ECFR’s 20 top reads of 2022

As the year draws to a close, ECFR presents a run-down of the most popular policy briefs and commentaries

2022 has been an incredibly challenging year: the Russian invasion of Ukraine of 24 February marked a turning point – a Zeitenwende. Russia not only brought war back to Europe, the invasion also had major implications for many other states and regions including an energy and food crisis. However, in the face of a new war in Europe, unity and purpose in the European Union’s response emerged. Increased defence spending by many countries, sanctions packages against Russia, new NATO members, and a revived EU enlargement process are only some of the immediate consequences of the war in Ukraine.

As ever, ECFR’s researchers have worked diligently to keep you informed about these and other key issues. They have examined the great strategic challenges confronting Europeans during this period – as you can see from our briefs and commentaries, which are well worth reading.

Our coverage of Russia’s aggression included two polling-backed major reports and dozens of commentaries on the implications of the war. Mark Leonard and Ivan Krastev addressed the crisis of European security, including European splits over the war. Meanwhile, our policy fellows wrote a range of well-read commentaries from how to support Ukraine militarily and financially to what the war means for European cohesion, the shape of the regional and global order, and energy and climate diplomacy.

Here are the ten most popular policy briefs and the ten most popular commentaries of 2022.

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Policy briefs

1) Peace versus Justice: The coming European split over the war in Ukraine by Ivan Krastev and Mark Leonard

This is the most-read policy brief in ECFR history (since we began to track readership numbers). The authors explore the ways in which Europeans are split about the long-term goals of the war in Ukraine. Unless political leaders find a new language to bridge the gap between emerging “Peace” and “Justice” camps, Europe could find itself polarised between – and within – countries.

2) The crisis of European security: What European think about the war in Ukraine by Ivan Krastev and Mark Leonard

The authors analyse whether Europeans are united in facing the war, exploring three key ideas. The crisis will likely test their readiness to defend the European security order.

3) A question of balance: India and Europe after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by Frédéric Grare

Europeans have found India’s position on the Ukraine war frustrating. But, although India is dependent on Russia for its arms, it has huge worries about China and is actually moving inexorably closer to the West.

4) North Africa standoff: How the Western Sahara conflict is fuelling new tensions between Morocco and Algeria by Anthony Dworkin
Europeans should pay closer attention to rising tensions between Morocco and Algeria. A more balanced European approach to both countries could help stave off instability in north-west Africa and the Mediterranean.

5) Byting back: The EU’s digital alliance with Latin America and the Caribbean by Carla Hobbs and José Ignacio Torreblanca

The EU can counter Chinese and Russian influence through a digital alliance with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

6) Survive and thrive: A European plan to support Ukraine in the long war against Russia by Piotr Buras, Marie Dumoulin, Gustav Gressel, and Jeremy Shapiro

To signal their commitment to Ukraine, Europeans should agree a “long-war plan” of assistance against Russian aggression. This would include a “security compact”, security assurances, and economic and energy support.

7) Trading aims: The value of Africa’s deep integration trade agreement by Iza Lejarraga

Africa’s new trade agreement promises deep economic integration on the continent – and offers the opportunity for greater African-European cooperation, including on the role trade can play in the green and digital transitions.

8) The old is dying and the new cannot be born: A power audit of EU-Russia relations by Kadri Liik

ECFR’s new EU-Russia power audit reveals a picture of success in decoupling from Moscow – and suggests the bloc could emerge stronger from the crisis.

9) A new climate for peace: How Europe can promote environmental cooperation between the Gulf Arab states and Iran by Cinzia Bianco

European policymakers should back climate diplomacy to help improve relations between Iran and Gulf monarchies

10) Circuit breakers: Securing Europe’s green energy supply chains by Agatha Kratz, Janka Oertel, and Charlie Vest

Europeans risk over-dependence on China for the green technologies needed to build the low-carbon economy of the future. They should take steps to reduce their exposure – while recognising they will have to work with Chinese suppliers in some instances.


1) The Leopard plan: How European tanks can help Ukraine take back its territory by Gustav Gressel, Rafael Loss, and Jana Puglierin
Ukraine needs to move to a new phase of the war if it is to reclaim its territory occupied by Russia. A European plan to supply Leopard tanks should be at the heart of this effort.

2) Lessons for the West: Russia’s military failures in Ukraine by Denys Davydenko, Margaryta Khvostova, and Olga Lymar
Ukraine has proven that it can counter Russian military tactics and strategy. To continue to do so, the country will require greater support from the West.

3) Unsettled: The impact of the Russia-Ukraine crisis on the Middle East and North Africa by Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, Julien Barnes-Dacey, Cinzia Bianco, Hugh Lovatt, Tarek Megerisi, and Kelly Petillo
Heightened conflict in Ukraine could have serious consequences for European interests in the Middle East and North Africa. It could further disrupt energy supplies, exacerbate food insecurity, and help countries in the region gain leverage over the United States and Europe.

4) Combined farces: Russia’s early military failures in Ukraine by Gustav Gressel
The Kremlin’s secrecy in waging war on Ukraine has created severe problems for itself on the battlefield. Inadequate force generation seems responsible for many of Russia’s difficulties.

5) War of obsession: Why Putin is risking Russia’s future by Kadri Liik
The invasion marks the beginning of a new era for not just the European security order but also Russian society.

6) Immediate impact: How Western heavy weapons are already helping Ukraine halt Russia by Denys Davydenko, Margaryta Khvostova, and Olga Lymar
If the West truly wants Ukraine to win, and quickly, it should urgently intensify its supply of weapons to the country.

7) Russia’s long shadow in the Sahel by Andrew Lebovich and Theodore Murphy
The EU’s values-led foreign policy and its stabilisation objectives in the Sahel are in tension with each other. Russia is now waiting to exploit that tension.

8) Rogue NATO: The new face of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation by Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, Marie Dumoulin, Ellie Geranmayeh, and Janka Oertel
The SCO is often seen as the anti-NATO. But Putin will struggle to convince the other members – especially the central Asian states – that his war is more important than Chinese investment.

9) Russia’s war on Ukraine viewed from China by Mark Leonard
Westerners regard Russia’s war as an attack on the rules-based order, but Chinese scholars see it as another harbinger of the denouement of US hegemony. While Americans and Europeans can argue with this position, it would be a mistake not to take it seriously.

10) Midterm blues: What a Republican win could mean for Europe, Ukraine, and the return of Trump by Majda Ruge
A Republican-controlled Congress could have significant consequences for the EU – on funding for Ukraine, but also at the level of political symbolism and attitudes towards Europe’s conservative strongmen.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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