The Ukraine crisis in 2015

The Ukraine crisis is a complex drama with multiple dimensions, theaters and actors, which makes tracking, explaining, and predicting where it is headed particularly difficult. Its various parts are, however, interrelated, so while each dimension is important in its own right, it also impacts, and is impacted by, the others.

In what follows, I disaggregate the crisis to five dimensions and offer my take on what is likely to happen in each in 2015. In doing so, I will try to take into account the crisis’ “systemic” properties – that is, how the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone. Continue reading

Thoughts on a post-Ukraine crisis security settlement for Europe

It would be foolish for Western governments to count on changes in Russia’s position on NATO enlargement and force disposition in the foreseeable future, regardless of whether Putin remains in office. It would likewise be foolish for Moscow to count on brinkmanship and intimidation to keep NATO from reinforcing its eastern flank under current circumstance. Nonetheless, it is incumbent upon Western and Russian leaders to make what is now a dangerous and unstable military standoff less unstable and less dangerous. Doing so is in the interest of both sides, and it is also the most likely path toward a gradual improvement in political relations. Continue reading

Ukraine: Lessons learned from other “frozen conflicts” in the Soviet successor states

[The following is an expanded version of a talk I gave at the VoxUkraine Club, Kyiv, October 23.]


Four constants

  1. None of the conflicts has been resolved peacefully
  2. Each “parent state” has lost all de facto sovereignty over the breakaway region
  3. In no case has the international community been successful in mediating a political settlement
  4. In no case has there been significant repatriation of internally displaced persons

Three variables that don’t vary much

  1. All the breakaway regions are doing poorly economically, with some variation
  2. All the breakaway states are dependent on external patron states, with some variation
  3. All the breakaway states have a “stateness” problem, with some variation

Four importantly varying variables

  1. The “resolution” of the Chechen case
  2. The cultural-political distance between the contending parties
  3. Public determination in the parent state to retake the lost territories
  4. The extent of cooperation between the parent state and the breakaway state

Continue reading