Erasing "gray security zones" and the expansion of the West

Volodymyr Zelensky has been wrong on several recent occasions, but his current standpoint is correct. The European Commission’s recommendation to initiate accession negotiations with Ukraine, Moldova, Bosnia, and Herzegovina and grant candidate status to Georgia is a significant and historic decision. It is a positive step in the right direction and holds great promise for the future.

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US President Joe Biden during his visit to Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. February 2023. Photo

It is important to note that the approval of everything still rests on the EU Summit. The task may be difficult as Orban’s Hungary has expressed its desire to suspend Ukraine’s accession process. However, the EU’s history has shown that if the European Commission has already made a political decision, it will eventually be adopted by all EU countries, possibly with some modifications. Therefore, even if a final negotiation decision is not made at this Summit, it will undoubtedly be reached at one of the upcoming ones. 

There is no doubt that the negotiations ahead will be a tough road to navigate for both parties. The examples of Turkey and Serbia demonstrate that negotiations can last for decades. However, it’s expected to be a shorter process in this case. The President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, stated that a resolution could realistically be reached by 2030.

It’s crucial to note that the procedure has already begun. It involves the adaptation of the laws of certain countries to comply with EU standards, which will ultimately initiate the process of proper integration.

Considering the recent lack of positive news concerning Ukraine, Moldova, and other nations, we should welcome this development with some optimism. The elections in Slovakia were won by a candidate who was initially unsupportive of Ukraine but has since changed its position. There is a conflict over grain, and a debate in the USA is questioning the need for further military support for Ukraine. Accusations of corruption in Ukraine have come from both Western countries and within Ukraine itself, leading to scandals. These factors have led to political conflict, fatigue, burnout, and mistakes. Moreover, the counteroffensive stalled is leading to renewed pressure on Ukraine to freeze the war.

Ukraine’s chances of liberating the remaining territories are not promising. Different from previous successful counteroffensives. Ukraine made severe mistakes on the battlefield, so the opportunity to reach Crimea and the Sea of Azov was lost. The Russians have learned to defend themselves better and have had ample time to fortify their positions. Moreover, the support from the West could have been more timely. Additionally, the actual level of motivation of Western allies to defeat Russia remains to be determined. Despite providing weapons such as long-range ATACMS missiles, military support for Ukraine is no longer considered the West’s primary policy instrument.

However, the EC’s decision still strongly signals that Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia are not being abandoned. On the contrary, the decision shows that the process of their full integration into the Western world has already begun. Despite their unregulated territorial status and the threat from Russia, the EU’s stance towards them has changed positively.

Someone may raise the question: what is the purpose of removing “gray security zones” if the policy acknowledges that certain parts of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova will remain occupied by Russia for the time being? However, the fact remains that these entire countries are considered “gray zones” as of now.

Regarding Georgia, it received less than Ukraine, Moldova, and Bosnia but still got what it officially asked for. It means that Tbilisi will be given both incentives and consequences. There have been doubts about whether the Georgian authorities are committed to following the European or Russian paths. This decision will force them to choose once and for all. The Georgian President has already made her decision, and now it’s up to the ruling Georgian Dream party or the Georgian voters to do the same.

It is common for a country to integrate with the EU and progress towards integration with NATO. However, there have been exceptions, such as Austria. Even Sweden and Finland, who were previously hesitant, have now initiated the process of joining NATO. Finland has already entered, while Sweden is expected to follow suit in due course.

All the above should also be considered in the context of a new war in the Middle East and US President Joe Biden’s programmatic speech about the crucial years ahead for the world’s future. The Hamas attack on Israel has made the West realize the futility of waiting and has emphasized the need to take proactive measures to prevent tyrants who seek to disrupt the world order. Additionally, it is crucial to take into account the Moscow-Tehran-Pyongyang-Beijing axis.

For this purpose, a decision was made to mitigate risks by removing the weak points at the intersection of the free world and territories governed by hostile regimes. Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina were considered “gray zones”. Negotiations with the EU to start the integration process were conditionally recommended for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is becoming increasingly common to hear discussions about the potential elimination of the Gaza Strip as a political and legal entity. After the defeat of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, it is considered a way to manage the situation in coordination with Israel and the Palestinian authority in the West Bank. Cooperating with other Arab countries interested in peace, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Jordan, is also a possible solution. There are different ideas and crucial behind-the-scenes discussions and analyses on this topic. It is important to remember that the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip threatens not only Israel but also Muslim, European, and US countries. It has led to an increase in anti-Western and anti-Jewish sentiments and has the potential to increase radical uprisings. As a result, the police in Western European countries have been vigorously suppressing some anti-Israel demonstrations on the streets of their cities.

Many criticisms have been against the West and US leadership in recent years and months. There is a debate about whether the “German variant” of admitting Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova to NATO membership in exchange for peacefully resolving the issue of occupied territories will work. It is because, during the Cold War, Germany was admitted to NATO and the EU even though Moscow occupied the GDR. Is the West ready to follow a policy of deploying troops in these countries? Even with this policy, there is still the potential for things to go sideways. However, it must be acknowledged that progress has been made. Let’s hope that there are no further setbacks.

It’s hard to determine whether it’s a strategy or a tactic, but the policy in question is just as risky as a war policy, if not more so. Its successful implementation requires unwavering consistency paired with creativity, and unity is also vital. Furthermore, the military element continues to be crucial and maybe even more significant. There may be a need for more NATO troops to be deployed in Europe and other regions. This is why the Lithuanian President expressed deep concerns about whether this is the correct course of action. If not, it could lead to an even more substantial escalation. It could happen if the West, particularly the US, hesitates again.

Marcin Herman/

Translated by PEV

The opinions and thoughts expressed in the text reflect only the author's views.