Russia, Ukraine and state survival through neutrality by Professor Roy Allison

Professor Roy Allison (REES, RESC, St. Antony's) has published an article 'Russia, Ukraine and state survival through neutrality' in the journal International Affairs, Volume 98, Issue 6, November 2022, Pages 1849–1872. 

Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a fundamental challenge to the international security order in Europe. It also gravely threatens Ukrainian statehood. Ukraine may eventually recover much or all its occupied territory by military action. But it would still be faced by the existential problem of how to sustain its sovereignty and independence, when in reality it is likely it will remain outside the collective defence commitment of a major alliance structure. Ukraine still aspires to enter NATO, but it cannot rely on achieving this goal. In these circumstances, could a form of neutrality be consistent with strong support for Ukrainian statehood and independence and equally help ensure this outcome as part of a future security arrangement? This article investigates such a possibility, based on the notion of Ukrainian ‘armed neutrality’. However, it recognises that this scenario depends on Russia abandoning not only Ukrainian territory but also the extreme political objectives of its brutal campaign against Ukraine.  


During the Cold War neutrality and a ‘non-bloc’ status were used by certain European states to escape great power rivalries. But these foreign and security policy strategies declined in significance and have received little scholarly attention since the early 1990s. This article argues that in a period of renewed confrontation between Russia and western powers, significant insights may be derived from a critical review of the past experiences of neutral and non-bloc states. These help scholars and practitioners assess the contemporary options of states in vulnerable locations which choose or are compelled to survive outside alliances. This article probes the critical case of Ukraine as a sovereign but potentially neutral state. Relevant criteria for neutrality are drawn from short interpretive case-studies of Austria and Finland during the Cold War, as well as Moldova and Finland in post-Cold War years. Soviet and Russian policy prioritized the strategic denial of these states to NATO, while forms of armed neutrality helped sustain conventional deterrence against Russian coercion. If Moscow reigns in its ambitions for the political subjugation of Ukraine and accepts its statehood, such thinking may form part of an eventual security policy settlement beyond the current war.

You can access the article here