Ukraine is fighting to save its young democracy—militarily against Russian-backed forces in the East, and politically, economically and socially against corruption and power struggles everywhere. Ukraine’s democratic development depends in part on its ability to maintain unity. That means healing the divides between East and West, especially in the face of the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea and the subsequent incursion into the Donbass region. The U.S. Institute of Peace raises awareness of the issues in U.S. policy circles and supports Ukrainians in strengthening the bonds between citizens forced to flee the fighting in the East and their host communities in the West.
Russia failed to anticipate that its invasion of Ukraine in 2014 would cost it one of its most powerful levers of influence over its neighbor: the formal authority of the Russian Orthodox Church over its Ukrainian counterpart. But it has done so, and that unintended consequence could lead to others: a decline in Russian influence within the Eastern Orthodox world, a deeper division in the Orthodox community—and even perhaps the largest schism in Christianity since 1054. The international community has a key role in determining how this unfolds and must act to ensure the worst scenarios don’t come to pass.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that President Vladimir Putin knew what was going on and had given the general guidance,” says William B. Taylor, regarding Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian ships in a vital maritime trade route for Ukraine. The United States and Europe must jointly apply additional economic sanctions and provide military assistance to Ukraine to pressure Russia to cease its aggressive actions.
“In its fifth year, Russia's armed aggression in Ukraine's Donbas region has become a costly burden with little strategic benefit,” says Charles North. One possible exit ramp has emerged from recent negotiations: a U.N.-mandated peacekeeping operation to facilitate a peace process resulting in Russia’s departure from Donbas and the return of control to Ukraine.