President Björn von Sydow and Ambassador Andrii Plakhotniuk

The Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences and the Swedish Defence University arranged a symposium to note that a year has passed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion against Ukraine. The focus was on the future of Ukraine; both on the need to hold Russia accountable and on what principles and policies should guide the reconstruction of Ukraine.

Introductory session

Robert Egnell, Vice-Chancellor of the Swedish Defence University, introduced the symposium as an opportunity to highlight not least the resilience of Ukraine. Björn von Sydow, President of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences, noted in his welcoming address that Europe is again at war, a war that will change Europe but also one that has allowed Ukraine to form a role of its own.

The Guest of Honour, Andrii Plakhotniuk, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Kingdom of Sweden, underlined that the war started nine years ago. He looked back at a difficult, tragic and painful year for Ukraine, but also a year of resilience, national unity and resolve, a Ukrainian year of courage and faith. Moreover, Europe had this time been strong in its response and the Ambassador noted that to support Ukraine is to support Europe and the free and democratic world. If we do not hold Russia responsible for this aggression, it will set an example for the future.

Holding Russia Responsible

Marie Jacobsson, Principal Legal Adviser on International Law at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, moderated the first panel. She started by complementing Ukraine for its use of international dispute settlement mechanisms with respect to the various legal disputes it has with Russia from 2014 and onwards. This was a testament to Ukraine’s faith in a rules-based international order.

Dr Anton Korynevych, Ambassador-at-large of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered a keynote address in which he started by saying that the accountability track started immediately after 24 February 2022, but also that Russia’s aggression started nine years ago. The focus of Korynevych’s topic was the need to create a special tribunal to hold Russia responsible for largest war of aggression since 1945; the legal response should be the same appropriate.

Ukraine remains committed to working with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague and a special tribunal will thus complement, nut replace the ICC. However, it will be time-consuming to establish a direct link to a particular war crime committed on the ground to Vladimir Putin, but prosecuting the crime of aggression might be possible within several months, given the obvious aggression against Ukraine. The political leadership and military leadership of Russia is responsible for the crime of aggression, which is a leadership crime.

Ambassador Korynevych also underlined the need of ensuring that a compensation mechanism is established and that work is well under way also in this case.

Ambassador Korynevych noted that this constitutes a crucial historical moment for international law: ‘Let’s not lose this moment!’ Few had believed in the possibility of a special tribunal when the initiative was first launched in March 2022, but now the progress showed that it is a possibility. It is not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘how’.

Fredrik Wesslau, former Deputy Head of Mission for the European Union Advisory Mission in Ukraine, noted in his comments that Ukraine and its international partners have prioritised the pursuit of accountability for war crimes ever since the war started but that no court had jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. ’If we do not investigate the crime of aggression this time, then when will we?’, he asked. Moreover, pursuing a persistent policy against Russia, will provide parameters for our relations with Russia and counter efforts from Moscow to weaken our resolve.

Rebuilding Ukraine: Principles and Policies

Kjell Engelbrekt, Dean at the Swedish Defence University, moderated the second panel on rebuilding Ukraine.

Dr Torbjörn Becker, Director of Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE), started his keynote address with pictures from Bucha and Mariupol asking: How do you start reconstruction after something like this? However, he continued, we know from history that reconstruction is possible and there is a need to support Ukraine militarily and financially – here and now. None of these things should happen without the participation of Ukraine, however. Dr. Becker moreover emphasised that what we put in to these efforts is an investment, not a cost. What has been spent so far is less than ten per cent of what Europe is spending on energy subsidies; it amounts to about 0.3% of EU GDP.

There are three stages of reconstruction. First that which needs to happen now, for example in rebuilding hospitals; second, the infrastructure that needs to be rebuild; and, finally, the rebuilding of Ukraine that will entail modernisation and reform while providing the road for Ukraine into the European Union (EU).

The prospect of EU membership the best way to fight corruption as well as a mechanism that requires Ukraine to match foreign aid as a way of ensuring that what we offer is indeed something that Ukraine needs and wants.

Kristian Andersson, CEO and Chairman of the Management Board at bank SEB in Ukraine, in his comment started by emphasising that without fighting corruption, there is little prospect of attracting private capital. He noted that the war is a tragedy but also an opportunity to make real changes, changes that are driven by Ukraine but supported by the West. According to Kristian Andersson, the need to build institutions, transparency and rule of law will be paramount

Concluding Remarks

Fredrik Löjdquist, Director of the Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies, delivered concluding remarks from the symposium as a whole. In his view, focusing on the future of Ukraine exactly one year after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was absolutely the right framing: ‘We have been focusing on the future of Russia for far too long and we have allowed that question to overshadow the question of Ukraine’s future.’

Ukraine’s future is important for Ukraine, but also for Russia and for Europe and the European security order. We are at a historical turning point and this is where our focus should be. Most importantly, for Russia there must be no fruit of its aggression and Ukraine must become part of a European community.

Ambassador Löjdquist noted that war changes states, societies and people. Ukraine is a different country now from nine years ago and we need to get rid of our stereotypes. Russia and Ukraine has chosen different paths. Russia stands for corruption and inefficiency; Ukraine stands for ingenuity, unity and a bottom-up approach. In fact, what we need to do is to decolonise our own minds and stop talk of post-Soviet countries. Ukraine now has agency; it is not an object of history but rather an engine of history with its own future ahead. To support Ukraine at this point is not a cost, it is an investment in Europe’s future.

The author holds a PhD, is a Deputy Research Direcor at the Swedish Defence Research Agency and a fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences.