citation:
Haroche, P. 2023. “What security guarantees can the EU provide to Ukraine?“, Policy brief, March 2023.

Any settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, whether or not it is negotiated with Russia, will have to include security assu- rances for Ukraine, so that this country no longer finds itself in the position of weakness it was in on 24 February 2022. This objective is clearly stated in point 9 of the peace plan proposed by Ukraine.

In theory, these security assurances could be–at least partially–negative, coming from Russia itself. Russia would have to credibly commit to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. A system that com- bines demilitarized zones near the Ukrainian border and the presence of international observers could be a possibility. However, to date, the prospect of such an agreement is highly uncertain. The precedent of the Budapest Memorandum, which was openly breached, does not inspire much hope for this type of commitment from Moscow. These difficulties mean that the positive security assurances that Ukraine’s allies could give are essential. In this case, the main guarantee would be a commitment to support Kyiv in the event of armed aggres- sion.

Such assurances would automatically come with Ukraine’s membership of NATO and the European Union (EU), whose treaties provide for mutual assistance clauses in their res- pective Articles 5 and 42-7. While Ukraine was granted EU candidate status on 23 June 2022, this process will take time, even in the event of a cessation of hostilities with Russia. Poland and the Baltic States sup- port the option of a fast-tracked process, but there is currently no consensus on this point among the 27. Article 42-7 is therefore not a viable medium-term solution.