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Ukraine and the Russian Challenge to the European Order

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This is an excerpt from The Sources of Russia’s Great Power Politics: Ukraine and the Challenge to the European Order. Download your free copy here.

Russia’s seizure of Crimea and prosecution of hybrid war in Eastern Ukraine prompted scholars, analysts, and policy-makers around the world to ask why it happened, what it means for international security in the region and beyond, and how the conflict might be ended or at least managed. Those three questions are inevitably linked. We have written this book to fill what we see as important gaps in the literature, beginning with the question of why the war happened. We contend that the roots of the crisis go back further than is widely understood and therefore we see the cause of the conflict in long-term factors underlying Russia’s policy toward Ukraine. We trace Russia’s goals and tactics from the beginning of the post-Soviet era in 1991, and in some cases to the Soviet era. Rather than focusing on historical breaks, we stress the continuity between the Soviet era, the early post-Soviet era, and the crisis since early 2014. The key break was that Russia, in pursuing goals that it held since 1991, chose to use military force in 2014.

Therefore, we contend that Russia’s actions in 2014 were not a response to specific events, such as NATO enlargement, EU policy, democracy promotion or revolution in Ukraine because the main drivers of Russian policy were visible prior to those events. The events of 2013–2014 in Ukraine certainly spurred resentment, and may have created a sense that a window of opportunity was closing, but they created neither Russia’s desire to regain Ukrainian territory nor the tactics that would be used in doing........

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