Non-State Actors in the Russo-Ukrainian War

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Connections: The Quarterly Journal, Volume 15, Issue 2, p.89-107 (2016)


Crimea, Non-state actors, Russo-Ukrainian war, Ukraine


The current war in Ukraine has highlighted the fact that in this new age of warfare non-state actors play a larger role than ever before. The influence of the media, think tanks and academia, religious groups, organized crime, war militias, NGOs and GONGOs, and the Ukrainian diaspora is pervasive. Kremlin-controlled media coverage of the war in Eastern Ukraine, including the downing of the MH-17 jet, is offset by the newer grassroots pro-Ukrainian media outlets such as Ukraine Today. Think tanks and academia focused on Ukraine and Russia are also battling for visibility in the government and among the populous. The impact of religious groups on the Ukrainian conflict is best featured in the Russian Orthodox Church’s rationalizing the invasion of Crimea as Russia’s divine right. The Ukrainian church, a subset of the ROC, has broken off and played a proactive role in assisting the war effort by pro-Ukrainian militias. The almost concurrent rise of militias and organized crime in Ukraine pose as a precarious issue for the future of the country. As the government is incapable of regaining sovereignty of its territory, stand-alone militias have risen to fight the Russian invasion in Eastern Ukraine. Organized crime has capitalized on the instability of the region, and with the annexation of Crimea, a new system of black market activities has been opened. The outside world is taking an interest in the Ukrainian plight, as well as in the form of NGO support, and in the case of Russia, GONGOs to promote policies in line with their agendas. The Ukrainian diaspora has also fought to influence policy making towards Ukraine, forming committees and sending supplies to the front line. It is unclear how much influence these non-state actors will have in the future of Ukraine, but it is quite certain that they each play a significant role in the way the conflict is perceived.