Everyone Loses: The Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Eurasia

With talk in world capitals of a new cold war, this Adelphi examines the roots of the Ukraine crisis, analysing Western and Russian policies in post-Soviet Eurasia since 1991, and providing an assessment of both Russia and the West’s actions post-2014.

  • Introduction

    Western readers of the morning’s headlines in 2014 realised to their surprise and dismay that post-Cold War Europe was at war. The local conflagrations triggered by the break-up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in the 1990s were bloodier, but the Ukraine crisis occurred long afterwards and revived fears of a clash between major world powers. The United States and the member states of the European Union (EU) adopted positions...
  • Chapter One: Cold Peace

    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...
  • Chapter Two: Contestation entrenched

    A decade and a half after the settlement-that-wasn’t marked the end of the Cold War, the best opportunity to forge a new, inclusive order for Europe and Eurasia had passed. The year 2004 brought the ‘big bang’ enlargement of Euro-Atlantic institutions, ushering the Baltic states and several adjacent countries into NATO and the EU.1 The Western umbrella now extended deep into the former imperium of the Soviet Union. But at...
  • Chapter Three: Breaking point

    With all the fundamental disputes lurking just beneath the surface, the period of deceptive calm in the regional contestation could not last long. It came to an end in spectacular fashion in Ukraine, by far the largest and most strategically significant of the In-Betweens. Enmity over Ukraine set the stage for a crisis that drew in the great powers and transformed relations among them. Ukraine is more populous than the...
  • Chapter Four: The negative-sum game and how to move past it

    Everyone loses The crux of our argument is that the Ukraine crisis is the apotheosis of a broader regional dynamic: zero-sum policies producing negative-sum results. It is a game that has produced no winners. All major players are worse off today than they were when the crisis began. Ukraine, the central battleground, has been hit the hardest. It has lost control over the Crimean peninsula and over a population there of more...

Disorder erupted in Ukraine in 2014, involving the overthrow of a sitting government, the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and a violent insurrection, supported by Moscow, in the east of the country.

This Adelphi book argues that the crisis has yielded a ruinous outcome, in which all the parties are worse off and international security has deteriorated. This negative-sum scenario resulted from years of zero-sum behaviour on the part of Russia and the West in post-Soviet Eurasia, which the authors rigorously analyse. The rivalry was manageable in the early period after the Cold War, only to become entrenched and bitter a decade later. The upshot has been systematic losses for Russia, the West and the countries caught in between.

All the governments involved must recognise that long-standing policies aimed at achieving one-sided advantage have reached a dead end, Charap and Colton argue, and commit to finding mutually acceptable alternatives through patient negotiation.

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Samuel Charap is Senior Fellow for Russia and Eurasia, IISS.

Timothy J. Colton is Morris and Anna Feldberg Professor of Government and Russian Studies, Harvard University.

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Russia and Eurasia Programme

The IISS Russia and Eurasia Programme focuses on the politics, political economy, and international relations of Russia and the other states of post-Soviet Eurasia.


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