Civil War in Ukraine: Ethnic Conflict, Authoritarian Leadership
and Outside Involvement

James W. Peterson, Sarah Kuck

Abstract: Ukraine broke out into civil war in 2014, with the Russian absorption of Crimea and with the restlessness and attacks of Russian militias in eastern Ukrainian regions such as Luhansk and Donetsk. The violence took over 3000 lives, and an additional 296 died during the shooting down of the Malaysian commercial airliner in mid-July of the year. Keys to understanding the tragedy and outlining steps for the future include a focus on authoritarian leadership, ethnic conflicts, and the role of outside powers. Victor Janukovych exemplified the authoritarian leadership style after his election in early 2010. The event that initiated the demonstrations in Kiev was his decision to stop working towards potential membership for Ukraine in the European Union and his acceptance of the Russian offer of $25 billion in assistance.

This decision activated the key ethnic conflict in Ukraine as well, for he represented the Russian minority in a nation with an ethnic Ukrainian majority. Reactions by outside powers were immediate, as Russia provided support for the separatists in both Crimea and eastern Ukraine. At its Wales Summit in early September, NATO set up a new Rapid Reaction “Spearhead” Force of 4,000 troops, a move that followed relocation of troops from Italy to the Baltics and Poland. Thus, authoritarian leadership, ethnic conflict, and mobilization by outside powers constituted the key elements of the crisis as well as the items needing attention by the political community in the future.

Keywords: Political marketing, principle, pragmatism, political advisors, government staff