Gordon M. Hahn: Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West and the “New Cold War”

Book Review

Reviewer: Jan Měřička

Publisher: McFarland ISBN: 978-1476669014
Author's page: Gordon M. HAHN

Gordon M. Hahn: Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West and the “New Cold War”

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The Ukrainian crisis came as a new security challenge at the beginning of the 21st century (2013-14). It gave a new opportunity for the Russian Federation to become a much more assertive power than before. This new Russian position has caused a strong Western reaction. Many Western officials and experts label Russian Federation a new threat on the same level as terrorism. G. M. Hahn shows that Ukraine is not just a victim.

The book of G. M. Hahn describes the Ukrainian crisis in a wider context and tries to summarise some key moments of this crisis from the position of Ukraine and some other actors (both external and internal). The author writes his book as a study of the Ukrainian crisis and consists of several internal cases. It is focused on the crisis as a result of several factors, for instance geopolitical, historical and cultural. Relevant Western, Ukrainian and Russian sources (e.g. media reports, internet sources and official documents of international organizations and governments) serve as a source of information for this study which describes the whole crisis including many aspects in a wider, not only political context.

The author aimed the beginning of his book especially at the Russian approach towards international policy for the Eurasian region. He uses scientific studies of traditional writers and experts of international relations theories and security from both the West and the East such as H. F. Mackinder, Z. Brzezinski, A. Dugin or N. Savitskii. Hahn recognises Russian fear of the West (especially based on the Western post-Cold War military interventions) as the main motivation for opposition. In general, Vladimir Putin is described as a pragmatic Russian leader who has changed Russian public wishes (in the field of the international policy) to reality. He has done it in the context of Eurasianism, based on rational thinking instead of any ideology. Huntington’s missing conflict potential between pro-Russian and pro-Western elements inside the Ukraine of the 1990s is described, too. Deeper examination of Ukraine’s history includes the ancient connection between Ukrainians and Russians, first misunderstanding of Ukrainians and Jews or Ukrainians and Poles (for instance the Great revolt led by Bohdan Khmelnytsky) and of course, the conflict of Galicia. These historical connections as well as clashes made milestones in the way of the rise of Ukrainian nationalism. It was accompanied by the heroization of Banderits, who were responsible for participation in the detention of 2 million Jews in 180 concentration camps in Ukraine and the death of 850,000 detained innocent people. The question of Crimea, which was historically an integral part of Russia since 1783 after the war with Ottomans, is also touched. Western expansion (especially NATO enlargement toward Russian border) is described as an argument for Russian disillusion from NATO policy due to broken US promises not to expand NATO towards the East after the unification of Germany. Some other Western mistakes are described in this book (for instance, NATO’s intervention without the mandate of the UN such as the bombing of Belgrade) as motivation of Russian assertive behaviour. Few Colour Revolutions in the post-Soviet space in the context of the Russian and the US policy were recognized as factors which show danger of democratic transition by force. The US support of some of these revolutions (especially by a program like USAID) has been responsible for regime changes in many countries all over the world. Obviously, regime change relates to the instability of the country and enlarging of the instability in whole region. Georgia is described by author as a good example of US support of anti-Russian officials like M. Saakashvili, who later moved to Ukraine.

The author uses Brzezinski and focuses on national minority issues for underlining the problems of many cultural, historical or ethnographical differences among national minorities in Ukraine. The Crimean minority which has called for sovereignty since the 1990s played an important role until 2014. The author recognizes cases of pro-Maidan and/or current official Ukrainian propaganda like the glorification of the Ukrainian right movement (included heroization of criminal S. Bandera, connecting of current Russia with crimes of J. V. Stalin or misinterpretation of tragedy such as the Jewish World War tragedy of Baby Yar). Conclusion of the propaganda issue shows Yanukovich’s effort to balance his policy between the Russian Federation and the West. European Union and the USA strongly pushed him to cancel relations with Russian Federation and every other Eurasian organisation with the goal of enforcing Western influence in Ukraine.

Even though the book does not include a final summary or conclusion, it presents a large study with numerous correct arguments and facts. It uses the author’s detailed and thorough knowledge of history as large scale description of reasons and results. The book has been written as neither a pro-Western nor a pro-Russian study and it covers a wide range of Ukrainian current problems.

2021 - Volume 15 Issue 1