What challenges await Ukraine and Europe after peace comes. The worldʼs leading media about the war on February 2

Anton Semyzhenko


Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European studies at the University of Oxford and a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, wrote a lengthy article in The New York Review of Books about the post-war challenges for both Ukraine and Europe. The author has been familiar with Ukraine for a long time — for example, he was on the Maidan during the Orange Revolution. He also knows Russia: he met Putin for the first time in 1994, when he was an unknown deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. At the time, Ash recalled, Putin said that there were lands like Crimea outside of Russia that were genuinely Russian, just as there were people who were actually Russian and, therefore, should be Russian citizens.

After the outbreak of the full-scale war, Ash, who also teaches at the Ukrainian Catholic University, also visited Ukraine. He begins his article by recalling conversations with Ukrainians he met in Lviv last December. For example, tattoo artist Tatyana, the most popular requests for her are to tattoo images of a trident, the Ukrainian flag, and the word “volya”, “will”. Or Yevhen, fond of cultural studies in the past, but now a military man, who has already been hospitalized twice due to injuries. Despite that, he rushes to the front. And he shares his dream with Ash: "I would still like to find out what Ukraine will be like after our victory."

Looking for an answer to the question, Ash notes that now Ukrainians are inspired by the struggle. He cites data from a survey by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, according to which 68% of Ukrainians considered themselves happy in July of last year, compared to 53% in the relatively peaceful year of 2017. The feeling of working together to win affects the vision of the future: according to the same survey, 89% of Ukrainians believe that in 10 years Ukraine will be a prosperous country within the EU, while only 5% predict that it will be a country with a destroyed economy and a significant population outflow. Be that as it may, the challenges that Ukrainian society will have to face are already becoming apparent — after all, before the full-scale invasion, Ukraine “wasnʼt a model of liberal democracy.” Ash calls these challenges, in particular, the oligarchs — and not the “old” ones, which after February 24 largely lost their influence and wealth, but the new ones, from among the people who are close to the state now. It is also the centralization of power. The author calls the alarm bell the fact that the air of most TV channels is still occupied by a single national telethon — and the closer the presidential elections, scheduled for March 2024, the greater the temptation for the authorities to use this virtual monopoly on the information space in their interests. The challenge will be the need to adopt a new status quo regarding the territories, if Ukraine does not win back everything. Another risk is the disappearance of multiculturalism and political liberalism in Ukrainian society, if the patriotism that is widespread now turns into hardcore nationalism. Ash also mentions emigration from the country and the EUʼs possible indecision to include Ukraine in its membership. “If Brussels behaves towards Kyiv in the same way as towards the Balkan states, we have a social depression on the table,” writes historian.

The author also has questions to Europe. Yes, France or Germany do not want the center of influence in the union to shift even further to the east. Yes, Portugal and Spain are worried that the EUʼs preoccupation with Ukraine diverts attention from their, sometimes no less serious, problems. And yes, war-ravaged Ukraine will definitely become a problematic member of the EU. However, at the expense of the Ukrainians, the European Union will significantly strengthen its armed forces, which will allow the USA to focus on, for example, Taiwan. And, in the end, with the inclusion of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia in the EU, the last European empire — the Russian one — will finally collapse. And this is a reliable guarantee of peace on the continent.

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