The world was surprised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 despite numerous warnings from the White House. Why did Putin start the war and why has it unfolded in previously unimaginable ways? Ukraine has resisted a superior military, the West has come together and Russia is becoming more and more isolated.
Serhii Plokhy, a leading historian of Ukraine and the Cold War, offers a definitive account of Europe’s largest military conflict since World War II. The current conflict started eight years prior to the all-out assault, on February 27, 2014, when Russian forces seized the Crimean parliament building, but its origins can be found even further back, in the post-Soviet tensions and imperial collapse of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Plokhy demonstrates that while this new Cold War was not inevitable, it was predictable by presenting a comprehensive historical backdrop, examining the ideas and cultures of Russia and Ukraine, as well as domestic and international politics.
Ukraine, Plokhy argues, has remained central to Russia’s idea of itself even as Ukrainians have followed a radically different path. In a new international environment defined by the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the disintegration of the post–Cold War international order, and a resurgence of populist nationalism, Ukraine is now more than ever the most volatile fault line between authoritarianism and democratic Europe.
The Ukrainian-Russian War is the best example of present-minded history— a fascinating, illuminating tale.
Mykhailo S. Hrushevs’kyi Professor of Ukrainian History and Director, Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University
Professor of Modern History, Università di Napoli Federico II
Professor of History and International Affairs, George Washington University
President and Founder, CGC
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