Ukraine and Russia have technically been at war since 2014 but neither has declared war publicly.

What's the reason not to declare war if it even mentioned in the Wikipedia?

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    Would there be any benefits to be officially at war? I can't think of any.
    – miep
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 7:25
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    The distinction you are making between "technically" at war and "declared war publically" is not clear. "At war" is both a legal and a practical concept, but it is never secret. (E.g. the two Koreas are still technically and legally at war). If they are technically at war then they are publicly at war. Do you mean to ask why the war hasn't turned hot? Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 9:01
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    If anyone is new to the conflict then I just want to say that there also is a huge information war about winning the narrative. I would say that is also why the linked wikipedia article is so extensive. The first casualty when war comes is truth Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 13:09
  • @PaulJohnson The war has been hot for quite a while (just ask people who live near the border... or the relatives of people who flew over on MH17.) I think the question is more asking why they haven't officially declared war, even though they are de factor at war.
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 16:41
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    @Frank that would be a continuation of Stalin's (and Lenin's) view on Ukrainian ethnicity and independence. Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 17:34

3 Answers 3


I think the main reason is probably because, if it's an "irregular war," other nations with interests, agreements or obligations with either or both parties can pretend nothing, really, is going on.

If a formal, internationally official war is declared, then nations and groups of nations would be more likely to act, either on their own, or by being pushed into it by formal agreements, conventions or obligations.

Not declaring war gives both parties an "out" to back down or de-escalate if things are looking like they are moving in a direction they don't like. An actual war gives less options.

The United States has pretty much been in a constant state of war for the past 70 years or so, including a pre-emptive invasion, conquering and occupation of Iraq, and yet, they haven't been "officially" at war since WWII.

I'm not sure that a formal declaration has much meaning in a modern context.


From the Ukraine side:

  • official declaring war on Russia would rapidly end in Ukrainian defeat - as long as there would be no limits for using army power. Just because current proxy-war would lose word "proxy" and became full-conventional war.
  • Ukrainian economics is critically dependent from Russian - in both import and export.

From the Russian side:

  • It is a proxy-war, like US war in Syria, or like today's war in Lybia between Turkey and Egypt + France + Greece (NATO countries are on different sides of armed conflict, yes). In fact, there is a LIST of Proxy Wars Proxy war do not requires official declaration. Just for what? There are no regular army involved - so no casualties. At least now, People's Republics militia is doing well.
  • Official war declaring would lead to the collapse of the Ukraine - which is already in agony. For now, it is IMF and US who are spending resources for that territory, and if the ukraine would collapse because of war - that burden would be on Russia. For what?
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    Also do not forget that Russia like would be further isolated diplomatically by officially declaring war. While current excuses for the presence of russian soldiers are pretty lame, a lame excuse is diplomatically still better than officially declaring war
    – Manziel
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 9:18
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    There is even a wikipedia article on those extremely good equiped "volounteers": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_green_men_(Russo-Ukrainian_War) The is also various articles on the web regarding this, e.g. vice.com/en_us/article/438kv3/… "Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko even admitted around the same time that active-duty Russian troops were fighting with his men, though he claimed that they had chosen to fight while on vacation."
    – Manziel
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 9:59
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    Taking back Crimea from Ukraine? It's hard to do that when Kievan Rus' is the ancestor of Russia. That would be like the US taking back Britain. Perhaps Ukraine should "take back" Moscow. That would be more logical.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 10:02
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 11:30
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    @Obie2.0 The Russian Empire took control of Crimea in 1783. Crimea came under Ukrainian control only in 1954 by an administrative action of the Soviet Union. Russia does have significant historical ties to Crimea, arguably much more significant than Ukrainian ties. IMO Russia's ties were not ample justification for an invasion and forceful annexation, but Putin apparently didn't agree with me.
    – Just Me
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 14:24

The short answer is that the practice of declaring war is no longer regarded as necessary; and as the other answers mention, it may provoke the other party, or force other countries to get involved.

Wikipedia's article on declaring war states:

Since 1945, developments in international law such as the United Nations Charter, which prohibits both the threat and the use of force in international conflicts, have made declarations of war largely obsolete in international relations.

And indeed, the list in that article of declarations of war since 1945 is very short - just 15, of which 4 are still in force (Syria, Iraq & Lebanon vs Israel (1948); Egypt vs Islamic State (2015)).

Notable among the absences from that list are the Korean War and Vietnam War - and the conflict in Ukraine.

  • I don't understand the quote. The United Nations Charter prohibits force in conflicts and that's why you don't need to declare war in order to attack somebody or defend against somebody? That doesn't make much sense to me as such. Sounds a bit like "it just got out of fashion". Commented Jul 1, 2020 at 21:00

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