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Ukraine’s Unnamed War: Before the Russian Invasion of 2022, Jesse Driscoll and Dominique Arel

Reviewed by Robert Hinck
 

In Ukraine’s Unnamed War: Before the Russian Invasion of 2022, Dominique Arel and Jesse Driscoll cogently explain how the 2014 Donbas war started, how it was fought, and why it was difficult to end. Most notably, the authors’ argument to reconceptualize it as a civil war, rather than simply a proxy conflict between Russia and the West, is both provocative and compelling. As such, the book provides a multilayered analysis by interweaving elements of social identity and rational choice theory while offering uniquely incisive insight into how the public narratives of the conflict—from Western, Ukrainian, and Russian viewpoints—impacted public perceptions of it prior to Russia’s 2022 invasion. Taken together, the book is a must read for policymakers and the general public interested in understanding both the current Russian-Ukraine war and its antecedents, as well as academics in the fields of political science, history, sociology, and post-Soviet studies.

The authors make three analytical arguments throughout the book. The first concerns the proximate causes of Ukraine’s war in Donbas. Here they trace the origins of the conflict as beginning with the protests on Maidan to the insurgency in Donbas which was “galvanized by the Russian intervention in Crimea” (2). The second uniquely emphasizes Ukrainian politi

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