Substituting for the State: The Role of Volunteers in Defense Reform in Post-Euromaidan Ukraine


  • Kateryna Zarembo New Europe Center; National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine



civil society, Ukraine, volunteers, institutions, defense reform, Euromaidan


While the role of volunteers in sustaining the Ukrainian armed forces against the backdrop of Russian aggression since 2014 has been widely acknowledged in literature, the effect of volunteer initiatives on the state defense capacity in longer term has not been studied thus far. This article aims to address this gap and explore whether volunteer participation led to institutional strengthening of the Ukrainian defense state capacity or to its weakening. The analysis will conclude that the volunteers in fact contributed to both – strengthening the state and weakening it at the same time; the outcome dependent on the context in which the volunteers took action at different times. While volunteer participation failed to bring about systemic reform, it did provide powerful democratic oversight over the state’s key defense institution.

Author Biography

Kateryna Zarembo, New Europe Center; National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

Kateryna Zarembo is Deputy Director at the New Europe Center (NEC), a think tank based in Kyiv, Ukraine. She co-teaches the “European Foreign and Security Policy” course under a joint Master’s Programme of Jena University (Germany) and the National University of KyivMohyla Academy (Ukraine). Her areas of specialization are Ukraine’s foreign policy, Ukraine’s relations with the EU, Poland and Italy, EU CSDP missions in the Eastern neighbourhood, and Russia-Ukraine conflict. Kateryna holds a PhD in Political Science from the National Institute for Strategic Studies (Ukraine), an MA in European Studies from University College Dublin (Ireland) and an MA in English and Italian languages from Kyiv Taras Shevchenko University (Ukraine).


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