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Harriman Institute

Jean-Claude Juncker and Vladimir Putin (2017-07-08)



Post-Soviet Conflicts: Doing Better Than We Thought?
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Please join the Harriman Institute for talk on post-Soviet conflicts by Nina Lutterjohann, a former Visiting Scholar at the Harriman Institute, moderated by Elise Giuliano (Harriman Institute).

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) has been the flagship project of the EU since 2009. Often, and especially since 2013, this has led to disagreement and even hostility between the Kremlin and the EU. The EU’s outreach through Association Agreements (AA) and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTA), while intended as only beneficial, created seemingly exclusive choices for these countries between the EU and Moscow’s Eurasian Union. Ukraine’s Yanukovych government’s rejection of the association agreement and the ensuring Maidan protests of 2013-14 led to regime change, Russian annexation of Crimea, and continuing conflict in Eastern Ukraine. The focus of Lutterjohann’s research offers a comparative perspective to better understand the origins, dynamics, and scenarios of these conflicts. This is shown in two ways.

Her first argument is that international organizations have achieved some successes (yet also failures) that have not been recognized. Lutterjohann addresses this by introducing a typology of success and failure to explain IO performance between 1992 and the EU’s Vilnius Summit in 2013. The argument also considers improvement of societal conditions, although finding a political solution is often more realistic. Examples are Moldova-Transnistria, Georgia-Abkhazia, and eastern Ukraine, although with attention primarily on the Georgia-Abkhazia case. For the conflicts mentioned (Moldova and Georgia), the ethno-national origins, geopolitical dimension and entrenched conflicting party positions in the context of pan-European actors’ responses are re-appraised. About seventy expert interviews and textual analysis of 500 primary sources have pointed out similarities and differences.

Lutterjohann’s second argument foresees the reappraisal of the conflicts that have served as cushions for the colliding interests of external powers. The de facto states have survived in their atypical statehood with limited material capacities for almost thirty years through certain strategies and practices of existence. She therefore asks how they have succeeded in this undertaking, especially in terms of issues like borders and sovereignty.


Nina Lutterjohann was a Visiting Scholar at the Harriman Institute in 2021, funded by a DAAD short-term post-doctoral scholarship. She has until recently also worked for the German Consulate General in Edinburgh. Before that she was a Guest Researcher at the Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS) in Berlin in 2020 and held a position as Project Coordinator and Research Fellow in the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at the Bielefeld University. She is Research Associate at MECACS at the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews, where she also received her PhD on post-Soviet conflicts and international organizations. After her Bachelors in European Studies at Maastricht University and an MA in Euroculture at Göttingen/Groningen Universities, she expanded her geographic scope to the Black Sea region and EU policy-related work through various work placements. She recently finished her manuscript called Limitations of Imagining Peace: Conflict Transformation and International Relations (Routledge, 2022) and is working on two articles on the societal aspects of the conflicts as well as on migration.