The Realist Illusion About Russia and Ukraine. The origins of the Russo-Ukrainian war

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Research seminar

Guest speaker: Dr Aliaksei KAZHARSKI, Charles University/Comenius University, Visegrad Insight fellow

Chair: Christian OLSSON, Université libre de Bruxelles (REPI)
Discussant: Ekaterina PIERSON, Université libre de Bruxelles (CEVIPOL)

Abstract: Western academic realists and proponents of “realpolitik” have blamed Russia’s aggression against Ukraine on the “liberal illusions” that pushed for NATO enlargement and made Russia feel threatened. They claim that agreeing on Ukraine’s neutral status would have made it safer for everyone, including the Ukrainians. However, this argument has been built on the dangerous illusion that Moscow is a rational actor that is driven by tangible security concerns. The course of the 2022 Russo-Ukrainian war well demonstrated that these assumptions were off-mark. In truth, there have never been serious grounds for Russian security concerns and the authoritarian regime in Russia was not bound by that logic. It has constructed international threats randomly largely because “siege mentality” is an instrument of regime survival. Thus, understanding Russia’s domestic politics is much more important than changes in the international environment.

Dr. Aliaksei Kazharski is a researcher in international relations and security studies at Charles University (Prague) and Comenius University (Bratislava). He received his PhD from the latter in 2015. His doctoral dissertation was published by Central European University Press as a monograph in 2019 (Eurasian Integration and the Russian World: Regionalism as an Identitary Enterprise). Aliaksei’s main areas of research are Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, regionalism and regional integration, and identity in international relations. He has published in Geopolitics, Eurasian Geography and Economics, Problems of post-Communism, and Journal of Contemporary European studies. His new book (Central Europe Thirty Years after the Fall of Communism. A Return to the Margin?) is available for advance orders on

Registration required by April 26th via this link:

Thursday, April 28th 2022 from 12:00 till 2:00 pm 
Université libre de Bruxelles
Campus du Solbosch – IEE Spaak Room
39 Avenue Franklin Roosevelt
1050 Bruxelles

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