Roots of Russia’s War in Ukraine presents four perspectives on the origins of the ongoing war in Ukraine that began in February 2014, concentrating on Russian motivations and intentions. What propelled Russia to send troops into Crimea and then declare that Crimea had formally chosen to “join” Russia? Why did the conflict spread to eastern Ukraine, almost certainly with Russian support? What does the crisis say about Russian political, economic, and social priorities? How does it reflect EU-Russian differences over international jurisdiction? What role did Russian president Vladimir Putin’s cultivation of his own image play? The exploration of these and other questions gives historians, political watchers, and theorists a solid grasp of the events that have destabilized the region.

Elizabeth A. Wood is professor of Russian and Soviet history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; she was a fellow at the Wilson Center in 2015. William E. Pomeranz is deputy director of the Kennan Institute, the Wilson Center’s program for Russian and post-Soviet studies. E. Wayne Merry is Senior Fellow for Europe and Eurasia at the American Foreign Policy Council; he served for six years as a US diplomat at the embassy in Moscow. Maxim Trudolyubov is editor-at-large with Vedomosti; he also writes for the International New York Times, and was a Wilson Center fellow in 2014–15.


Chronology: The War in Crimea and Ukraine

Elizabeth A. Wood

1. The Origins of Russia’s War in Ukraine: The Clash of Russian and European “Civilizational Choices” for Ukraine
E. Wayne Merry

2. Ground Zero: How a Trade Dispute Sparked the Russia-Ukraine Crisis
William E. Pomeranz

3. Russia’s Grand Choice: To Be Feared as a Superpower or Prosperous as a Nation?
Maxim Trudolyubov

4. A Small, Victorious War?: The Symbolic Politics of Vladimir Putin
Elizabeth A. Wood

William E. Pomeranz


“This short anthology of four articles concerning Russia’s annexation of Crimea and involvement in eastern Ukraine provides valuable context for President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy.”—Zachary Irwin, Library Journal

Roots of Russia’s War in Ukraine shows the primacy of economic factors and cultural/intellectual choices in leading Russia and the EU to the brink of confrontation without necessarily realizing the gravity of the crisis until it was too late. It also highlights the important role played by symbolic politics in the decision making of senior Russian leaders during the crisis.”—Dmitry Gorenburg, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University

“Because it is short, engagingly written, and authored by well-established experts, the book will appeal not only to specialist audiences in academia and government, but also to students.”—Henry Hale, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University