ELNET Co-Hosts Panel on the War in Ukraine and Its Global Impact at Herzliya Conference 2024

For the eighth consecutive year, the European Leadership Network (ELNET) and ELNET’s Forum of Strategic Dialogue (FSD) hosted a special roundtable session entitled “The War in Ukraine – Global Impact” at the prestigious 21st Herzliya Conference, in partnership with the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at Reichman University. The Herzliya Conference is one of Israel’s foremost annual policy gatherings. It draws Israeli and international participants from high levels of government, policy, business, and academic circles to address pressing national, regional and global issues.

The panel was chaired by Dr. Emmanuel Navon, CEO of ELNET-Israel and International Relations lecturer at Tel Aviv University, and included distinguished speakers H.E. Dr. Nina Nordström, Ambassador of Finland to Israel; Antonia Dimou, Director of the Middle East and Persian Gulf Unit at the Greek Institute for Security and Defense Analysis; Shashank Joshi, Defense Editor at The Economist; and Dr. Arvid Bell, CEO of Negotiation Task Force and lecturer on Government at Harvard University. Amongst other notable attendees was the Ambassador of Estonia to Israel, H.E. Veikko Kala; and Dr. Sarah-Masha Fainberg, Senior Researcher and Head of Great Powers Research Program at Tel Aviv University’s Elrom Center for Air and Space Studies.

The participants partook in an engaging debate about the war in Ukraine and how this major geopolitical event has influenced global geopolitics ever since. Interesting insights were given by negotiation expert Dr. Arvid Bell, who explained the three dilemmas the West is facing due to flaws in its negotiation strategy, thereby hindering any negotiation progress with Russia. According to him, the West is battling the punishment dilemma, the nuclear dilemma and the coalition dilemma. Most beneficial to a negotiation is either a broad coalition with a narrow mandate or a narrow coalition with a broad mandate. Looking at the Ukraine war and the negotiation process in the last two years, the West has unintentionally cornered itself, without realizing that the attempt at building a broad pro-Ukraine coalition has also led to a too broad mandate. Bell said the “collective west” seems incapable of maneuvering out, when instead it should have focused its efforts on seeking alliances with key players from the “global south”, like Brazil”, or key players from Asia, like China.

Touching on the importance of the NATO alliance, H.E. Dr. Nina Nordström said that it is essential to maintaining peace, security and stability in Europe. Ukraine and the Russian war of aggression on European soil is an exceptionally important issue. She also emphasized that, based on shared European values, we must support Ukraine politically or materially – whatever the nation needs most.

As participants stressed the significance of NATO and the European transition into greater autonomy – not only regarding defense but also in terms of conceptual issues – one attendee, the Estonian Ambassador H.E. Veikko Kala, added that the goal of the “western collective” must be the restoration of territorial integrity of Ukraine. This is imperative, specifically since Putin’s efforts focus on destroying transatlantic relations and forging more grey zones, which the Baltic states and other eastern European countries would fall victim to.

Another important topic was introduced to the debate by Greek defense expert Antonia Dimou. She spoke on the issue of energy security and gas pipelines, briefly discussing Turkey’s foreign policy and the prospect of Erdogan’s politics towards the Western side of the globe becoming more problematic in the future. The speakers also touched on the energy triangle, the EastMed gas project; an offshore/onshore gas pipeline that will directly connect East Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete. The project, currently in design and supposed to be completed in 2025, will transport natural gas from the offshore gas reserves in the Levantine Basin into Greece, and in conjunction with the Poseidon and IGB pipelines into Italy and other European regions.

Speaking on European defense industrial autonomy, Shashank Joshi asserted that whilst there are defense projects relevant to Israel, such as the Sky Shield Initiative, the meaning of sovereignty really comes down to capacity for self-defense. So, despite the UK’s good relations with the EU post-Brexit, it is exactly for that reason why the UK will never fully be a part of the European industrial defense bloc again. Yet, Joshi stressed, the next Labour government will want to seek closer political and security ties to the EU.

Compelling comments were added by attendee Dr. Sarah-Masha Fainberg, who emphasized the inter-connectedness between Europe and the Middle East whilst warning about the rapprochement between Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The prospect of these two governments formulating a strategic agreement might have unprecedented repercussions for both the Middle East and Europe. Hence, insights need to be taken and shared from the war in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza – after all, increasing inter-connectedness causes strong cooperation, particularly in areas critical to modern warfare. She concluded by stating that the western world should not only pursue alternative and ad-hoc frameworks on cooperation, but also must learn how to defend sovereignty when it comes to long-term strategic thinking.

The panel concluded with speakers agreeing on strengthening relations amidst the growing instability in Europe and the Middle East.