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Report | 14 February 2024

Scenario building workshop report: “Europe after the war”

In late October 2023, the European Leadership Network (ELN), in partnership with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, convened a two-day scenario-building workshop in Istanbul on the topic of “Europe after the war”. A diverse group of experts from Ukraine, Russia, and wider Europe considered the implications on Europe of various possible outcomes of the war precipitated by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The workshop participants discussed the possible scenarios, noting that they are not mutually exclusive and that different scenarios could emerge at different points in time.

Outcomes where there is a decisive victory on the battlefield:

  • Geopolitical Europe
    • Ukraine wins the war militarily and recovers most of its territory. Russia agrees to a negotiated settlement, in effect accepting defeat. European institutions integrate Ukraine.
  • Pyrrhic victory
    • Ukraine wins the war militarily, but Russia does not agree to a political settlement, and European institutions do not integrate Ukraine.
  • Russia’s victory
    • Russia wins the war militarily, continues to occupy and annexe territory and potentially pushes further into Ukraine.

Outcomes where neither Ukraine nor Russia can achieve a decisive military victory.

  • Peace for territory
    • With both sides exhausted by the war, Ukraine agrees to cede captured territory to Russia in exchange for NATO membership and an end to the fighting.
  • Permanent war
    • Russia retains the territory it has conquered, and there is a long war with varying levels of violence, sometimes “freezing” and sometimes escalating.
  • Creeping escalation
    • The war rumbles on for years, with occasional ceasefires that don’t last, and gradually escalates without becoming a full-fledged NATO-Russia conflict.
  • Massive escalation
    • Russia significantly escalates – threatening a NATO member or members directly – in an attempt to force an end to the war on its own terms.

The report discusses how these scenarios would affect European security, different views on how they would play out, and some policy recommendations for European governments as they think about the longer term.

Read the full report here.

The opinions articulated above do not necessarily reflect the position of the ELN or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security policy challenges of our time.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons / The Presidential Office of Ukraine