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Why is the War in Eastern Ukraine Still Going On?

DEFENSE AND TECHNOLOGY -- In February 2014, Russian forces seized Crimea and then began supporting the separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. This intervention transformed the conflict between the Maidan and Viktor Yanukovych’s regime into an international one, and brought Ukraine and Russia into a state of war.

The ongoing crisis clearly has many complex causes that need to be tackled if it is to be overcome. But among the most important causes at the international level has been the contest between two grand projects of regional integration for the labour, natural resources and markets of Ukraine.

These are the European Union, on the one side, and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union on the other. Both of them serve as engines of capital accumulation and expansion for the transnational corporations and banks situated in their respective metropoles. Both have institutions of collective governance and military security. These two integration projects met face to face on the territory of Ukraine in the years following the 2008 international financial crisis, and their failure to recognise Ukraine’s need to engage productively with both of them contributed enormously to the escalation of the domestic conflict between the Maidan and the Yanukovych regime into an interstate war.

Two years on, many thousands of civilians as well as combatants are dead, two million are displaced and impoverished, and a ballooning public debt and harsh austerity measures afflict Ukrainian society. Russia’s economy is in a deepening recession as a result of the costs of supporting breakaway statelets in eastern Ukraine, western sanctions and collapsed oil prices. The question that must now be answered is: why is the war in eastern Ukraine still going on? Are these hardships simply not sufficient reason for the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, the EU member states and USA to urgently seek a diplomatic solution?

I contend that they are not — because these states are also guided by the interests of their biggest corporations and banks. The latter have found ways of living with the war and factoring it into their strategies of survival, recovery and eventual expansion. This war will not end until the state political representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the European Union find a way to reconcile the competing interests of big business on the territory of Ukraine and are ready to impose a political settlement to that effect onto the people of Ukraine.

There are several developments that deserve deeper examination and linking up in order for us to understand better why this war continues to drag on. Neither Russia, nor Ukraine have declared war on each other. Why not? One reason is that this is not simply a war, but a hybrid war-and-peace in which the adversaries fight each other with lethal weapons while continuing to trade and negotiate with each other.

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