John O’Loughlin

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A child copies Ukrainian service members standing at attention during the national anthem in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine on Feb. 16, 2022. (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

At the heart of the current Russia-Ukraine crisis is the long-standing conflict in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, divided since 2014 into separate territories controlled by the Ukrainian government and by Russian-backed separatists. On Tuesday, the Russian Duma passed a measure appealing to President Vladimir Putin to recognize separatist regimes there as independent states. Putin also declared that “genocide” was happening in the Donbas.

We have researched public opinion on both sides of the Donbas divide for the past six years. Our largest research survey there, which concluded just two weeks ago, reveals a dimension of the crisis that many may overlook: economic despair.…  Seguir leyendo »

The NATO flag is displayed during NATO enhanced Forward Presence battle group military exercises in Adazi, Latvia, on Oct. 5, 2019. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the United States and NATO against encroaching in Russia’s backyard. Specific Russian concerns include Western support to the Ukrainian government that involves military training, procurement, exercises, infrastructure and advanced weapons.

The West, in Putin’s view, is not practicing proper geopolitical distancing — and is getting too close to Russia for comfort. Two rounds of diplomatic talks last week between Russian and Western officials ended without defusing the situation on the border with Ukraine. Further talks are planned this Friday.

What do Ukrainians think? Left out of this debate, but central to it, are the views of ordinary Ukrainian citizens.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pro-Russian militants of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic conduct military exercises at a shooting range not far from the city of Gorlivka, Ukraine, on Jan. 28. (Dave Mustaine/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Few are likely to celebrate the anniversary of the agreement that stabilized a war in the Donbas, a region in eastern Ukraine. Negotiated by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France, the Minsk II accords of Feb. 12, 2015, left the Donbas territorially divided. The Ukrainian government in Kyiv control western parts of the Donbas, while two separatist entities, the “Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples Republics” (DNR/LNR), control eastern parts, including major cities like Donetsk and Luhansk as well as the border with Russia.

After nearly seven years of division, how do ordinary people in both parts of the Donbas feel about the situation?…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman and children take refuge against shelling in Stepanakert, in the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, on Oct. 1. (Karen Mirzoyan/AP)

South of the Caucasus Mountains, between the countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan, are the contested territories of Nagorno-Karabakh. On Sept. 27, Azerbaijan launched a sustained military offense to retake territories it considers occupied by Armenians since a cease-fire agreement between the parties in 1994.

While there have been occasional military clashes, most notably in April 2016 and July of this year, the current fighting is the worst the region has seen since a devastating war killed around 30,000 and displaced more than 1 million people a quarter-century ago.

In February 2020, we conducted face-to-face public opinion surveys in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh on geopolitics in the region.…  Seguir leyendo »

Belarusian opposition supporters protest in front of the government building Tuesday at Independence Square in Minsk. (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)

Belarus is in turmoil after the Aug. 9 election, when the country’s 65-year-old leader Alexander Lukashenko, president for the past 26 years, claimed to have won with more than 80 percent of the vote. Opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, 37, contested the election results and thousands of Belarusians have protested the disputed election. The European Union and the United States have also stated their concerns that the elections were “not free and fair.”

Police and security forces cracked down on the protesters, arresting and beating thousands of people. But rather than snuffing out protest, the government’s violent response only intensified opposition. An anti-Lukashenko rally on Aug.…  Seguir leyendo »

In face-to-face surveys carried out by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) and Levada Marketing Research (Moscow), we asked 2,750 respondents in southeast Ukraine and in Crimea in December 2014 and another 3,037 respondents throughout Ukraine and in Crimea in December 2019/January 2020 the question: “Have you heard about the catastrophe of the Malaysian aircraft in July 2014 in eastern Ukraine? And if so, in your view, what caused it?” Large regional differences in blame attribution are evident across Ukraine’s regions. More respondents gave “don’t know” answers in 2019 than 2014, though respondents in Crimea widely blamed Ukraine for the downed flight. Figure by authors.

Six years ago this week, a Russian-made missile shot Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), a civilian passenger plane with 298 people on board, from the sky over war-torn Ukraine. Last week, the Dutch government, acting on behalf of the 193 Dutch nationals on the flight, announced it was taking Russia to the European Court of Human Rights. A criminal trial against four suspects involved in transporting the missile system that downed MH17 began in Amsterdam in March.

The destruction of MH17 on July 17, 2014, sparked outrage and accusations. Russia — and Russian separatists in Ukraine — continue to deny any responsibility.…  Seguir leyendo »

People attend a demonstration of military equipment and hardware on the Defender of the Fatherland Day in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Feb. 23. (Alexey Pavlishak/Reuters)

Wednesday is the sixth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. After a hastily organized and deeply contentious referendum on March 16, 2014, following Russia’s military occupation of the peninsula, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty of accession with Crimean leaders in Moscow two days later.

An avalanche of international criticism followed. Analysts pointed out that this was the first annexation by one state of the territory of a neighboring state on the European continent since World War II. In the United Nations, 100 countries condemned the unauthorized referendum and affirmed their support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

In Crimea itself, the annexation was popular, especially among Crimea’s large population of older ethnic Russians.…  Seguir leyendo »

People pose on T-72 battle tank during a Defender of the Fatherland Day celebration Feb. 23 at a former airport in Luhansk, Ukraine. (Dave Mustaine/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month challenged a reporter to locate Ukraine on a blank map. While visiting Kyiv in late January, Pompeo described Ukraine in a colorful manner, as “the hinge of freedom”. The country, he said, “sits right on the edge between Europe and Russia”. Yet, mixing his metaphors, he said Ukraine is “firmly anchored in the West”.

So where is Ukraine on the geopolitical map? Is it an in-between country, caught between Europe and Russia — or is it definitely in the West? We asked Ukrainians this important question in a December 2019 nationally representative survey.

Which way is Ukraine leaning?…  Seguir leyendo »

Residents collect drinking water from a municipal tanker in Kolkata, India, on July 8. India's National Institution for Transforming India has warned that many states in the country will gradually run out of water because of climate change and population growth. (Piyal Adhikary/EPA-EFE)

During last month’s U.S. Democratic presidential candidate debates, former congressman Beto O’Rourke, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, and former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro all identified climate change as a major geopolitical threat facing the United States. Some even gave it equal billing with China and the prospect of nuclear war.

The United Nations warned that there’s now a climate change crisis every week — after cautioning that a “climate apartheid” would divide the world between those who have the means to adapt to higher temperatures and those who don’t. And experts identify Europe’s extreme heat wave as a taste of what is likely to happen more often because of climate change.…  Seguir leyendo »