UPDATED  April 4 2022

The invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops is continuing, and despite a meeting between Presidents Zelenskyy and Putin on February 28, it does not appear that any movement towards a pause or end of aggression is in sight.

These readings are from two groups: the first, non-governmental organizations and “think tanks” that monitor and analyze international relations and foreign policy; the second, scholars working in Western and Eastern European history.

While much of the material included here is now historical in light of the current situation, the context provided by them will help readers understand the enormous changes that have occurred in Ukraine, whether over one hundred, thirty or even three years.

As new reports become available, we will be adding them to this page. All material is free to read and download on JSTOR.

Research Reports

Tatiana Stanovaya, Chapter 2 The Russian State and Society at a Crossroads: The twilight zone, from Russian Futures 2030, European Institute for Security Studies, published August 2020

For some Russia may seem a  ‘quiet swamp’ – a country with a resilient, albeit stagnating, economy and a highly controlled political system. This fosters the perception that Russia is a society in the grip of powerful forces of inertia fundamentally incapable of change, destined to continue to be ruled by the incumbent political regime for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, the image may suggest that there are tensions lurking beneath the surface of Russian society, carrying a latent risk of sudden explosion. In this vein, there is indeed widespread speculation within the opposition camp about when and how fast the ruling regime may implode. According to this viewpoint, behind its façade of authoritarian strength the Russian political establishment is being gradually eroded by internal schisms and fragmentation. One of the big questions concerning the future of Russia is exactly this: is the current political system capable of change and, if so, what kind of change might we see in the future and what role will society play in these transformations? [p. 26]

Janis Kluge, Chapter 3 Russia’s Economy: from dusk till dawn?, from Russian Futures 2030, European Institute for Security Studies, published August 2020

Russia’s economy is commonly seen as its weak point, casting a shadow over any assessment of the country’s future prospects. While booming oil prices led to fast economic growth in the 2000s despite a lack of structural reforms, Russia’s economy lost its impetus when energy revenues began to stagnate in the 2010s. The country’s rather bleak long-term economic outlook creates risks for domestic stability and may have negative implications for its foreign and military policy. Whether Russia will move beyond its current economic model in the decade leading up to 2030 depends mainly on political developments in both the domestic and the international arena. Technological and environmental changes, in contrast, can be expected to have a more gradual impact, but they play an important role as a catalyst of political developments. In the upcoming decade, the combination of these factors could set Russia on a course to economic isolation and decline, or alternatively lead to closer integration with the international economy. [p. 43]

Andrew Radin, Alyssa Demus and Krystyna Marcinek, Understanding Russian Subversion: Patterns, Threats, and Responses, RAND Corporation, published February 2020

Russia likely finds subversion—which we define as efforts intended to influence the domestic politics of other countries—attractive because it could help achieve multiple Russian foreign policy interests at relatively low cost. The threat of Russian subversion to different countries varies based on the intensity of Russia’s interests and the resources available to undertake subversion. In western Europe and the United States, Russian subversive tools appear to be limited to information, cyber, and political ones. In neighboring former communist countries, Russia uses a wider range of military and economic tools. To better deter Russian subversion, we suggest concentrating defensive efforts on the most vulnerable regions and institutions and ensuring that punishments in response to subversion are clearly linked to specific Russian actions. We also propose focusing on addressing covert or denied Russian activities, both because they are particularly harmful and because targeting overt Russian activities could delegitimize Western outreach to populations that are on the fence about their support for Western institutions. [pp. 1–2]

Philip G. Wasielewski, Seth G. Jones and Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., Russia’s Gamble in Ukraine, Center for Strategic & International Studies, published January 2022

 “If Moscow invades or otherwise escalates its actions in Ukraine and other areas, the United States and its Western partners need to be prepared to conduct extensive diplomatic, economic, military and information measures designed to protect NATO’s eastern flank and prevent Moscow from annexing any additional territory in Ukraine.” [Introduction, p. 1]

Responding to Russia’s New Military Buildup Near Ukraine, International Crisis Group, published December 2021

“Moscow’s goal remains what it has long been: a Ukraine that is permanently in Russia’s sphere of influence. To the Kremlin, Ukraine is the front line in its continuing battle to block Western inroads into its neighborhood, which it sees as a threat to Russia itself. This goal underlies the political provisions that Russian negotiators insisted upon in the Minsk agreements.

[…]

The paradox, of course, is that the harder Russia presses to prevent Western actors from deepening their links with Kyiv, the stronger those ties become. As Moscow acts and postures ever more aggressively toward Kyiv, Ukraine sees ever fewer alternatives to closer relations with the West if it is to have any hope of security. For their part, Western states are drawn in by this dynamic, fearing that if Russia chisels away at Ukrainian sovereignty, not only Ukraine but European security as a whole could suffer dire consequences, with Russia potentially emboldened to embark on further aggression elsewhere.” [III. Russia’s Intentions, p. 6]

Peace in Ukraine I:: A European War, International Crisis Group, published April 2020

“The war in Ukraine is a war in Europe. It is also a war about European security. Russia’s military intervention on its neighbour’s territory was undertaken in large part to guarantee that Ukraine did not align with Western economic and security institutions. Russia’s belief that such alignments would do it tremendous damage is rooted in its overall dissatisfaction with the European security order as it has evolved over the last three decades.” [Executive Summary, p. i]

Andrew Wilson, ed., What Does Ukraine Think?, European Council on Foreign Relations, published 2015

“The project to “rethink Ukraine” has been ongoing since the 1960s–1980s, when it was debated by intellectuals of the Ukrainian diaspora in North America, mostly historians who were born during World War I and left Ukraine after World War II, some escaping Hitler and most escaping Stalin.¹ They spent their formative years in Western Ukraine under Polish rule during the interwar years, but they did not succumb to the temptations of communism and fascism. Their intellectual guru was Viacheslav Lypynsky (1882–1931), one of the first critics of totalitarianism, in both its leftwing and rightwing varieties.” [3. Rethinking Ukraine, p. 34]

“However, in the early twenty-first century, mistrust in beliefs or convictions has become ubiquitous. Believing in something has become obsolete and old-fashioned. The spread of this kind of scepticism is no less dangerous than fanaticism: it undermines one of the most important human capacities, the capacity to distinguish between good and bad, and between better and worse. Total scepticism leads to indifference: if I do not believe in anything, then everything must be equally bad. Russian propaganda throughout the world plays on this mistrust as one of its key traps. Iran might be bad, but the United States is equally bad, it says. Totalitarianism is bad, but democracy is no good either. The annexation of Crimea was bad, but recognising Kosovo was bad too. “We are as bad as you are”, Russia says to the West.’ [7. Russia, zoopolitics and information bombs, p. 78]

Anders Åslund, Melinda Haring, William B. Taylor, John E. Herbst, Daniel Fried and Alexander Vershbow, Biden and Ukraine: A Strategy for the New Administration, Issue Brief from the Atlantic Council, published March 2021

“Ukraine’s success in its fight against Kremlin aggression is in the US national interest for at least three reasons: Russia’s war is against the West, not just Ukraine; the future of a rules-based international order depends on Russian withdrawal from Ukraine; and the United States has a moral commitment to both Ukraine’s fight for independence and democracy in general.” [US Interests in Ukraine, p. 2]

Seth G. Jones, Catrina Doxsee, Brian Katz, Eric McQueen and Joe Moye, Chapter 3: Ukraine, from Russia’s Corporate Soldiers: The Global Expansion of Russia’s Private Military Companies,  Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), published July 2021

Russia’s first major introduction of PMCs to the battlefield came in Ukraine, during Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, and in the ongoing covert war in eastern Ukraine’s breakaway Donbas region. In the initial stages of Russia’s semi-covert intervention, PMCs played only auxiliary roles, augmenting Russian Special Operations Forces (SOF) and GRU Spetsnaz units, also known as “little green men,” that were primarily responsible for executing the Crimea operation. Operating under Russian commanders, PMCs, including the FSB-aligned E.N.O.T. Corps and other groups, were used primarily as blocking forces to prevent Ukrainian military reinforcements from crossing into the Crimean Peninsula. Russian SOF and Spetsnaz took on more complex tasks, such as seizing key military and civilian installations. Despite this initially limited combat role, PMCs in Crimea displayed their utility as a main element of Russia’s “hybrid army” of Russian regular forces combined with SOF, local militias, and PMCs that would execute Russia’s military operations in eastern Ukraine. [p. 24]

Ivan Krastev and Mark Leonard, The Crisis of European Security: What Europeans Think About the War in Ukraine, Policy Brief from the European Council on Foreign Relations, published February 2022

Much of the public debate on the crisis has portrayed European governments as divided, weak, and absent. However, a pan-European poll conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations in late January 2022 shows that there is a surprising consensus on the crisis among European voters. Europeans in the north, south, east, and west agree that Russia is likely to invade Ukraine in 2022, that European countries have a duty to defend Ukraine, and that this is a European problem.” [p. 2]

Seth G. Jones, Philip G. Wasielewski, and Joseph S. Bermudez, Russia’s Losing Hand in Ukraine, Issue Brief from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, published February 2022

“A Russian invasion of Ukraine—or even a limited incursion into Eastern Ukraine—would provide the United States and other Western countries with an opportunity to bog the Russian military down in a protracted insurgency, much like the Soviet Union faced in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The United States and other NATO counties should not—and do not need to—deploy their own military forces to Ukraine, but they should aid Ukrainian resistance refugees.” [p. 7]


Historians On Ukraine

Olena Nikolayenko, Invisible Revolutionaries: Women’s Participation in the Revolution of Dignity, Comparative Politics, Vol. 52, No. 3 (April 2020), pp.451–472

The Revolution of Dignity falls into the category of what Mark Beissinger defines as an “urban civic revolution,” marked by a large concentration of protesters in the urban space and popular demands for political freedoms. Since 1980, two-thirds of revolutions worldwide were urban civic revolts, and the proposed typology seeks to catalogue forms of women’s participation in this subset of revolutions. Between November 2013 and February 2014, protesters occupied the Independence Square (Maidan Nezalehnosti, or simply Maidan) in the capital city of Kyiv and pressed for the resignation of the incumbent government, the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union, and state provision of greater political and economic freedoms. The number of protesters swelled from a few hundred to tens of thousands, with the growth of the encampment in Kyiv and the emergence of smaller protest camps across Ukraine. The mass mobilization resulted in the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 and the conduct of snap presidential elections in May 2014. [p. 452]

Lada Kolomiyets, Manipulative Mistranslations in Official Documents and Media Discourses on Contemporary Ukraine, Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol. 37, No. 3/4 (2020), pp. 367–406

[T]he main reasons for a significant spread of deforming tendencies in translations of the Ukrainian language material appearing, in particular, in the Russian digital media and blogosphere should be associated not so much with the deficiencies of processing the source language material per se as with the subversive and insinuating strategies of indirect (de- and recontextualized) translation. [p. 404]

Beatrix Futàk-Campbell, Political Synergy: How the European Far-Right and Russia Have Joined Forces Against Brussels, Atlantisch Perspectief, Vol. 44, No. 1, Special Edition: Putin’s Russia (2020), pp. 30–35

Confirming their support for Russia, right-wing populists used the Ukraine crisis and subsequent Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 to their own advantage. These events have produced a key opportunity for them to differentiate themselves from the domestic political mainstream which was anti-Russian. Le Pen has even publicly declared Russia’s 2014 invasion and seizure of Crimea to be legitimate. During the March 2014 referendum on Crimea’s reunification with Russia, high-ranking politicians of the FN and the FPÖ functioned as independent election monitors while OSCE and UN delegations abstained. Notably FPÖ deputy Johann Gudenus and Aymeric Chauprade (FN) were part of the monitoring team and worked together building on their previous meetings at the various summits as noted above. The Eurasian Observatory of Elections and Democracy, which had previously helped to legitimate elections in Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia, also invited the PVV to join; however, Wilders declined to participate. Nonetheless, the international observers concluded that the referendum procedure was “fair and free” and “conformed to international standards.” This was in complete contradiction to the international community’s verdict. The UN General Assembly, by adopting resolution 68/262 in March 2014, concluded that the referendum was invalid. Similarly, the European Commission (2014), together with the European Council, declared that the EU “does neither recognise the illegal and illegitimate referendum in Crimea nor its outcome.” [p. 33]

Carl Gershman, A Fight for Democracy: Why Ukraine Matters, World Affairs, Vol. 177, No. 6 (March / April 2015), pp. 47–56

“The Maidan uprising was not only a momentous historical event but also a profoundly democratic one, with the protesters embracing a concept of citizenship involving individual responsibility to uphold democratic values and to serve the larger community.” [p. 48]

“I suggest that Putin seeks nothing less than a different kind of world order from the one that followed the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, which he has called “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the twentieth century.” That’s why he “[drove] a tank over the world order,” as the Economist put it last March after the invasion and annexation of Crimea. Putin is seeking to reverse the verdict of 1989, as the American writer George Weigel has said, which he considers to be an unjust and humiliating defeat for Russia.” [p. 52]

Jacobus Delwaide, Identity and Geopolitics: Ukraine’s Grappling with Imperial Legacies, Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol. 32/33, Part 1: ЖНИВА: Essays Presented in Honor of George G. Grabowicz on His Seventieth Birthday (2011–2014), pp. 179–207

Russian historic claims to Ukraine are not at all obvious. The term Kyivan Rus’ for the medieval (late ninth to mid-thirteenth century) realm centered on Kyiv “comes from imperial Russian historiography,” and had the function of distinguishing the Kyivan from the Muscovite period in the imperial Russian narrative. After World War II, the notion of an “Old Rus’ nationality” gained particular momentum in Soviet historiography: it “served, inter alia, to establish Russia’s claim to the historical legacy of Kyivan Rus’ and therefore survived the demise of Soviet historiography ” remaining “quite popular in Russia today..” [Kyiv and Muscovy, p. 180]

Alexander J. Motyl, Deleting the Holodomor: Ukraine Unmakes Itself, World Affairs, Vol. 173, No. 3 (September/October 2010), pp. 25–33

“The first thing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich did after his February 25 inauguration was delete the link to the Holodomor on the president’s official Web site. Yanukovich’s predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, had made the Holodomor–the famine of 1932-33 produced by Joseph Stalin and responsible for the deaths of millions of Ukrainian peasants–into a national issue, promoting what Czech novelist Milan Kundera famously called “the struggle of memory over forgetting” as part of his attempt to move the country toward democracy.” [p. 25]

“[T]he Holodomor’s “murder by starvation” remains the single greatest catastrophe endured by Ukraine during Soviet rule. Any attempt to reconstruct a national Ukrainian narrative must take a stand on a trauma of such proportions–especially since all Soviet historians, propagandists, and officials assiduously ignored the famine or dismissed it as an emigre delusion for decades.”[p. 27]

Timothy Snyder, Integration and Disintegration: Europe, Ukraine, and the World, Slavic Review, Vol. 74, No. 4 (Winter 2015), pp. 695–707

“The aspirations of Ukrainians in 2013 and 2014, and in particular the desire for an association agreement with the EU, now come into clearer focus. The Yanukovych regime had the support of much of the population when its policy was to sign the association agreement and lost it when it yielded to Russian pressure not to sign. Citizens of Ukraine, perhaps more than anyone else, were in a position to appreciate the logic of European integration in its latest form. Ukraine has been near the center of several of the major integrative and disintegrative projects of the European twentieth century. It did not become a nation-state, despite a serious military effort, after World War I; instead, most of the lands of today’s Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union. It was the major German European colony of World War I and was meant to be the major German colony in World War II. No country was shaped more by the accumulating effect of the Nazi and Soviet projects of transformation.” [p. 702]


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Resources

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Russia’s Gamble in Ukraine, Jan. 1, 2022
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
International Crisis Group, Dec. 8, 2021
International Crisis Group
Peace in Ukraine I:: A European War, Apr. 28, 2020
International Crisis Group
What Does Ukraine Think?, Jan. 1, 2015
European Council on Foreign Relations
Issue Brief from the Atlantic Council, Mar. 1, 2021
Atlantic Council
World Affairs, Vol. 177, No. 6 (March / April 2015), pp. 47-56
Sage Publications, Inc.
Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol. 32/33, Part 1: ЖНИВА: Essays Presented in Honor of George G. Grabowicz on His Seventieth Birthday (2011–2014), pp. 179-207
Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute
World Affairs, Vol. 173, No. 3 (September/October 2010), pp. 25-33
Sage Publications, Inc.
Slavic Review, Vol. 74, No. 4 (Winter 2015), pp. 695-707
Cambridge University Press
Russia’s Corporate Soldiers: The Global Expansion of Russia’s Private Military Companies, Jul. 1, 2021
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Russian Futures 2030: The shape of things to come, August 1, 2020
European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS)
Russian Futures 2030: The shape of things to come, August 1, 2020
European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS)
Comparative Politics, Vol. 52, No. 3 (April 2020), pp. 451-472
Comparative Politics, Ph.D. Programs in Political Science, City University of New York
Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol. 37, No. 3/4 (2020), pp. 367-406
Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute
Understanding Russian Subversion: Patterns, Threats and Responses, February 1, 2020
RAND Corporation
Atlantisch Perspectief, Vol. 44, No. 1, Special Edition: Putin’s Russia (2020), pp. 30-35
Stichting Atlantische Commissie