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What the War in Ukraine Means for Europe

No matter what happens next in Ukraine, there can be no return to the status quo before February 24. A dangerous new era has dawned, confronting Europeans with the urgent task of building their own defensive, technological, and nuclear deterrence capabilities.

BERLIN – Although spring is coming to Europe, the continent seems to be experiencing a flashback to some of the iciest moments of the Cold War. In fact, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought an end not only to a prolonged period of peace in Europe but also to the European security order on which peace has depended.

Of course, the end didn’t come suddenly. Nearly eight years before sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24, Russia annexed Crimea and launched a shadow war in the Donbas region. People have been fighting and dying in the violence in eastern Ukraine ever since, while the world looked on as the Kremlin sought to “fillet” a sovereign state by shaving off provinces.

Since 2014, the European peace framework has existed only on paper, where it has been sustained by Western Europeans’ wishful thinking about Russia’s political intentions. The previous European order, which rested on the absolute integrity of borders, has been replaced by an older form of European great-power politics in which force is used to claim zones of influence unilaterally. The threat of another Great War has thus returned to Europe, catching Europeans politically, militarily, and above all psychologically unprepared.