Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 - Faculty of Law

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High strategic capabilities and defensive military assistance in the Ukraine war: the double threshold dilemma

Par Olivier Zajec


One of the major elements of the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation is its potential nuclear nature. This dimension encourages the Biden administration not to let the war in Ukraine degenerate into a major conflict that would directly oppose Americans and Russians. This limit makes the problem of Western co-belligerence a key element in the political-military equation of the conflict. This is why the question of the qualification (offensive or defensive) of the military assistance provided to Kyiv, and the justification of these terms, tends to constitute a central issue in the ongoing war.

Taking into account this context, this note relates the tactical-operational “threshold” linked to this supply of armaments to a second threshold of a political-strategic nature, which is influenced by the phenomenon of the interconnection of high strategic capabilities, and which opens up the delicate concept of multi-domain deterrence. At a time when the supply of Western armaments to Ukraine is intensifying, the aim is to put the dilemma inherent in this double threshold into perspective, and to try to understand its consequences in light of the current evolution of the military assistance provided to Kyiv by its allies, and in particular by the United States, since the beginning of the war.

About the Author

Oliver Zajec is Professor in Political Science at Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University. He is the director of the IESD.

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