Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
A reader in early 2017 might be surprised opening this slim volume, written in late 2014, and discovering that the argument still rings true. The conflict in Ukraine was unfolding with such intensity during its first year that most analytical efforts lagged far behind. Yet, during the second year the artillery duels became routine and the Minsk process has remained hopelessly deadlocked, so security research has caught up with the events. It is now possible to find extensive backgrounds and detailed examinations of combat operations, but there is still no answer to the question about Ukraine’s fate, so the three scenarios sketched in Chapter 5 (‘Frozen conflict’, ‘Russia invades’, ‘Ukraine wins’) remain relevant. The authors were right arguing that the conflict ‘is about more than Ukraine’ (p. xix), and it is now a platitude that the post-Cold War project on building a new security order in Europe ‘has met its severest, possibly fatal, test’ (p. 157). Both NATO and the EU have performed better in meeting the challenge from Russia than the authors expected, but the splits are set to widen and the quality of US leadership is in doubt. There is still no sound strategy on combining organically containment and engagement in dealing with Russia, and this deficiency is identified in the Conclusion as a major precursor of the crisis. The problem with the proposition of engaging Russia as a giant neighbour rather than as a part of Europe, which the authors elliptically advance, is that Russia can feel confident in its power only if Ukraine adds to it. So the conflict is still about Ukraine.