Is Neutrality a Solution for Ukraine? | Infographic

NATO Ukraine

Cartoon by David Parkins, edited by Euromaidan Press 


In December 2016 on the anniversary of Budapest Memorandum signature, the Institute of World Policy presented its study “Security in Transition. How to Counter Aggression with Limited Resources.” Armed neutrality is one of the security models analyzed in the paper. In view of the recurrent interest to the potential adoption of neutral status by Ukraine, IWP presents the main conclusions about the outcomes in case this security model is adopted.

Graphic by Ganna Naronina (click to enlarge)

Graphic by Ganna Naronina (click to enlarge)

1. There is no guarantee that Russia would observe the neutrality of Ukraine.

Given numerous violations of bilateral and multilateral commitments to Ukraine by Russia, it is highly probable that hypothetic proclamation of neutrality would repeat the fate of the Budapest Memorandum. A neutral status of Ukraine will allow Russia to avoid responsibility for aggression, return access to Western resources, decrease Western attention to Ukraine-related issues, and thus will create all conditions for resumed aggression in different forms.

2. Adoption of a neutral status has no wide-spread support among Ukrainians.

Surveys indicate that option of neutrality/non-alignment of Ukraine is supported by 25% of respondents. That’s why the adoption of a neutrality policy by Ukrainian authorities can instigate not only divisions in society but a domestic political crisis. This, in turn, will cause the security situation in Ukraine to deteriorate, not improve.

3. Ukraine’s non-aligned status didn’t prevent Russian aggression.

In 2010-2014 Ukraine conducted the policy of non-alignment (a hybrid status that implies restrictions inherent to neutrality but at the same time doesn’t provide security guarantees associated with it)  – unilaterally surrendered its right to freely choose political-military alliances as the Kremlin required without receiving guarantees inherent to neutrality from regional and global powers. Moreover, Kremlin preserved legitimized leverages of influence on Ukraine in the form of the prolonged stationing of the Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea, which should have been impossible if Ukraine had a true neutral status requiring the withdrawal of all foreign military units from its territory. Taken together, all these factors did not prevent Russian aggression but created more favorable conditions for it.

Thus, the idea that if Ukraine adopted a neutral status and gave up Euro-Atlantic integration Russia would be satisfied and end hostilities against Ukraine results from the wrong interpretation of causes and effects of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

4. A neutral status would neither end Russian aggression nor restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Russia wants to achieve not only the guaranteed non-participation of Ukraine in military-political organizations but first of all have a certain level of control over the processes related to Ukraine. The Kremlin is interested primarily in mechanisms to guarantee this status – namely, preservation of de facto or de jure control over the occupied Crimea and some parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and through them over the rest of Ukraine. Therefore, the scenario “territorial integrity in exchange for a neutral status” (following the example of Austrian Declaration of Neutrality 1955) is highly unlikely.

Moreover, one should keep in mind that the Kremlin exhausted all the available non-military instruments of influence on official Kyiv in February 2014 and resorted to aggression for preserving its control over Ukraine. In such circumstances, Russia continues with the further militarization of its foreign policy, which is evident by the creation of military infrastructure in 2014-2017 all along the border with Ukraine, and the further militarization of the Crimea and occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. In result, Kremlin has no other options than to rely on the threat or employment of military force as the major tool of influence on Ukraine.

Besides, the example of Moldova proves that permanent neutrality can neither prevent nor help to cope with consequences of the Russian aggression. Moldova unilaterally not only declared its neutrality but introduced this provision to its Constitution in order to make Russia withdraw its forces and armaments from occupied Transnistria. Kremlin, however, continues to violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Moldova.

5. A Neutral status means the inability to receive external support for defense needs.

For example, Ukraine is one of the largest recipients of foreign aid for the defense purposes from the United States. During the first two years since the start of Russian aggression, Ukraine received $ 760 mn for security and defense programs. Adoption of the neutral status by Ukraine would block the possibility to get any assistance and weapons from partners.

6. History proves a neutral status is an inefficient tool to avoid external aggression.

The adoption of neutral status by such countries as Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, and Norway during the Second World War did not help them to avoid aggression [Finland had not actually adopted a neutral status, allying with Nazi Germany during WWII – Ed.]. However, even Sweden and Switzerland have been forced to modify their foreign policy according to the interests of the Third Reich.

Moreover, with the end of the Cold War, the policy of departure from strict compliance with this status and enhancement of cooperation with NATO/EU has been gaining popularity among the neutral countries of Europe in order to deal with new security challenges. In the aftermath of Russian aggression against Ukraine, countries such as Sweden and Finland have significantly intensified cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance and the United States, including through the signing of new cooperation agreements and expanding areas of cooperation.

7. Neutrality as a guarantee of non-aggression works only if the neutral state is not in the interests of a revisionist state.

This assertion is confirmed by the experience of Sweden and Switzerland during World War II, and countries such as Finland, Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland during the Cold War. At the same time, Ukraine has been and remains the 1st priority for Russian foreign policy.

Until Russia continues to view Ukraine as a country within its “sphere of influence,” the adoption of the armed-neutrality security model by Ukraine would lead not to normalization of relations with Russia, but to the loss of Ukraine’s international subjectivity.


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  1. Avatar Randolph Carter says:

    I looked up the World Policy Institute. They are 21 (probably) billionaires for whom a war in Ukraine would probably be profitable and a Russian overthrow of Ukraine would yield billions in assets, presuming Putin decided to give them anything (which he probably has). Look them up – you’ll see NO medical, tactical, technical or humane services organizations. They’re at:

    which even Wikipedia has cited as “the article looks more like an advertisement” So a bunch of billionaires who probably don’t even drive their own cars is going to decide the fate of a nation? I can just imagine 42,620,007 (plus Crimea which was left out for some reason) simultaneously giving the World Policy Institute the дуля (equivalent of the finger in the USA and other countries).

    1.) There is no guarantee that Russia would observe the neutrality of Ukraine.
    Sure, there is – until Putin and his scumbag cronies stopped laughing their asses off

    2.) Adoption of a neutral status has no wide-spread support among Ukrainians
    Maybe because they’ve been fighting for their homeland, their autonomy, freedom from a corrupt government who would raid everything, kill everyone and leave nothing behind

    3.) Ukraine’s non-aligned status didn’t prevent Russian aggression
    NOTHING would have stopped Russian aggression. The comedy trio of Obama, Merkel and Hollande would have issued the Most Serious Reprimand and reminded Russia that this will go on its Permanent Record

    4.) A neutral status would neither end Russian aggression nor restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity
    Нет дерьмо, Шерлок!

    5.) A Neutral status means the inability to receive external support for defense needs
    So Ukraine is essentially defenseless, but the bastards who are attacking her can have all the weapons they need/want. What’s wrong with this picture?

    6.) History proves a neutral status is an inefficient tool to avoid external aggression
    See #1,2,3,4,5 above

    7.) Neutrality as a guarantee of non-aggression works only if the neutral state is not in the interests of a revisionist state

    So if Russia decides it DOESN’T want Ukraine, they’re ok for now until the next lying megalomaniac comes around, OR Putin changes his mind

    1. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

      Decisions about Ukraine are not RuSSia’s to make. Ukraine is an independent state now. RuSSkiys go home.

  2. Avatar Mykola Banderachuk says:

    for sure neutrality will never work, on the other hand give Ukraine 400 nukes and I am certain neutrality might have a chance.

    1. Avatar Quartermaster says:

      We should quietly offer to nuclearize Ukraine. Denuclearization was a huge blunder.

      1. Avatar WisconsinUSA says:

        Quietly offer to re nenuclearizeUkraine? How is that accomplished quietly?

        1. Avatar Quartermaster says:

          TSk, tsk. No imagination.

  3. Avatar Quartermaster says:

    Swiss neutrality has worked simply because they have a mountainous country, the country is, essentially, an Army, and swallowing it would cause extreme indigestion. Wehrmacht Generals told Hitler, after he said he’d like to take Switzerland, that he should not plan on doing anything afterwards as there would be no Wehrmacht left.
    Too much of Ukraine’s borders with Russia and Belarus are on the European plain and only a small part of Ukraine is mountainous. Ukraine is defensible, but only with a very strong military, and they need to get cracking and seriously start building.

    1. Avatar WisconsinUSA says:

      switzerland would have been a 3 day operation for hitler. steal all their gold,silver etc and then leave.

      1. Avatar Quartermaster says:

        Yeppers! That’s why the OKW told him he wouldn’t have an Army left.

        It’s self evident that you have neither a military or historical background. You simply run off at the fingers.

        1. Avatar WisconsinUSA says:

          I will compare my military or historical back ground with you any day of the week.The generals told Hitler not to do a lot of things. But he was pretty successful for a long time when he ignored the generals.

          1. Avatar Quartermaster says:

            You’ve already lost the comparison. I’d suggest you do some research, but your arrogance probably won’t allow it.

          2. Avatar WisconsinUSA says:

            hey quartermaster , i have some dirty laundry that needs to be cleaned and pressed. chop chop.

          3. Avatar Quartermaster says:

            One day one of you twits just might prove me wrong. No thanks for proving me right. You’re just another arrogant Yankee libtard.

      2. Avatar Greg says:

        but Switzerland is small and easily bypassed, not so for Ukraine! Plus how many Russians have their money in Switzerland?

  4. Avatar Alex George says:

    Neutrality would do nothing for Ukraine, and as the article rightly points out, Putin’s utterly treacherous nature means that it will never be considered.

    The cartoon is interesting. Despite the implication that Finland and Sweden are neutral, and thus distinguished from the rest of NATO, the current reality is rather different – stimulated by the aggressive nature of the Russian regime, both countries have become much more involved in joint preparations to oppose Russian expansionism.

    Sweden is now doing recon flights of the Russian border:

  5. Avatar Murf says:

    Neutrality only works if your naiborghs respect it.
    Clearly that not the case here.
    There is no reasonable expectation that Russia will ever honor any commitment they make.

  6. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

    Answer: No. ruSSia cannot be trusted! the ruSSia is like a tumor, it needs to keep growing. call a surgeon!

  7. Avatar Terry Washington says:

    No, Neutrality is NOT an option for Ukraine. Putin will NEVER be satisfied with anything than p[erpetual subordination to “Mother Russia”. Sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC and if necessary join NATO(as Poland and the Baltic States have)!

  8. Avatar Greg says:

    very good article, however the sentence “Until Russia continues to view Ukraine as a country within its “sphere of influence,” is incorrect Putin has clearly stated that Ukraine is not a country! What Russia wants is a complete subjugation of Ukraine moving back to Stalin years Putin will perform ethic cleansing as he is doing in Crimea today, moving thousands of Russians to Crimea to change its population ratios. Putin seeks to rape and pillage Ukraine as he wants anytime he wants without any controls placed upon him. No one should be surprised by this as this is standard Russia process and goals throughout their history.