Brookings Scholars on the Ukraine/Crimea Crisis, 3/12/14

Brookings experts continue to offer commentary and recommendations on the unfolding crisis in Ukraine and Crimea. See previous editions of this roundup here, here and here.

No one should doubt how the referendum will turn out. The outcome will confront Moscow, Kyiv, and the West with uneasy and fateful choices. — Steven Pifer on Lawfare

Fiona Hill, director of the Center on the United States and Europe, joined a panel discussion on Trendlines, a joint production of the PBS NewsHour and Al-Monitor. Host Margaret Warner asked panelists how they saw the Ukraine crisis affecting Russia’s calculation in the Middle East. Hill replied:

This is a very difficult situation actually for the Russians in many respects because as Dennis [Ross] has said, there’s actually some equities for Russia there in some of the conflicts that we see in the Middle East and some of the (inaudible) that we’re talking about. In the instance of Iran for Russia, Iran is a very important counterweight to the Sunni Muslim powers in the Gulf, but Russia’s always been very concerned about potentially proselytizing or supporting groups inside of the Russian federation itself. And places like the Russian North Caucasus where there’s Chechnya for example, are even further afield in the heartland of Russia in the Russian Volga region.

So at various points, Russia has always been very careful to try to balance the interests of the Gulf states and Iran off against each other. It doesn’t however at the same time want to basically let loose the grip that it has in many respects on the ongoing negotiations with Iran, in the sense that it’s very important for Russia to keep that in the confines of the United Nations Security Council, where Russia has a veto.

Russia doesn’t want to have a return to the situation where it was the United States and say, Israel, making determinations about whether there might be a strike against Iran if the negotiations over the nuclear weapons program weren’t going in a direction that they wanted to.

I think what we’re likely to see is Russia very carefully play with this issue so that things don’t get out of hand. They do want to show that there are consequences if the U.S. needs Russia on all of these instances that we’re talking about. But they also have to calibrate that because they’re not always in the driving seat.

Watch the full interview below:

Senior Fellow Kenneth Lieberthal, an expert on China, told the Associated Press (via Moscow Times) China is “sitting on the fencepost” and that “What we are seeing in China’s statements very much reflects the major—and in this instance, conflicting—interests the Chinese leadership has.”

Here is some of what Brookings scholars are saying on Twitter:

See our research and commentary archive on Ukraine.