FIIA Briefing Paper 160: Russian thinking in the Ukraine crisis

Russian thinking in the Ukraine crisis:
From drawing a line of defence to seeing a threat to national security

Published 15.9.2014

Katri Pynnöniemi
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Three articles written by Russian foreign policy analyst Sergei Karaganov and published at the turning points of the Ukraine conflict shed light on how the reasoning on Russia’s strategic interests in Ukraine has evolved amid the conflict.

The meaning of the conflict, as explained in the first essay, is that Russia is drawing a line of defence against Western interference in its sphere of interest.

In the second essay, the assertion that with the Crimean operation Russia has forced the West to put an end to the Cold War, is reconfigured into a choice that Russia needs to make between the Western or non-Western path.

Finally, in an essay written after the downing of flight MH17, it is argued that without de-escalation the situation in Donbass will become a threat to Russian national security.

The evolution of the argumentation shows that some sort of ‘reality check’ has occurred in the vicinity of the general line. However, while the dangers inherent in the conflict are recognized, Karaganov fails to acknowledge Russia’s active involvement in the conflict.

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