Environmental dimensions of conflict and paralyzed responses: the ongoing case of Ukraine and future implications for urban warfare


School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development

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Unique within the recent history of environmental hazards, eastern Ukraine illustrates the dangers arising from conflict in an urban landscape heavily modified by human action (including coal extraction and nuclear testing) and requiring active management. To analyze these dynamics and their implications, we examine industrialization in the Donbas region and warfare-accelerated environmental risks. Using primary data and ethnographic interviewing, we compare responses by state and international institutions tasked with monitoring and environmental redress in the context of larger mandates, noting widespread shortfall. This article contributes to emergent environment and warfare related literature by exploring how actors with divergent goals coalesce in downgrading environmental concerns, despite increasing risks, motivation to assist, and widening impact across country and continental divides. Significant for the study of small wars, a lack of international political will for ‘forgotten conflicts’ increases the likelihood of shared environmental risks being treated as simply another policy item to be negotiated. However, environmental disasters routinely cross international borders and pose long-lasting, compounding harm to direct, indirect, and even uninvolved parties. Furthermore, such dynamics may increasingly characterize warfare as urbanization and industrialization continue their global spread, with active war-time environmental management ushering in profound challenges and new areas of needed expertise.

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Small Wars and Insurgencies

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