Midterm paper for internarional relations, my topic is russian Ukraine war but in realism theory. Firstly explain the theory and then apply it to the case(the war).


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Title: Russian-Ukraine War: A Realist Perspective


The Russian-Ukraine war has been one of the most significant conflicts in recent history, with far-reaching implications for international relations. To understand this conflict, it is crucial to analyze it through the lens of realism, a dominant theoretical framework in international relations. Realism emphasizes power, self-interest, and the pursuit of national security as the driving forces behind state behavior. This essay will provide an overview of realism theory and then apply its key concepts to the Russian-Ukraine war, shedding light on the motivations and actions of the involved parties.

Realism Theory: An Overview

Realism is a theoretical framework that views the international system as anarchic, where states are the primary actors and power is the fundamental currency. This theory asserts that states are driven by self-interest and the pursuit of power, aiming to maximize their security and protect their national interests. Realists argue that the international system is characterized by constant competition and conflicts among states due to the absence of a global authority to enforce rules and maintain order.

Key Assumptions of Realism:

States are rational actors driven by self-interest.
States seek to acquire and maintain power and security.
The international system is anarchic and lacks a central authority.
Security dilemmas and the fear of relative gains motivate state behavior.
Military power is a crucial determinant of state power and influence.

Application of Realism to the Russian-Ukraine War

Power Struggle: According to realism, states engage in power struggles to secure their national interests. In the case of the Russian-Ukraine war, Russia’s annexation of Crimea can be seen as an attempt to regain lost power and maintain influence over Ukraine. Realists argue that Russia perceived the growing Western influence in Ukraine as a threat to its own security and sought to prevent Ukraine from aligning with NATO.

Self-Interest: Realism posits that states prioritize their own interests above all else. In this conflict, both Russia and Ukraine acted in accordance with their perceived national interests. Ukraine sought closer ties with the European Union (EU) for economic and political benefits, while Russia aimed to prevent Ukraine’s integration with the West, fearing encroachment on its sphere of influence.

Security Dilemma: Realism highlights the security dilemma, where actions taken by one state to enhance its security can be perceived as threatening by others. The Ukrainian revolution in 2014, which led to a pro-Western government coming into power, was seen by Russia as a potential threat to its security. In response, Russia intervened militarily in Crimea and supported separatist movements in eastern Ukraine, thus exacerbating tensions.

Relative Gains: Realists argue that states are concerned about relative gains rather than absolute gains. In this conflict, Russia was concerned about losing relative power vis-à-vis the West. The possibility of Ukraine aligning with NATO threatened Russia’s regional influence, prompting its intervention to maintain its relative power.

Military Power: Realism emphasizes the significance of military power in determining a state’s influence and security. Russia’s superior military capabilities allowed it to swiftly annex Crimea and support separatist movements in eastern Ukraine. Realists argue that military strength is essential for states to protect their interests and deter potential adversaries.


Analyzing the Russian-Ukraine war from a realist perspective provides valuable insights into the motivations and actions of the involved parties. Realism’s focus on power, self-interest, and security helps explain Russia’s actions in annexing Crimea and supporting separatist movements in eastern Ukraine. By understanding this conflict through a realist lens, we gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play in international relations and the complex nature of state behavior.


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