Resilience: Lessons from Ukraine and Homework for Others

April 11, 2023
Ukraine’s resilience in the face of a stronger adversary offers lessons for others. What can Ukraine teach other countries who might face similar security threats?
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China threatens Taiwan in the Pacific. Russia continues to intimidate Central and Eastern Europe. Attempted coups d'état in Germany and then in Moldova are recent examples of that trend. The consequences of taking security for granted could be devastating. 

During the first days into the full-scale invasion, Ukraine deployed territorial defense forces to guard cities and towns, and armed forces were defending the sky and the borders. Simultaneously, the government blocked the sale of foreign currency and fixed the currency rate, increased control over the media sphere, and banned men from leaving the country. As Ukraine was trying to build its resilience, some measures seemed to have saved the country, while others drew criticism. 

One of the frameworks to analyze a country's resilience against external threats is NATO's concept of resilience. NATO defines seven baseline requirements for a country's resilience related to continuity of government, continuity of essential services to the population and civilian support to military operations. This definition goes beyond the security and defense sector and approaches resilience as a societal attribute. 

Bottom-up action and horizontal networks are what is helping Ukraine win in this asymmetric warfare.

That's radically different from Russia's strict subordination and hierarchy. This gives hope to other democracies at risk. But this neither means that Ukraine will not fall to Russia, nor that Taiwan will not fall to China. This will only be possible if the democratic world plays a proactive role in building security and learning from each other. 

Ukraine has already applied over 300 NATO standards which is even more than some NATO countries have. Ukraine's resilience in the face of a much stronger external enemy is something other countries must learn to be able to defend themselves. Resilience is also Ukraine's asset for its further EU and NATO integration.

The report "War in Ukraine: Lessons Identified and Learned" has been produced by experts of the Information Defense Hub of the European Values Center for Security Policy. This paper analyzes positive and negative lessons of Ukraine's resilience within seven areas -- defense and security, economy, energy security, strategic communication, media, cyber resilience, and civil society resilience. While the authors do not claim Ukraine's lessons to be a to-do list, they merit consideration by other countries at risk and in approaching resilience systemically. The preliminary results of this study were presented in Taiwan within a Czech-Ukrainian delegation visit in October 2022.

Khrystyna Rybachok
European Values Center for Security Policy