UPDATED August 23, 2023
Deep into the second year of the war, a day after the reported death of the Wagner mercenary leader, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, there seems to be no clear path to the end of the invasion.
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. Some of the material included here is now historical in light of the current situation, but 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 add them to this page. All material is free to read and download on JSTOR.
Eric Ciaramella, Envisioning a Long-Term Security Arrangement for Ukraine, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, published June 2023.
The moment has arrived for Western leaders to offer a practical vision for Ukraine’s long-term security. This paper lays out a detailed proposal for a sustainable multilateral security arrangement in which Ukraine has a strong military that is backed by legally codified pledges of support—training, equipping, and defense industrial cooperation—from the United States and Europe. The model outlined in this paper draws on official Ukrainian government proposals and lessons from the United States’ security relationships with close partners that are not treaty allies, notably Israel. It prioritizes a strategy of deterrence by denial: by fielding a robust, modernized, and well-trained military, Ukraine can raise the cost of future aggression to such a point that Russia would lose confidence in its ability to achieve its objectives there through force.
Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, “Ukraine,” Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, published June 22, 2023.
In the year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion, the number of incidents targeting local officials has spiked in Ukraine. This trend was particularly pronounced during the first months of the war, up to the illegal Russian annexation of seized territories in autumn 2022. The abduction and targeted assassination of local officials during this period suggested a concerted effort to eliminate any resistance to Russian occupation, both real and perceived.
Daniel Shapiro, “Year Two of the Invasion: Where Do Former Soviet Countries Stand?” European Leadership Network, published June 2023.
Ukraine’s most novel contribution to the field of anti-corruption, however, has been its extensive public disclosures of who owns what throughout the political-economic system. Reformers were tired of corruption investigations running into dead ends in the form of anonymously owned companies, fancy cars and properties with unknown owners, secret information about public procurements, and politicians who lied about their wealth and income.
Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, “Moving Out of the Shadows Shifts in Wagner Group Operations Around the World,” Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, published August 2, 2023.
Common understandings of the Wagner Group tend to over-emphasize its military strength or focus on the ineffectiveness of its mercenary troops. Instead, this report illustrates how its military capacity and operations vary significantly across different conflict theaters.
Emily Winterbotham, “The Impact of Gendered Narratives in the Conflict in Ukraine,” Global Center on Cooperative Security, published August 2023.
Traditional gendered narratives have often been resurrected by all sides to the Ukraine conflict, with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s appeal to women, mothers, sisters, and fiancées to support their loved ones in battle; the image beamed around the world of a wounded, pregnant Ukrainian woman curled on a stretcher; and comments made by the UK defense secretary that President Putin is suffering from “small man syndrome” providing just some examples.
Dmytro Boyarchuk and Marek Dabrowski, “The Ukrainian War Economy,” Bruegel, published July 11, 2023.
As a result of war damages and territorial losses, Ukraine’s real GDP contracted by about 30 percent in 2022. Ukraine also experienced severe balance-of-payments and budget tensions in the first months of the war. Intensification of foreign financial aid from the second half of 2022 helped to achieve relative macroeconomic stability in the first half of 2023. The prospects of the Ukrainian economy depend on the length of the war, associated damages and the size of external financial aid.
Anthony H. Cordesman, “The Lasting Strategic Impact of the War in Ukraine,” Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), published July 5, 2023.
Most of the analysis of the war in Ukraine focuses on the current fighting and the prospects for some decisive set of battles between Ukraine and Russia. It is also all too clear from the attempt of Yevgeny Prigozhin to use his Wagner forces to move on Moscow, however, that the course of the war can suddenly change in unpredictable ways because of the decisions of a single individual, military offensive, or shifts in the level of outside support by other nations.
At the same time, there is a significant possibility that the fighting in Ukraine will go on for years, that it will unleash broader forces that will make any settlement or “peace” highly unstable, and that the war will lead to a new and lasting form of Cold War between the West and Russia, as well as have broader global impacts.
Alicja Bachulska and Mark Leonard, “China and Ukraine: The Chinese Debate about Russia’s War and Its Meaning for the World,” European Council on Foreign Relations, published July 2023.
This policy brief sets out to understand the ways in which Chinaʼs political and intellectual elites see the war in Ukraine. It draws four key lessons from more than 30 off-the-record interviews undertaken by the authors with Chinese thinkers and strategists in top universities, think-tanks, and party-affiliated organs, and from the study of articles and debates in the Chinese foreign policy community. Their views are complemented by an analysis of official Chinese documents and an extensive literature review of academic journals and media accounts relating to the war in Ukraine.
Dick Zandee and Adája Stoetman, “The War in Ukraine: Adapting the EU’s Security and Defence Policy,” Clingendael Institute, published July 2023.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is violating the rules-based international order and poses a significant threat to European security. The EU and NATO have responded by taking coordinated action. The measures taken have varied from unprecedented sanctions on Russia to assisting Ukraine with the delivery of arms and ammunition. The war in Ukraine has led to an even stronger focus on collective defence, which was already put in motion after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Furthermore, the European security architecture has witnessed a significant change with Finland (and later this year Sweden) joining the North Atlantic Alliance. At the Vilnius Summit (11-12 July 2023), NATO has taken new decisions to strengthen its deterrence and defence posture.
Clara Portela, “The EU and the Transformed Nuclear Context since the War in Ukraine,” Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), published May 11, 2023.
But it was, above all, the more or less explicit threats of nuclear-weapons use issued repeatedly throughout 2022 by Russia’s leaders—notably President Vladimir Putin himself—that commanded the most attention from media and policy circles. No less than 165 “interactions with a nuclear dimension” were observed in the course of barely one year. What impact are such actions having on European security?
TZ and Tamir Hayman, Open-Source Intelligence and the War in Ukraine, Institute for National Security Studies, published January 5, 2023.
Although the war is far from over, at this stage it is already possible to see how the use of open-source intelligence (OSINT), based on commercial capabilities, knowledge-sharing communities on social media, and artificial intelligence tools developed in the private sector have improved the ability of the Ukrainian military to gather intelligence to offset the relative advantage of the Russian military.
Max Bergmann, What Could Come Next?: Assessing the Putin Regime’s Stability and Western Policy Options, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), published January 2023.
The potential for Ukrainian military success to cause regime instability in Moscow has generated understandable nervousness among many Western governments about what could follow Putin. In fact, there is a growing assumption that what follows his reign could very well be worse. Such a pessimistic outlook might seem sober—but, as this issue brief argues, it could very well be wrong.
Samuel Charap and Miranda Priebe, Avoiding a Long War: U.S. Policy and the Trajectory of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict, RAND Corporation, published January 2023.
The trajectory and ultimate outcome of the war will, of course, be determined largely by the policies of Ukraine and Russia. But Kyiv and Moscow are not the only capitals with a stake in what happens. This war is the most significant interstate conflict in decades, and its evolution will have major consequences for the United States. It is appropriate to assess how this conflict may evolve, what alternative trajectories might mean for U.S. interests, and what Washington can do to promote a trajectory that best serves U.S. interests.
Answering Four Hard Questions About Russia’s War in Ukraine, International Crisis Group, published December 8, 2022.
Western governments backing Kyiv in the Russo-Ukrainian war must wrestle with four persistent questions: what is the risk Russia will use nuclear weapons? Can diplomacy at this stage help end the war? Would a ceasefire right now be welcome? Could a change in Russia’s government bring peace?
Max Bergmann, Tina Dolbaia, and Nick Fenton. Russia’s Adaptation Game: Deciphering the Kremlin’s “Humanitarian Policy,” Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), published December 2022.
At first glance, the new policy, coming six months after Moscow’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, seems detached from reality. It describes the Russian Federation as a country that aspires to maintain in the world. “This has absolutely nothing to do with the reality—the catastrophe into which Russia is plunging itself,” Elena Sorokina, a journalist with the Russian-language multinational and multireligious peace and stability notes branch of Radio Liberty.
Jon Bateman, How Militarily Effective Have Russia’s Cyber Operations Been in Ukraine? Russia’s Wartime Cyber Operations in Ukraine: Military Impacts, Influences, and Implications. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, published December 2022.
The dissenting camp describes Russian cyber operations as sweeping in scale, tactically effective in key moments, and aligned with Moscow’s military objectives of disrupting, confusing, and cowing the Ukrainian government, armed forces, and civilian population.
Paul Dibb, Why Did Putin Decide to Attack Ukraine? The Geopolitical Implications of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine. Australian Strategic Policy Institute, published September 2022.
From what we know from Putin’s speeches—which are frequent, extremely long and convoluted—he continues to quote four fundamental strategic priorities in his reasoning. First, there’s the humiliation of the collapse of the USSR and how, in his view, the US took advantage of a gravely weakened Russia. Second, there’s his bitter resentment of what he describes as the expansion of NATO ‘to within spitting distance’ of Russia. Third, there’s Putin’s attitude to Ukraine and what he claims is the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians as ‘one people.’ And fourth, there’s his aim to reconstruct Russia as a great power (velikaya derzhava) and to have the West accept Moscow’s dominance in its sphere of influence over its former Soviet territories.
Bat Chen Feldman, Gallia Lindenstrauss, and Arkady Mil-Man. Putin and Erdogan Meet in Sochi: Another Challenge to the Western Bloc, Institute for National Security Studies, published August 16, 2022.
The meeting in Sochi on August 5, 2022 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, not long after their meeting in Tehran at the Astana Forum, reflects deepening cooperation between Moscow and Ankara. Moscow needs Ankara, partly in order to limit the negative economic ramifications of the war in Ukraine, but also to further weaken NATO from within. For its part, Ankara needs Moscow because of Russian influence in what it sees as main conflict zones—Syria, the Caucasus, and Libya, and given its dependence on Russia in matters of energy.
Bryan Frederick, Samuel Charap, Scott Boston, Stephen J. Flanagan, Michael J. Mazarr, Jennifer D. P. Moroney, and Karl P. Mueller, Pathways to Russian Escalation Against NATO from the Ukraine War, RAND Corporation, published July 2022.
…public outcry against Russian war crimes could create the impression of a political drive to intervene. The brutality of Russia’s campaign in Ukraine appears likely to continue, which, in turn, will further increase public outrage in NATO countries and amplify calls to take action that would stop the carnage. With the economic and diplomatic isolation of Russia already at near-maximum levels, there will likely be intensifying calls in key NATO capitals for more-direct military actions to defeat Russia or otherwise coerce it into stopping its campaign.
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]
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]
Historians On Russia and Ukraine
The article…explore[s] the main topics of Russian foreign policy since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. On the one hand based on orthodox geopolitics, as a legitimizing narrative for its sphere of influence across the FSU area, and on the other, the narrative of victimization of Russia and Russians by the West after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. […] Russia is fighting against its status as a second rate country, and the evident clash of Western liberal democracy and Russian orthodoxy in the Russian Federation’s foreign policy drive. The Rose and Orange revolutions of Georgia and Ukraine are considered to be major security problems by the Russian Federation, which in turn gives Georgia and Ukraine reason to leave the Russian geo-political axis.
Austin Charron, “Whose Is Crimea? Contested Sovereignty and Regional Identity,” Region 5, no. 2 (2016): 225–56.
While the Kremlin has continually strived to maintain plausible deniability of its support for separatist groups in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and its direct involvement in the violent conflict there, it has openly celebrated and stubbornly defended its territorial annexation of Crimea despite international condemnation, economic sanctions, and mounting pariahdom. The “reunification” of Crimea and Russia has also galvanized the Russian public behind a reinvigorated sense of patriotic nationalism, with the catchphrase “Crimea is Ours” (“Krym Nash”) serving as a popular and defiant refrain against challenges to the perception of Russia’s legitimate sovereignty over the region. Russian claims to Crimea draw from a deep well of historical mythologies that enshrine the region within narratives of religious identity, valorous militarism, and Soviet nostalgia.
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]
Mayhill C. Fowler, “Beyond Ukraine or Little Russia: Going Global with Culture in Ukraine,” Harvard Ukrainian Studies 34, no. 1/4 (2015): 259–84.
Investigating culture in Ukraine outside the ethnic lens raises question of what makes culture “Ukrainian.” Rather than quantity to be assumed, “Ukrainian culture” demands examination. Members of cultural elites…were directly involved creating “Ukrainian” culture. But what was that, exactly? [Cultural elites] were deeply invested in the creation of Ukrainian culture, but no one on what that culture should include. Moreover, this construction Ukrainian culture took place simultaneously with the reevaluation and rearticulation of other ethnic cultures.
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]