The new Russia Direct brief to be released on February 4 looks into the reasons why the post-Soviet space has become a new battleground between Russia and the West. In addition to describing how the world’s major powers view the conflict in Ukraine, the brief analyzes the main implications of the crisis for the international security system.

 A man of the Oplot battalion, Donetsk People's Republic militia, inspects a destroyed market. Photo: Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

With Ukrainian peace talks showing signs of having failed and pro-Russian separatists now making significant gains in eastern Ukraine, world leaders are threatening to escalate the fight. Most importantly, the U.S. government is now considering providing anti-tank missiles, small arms and ammunition to Ukraine.  

In order to understand the current dimensions of this crisis and prevent similar conflicts from occurring elsewhere, one should examine the background trends that led to the escalation of the Ukraine crisis and analyze the main consequences of the crisis for the global security system. To what extent has the conflict in Ukraine changed today’s discourse about international security?

The new Russia Direct brief, “Re-Thinking International Security After Ukraine,” analyzes this issue in detail. Written by Andrey Baykov, director of Master's Studies and an associate professor of International Affairs at MGIMO-University, the RD Brief examines how and why the post-Soviet space has emerged as a new geopolitical battleground between Russia and the West, describes how the world’s major powers view the current conflict in Ukraine, and provides an overview of four fundamental ways that the international security system has irreversibly changed post-Ukraine.

This RD Brief is particularly timely, given the upcoming Munich Security Conference, which is taking place from Feb. 6-8. Discussion of how and why Ukraine has changed the way we think about international security might help in the search for solutions of the conflict, thinks conference chairman Wolfgang Ischinger.

In the Brief, Baykov points out that the war in Ukraine is not only a tragedy from a humanitarian perspective, but it also poses a major threat to European regional stability and security. “The scale of the forced and labor-related migration from Ukraine, with a new wave of poverty and associated socio-economic risks, has yet to be assessed by the European Union,” he writes. From his point of view, the location of the conflict – at the very core of Eurasia – makes it even more dangerous and forces a re-assessment of the current global security approach, both globally and regionally.

Moving on to a discussion of Russian foreign policy strategy in the post-Soviet space and the EU’s response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Baykov emphasizes that, “Russia never did agree to being declared the losing side of the Cold War and deprived of its spheres of interests in Europe – vital interests, including matters of security, to which Crimea and Eastern Ukraine no doubt pertain.” Overlooking this aspect of the problem played a critical role in the inadequate assessment of the conflict by the West, Baykov believes. This, in turn, led to the situation in which the post-Soviet security system was destabilized and with it, the international security system as a whole.

Following from this, the author provides an overview of the main changes in the global security environment since the start of the conflict in Ukraine. The most important of which, according to him, is the “total failure of the liberal-idealist approaches for comprehending modern processes.” This manifested itself in the following four ways: the changing relationship between state and non-state actors in international affairs, the return of formal unions and alliances, the unacceptability of civilian casualties, and the possibility for a global conflict involving major powers. 

After examining the above in further detail, Baykov warns that the main threat to global security today arises from the blackout in dialogue between its two main guarantors – Russia and the U.S. “The key to salvation lies in the hands of the societies of both the U.S. and Russia, which for almost two decades post-1991 found themselves inextricably linked by thousands of interwoven strands of common social, economic and human ties, cross-border projects and mutual affinity,” the expert concludes.

Register for free now and don’t miss the release of the Brief “Re-Thinking International Security After Ukraine” on February 4.