Are the musings of Carl von Clausewitz, a 19th century general, relevant to a 21th century crisis? Great works are defined by their characteristic of capturing unchanging human experiences.
Clausewitz’s work has a timeless quality as it deals with the theory of war analyzing its characteristics and internal structures and not generation specific events. His concern with the root causes of war instead of the manifestations of it makes his framework of analysis relevant to the present day. The present crisis in Ukraine is rooted in the forced departure of the corrupt regime of Viktor Yanukovych. The departure of the pro-Moscow president was viewed by Russia as part of the long running NATO expansion eastwards contrary to their previous agreement. Coupled with Russia’s historical strategic imperative to expand outwards one better understands Russia’s actions.
Russia under Putin has been striving to secure its ‘privileged sphere of interests’ in post-Soviet states, which it perceives as its Near Abroad. This initiative is part of the conception of foreign policy in Russia as a tool for stabilizing the regime by generating consensus for strong and assertive Russian behaviour abroad. This legitimizes the highly centralized form of government in Moscow which is struggling to do the same in a nation experiencing terrible economic conditions and a worrying demographic crisis. In light of the humiliation endured by Russia over the Libyan vote at the United Nations, the loss of Ukraine to a pro-Western government would have greatly threatened the stability of the Russian state.