On a domestic level of analysis, one would have to explain the current situation in Ukraine through the factors internal to the country’s political landscape. From a realist perspective, a domestic level analysis reveals that the Western and Russian support for different political forces in Ukraine led to the change of the country’s political landscape. Lamy and Masker (2018) note that the Western promotion of neoliberal policies abroad makes the countries where the West supports them less accountable to their domestic constituencies. It should be noted that the recent Russian intervention occurred as a follow-up to eight years of civil war, suggesting there are acute tensions between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. In the case of Ukraine, it seems that the increased Western aid from 2013 onward led to pro-Western forces gaining more power than they could have based on domestic political support alone. This, in turn, caused the other political forces – and, most notable, the large Russian-speaking minority in the country’s east and south, to feel underrepresented and turn to violence, often sponsored by Russia.
On the international level of analysis, a realist theory would likely interpret the conflict in Ukraine as a Russian reaction to the Western attempts to further shift the balance of power in Eastern Europe. From a realist perspective, the desired state of the world is peace through the balance of power, and wars happen when someone attempts to upset it too much (Lamy and Masker, 2018). From a Russian perspective, the expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe after the Cold War and especially the alliance’s acknowledgment of Georgia’s and Ukraine’s NATO aspirations in 2008 is most likely such an attempt. Russian policymakers undoubtedly think in terms of realist rather than liberal theory. Considering that, the international level analysis allows explaining the current situation in Ukraine as a Russian attempt to reinstate the balance of power in Eastern Europe.
Lamy, S. L., & Masker, J. S. (2018). Introduction to global politics (5th ed.) Oxford UP.