The Rusioan Bear in the Donbass Territory

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This thesis tries to explain the Russian intervention in the Donbas region in Ukraine from 2014 until present day. To do so, two competing theories, structural realism and social constructivism were employed. By means of process tracing, a description of the case was given, and evidence was collected to confirm or reject a total of nine hypotheses. After a thorough analysis of the polarity and balance of power of the international system and the identities and shared culture of Russia and Ukraine, it became clear that the defensive realist theory was not able to adequately explain why Russia has been intervening in the east of Ukraine. Two of the three social constructivist hypotheses were confirmed, but offensive realism provided a more complete answer to the research question. This was surprising at first, since other scholars had put both the Crimean and the Donbass conflict in a Russia versus ‘the West’ context. In that context, a defensive realist explanation seems to be better able to explain the case, since it would be about Russia defending itself against the European Union or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In conclusion, the Russian intervention in the Donbas region can be understood in terms of Russia seeking to increase its power in the European international system.
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