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Ukraine’s declaration as a neutral state could deescalate the current stand-off.

Gerhard Mangott is the University Professor of Political Science at the University of Innsbruck.

Do you think there is still a chance for peaceful resolution in Ukraine, or full-scale war is inevitable?

I don’t think we currently should not expect a significant military incursion of Russian troops in Ukraine. Russia still has other means to threaten and punish Ukraine. The fear of a renewed Russian invasion has hurt the Ukrainian currency, caused strong capital flight, and holds investors away. I do not see, however, big chances for a diplomatic solution.

Should Ukraine pursue neutrality status instead of the current state policy of pursuing NATO membership? Can such an approach deescalate the current crisis?

Ukraine’s declaration as a neutral state could deescalate the current stand-off. But among the political class in Ukraine, this is firmly rejected. As membership in NATO is included in Ukraine’s Constitution, a qualified majority in the Verkhona Rada would be required to pave the way to a neutral status. I do not see any of these needed majorities.

In one of your recent commentaries you mentioned that the Russian “response” might comprise a massive cyber attack on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, its banking system, and major companies. What do you think Russia’s key objective would be in such a course of events, and how can Ukraine counteract it successfully?

Several days ago, we witnessed a moderate cyber attack against government websites and state banks. It is most likely that Russia launched this attack. I think the Russians wanted to send a signal of what they could do in cyberspace. This was the first taste how what an attack would look like.

Do you think Russia has in place some ongoing geopolitical neo-Eurasianism project to rebuild the Russian state within the boundaries of the Former Soviet Union? What is Russia’s ultimate plan in Ukraine?

I think Putin is really interested in bringing the three Slavic nations into one state or at least in a sphere of influence. If this is true, Ukraine will continue to be threatened even when it opts for a neutral military status.

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