Press Office

Comment: NATO and the Russia-Ukraine War

Comment: Women, Peace and Security - NATO and the Russia-Ukraine War

Published on: 23 February 2023

NATO and its members must prioritise Women, Peace and Security in their support for Ukraine, writes Dr Katharine A.M. Wright.

It has long been established that war has a gendered impact, one which often disproportionately targets women but that women also need to be acknowledged as agents of change during and post-conflict, rather than passive victims. The United Nations Security Council first acknowledged this in 2000 through the adoption of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

The Russia-Ukraine war is no exception in being deeply gendered, in terms of how masculinities and femininities are invoked in constructing Russia, Ukraine and the war in geopolitical imaginaries, or in the gendered silences of just who is seen to fight or be protected in coverage of the conflict, and the ways in which disinformation is targeted. To say nothing of the documentation by human rights organisations of conflict related sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by Russian forces.

Last year at the Madrid Summit, Women, Peace and Security was included as deliverable of the new NATO Strategic Concept, which sets the Alliance’s strategic direction going forward. It is significant that Women, Peace and Security has been elevated to a prominent deliverable against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war which has come to dominate the focus of the Alliance, and which continues to have such gendered consequences.

Yet at a time when Women, Peace and Security has never been more important and the value of a gender perspective could not be more apparent, we are seeing push back on its inclusion in response to the invasion of Ukraine. For example, Sweden was noticeably silent on its Feminist Foreign Policy in response to the Russian invasion and in its NATO membership talks, with a new government dropping the approach in October last year.

Russia’s invasion is not just an attack on territory, it is an attack on values. NATO and its members (plus Finland and Sweden as invitees) should be putting Women, Peace and Security – as a core part of NATO’s values - at the front and centre of their response, including in their strategic communications and public diplomacy. This of course includes but also goes beyond condemning conflict related sexual and gender-based violence, to ensure Ukrainian women’s agency in the fight against Russia is acknowledged.

Moreover, a gender perspective has become not just relevant but a necessity to understanding how Russia is targeting disinformation and should be fully utilised here. In addition, NATO should be ensuring that as part of its support for Ukraine, Ukrainian women’s voices are at the table of NATO-Ukraine dialogue and cooperation in all areas to ensure the effectiveness of NATO’s response.

A year on from Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the implementation of Women, Peace and Security remains lagging, and something which NATO and its members must further prioritise in their response to Russia’s invasion, and in their support for Ukraine. 

Dr Katharine A. M. Wright is Senior Lecturer in International Politics

Read our other commentary on Ukraine:

The West must keep Ukraine on the public agenda

Women are key to the resolution of the Russia-Ukraine war 

Versions of history obscure Ukraine's rich and vibrant past 

Read our response to the war in Ukraine and what we're doing to support those affected.


Latest News