Rimlands, Buffer Zones and Great Power Rivalry

Institute members Jack Snyder and Rajan Menon of The Colin Powell School for Civic Leadership at the City College of New York are conducting research on, “Rimlands, Buffer Zones and Great Power Rivalry.”

Ukraine Between Russia and the West: Buffer of Flashpoint?

To many observers, referring to Ukraine as a possible buffer zone reeks of retrograde Realpolitik. To echo German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s put-down of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical mindset, power politics seems “so 20th Century.” Foreign policies based on the balance of power, great powers’ claims to special rights over weaker neighbors, and buffer zones were supposed to have been consigned to history’s rubbish heap once the Cold War ended to inaugurate a new international order featuring respect for legal principles, people’s freedom to decide their own fate, and universal human rights norms.

Yet power politics, far from being obsolete, appears to be heading “back to the future” in Eurasia, if indeed it was ever gone. If so, it is time to dust off the history books and to relearn the lessons of what used to be called the Great Game, a contest of position and maneuver in the borderlands between great powers, where such rules as apply are not normative but strategic.

In response to these contemporary developments, the Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded Columbia University a grant to conduct a collaborative research project with the Colin Powell School of Civic and Global Leadership at City College on “Rimlands, Buffer Zones, and Great Power Rivalry,” directed by Institute Affiliates Jack Snyder (Robert and Renee Belfer Professor International Relations at Columbia) and Rajan Menon (Anne and Bernard Spitzer professor International Relations, Powell School, and Senior Research Scholar at the Saltzman Institute).

Further information on the project and its papers are available here:

View Borderlands – Central Asia Papers here

Buffer zones: Anachronism, power vacuum, or confidence builder?

“Buffer zones: Anachronism, power vacuum, or confidence builder?,” published by Jack Snyder and Rajan Menon in Review of International Studies. Read the full paper here.


Ukraine as a Buffer Zone? History Lessons for the New Geopolitics of Eurasia

“Ukraine as a Buffer Zone: History Lessons for the New Geopolitics of Eurasia,” a working paper by Thomas Graham (Senior Fellow, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale University), Rajan Menon, and Jack Snyder. Read the full paper here.


Papers on Ukraine’s Internal and External Challenges

Papers on Ukraine’s internal and external challenges authored by Alexander Cooley of Barnard College, Timothy Frye of Columbia University, Olena Lennon of the University of New Haven, Kimberly Marten of Barnard College, Eugene Rumer of the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace, and Klaus Segbers of the Free University of Berlin. Ukraine Study Group Papers Introduction…


Ukraine Conference Papers

At the outset of this project, we decided that it was important to make an extended research trip to Ukraine in order to conduct interviews. We did so in May 2015, traveling to Kyiv, Lviv, and Dnipropetrovs’k, so as to meet as many Ukrainians, from different walks of life and with starkly contrasting views, as…

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