The Ukrainian Crisis and the History of War

The current Ukrainian Crisis is being analyzed by security studies and international relations analysts primarily through the lens of recent Russian History and Eastern European Studies (using area studies approaches).

War and Society Studies may offer some different perspectives on this crisis. By considering competing definitions of modern warfare and diverse examples of wars over a long time period, historians of War and Society can avoid simple analogies and develop more nuanced understandings of long-term developments in international relations and warfare.

Russian military exercises near the Ukrainian border, February 2022. Photo: Euronews.

I am encouraging Northern Illinois Univeristy undergraduate students in my current course, HIST 384 History of War since 1500, to consider how the history of war that we are studying in the course relate to the Ukrainian Crisis. Numerous aspects of modern warfare that we are examining are shaping the current crisis: nationalism, mobilization, conscription, barracks, civil-military relations, mass armies, partisan war, social terrorism, combined-arms tactics, logistical systems, war news, propaganda, limited war, and laws of war.

NIU Honors students who took my course last semester on HIST 399 Communal Conflict: Civil Wars in World History will be able to use their knowledge of Violence Studies and Comparative Civil Conflict to assess the developing Ukrainian Crisis. We studied civil conflict, religious conflict, colonial conflict, civil warfare, revolutionary war, nationalism, civil-military relations, separatism, paramilitaries, guerrilla warfare, ethnic conflict, atrocity, conflict resolution, and peacemaking.

NIU undergraduate students in my course on HIST 110 History of the Western World I are investigating the history of the concept of the West. The Ukrainian Crisis shows how the definitions of Europe and the West are still debated and contested. Can Ukraine be considered European? Some Ukrainians want their nation to join the European Union, while some ethnically Russian Ukrainians would rather join the Russian Federation. President Putin has challenged the sovereignty of Ukraine and even questioned whether it is a nation-state at all. Can the Russian Federation be considered part of the West? Ever since the reign of Peter the Great, Russian leaders have often asserted that Russia is part of Europe, but other European states have normally disputed such claims. The Ukrainian Crisis exposes the uncertain future of Ukraine and the idea of Europe, yet it has paradoxically renewed the sense of unity among members of the NATO alliance and of the European Union, arguably reinforcing the notion of the West.

I encourage my students to follow the developing Ukrainian Crisis and consider how their historical studies can provide different perspectives on current events.

Several major research institutes and think tanks offer analysis of current events through the lens of War and Society Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, Violence Studies, International Relations Studies, and related methodologies:

The Council on Foreign Relations provides policy analyses focused on international relations.

The Mershon Center for International Security Studies at The Ohio State University sponsors research on international relations, current conflicts, and the history of war and society.

Institute for the Study of War maintains a robust website with information and analyses on current conflicts, including the Ukrainian Crisis.

The Center for a New American Security is a think tank that offers analyses of conflicts and security issues.

The Rand Corporation is one of the oldest policy think tanks focused on military and security studies.

The International Security Program at the New America Foundation provides analyses of international relations and conflicts.

The United States Institute of Peace provides conflict analysis in the context of its promotion of conflict resolution and peacemaking worldwide.

The Peace Research Institute Oslo tracks conflicts and promotes peacemaking initiatives.

Some journals of international relations provide analyses of current conflicts: Foreign Affairs, International Affairs (UK), and Le Monde diplomatique (France).

Several specialized news media services are providing in-depth reporting on the Ukrainian Crisis. On international relations and diplomacy, see especially: Foreign Policy.

Major newspapers and magazines with robust foreign affairs and current conflicts divisions offer in-depth reporting, including: Al Jazeera (Qatar), Atlantic, BBC (UK), Corriere della Sera (Italy), Democracy Now!, DW (Germany), The Economist (UK), Euronews (Europe), France 24 (France), Guardian (UK), Le Monde (France), Libération (France), Mother Jones, The New York Times, NPR, El Païs (Spain), Politico, Reuters (UK), Der Spiegel (Germany), and Washington Post.

This entry was posted in Arms Control, Civil Conflict, Empires and Imperialism, European History, European Studies, European Union, History in the Media, History of Violence, Peacemaking Processes, Political Culture, Political Theory, Security Studies, Strategy and International Politics, War, Culture, and Society. Bookmark the permalink.

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