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The 2015 Ukrainian Crisis and Prospect of Peace in Europe in the 21st Century

The 2015 Ukrainian Crisis and Prospect of Peace in Europe in the 21st Century

Background of the Study

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and possible future incursions into eastern Ukraine could reshape the geopolitical map of Europe and derail cooperation between Moscow and the West for years to come.

Carnegie experts from around the world assess Ukraine’s instability and how the conflict’s fallout will impact global security challenges. Here’s how the crisis will influence Putin’s next moves, European security, U.S. strategy, efforts to calm the Syrian war, negotiations to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and China’s foreign policy. 

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Southeastern Ukraine is still facing the threat of Russian military intervention. Amid reports of skirmishes and violent protests involving provocateurs and vigilantes in various parts of the country, members of the general public remain fearful for their future. There are also reports of citizens buying guns and weapons being distributed from military armories to the public and paramilitary groups.  And a new national guard and local self-defense units are being organized.

The central government in Kyiv looks decidedly unlike Ukraine, lacking some key party and regional representation. The most committed revolutionaries, distrustful of the provisional government and its handling of the Crimea crisis, continue their occupation of the Maidan and threaten another uprising if they feel betrayed by the government.

The presidential election is scheduled to take place in two months, and given the short time left to prepare, it runs the risk of being poorly organized and plagued by irregularities that could threaten its legitimacy. Little has been heard lately from Ukraine’s powerful business elite, but with its record of dominating the country’s politics and economy, it is surely maneuvering behind the scenes to protect its corporate interests.

Moreover, Russia’s annexation of Crimea has raised the specter of separatism in other parts of Ukraine. In the West, where parts of the country were carved out of Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Poland, local residents may look to their more prosperous co-ethnics across the border where life is more stable and well-off. What is to keep them from following in Crimea’s footsteps?

Ukraine’s record after the 2004 Orange Revolution suggests caution with respect to its current prospects. Following their triumph on the Maidan and then at the polls, the new team became mired in factional rivalries and allegations of corruption. Critical reforms were never implemented, and Ukrainians, having lost confidence in the revolutionaries, elected Viktor Yanukovych as their next leader. Many members of the provisional government today bring with them the baggage of that era, and their past record does not inspire optimism about a fresh start.

If there is a silver lining it is paradoxically found in the dire circumstances in which Ukraine has found itself after the revolution and the loss of Crimea. The Fatherland is in danger!—this could be the rallying cry for all citizens, across all ethnic groups and political affiliations. If they don’t come together now in a show of national unity and common purpose, when?

Putin’s more competitive stance toward the West dates back to the immediate aftermath of the badly flawed Duma elections in December 2011 when he accused then U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton of fomenting antigovernment street demonstrations. From that point onward, Putin basically torpedoed the patterns of cooperation and trust that had been built up between Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev during the heyday of the U.S.-Russia “reset.”

Putin has also been signaling for some time now that he sees reestablishing Russian influence over the political and economic development of neighboring countries via the establishment of a Eurasian Union as the centerpiece of his third term in office.

For many years, outside experts (myself included) have focused on Putin’s pragmatic streak. That tendency was visible in any number of areas—Putin’s willingness to support the reset from behind the scenes, joint diplomatic efforts and sanctions aimed at Iran’s nuclear program, and transit across Russia and neighboring states of U.S. military personnel and matériel headed for Afghanistan.

Putin’s March 18 bombshell speech before Russian parliamentarians seems to throw most of that previous pattern out the window. As has been widely reported, Putin went on at length about his grievances toward the West and took a distinctly confrontational stance. He also spoke about Russians as the world’s most divided nation and challenged the legitimacy of Ukraine’s current borders. Both statements have rather worrying long-term implications for Russia’s neighbors and major powers alike.


  1. Ukraine is a long way away from stability after suffering a violent change of government, an annexation of a portion of its territory by a vastly bigger and more powerful neighbor, and—undoubtedly—economic contraction.
  2. The annexation of Crimea is clearly a watershed moment in Putin’s foreign policy. As my colleague Dmitri Trenin has written, Putin’s foreign policy approach has evolved multiple times during his tenure as head of state.
  3. The annexation of Crimea and the threat posed by Russian troops massing on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border are bringing what had been considered a thing of the past back to Europe: territorial conflict and the change of borders by force.
  4. This is a more complicated question than one might assume at first glance. Ukraine’s geopolitical significance was widely recognized in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet collapse. But over time, the imperatives associated with that geopolitical importance seemed to ebb as the outside world began to take the country’s independence and territorial integrity for granted.
  5. The crisis in Ukraine has stolen the limelight from the Syrian conflict. The EU and the United States have shifted their focus to Ukraine as the Syrian regime continues to gain ground militarily, and as calls by the Syrian opposition for further international support remain largely unanswered.


Putin’s stance toward Crimea has increased Assad’s confidence, which is only bolstered by recent military gains on the ground in Yabroud, a rebel stronghold close to the Lebanese border. This double “success” makes it less likely in the short term that Russia will push for a resolution in Syria.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine can be seen as yet another example of Russia’s resurrected sense of empowerment. If the international community does not act decisively regarding Ukraine, Russia will not be forced to compromise on Crimea—which is more important for it strategically than Syria—and might feel less inclined to make the smaller compromise on Syria.

But if the international community effectively uses sanctions and diplomatic means to push Russia to resolve the Ukraine crisis, Moscow might decide to compromise on Syria in return for a more favorable agreement in Ukraine. The chemical weapons deal with Damascus, for example, which is taking longer to implement than originally agreed, could be an opening for Russia to justify a modified stance toward the Assad regime.


  • How stable is Ukraine?
  • What do Moscow’s moves indicate about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy strategy?
  • What does Russia’s involvement in Ukraine mean for Europe’s security?
  • What impact does the situation have on U.S. strategy?
  • Will tensions over Ukraine hurt international efforts to end the Syrian war?
  • Will tensions over Ukraine hurt international efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis?
  • How does the crisis impact China?
  • Is this the dawn of a new strategic era in global affairs?


Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no longer a global competitor to the United States and there is no strong ideological component that unifies and divides the international community with regard to Russia. Rather, what we see is a revisionist Russia (with somewhat limited capabilities to project force beyond its borders) that is challenging core principles of the international community. I can’t imagine many governments will rush to endorse Russia’s annexation of Crimea or even the principles that Moscow has cited to try to justify its actions.

At the same time, the crisis exposes the considerable economic interdependency between Russia and the outside world. After the Soviet invasion it was relatively easy for then U.S. president Jimmy Carter to take steps like the grain embargo because he knew that the damage to the U.S. economy would be limited. A blanket move to curb Russia’s current major exports—oil, gas, and other primary commodities—could have far-reaching implications for the health of the global economy.

Part of the problem with the tactics employed by Washington and the EU in response to the crisis is that they don’t contain much tactical flexibility. Sanctions have been imposed on several prominent individuals, many of whom also happen to be top Russian government officials (for example, Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov). The Obama administration has not provided a clear sense of how such persons might graduate from the sanctions list. The continued silence on this issue suggests it will be very hard to reestablish lines of communication with the Kremlin and that the incentive for any of these individuals to reconsider Russia’s policy toward Ukraine will be quite limited.

That paradox makes me wonder how successful the Western policy establishment will be in articulating a long-term vision for post-Crimea relations with Moscow.


The Scope has to deal with the current reality of this 21st century that the West has yet to absorb the full implications of Russia’s descent into authoritarian nationalism. A new report argues Western governments need to think much more deeply about their level of support for Ukraine; how to respond to future crises; and above all, how Russia can be managed over the long term for the greater security of Europe.


  1. Can the reconstruction of Ukraine as an effective sovereign state make it, capable of standing up for itself?
  2. Can the EU’s Eastern Partnership needs to be transformed into an instrument that reinforces the sovereignty and economies of partner countries that have proved willing to undertake serious political and economic reform?
  3. The effectiveness of sanctions against Russia depends on their duration as well as severity. Until the issue of the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity is fully addressed, sanctions should remain in place. It is self-defeating to link the lifting of sanctions to implementation of the poorly crafted and inherently fragile Minsk accords.
  4. The West should not return to ‘business as usual’ in broader relations with the Russian authorities until there is an acceptable settlement of the Ukrainian conflict and compliance by Russia with its international legal obligations.
  5. EU energy policy should aim to deprive Russia of political leverage in energy markets, rather than to remove Russia from the European supply mix.


Cornwal (1994) writes that methodology shapes and informs the process of research by providing the researcher with a Framework for selecting the means to find out about issues. They define what can be known, how that should be represented and by and for whom this is done. While, Cohen and Mansion (1980) mentions that the aim of methodology is to describe and analyze the methods used in collecting, analyzing and presenting data as well as recognizing their limitations and resources, clarifying their presupposition and consequences and finally, relating their potentialities in advancing the frontier of knowledge. Methodology, thus enables the researcher to understand in the broadest possible terms not the products of scientific inquiry but the process of it.

According to Cohen and Manion (1980) methods refers to range of approaches used in research to gather data which are to be used in a basis for interference and interpretation, for explanation and prediction. Methodology in the words of Kaplan (quoted in Cohen and Manion 1980:26) is to describe and analyze these methods throwing light on their limitations and consequences, relating their potentialities to the twilight zone at the frontiers of knowledge. For Isaak (1969:10-42) methodology refers to the basic principles and assumption of inquiry. It is a systematic study of the subject matter and provides step to step procedure adopted in organizing the research study.

Leege and Francis (1974) writes that research design is a blue print that leads the researcher to plausible answers to research problems by enabling the researcher to determine how much of the observed variance of the dependent variable can be attributed to the independent variable; and how much can be attributed to other substantive variables, that is, extrinsic effects, and the research design itself, that is intrinsic effects. While for Anikpo (1986) “a research design is a plan or structure of any aspect of the research procedure.”

Similarly, according to Nwana (1981:54) research design is “a term used to describe a number of decisions which used to be taken regarding the collection of data before ever data are collected”. Consequently, Obasi (1999) identifies two major types of research design, viz, survey research design and experimental design. Survey research design is in turn divided into descriptive research, ex post factor research and historical research, however, in this study, we adopt historical research design.

According to Obasi (1999) historical research deals with the determination, evaluation and explanation of past event mainly for the purpose of gaining a better and clearer understanding of the present; and making a reliable prediction of the future. It involves critical and objective methods of inquiry with generalizations made from organized knowledge. Its distinguishing features or elements include the use of qualitative hypotheses, critical analytical method and interpretation of findings. Historical research is a qualitative research, because the variables used in proving the hypotheses are not amenable to measurement or quantification. The variables are not quantifiable or measurable.


The method of Data collection for this study is qualitative method, specifically, documentary method. In qualitative methods, information is gathered in form of words, pictures, descriptions, narratives and numerals from both primary sources like unstructured observations, interview schedules, focus group discussions e.t.c and secondary sources such as documentary studies of official documents, library materials, internet (websites) e.t.c. For Iwueze (2009) qualitative method aims at understanding through examination, description and interpretation of documented evidence, data and information from secondary sources. Nze (2009) enumerates three main qualitative methods of data collection, which are interactive interviewing, written descriptions and observation.

In documentary studies, therefore, information is gathered in form of words, pictures, descriptions, narratives and numerals from secondary sources such as documentary studies of official documents, library materials, and internet (websites) etc. In Other words, documentary method is a secondary source of data or an indirect method of collecting data (Ezeah, 2004). By using secondary sources of data a researcher relies on already collected or collated data from official sources or documents, rather than generate data himself/herself as in the case of primary sources (White and Clark, 1976)

Nwana (1981:177) defines document as “any written material (whether handwritten, typed or printed) that was already in existence, which was produced for some other purposes than the benefit of the investigator”. While for Obasi (1999:172-173) “documents are published or unpublished materials on activities of public and private organizations, and found mainly in libraries, archives and in such public and private organizations.


The major method of data analysis adopted in this study is qualitative-descriptive analysis of documentary evidence or documentary study of official documents like country websites, internet sources e.t.cNwana (1981:177) defines document as “any written material (whether handwritten, typed or printed) that was already in existence which was produced for some other purposes than the benefit of the investigator”. Similarly, for Obasi (1999:170-173) “documents are published or unpublished materials on activities of public and private organizations and found mainly in libraries, archives and in such public and private organizations”.

Offordile (2002) writes that content analysis or documentary studies is the procedure for systematically analyzing written materials which involves examination of documents to investigate specific topics or themes such as evidence of bias or prejudice, prevailing practices etc. It refers to a group of techniques designed to determine certain specified properties or elements or characteristics of verbal either written or oral communication.


  1. Political Affiliation: Is simply when a person associates themselves with a political party, ideology and believes.
  2. Crimea: The Crimea peninsula, the main flashpoint in Ukraine’s Crisis, is a Pro-Russia part of Ukraine, separated from the rest of the country geographically, historically and Politically. It also hosts Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine has accused Russia of invading it.
  3. Ukraine: is a country in Eastern Europe, bordered by Russia to the east and Northeast, Belarus to the Northwest, Poland and Slovakia to the West, Hungary, Romania and Moldova to the southwest.
  4. Authoritarian: favouring or enforcing strict obedience to Authority at the expense of personal freedom.
  5. Nationalism: The strong belief that the interests of a particular nation-state are of primary importance. Also, the belief that people who share a common language, history and culture should constitute an independent nation, free of foreign domination.
  6. U: European Union

The 2015 Ukrainian Crisis and Prospect of Peace in Europe in the 21st Century


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