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Ukraine: What are the military and political challenges for the West?

On Wednesday 7 September 2022, the Netherlands Atlantic Association organized a program titled:

Ukraine: What are the military and political challenges for the West?

After almost six months since the Russian invasion in Ukraine, Russian aggression continues and the West is being tested in several ways. In the past years, Europe and the US have been bickering politically – but the Russian invasion in Ukraine has created a resurgence of the transatlantic relationship. The West has supported Ukraine politically and militarily in their fight for sovereignty and freedom. During this event, several important questions were discussed: to what extent will the West be able to support the Ukrainian militarily and politically without provoking a serious conflict with Russia? And if the war drags on, what does this bode for the trans-Atlantic relationship?

The meeting was held at the Pulchri Studios in The Hague. The Netherlands Atlantic Association invited Robert Adolph and Tony van der Togt to discuss questions relating this issue. Robert Adolph started the evening off with an interesting presentation on Putin – whom he considers to be the gravitational centre of the conflict. Adolph suggested Putin made grave mistakes in underestimating the resolve of both the Ukrainian people and the West. He believes that neither Putin nor Zelensky will be likely to surrender, and expects this war to be decided on the battlefield. The West is right to support Ukraine both militarily and financially, as Adolph argued that nations should never be held hostage. Resolve is key: as long as both Ukraine and the West stand their ground, Adolph hopes they will win out in the end.

Our second speaker, Tony van der Togt, started with a focus on Putin’s regime. He argued Putin invaded Ukraine because he feared the country was drifting too much to the West – and because Putin still wants to create a lasting historic legacy, which this war will provide for him. Putin believes the Russian empire has no borders, and Van der Togt discussed how losing Ukraine would mean that Russia (in Putin’s eyes) would cease to be a Eurasian empire. The world is trying to isolate Russia, and it’s working. It caused China to think twice about siding with Russia in this conflict, and it might even help to convince countries in Africa this is not simply a European war, but that it has consequences for them as well.

After these interesting speeches by the two speakers, our moderator Paul Brill took over to open up the floor to questions from the audience. Several topics were brought up for discussion, some of which Adolph and Van der Togt agreed on, but others on which their opinions differed as well. Discussed topics included the effectiveness of the economic sanctions placed on Russia, possible advice that might be given to the next generation of Russians and the consequences for this conflict if China were to invade in Taiwan. One of the audience members also asked about the possibility of a nuclear war – which Van der Togt believed would not occur, as it is the most extreme solution to this conflict. Adolph stated that that is a very rational train of thought, which he believes Putin has never possessed, and sadly, most likely never will.

The event ended with a word of thanks to both speakers and the audience, and was concluded with a round of applause for Robert Adolph, Tony van der Togt and our moderator Paul Brill.

Watch the full program here

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