The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Envisioning a Long-Term Security Arrangement for Ukraine

2023-06-08 | Expert publications, NATO


The moment has arrived for Western leaders to offer a practical vision for Ukraine’s long-term security. This paper lays out a detailed proposal for a sustainable multilateral security arrangement in which Ukraine has a strong military that is backed by legally codified pledges of support—training, equipping, and defense industrial cooperation—from the United States and Europe. The model outlined in this paper draws on official Ukrainian government proposals and lessons from the United States’ security relationships with close partners that are not treaty allies, notably Israel. It prioritizes a strategy of deterrence by denial: by fielding a robust, modernized, and well-trained military, Ukraine can raise the cost of future aggression to such a point that Russia would lose confidence in its ability to achieve its objectives there through force.1

Independent of battlefield developments, Ukraine and its partners must negotiate a long-term security arrangement now. Reaching a consensus sooner rather than later on a framework makes more sense than putting off controversial decisions until large-scale hostilities end. A security arrangement has the potential to undermine President Vladimir Putin’s conviction that Russia can outlast Ukraine and the West. It can also assure Ukraine that it will be able to defend its sovereignty even if it does not liberate its entire territory this year. Many of the elements contained in this proposal can be implemented during wartime—indeed, some of them are already in place—and strengthened after the war.

The proposed security model is not necessarily an alternative to NATO membership, which enjoys strong support from Ukraine’s leaders and public. The allies have promised the country an eventual place in NATO, but they have made clear that this will not be on the agenda while the war is ongoing. Even once the war ends, they are unlikely to move swiftly to admit Ukraine. Therefore, the proposal here seeks to enhance the country’s ability to defend itself as it remains outside of NATO for the foreseeable future. At the same time, it emphasizes the critical role Ukraine’s EU accession will play in its long-term security.

The United States must lead the conversation on a future security arrangement. Not only does its unparalleled capacity for security assistance and multinational coordination make it vital to the success of the arrangement, but a clear long-term U.S. pledge to Ukraine would also prompt Europe to increase its commitments, thereby ensuring proper burden-sharing. The proposed arrangement would be flexible enough to encompass commitments from the EU as a collective, from individual member states, and from other countries. To make the U.S. commitment to Ukraine credible and durable, the Biden administration must work with Congress to secure broad bipartisan support.

This study identifies five elements that are critical to a future security arrangement:

  • Strong political and legal codification that ensures the arrangement will endure regardless of electoral cycles and leadership changes in the United States and Europe
  • A predictable, multiyear pipeline for military supplies that enables Ukraine to plan and sustain a future force structure capable of deterring Russian aggression
  • Support for Ukraine’s defense industry, as well as targeted defense industrial investments in the United States and Europe to prepare for a long war and an extended period of Ukrainian military reconstitution
  • Mechanisms for political consultations, information sharing, and coordination to ensure that Ukraine’s military needs are met in a timely fashion
  • Clear linkage to Ukraine’s EU accession process and postwar reconstruction

Much of the public debate to date has focused on Ukraine’s request for security “guarantees” in response to the failure of the previous “assurances” encapsulated in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. To avoid confusion, and in light of the historical baggage these terms carry, this paper uses “arrangement” or “commitment” to refer to the future legal and political framework in question.2

Continue reading the full publication here (also available in Ukrainian).