All wars even­tu­al­ly end. Even as the war in Uk­rai­ne spi­rals dee­per in­to bru­ta­li­ty, a pic­tu­re of what Eu­ro­pe will look like when this one ends is be­gin­ning to emer­ge. In terms of Eu­ro­pe’s post-war se­cu­ri­ty arc­hi­tec­tu­re, three im­por­tant fe­a­tu­res stand out. 

First and most ob­vi­ous­ly, Fin­land’s and Swe­den’s re­la­ti­ons­hips with NATO have chan­ged. NATO mem­bers­hip now seems pro­bab­le, but whet­her or not they ul­ti­ma­te­ly join the Al­li­an­ce, what is clear is that we will see subs­tan­ti­al­ly clo­ser and more exp­li­cit re­la­ti­ons­hip. 

Se­cond and equ­al­ly sig­ni­fi­cant, the Ger­man de­ci­si­on to take na­ti­o­nal se­cu­ri­ty pre­pa­ra­ti­ons se­ri­ous­ly, and to main­tain mi­li­ta­ry for­ces more ne­ar­ly in pro­por­ti­on to the na­ti­on’s ca­pa­bi­li­ties, pro­mi­ses to dra­ma­ti­cal­ly shift not on­ly the cor­re­la­ti­on of for­ces in Cent­ral Eu­ro­pe but al­so the Al­li­an­ce’s abi­li­ty to res­pond in the North and in the Bal­kans. 

Third and per­haps most unex­pec­ted­ly, NATO has re-emer­ged as a vi­tal ins­ti­tu­ti­on. Wha­te­ver fi­nal, lin­ge­ring doubts there might have been about the ef­fect of Rus­si­an ag­g­res­si­on on al­li­an­ce so­li­da­ri­ty, these were dis­pel­led by the de­fe­at of Ma­ri­ne Le Pen in Fran­ce’s pre­si­den­ti­al elec­ti­on.

A continent economically divided

On the eco­no­mic front as on the se­cu­ri­ty one, the prin­ci­pal im­pacts of the war are al­so al­re­a­dy clear. The most sig­ni­fi­cant of these, of cour­se, is that re­gard­less of how the war evol­ves and even­tu­al­ly ends, Wes­tern Eu­ro­pe will dra­ma­ti­cal­ly re­du­ce its re­li­an­ce on Rus­si­an hyd­ro­car­bons. This will be hu­ge­ly cost­ly, both for Rus­sia and for the West, most par­ti­cu­lar­ly Ger­ma­ny. But on­ce this tran­si­ti­on away from re­li­an­ce on Rus­si­an hyd­ro­car­bons has been comp­le­ted, the eco­no­mic ar­te­ry con­nec­ting Rus­sia and the West will be – for bet­ter as well as for wor­se -- de­ci­si­ve­ly se­ve­red. For all me­a­ning­ful pur­po­ses, Eu­ro­pe will on­ce again be a con­ti­nent eco­no­mi­cal­ly di­vi­ded.

What re­mains far less clear, ho­we­ver, is what, in terms of do­mes­tic po­li­ti­cal de­ve­lop­ment, will emer­ge on eit­her side of the di­vi­de. On the Wes­tern side, the most im­me­di­a­te un­cer­tain­ty in­vol­ves aut­ho­ri­ta­ri­a­nism in Cent­ral and Eas­tern Eu­ro­pe. Hun­ga­ry, of cour­se, is to­day’s pos­ter-child of Eu­ro­pe­an na­ti­o­na­list aut­ho­ri­ta­ri­a­nism wit­hin the EU eco­no­mic fa­mi­ly and the NATO se­cu­ri­ty fa­mi­ly. The so­cio-po­li­ti­cal for­ces which led Hun­ga­ry down its de­ve­lop­men­tal path­way are not, ho­we­ver, uni­que to Hun­ga­ry. To one deg­ree or anot­her, and in one form or anot­her, right-wing na­ti­o­na­list-aut­ho­ri­ta­ri­an po­li­ti­cal mo­ve­ments and par­ties have emer­ged ac­ross Eu­ro­pe.

There is no surp­ri­se about this rise of aut­ho­ri­ta­ri­an na­ti­o­na­lism. In­deed, it would have been surp­ri­sing if it had not ari­sen. By its very na­tu­re, the shift that Eu­ro­pe and Ame­ri­ca are un­der­going, from in­dust­ri­al to post-in­dust­ri­al eco­no­mies, is so­ci­al­ly trau­ma­tic. Exis­ting va­lu­es, re­la­ti­ons­hips, and hie­rarc­hies are being chal­len­ged or dis­car­ded. We see foun­da­ti­o­nal cul­tu­ral and so­ci­al ve­ri­ties turn in­to a tar­get of moc­ke­ry in the span of a sing­le ge­ne­ra­ti­on. Re­ac­ti­on against the li­be­ral ins­ti­tu­ti­ons as­so­ci­a­ted with this cre­a­ti­ve dest­ruc­ti­on needs to be un­ders­tood as nor­mal and una­voi­dab­le. What re­mains to be seen is whet­her these li­be­ral ins­ti­tu­ti­ons will be ab­le to ac­com­mo­da­te these pres­su­res and ad­d­ress the un­der­lying cau­ses.

The war exa­cer­ba­tes un­cer­tain­ty about whet­her this will be pos­sib­le. On the one hand, the war ex­ci­tes na­ti­o­na­lism and ma­kes aut­ho­ri­ta­ri­an ins­ti­tu­ti­ons more at­t­rac­ti­ve, and the eco­no­mic pain as­so­ci­a­ted with the re-di­vi­si­on of the con­ti­nent will inc­re­a­se the ap­pe­al of na­ti­o­nal aut­ho­ri­ta­ri­a­nism. On the ot­her hand, the war and what will fol­low will al­so un­ders­co­re the im­por­tan­ce of li­be­ral ins­ti­tu­ti­ons in pro­vi­ding pro­tec­ti­on and pros­pe­ri­ty. Which of these de­ve­lop­ments will prove more po­wer­ful re­mains to be seen.

Russia will be a mess

The se­cond and more im­por­tant un­cer­tain­ty about do­mes­tic po­li­ti­cal evo­lu­ti­on af­ter the war, of cour­se, is what will hap­pen on the Eas­tern side of the di­vi­ded con­ti­nent, in Rus­sia. Even in the most op­ti­mis­tic sce­na­ri­os, Rus­sia will be a mess. About that there is no un­cer­tain­ty. What is un­cer­tain is how Rus­si­an po­li­ti­cal ins­ti­tu­ti­ons will evol­ve in the face of this ca­tast­rop­he, and how suc­ces­s­ful they will be. Frank­ly, it is hard to ima­gi­ne that any con­cei­vab­le set of ins­ti­tu­ti­ons will hold up very well. The bur­dens that will be pla­ced on them will be enor­mous. Even be­fo­re the war, Rus­sia fa­ced huge de­mog­rap­hic, eco­no­mic, and en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems for which its ins­ti­tu­ti­ons had no so­lu­ti­ons. 

Even if birth­ra­tes do not drop furt­her, even if the stag­na­ti­on and ero­si­on in Rus­sia’s scien­ti­fic-tech­no­lo­gy base does not wor­sen, and even if the col­lap­se of the near-Arc­tic North’s eco­sys­tem does not ac­ce­le­ra­te, Rus­sia will face chal­len­ges that would ap­pe­ar ne­ar­ly in­sur­moun­tab­le for any go­vern­ment.

But of cour­se the war ma­kes eve­ryt­hing wor­se. The eco­no­mic shocks of the war will add to the exis­ting di­sin­cen­ti­ves for child-be­a­ring. Po­li­ti­cal rep­res­si­on and the furt­her cur­tail­ment of pro­per­ty rights as­so­ci­a­ted with the war are en­cou­ra­ging inc­re­a­sed emig­ra­ti­on by those with the know­led­ge, skil­ls, or ent­rep­re­neu­ri­al ta­lent to be suc­ces­s­ful ab­ro­ad. In the af­ter­math of the war, bad­ly nee­ded pri­va­te Wes­tern ca­pi­tal will not be avai­lab­le, nor will even more bad­ly nee­ded Wes­tern tech­no­lo­gy. Al­re­a­dy dys­func­ti­o­nal al­lo­ca­ti­on of hu­man, phy­si­cal, and fi­nan­ci­al ca­pi­tal will be dis­tor­ted still furt­her by re­gi­me needs to deal with do­mes­tic un­rest and to shore up ba­ses of sup­port.

How long Russia will remain inside the storm?

The most se­ri­ous struc­tu­ral prob­lem that will be exa­cer­ba­ted by the war is Rus­sia’s ex­ces­si­ve eco­no­mic re­li­an­ce on hyd­ro­car­bon pro­duc­ti­on. Post-Cold War Rus­si­an de­ci­si­on-ma­kers chose to turn Rus­sia in­to a pet­ro-state. Ho­we­ver ad­van­ta­ge­ous this de­ci­si­on may have been for the oli­garc­hic eli­te cont­rol­ling the state and lar­ge ext­rac­ti­ve cor­po­ra­ti­on, in terms of Rus­si­an eco­no­mic and po­li­ti­cal de­ve­lop­ment this was di­sast­rous. 

At the most ba­sic le­vel, high­ly ca­pi­ta­li­zed, ext­rac­ti­ve in­dust­ries like oil and na­tu­ral gas per­mit an eli­te to syp­hon off pro­fits, using these to buy the sup­port of po­ten­ti­al sour­ces of op­po­si­ti­on, such as the mi­li­ta­ry or church, and to put off ad­d­res­sing tough choi­ces. These in­dust­ries ty­pi­cal­ly emp­loy re­la­ti­ve­ly few wor­kers, and while they do re­qui­re some high­ly trai­ned en­gi­neers, they do not en­cou­ra­ge wi­der in­vest­ments in hu­man ca­pi­tal or ent­rep­re­neurs­hip. Ta­ken to­get­her, the imp­li­ca­ti­ons of this are clear: if one wis­hes to de­ve­lop a stab­le “mid­d­le class” and res­pon­sib­le go­ver­nan­ce, being a pet­ro-state is a subs­tan­ti­al di­sad­van­ta­ge. The long-term imp­li­ca­ti­ons can be seen in sta­tes like Ve­ne­zu­e­la and Ni­ge­ria. Wor­se, there may not even be a long-term for pet­ro-sta­tes: in a world which is re­du­cing its re­li­an­ce on hyd­ro­car­bons, an eco­no­mic plan which does not en­vi­si­on a tran­si­ti­on away from hyd­ro­car­bon pro­duc­ti­on is not simp­ly a bad plan but one that is al­so un­sus­tai­nab­le.

Put simp­ly, what the war does is to dra­ma­ti­cal­ly ac­ce­le­ra­te Rus­sia’s ar­ri­val in the fu­tu­re -- and the fu­tu­re is not a pret­ty place for Rus­sia. Past Rus­si­an po­li­ti­cal and eco­no­mic de­ci­si­ons, coup­led with chan­ges in the glo­bal know­led­ge and tech­no­lo­gy base, are co­ming to­get­her in a ne­ar­ly per­fect storm. Wha­te­ver op­por­tu­ni­ty might have re­mai­ned for Rus­sia to chan­ge di­rec­ti­on and avoid this storm has been lost. 

The qu­es­ti­ons now are about how long Rus­sia will re­main in­si­de the storm, and how much com­mand over the ship its of­fi­cers will be ab­le to re­tain. Inc­re­a­sed rep­res­si­on can keep do­mes­tic pres­su­res in check for a time, but ab­sent so­lu­ti­ons to the struc­tu­ral prob­lems and ab­sent the abi­li­ty to im­po­se truly ef­fec­ti­ve to­ta­li­ta­ri­an cont­rols of the sort China ap­pe­ars to be de­ve­lo­ping, the po­li­ti­cal and eco­no­mic imp­lo­si­on of Rus­sia be­gins to look ne­ar­ly una­voi­dab­le. Eu­ro­pe and Ame­ri­ca need to start se­ri­ous­ly thin­king about what the rip­p­le ef­fects will be.

The ripple effect

Per­haps the most ob­vi­ous rip­p­le – in­deed, one we are al­re­a­dy be­gin­ning to see – is the tsu­na­mi that de­ve­lops when this rip­p­le hits the shal­low wa­ters of the de­ve­lo­ping world. For the eco­no­mi­cal­ly de­ve­lo­ped world, the Rus­so-Uk­rai­ni­an War and its se­qu­e­lae will be pain­ful but – ex­cept in Rus­sia – they are un­li­ke­ly to overw­helm po­li­ti­cal ins­ti­tu­ti­ons or push eco­no­mies in­to an un­cont­rol­led down­ward spi­ral. 

This will not be the case, ho­we­ver, in parts of the de­ve­lo­ping world which seem ne­ar­ly cer­tain to see grain shor­ta­ges, fer­ti­li­zer shor­ta­ges, and subs­tan­ti­al­ly inc­re­a­sed ener­gy pri­ces. These are ing­re­dients not on­ly for hu­ma­ni­ta­ri­an ca­tast­rop­hes but al­so for po­li­ti­cal col­lap­se – and the im­pact of both of these will be glo­bal rat­her than re­gi­o­nal. 

Eu­ro­pe and Ame­ri­ca will ne­ar­ly cer­tain­ly see a ma­jor wave of eco­no­mic and po­li­ti­cal re­fu­gees. Ima­gi­ne many, many Sy­ri­as hap­pe­ning at on­ce. The West has not found a sa­tis­fac­to­ry ans­wer in the past. There is no clear plan for how to ad­d­ress this now. Gi­ven the li­ke­li­hood of this de­ve­lop­ment, it be­hoo­ves Eu­ro­pe and Ame­ri­ca to start such plan­ning.

New, better realities?

Wars so­me­ti­mes pro­vi­de op­por­tu­ni­ties for new be­gin­nings. Old re­a­li­ties are shat­te­red, and in the rub­b­le the pos­si­bi­li­ty for cre­a­ting – or at le­ast ima­gi­ning -- new, bet­ter re­a­li­ties emer­ges. Sad­ly, it is hard to find that sort of sil­ver li­ning in the dark cloud that is the Rus­so-Uk­ra­ni­an War. 

Me­a­su­red in just about eve­ry con­cei­vab­le way, things will be wor­se when the war ends than they were be­fo­re it star­ted. The qu­es­ti­on is how much wor­se, and what we can do to mi­ti­ga­te the de­vas­ta­ti­on and des­pe­ra­ti­on we will face. Right now, even while the night­ma­re of dest­ruc­ti­on in the Don­bas is on­going, Eu­ro­pe and Ame­ri­ca need to turn to the task of buil­ding do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­ti­o­nal ins­ti­tu­ti­ons ab­le to pro­tect and pre­ser­ve the hu­man free­doms that lie at the core of our vi­si­on for our­sel­ves and our so­cie­ties.


Ed­ward Rho­des is a pro­fes­sor of Go­vern­ment and In­ter­na­ti­o­nal Af­fairs at Ge­or­ge Ma­son Uni­ver­si­ty. Rho­des is best known for his re­se­arch in­to the phi­lo­sop­hi­cal and cul­tu­ral roots of Ame­ri­can fo­reign and na­ti­o­nal se­cu­ri­ty po­li­cy. Rho­des ser­ved for six ye­ars on the U.S. State De­part­ment’s Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mit­tee on His­to­ri­cal Dip­lo­ma­tic Do­cu­men­ta­ti­on, the Cong­res­si­o­nal­ly man­da­ted, non­par­ti­san body that re­views and cer­ti­fies the of­fi­ci­al, pub­lis­hed ac­count of Ame­ri­can fo­reign po­li­cy for comp­le­te­ness and ac­cu­ra­cy.