Publication: Everyone Loses: The Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Eurasia
14 December 2016
Where to find the roots of the disastrous scene at the Donetsk airport? One might well look to background factors such as Russian imperialism, ancestral enmities over language and religion, Soviet nationality practices, and the micro-history of Crimea and the Donbas. Although variables like these are germane at some level of abstraction, our emphasis is on dynamics in the relative foreground.
The Ukraine crisis, as we see it, comes out of self-reinforcing adversarial behaviour in the post-Soviet section of the Eurasian macroregion. Stretching over a quarter-century but gathering momentum in the second half of that time span, this contest has given rise to a belt of instability, insecurity and discontent of which Ukraine is but one part. The multidimensional rivalries percolating there encapsulate three ‘geos’ pursued by states and blocs of states: geopolitics, which is standard-issue realpolitik with special attention to attaining influence over particular countries or areas; geo-economics, or the projection of power over territory using economic means, an exercise defined by ‘the logic of war in the grammar of commerce’;1 and geo-ideas, by which we mean policies to spread normative conceptions of the good and the right beyond national borders.2
The current chapter tells the tale of the Cold Peace, in Boris Yeltsin’s evocative phrase. It is bookended by the implosion of the Soviet Union’s zone of external hegemony at the end of the 1980s, which, despite the giddiness of the moment, left some bedrock issues unresolved, and a natural inflection point in 2003–04, the highlight of which was the ‘colour revolutions’ that tore through several post-Soviet states. Later chapters will deal with the more conflictual periods to come.