Research Handbook on Mediating International Crises
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Research Handbook on Mediating International Crises

Edited by Jonathan Wilkenfeld, Kyle Beardsley and David Quinn

Current conceptions of mediation can often fail to capture the complexity and intricacy of modern conflicts. This Research Handbook addresses this problem by presenting the leading expert opinions on international mediation, examining how international mediation practices, mechanisms and institutions should adapt to the changing characteristics of contemporary international crises.
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Chapter 10: Gray zone mediation in the Ukraine crisis: comparing Crimea and Donbas

David Carment, Milana Nikolko and Dani Belo


This chapter examines mediation efforts in the Ukraine with a specific focus on the Crimea and the Donbas (Eastern Ukraine). The Ukraine crisis captures the essence of gray zone conflict in which parties and strategies are not easily identified and mediation efforts prove difficult, given the complexity, number, and array of competing stakeholders. In comparing the two cases we find that one of the major obstacles facing mediators in gray zone conflicts is situational ambiguity regarding the techniques utilized by belligerents against each other as well as the uncertainty associated with the perception of the point of victory. Mediation efforts in Crimea, though attempted by both the United States and the European Union, were largely moot due to the rapid and conclusive pre-emptive nature of Russia’s intervention. The conflict in Eastern Ukraine is more enduring for the simple fact that the two main geopolitical players in this conflict are Russia and the United States.

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