Collisions: The Origins of the War in Ukraine and the New Global Instability

Oxford Univ. Mar. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9780197751794. $29.99. POL SCI
Kimmage (history, Catholic Univ. of America; The Abandonment of the West) served on the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, specializing in policy toward Ukraine. His excellent book contains qualities seldom present in narrating an ongoing conflict. He finds the origins of Russia’s invasion in Putin’s contempt for Europe and democracy, in a gross underestimation of Zelensky’s Ukraine, and in a conflation of projected success with past conflict in the former Soviet Republics of Georgia and Moldova. He faults the West for ineffective deterrence and cites Europe’s fecklessness in the ill-framed Minsk agreements following the 2014 war over Crimea and the Donbas. Kimmage argues that Washington’s error consisted in refusing Kyiv lethal military aid after 2014, leaving a line of ineffective policy through the 2022 war. His book asserts that the Biden administration’s quest for “guardrails” in relations with Russia could hardly succeed after the confusion of the Trump presidency and the absence of a a coordinated Western response to Russian belligerence before 2022.
VERDICT A compelling and detailed account that reveals some little known facts and a deeply sobering analysis of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, its consequences for Russia, and the many assumptions about European security.
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