10 reasons why Ukraine’s Donbas is not and will not become a Northern Ireland



At a time when many commentators are seeking to explain what is going on in Ukraine by searching for analogies with other places and events, it is useful to be reminded of the limits of at least some of these comparisons as Bohdan Butkevych does in an article entitled “10 Reasons Why the Donbas will Not Become Ulster.”

The “Fourth Power” analyst points out that “journalists and publicists, especially those who are pro-Russian, love to draw parallels between the war in the Donbas and the conflict in Ulster, thereby attempting to show that the war in Ukraine is a civil war,” but there is no factual basis for such claims.

The civil conflict in Northern Ireland lasted “more than 40 years” while the one in the Donbas was provoked by Moscow and is now directly supported by its troops, turning what the Russian side liked to claim was a “hybrid” conflict into “an ordinary war of conquest,” according to Butkevich.

That is obvious if one makes a serious comparison of the two, and he offers ten ways in which the two are very different:

  1. The History of the Question.
    • The conflict in Northern Ireland has its roots in the English conquest of Ireland in the 12th century and the subsequent colonization of the northern countries by British people, almost all of whom were Protestants.
    • The war in the Donbas is totally dissimilar. Until the mid-19th century, “this territory was practically empty.” It acquired importance because of industrial development, something that attracted people from throughout the Russian Empire and USSR regardless of ethnicity and who were mixed together once they got there. Indeed, the term “Donbas” is “more an economic than a political one,” let alone “a cultural or ethnic” description.
  2. The Causes of the Conflict.
    • The struggle in Northern Ireland was between Catholics who wanted to join the Republic of Ireland and the Protestants who “by manipulating the law and using the support of London” were able to prevent that. The Catholics turned to terrorist actions, and the Protestants both responded directly and forced London to send troops to try to suppress the rising.
    • The Donbas was and is different. A privileged economic zone in Soviet times, it has suffered economically since then. The oligarchs in the region and the pro-Moscow Party of the Regions used it to try to retain power in Kyiv. When that didn’t work, Moscow intervened.
  3. The Typology of the Conflict.
    • “The conflict in Ulster is a civil war with internal causes and a logic of development,” Butkevich says.
    • “The war in the Donbas is in essence an invasion by Russian under the form of inciting a civil conflict.” But it is not a civil conflict in the sense that the one in Ulster is.
  4. The Mentality of the Population.
    • “Irish Catholic, Protestant Englishmen and Protestant Irishmen are a settled population in Ulster.” Their views have been fixed by centuries of historical experience; they are not subject to radical and rapid change.
    • The majority of the people of the Donbas have been there no more than two or three generations; they are typical of “new arrivals” in that they have not formed specific “traditions, views and worldviews” and are more subject to the influence of propaganda.
  5. The Religious Issue.
    • The divide between Catholics and Protestants forms the basis for the divisions in Northern Ireland.
    • There is no such divide in the Donbas, despite efforts by Russian propagandists to spark one.
  6. The Nationality Question.
    • In Ulster, this is the key division.
    • In the Donbas, it isn’t. Ukrainians and Russians “are fighting on both sides,” and “the chief role in the conflict is played not by nationality but by worldview factors,” with those supporting a liberal democratic order being for Ukraine and those supporting “national conservatism” backing Russia.
  7. Foreign Interference.
    • Although the IRA received some support from abroad, “the conflict was entirely internal.
    • But in the Donbas, “from the very beginning, Russia took the most immediate part in exacerbating it” and finally “introduced regular units of the Russian army,” making the conflict into an ordinary war of conquest.
  8. Type of Military Actions.
    • “The Ulster conflict is a classical example of terrorist guerilla war, that is, of war in the city, primarily by means of the conduct of terrorist actions.
    • “The conflict in the Donbas as a result of Russia’s efforts very quickly grew over into a full-scale war with regular military units involved.Ulster vs Donbas
  9. Weapons and Tactics.
    • In Ulster, the basic weapons were personal arms and explosive used to carry out terrorist attacks.
    • In the Donbas, the main weapons are heavy artillery and tanks used to carry out aggression or defense against it.
  10. The Number of Victims.
    • Over almost 40 years of conflict in Northern Ireland, an estimated 3,000 to 8,000 people were killed or less than 250 per year on average at most.
    • In the Donbas, the number of killed is more than 5,000 and may be as much as 10,000 – and that in one year, not 40.


Edited by: A. N.

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  1. Avatar Michel Cloarec says:

    It is stupid to compare Irland and Ukraine situation. Ukraine with its geographical situation (south of old urss) became the wheat attic of old urss. (wheat needs warm climat to grow) Holodomor tragedy show how much important was Ukraine for urss.
    Out of an agricultural era , the evolution to industrial revolution followed (as in Europe).
    That could not urss do, too big, too cold , too far . When Ukraine became independent, urss could not let go , the importance of Ukraine for urss and thereafter russia of jeltsin and putin became a big problem. How can russia survive without the wheat and the industrial competences of Ukraine ?
    When one reflects over putin´s empire dreams, it is a necessity for him to maintain a constant supply of wheat and technologies to keep russia going . Even russia military apparatus is build in Ukraine . Ship yards are the best . Kerch has only ship yard big enough to build aircraft carriers which putin will need when he will conquer artic .
    Why Donbas terrorism is so supported by russia ? Wheat, coal ,steel,shipyards, aso …
    Without Ukraine russia will fall down . Russia is already falling down, when Ukraine restrain its need of gas , It is black friday on gas. Behind all those “utopia ” speeches of brotherhood and spheres of influences, it is only HOW CAN RUSSIA SURVIVES ? Bread must be on the tables for russians as well as for all peoples in the world . Only a fiction dream ! iron curtain around russia , how long before the revolution on the bread queues ? Who will be the next marxist, lenin ? Bread it is of course a metaphor !

    1. Avatar Anders Nielsen says:

      The dilemma is, outright war or a united EU/USA stance to suffocate Russia. Both options will take its toll on the Ukrainian people but the latter is the best solution.
      So we keep up the mirror in front of Russia so they constantly see their own ugly face.

      1. Avatar Michel Cloarec says:

        Personally I believe that putin has met a strong man in P Poroshenko. There are many signs nowadays who show that the country is living and has supports in within .

        “”Videofakt: Lugansk partisans called Carpenter “the old Toad»

        01.04.2015 10:13 Video

        The inhabitants Of the “decorated” one of the houses on the street. 50 years of formation of the USSR by the “head of Republic”. On the wall of the House appeared the words: “Carpenter’s old Toad and thief where donated.” Video from Lugansk sent locals to the Editor informator.lg.ua.”” Bad english I know, but it is a quote !

        “”Deutsche Welle publishes excerpts from letter written by Donbas militant leaders

        Russian-backed militant leaders in eastern Ukraine have reportedly turned to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to intercede on their behalf to restore government services in areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions under their control.

        Their letter asks the leaders who helped negotiate the February ceasefire declaration signed in Minsk “to encourage Ukrainian offices to begin paying out welfare services to Donbass residents once again.””

        One so called republic crying for help ! PP tactic might works !
        GLAD PÅSK !

        1. Avatar Anders Nielsen says:

          Yeah, the united front is suffocating Russia, slowly but surely.