Ukraine’s Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace

September 7, 2016 Topic: Politics Region: Eurasia Tags: UkraineRussiaDefenseNationalismWar

Ukraine’s Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace

Kiev thinks it’s ready to face an endless list of enemies. But it can’t.


To this end, Ukrainians must embrace the struggle against “the aggressor nation,” which supports (and is supported by) the internal enemy. At the same time they must embrace the struggle against the “internal enemy,” whose very existence encourages “the aggressor nation,” which must in turn be destroyed because it supports the “internal enemy,” and so on and so forth ad infinitum.

The struggle for the right to define Ukrainian identity has thus becomes, to use American historian Charles A. Beard’s memorable phrase, a “perpetual war, for perpetual peace,” a peace that can only come when all the enemies of Ukraine, at home and abroad, are fully vanquished.


Thus, for the Party of War, which now dominates Ukrainian political discourse, the struggle for Ukrainian independence has really only just begun.

Is it any wonder that many ordinary Ukrainians view the situation as tense or explosive?

Nicolai Petro is an academic specializing in Russian and Ukrainian affairs, currently professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He spent 2013–14 as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine, and has recently returned from three months in Ukraine.

Image: OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine. Wikimedia Commons/OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine