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Germany stands with Ukraine in its existential struggle

Jens Plötner is foreign and security policy advisor to the German Federal Chancellor. Andriy Yermak is the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.

The world is currently navigating turbulent waters, facing what some describe as a “perfect storm” of geopolitical, geostrategic and economic challenges. At its eye sits Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, with its wide-ranging global implications for food and energy security, supply chains, macro-financial stability, inflation and economic growth.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine presents a daunting security challenge. It has left an indelible mark on the map of Europe, reshaping its political and economic dynamics. In his speech on February 27, 2022, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described Russia’s war of aggression as a Zeitenwende — a watershed moment after which the world would no longer be the same. Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war has shattered peace on the Continent, constituting a “return of imperialism.”

While this is a war in Europe, however, it has major global consequences. It has challenged established norms of international conduct and tested the resilience of international institutions. The viability of the global security order following the end of the Cold War is now a central issue. And what is more, Russia’s invasion has raised questions about the effectiveness of existing international mechanisms in resolving conflicts.

For Ukraine, this is an existential fight to secure a free and democratic future, as Russia denies its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. So, it must come as no surprise that the Euro-Atlantic community considers Russia the most direct threat to its security.

And Germany stands by Ukraine in support of its self-defense against Russia’s aggression.

For the first time in its recent history, Germany is providing military support and arms to a party at war, and it has become the second largest contributor of military aid to Ukraine. German society has also engaged in efforts to help the country, as more than a million Ukrainians have found refuge in Germany, and over 200,000 Ukrainian children now attend German schools.

From providing humanitarian aid to power-generating equipment and treating Ukrainian soldiers and children in German hospitals, it is hard to overstate these efforts. In September, for example, the return of Roman Oleksiiv, the 8-year-old from Vinnytsia, shook the Ukrainian nation. Half of his body had been burned in a Russian air raid, and German doctors worked wonders saving him.

At the same time, the North Atlantic Alliance has taken bold decisions to further strengthen deterrence and defense as well. The recent NATO Summit in Vilnius contributed to the strengthening of the Ukraine-NATO partnership. And following the G7 Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine, Berlin and Kyiv are now in intensive discussions on bilateral security commitments, which aim to sustain Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, increase its resilience in the long-term and deter future aggression.

Through significant multiannual commitments, Germany is spearheading efforts to support Ukraine with a clear message: We stand in solidarity with and support Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”

Ukraine belongs in the European family. Both the European Union, as well as Ukraine and Germany will benefit from Ukraine’s European integration and strengthen the EU’s ability to act. Ukraine has been committed to implementing reforms and is highly motivated to move on despite the war. It will maintain the course, and Germany will continue to support Ukraine in implementing the necessary reforms. We therefore salute the historical decision of the European Council to open the EU accession with Ukraine, inviting the Сouncil to adopt the negotiating framework once the relevant steps set out in the Commission recommendations of November 8, 2023 are taken.

Ukraine has been committed to implementing reforms and is highly motivated to move forward with accession. And Germany will continue to support Ukraine in implementing the necessary reforms.

Let there be no doubt that Hamas’ atrocious terrorist attacks and Israel’s response in legitimate self-defense have not weakened our resolve, or pulled away our attention. We must also remember what has been achieved so far: Ukraine has liberated over 50 percent of territories occupied by Russia after its full-fledged invasion — one Putin mistakenly thought would be a swift military campaign.

Today, we see Ukraine’s economy growing back despite Russia’s ongoing attempts to cripple its production and agricultural sector, including via continued attacks on Danube and Black Sea port facilities and infrastructure.

But how to end Russia’s war against Ukraine and achieve a just and lasting peace? To date, unfortunately, it has been immensely hard to see a resolution.

No country wants peace more than Ukraine. But let us be clear, a simple cease-fire today would be tantamount to legitimizing Russia’s land grab, and it would pave the way for yet another frozen conflict — a scenario that’s both unjust, dangerous and, moreover, unsustainable.

Sometimes we are confronted with the idea that any negotiated settlement or broader revision of the European security architecture must also consider Russia’s “legitimate security concerns.” However, let us recall that in response to Russia’s proposals before the current war, both NATO and the U.S. were ready to enter a broader discussion on European security that included all relevant countries, with the aim of promoting stability and transparency, and reducing the likelihood of future conflict. But instead of embracing a good faith discussion, Russia chose to go down the path of war.

Therefore, it seems obvious to us that whatever the perception of one’s own security concerns may be, these should not — and cannot — justify an invasion of a peaceful neighboring country.

In the meantime, we are once again witnessing Russia resorting to Cold War practices, attempting to broaden the conflict by involving proxy forces elsewhere in the world and playing on anti-Western sentiment in the global south. It is more than cynical that Russia is increasingly trying to justify its imperialist war via anti-colonial rhetoric.

Here, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Peace Plan, based on the U.N. Charter and rooted in international law, offers a way out. And it cannot be stressed enough that it is Ukraine — the victim of unprovoked aggression — that has mustered up the courage to present to the world with a peace plan, while Russia continues to insist on a dictated peace, achieved either on its own terms or through military means.

Inspired by Zelenskyy’s Peace Plan, Ukraine, Germany and many other like-minded states have thus joined efforts to develop a common action plan. Together, we have actively participated in the Copenhagen, Jeddah and Malta meetings of national security advisors, and preparation for another such meeting is already underway. 

The core idea behind this process is to have an in-depth discussion with global partners on the implications of Russia’s war, emphasizing common interests and concerns in order to ultimately achieve the widest possible international support for a peace process in Ukraine. As Zelenskyy put it, the Peace Plan is global in nature, as the concept behind it provides the possibility of reaching a just and equally safe peace for all nations.

In this sense, Ukraine and Germany agree that unity and collective effort are the only way to restore security, based on the principles of international law.

Both our countries are determined to defend and uphold a rules-based international order with a strong U.N. at its heart. This entails rights and rules that create protection and obligations for all states equally — among them respect for international humanitarian law and human rights, the sovereign equality of all states, a peaceful balance of interests and conflict prevention, as well as multilateral cooperation for the benefit of humanity and the protection of our natural resources.

This holds true not only for achieving peace in Ukraine but across the whole world.