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Minimizing Loss: Explaining Russian Policy Choices during the Ukrainian Crisis

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Realist and liberal scholars of international relations offer very different interpretations of Russia’s decision to militarily intervene in Ukraine. While liberals describe the Russian actions as part of a new, more aggressive foreign policy resulting from increasing authoritarianism within Russia itself, realists view these actions as largely defensive; a reaction to persistent Western efforts to peel Ukraine from the Russian sphere of influence. Applying insights from the foreign policy decision making literature to a close examination of events from late 2013 through the Russian military interventions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine reveals weaknesses in both these explanations. Consistent with the realist view, Russian behavior does appear to have been motivated more by geopolitical interests than by the domestic politics considerations. However realist accounts underestimate the extent to which prior Russian policy choices, rather than Western efforts, contributed to the undermining of Ukraine’s political stability.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science and Sociology, Westminster College, alepreme@westminster.edu

10.1163/18763324-04401005
/content/journals/10.1163/18763324-04401005
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/content/journals/10.1163/18763324-04401005
2017-01-11
2018-06-24

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