As U.S. leadership of the international order fades, more countries are seeking to bolster their influence by meddling in foreign conflicts. In this new era of limit testing, Crisis Group’s President Robert Malley lists the Ten Conflicts to Watch in 2019.
There are early indicators that Russia and the U.S. may settle for neutrality in Kiev right now.
The conflict in Ukraine has developed an interminable quality. We are now over three years into the war in Donbass, and every day brings new updates on cease-fire violations or steps forward and backward on implementing the Minsk accord. This can make it hard to determine when conditions have actually changed. There have been a few key developments lately, however, that suggest real change is in the offing.
This is an excerpt from Migration and the Ukraine Crisis: A Two-Country Perspective – an E-IR Edited Collection.
This chapter looks at how Russian society reacted to the conflict in and with Ukraine. The active phase of the conflict began in March 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and continued with Moscow’s support for the separatist movements in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine. The main object of interest here is popular views of the conflict and its context, and in particular the way these views are conditioned by nationalism and the national identity discourse. At the same time, as I show in the first section, it is hardly possible to consider ‘public opinion’ as ontologically separate from the public debate waged mainly by the elites, as well as from the state’s policies and the way they are legitimated. The issue is not just that public opinion is influenced by the state propaganda, but that both are part of the same broader discursive domain where meaning is constructed and reproduced.
Accordingly, this chapter starts with an analysis of Russian public opinion on the conflict and its relationship to the official propaganda. I then go on to discuss how the attitudes to Ukraine and the wider assessment of Russian foreign policy in recent years are related to the complex ways in which the Russian nation is defined and how the concept of the ‘Russian world’ plays into the picture. The final section focuses on the broader context of what Russians see as Western expansionism and how they justify Russia’s conduct in terms of the need to defend the country’s sovereignty and moral integrity against Western subversion. It is not my ambition in this chapter to present any original analysis of primary sources; rather, I see my task as summing up the findings of the existing studies (including my own) and highlighting the key issues that have come up in the scholarly debate so far.
While the new US administration should be looking for areas of cooperation with Russia where possible, it should do so without compromising the United States’ principled stance on Ukraine. Any such compromise will have grave repercussions not only for security in Eastern Europe but also for the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.
“We can talk about the economy, we can talk about social security—the biggest problem this world has is nuclear proliferation.” Donald Trump, “Meet the Press,” October 1999.
Speaking on February 2, 2017, at the Security Council meeting called by Ukraine in the wake of the renewed escalation of fighting in the Donbas, newly-appointed US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said: “The United States stands with the people of Ukraine who have suffered for nearly three years under Russian occupation and military interventions.” She also reassured the world that sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea will remain in place until the peninsula is returned to Ukraine.
During the first phone call between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on 28 January, both sides agreed on the need to improve the US-Russian relationship. While it’s still uncertain how this new relationship will evolve, the conclusion of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his confirmation hearing that “we’re not likely to ever be friends” is telling. More importantly, Tillerson noted that the Kremlin has “a geographic plan” and that it is “taking actions to implement that plan.”
Russia has much more than a simple territorial plan. In fact, in recent decades Moscow has actively pursued Putin’s long-term vision of reestablishing Russian power and influence in the former states of the Soviet Union and not shied away from redrawing borders and launching military campaigns.