Brookings Scholars on the Ukraine/Crimea Crisis, 3/18/14

Over the weekend, Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine, and then today Russia’s parliament swiftly voted to annex the country, as President Obama declared some sanctions on key Russian and Ukrainian officials. 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.

Vladimir Putin has violated a major post-Cold War rule in Europe—respect for territorial integrity. If the West does not make clear there are consequences, will there be other cases? — Steven Pifer, ABC News


Putin is prepared to keep on pushing. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he moves into other points into eastern Ukraine. — Fiona Hill, Associated Press

Fiona Hill, director of the Center on the United States and Europe, has a three-part article on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Part one focuses on Putin’s political and international thought. Part two looks at his attitudes on foreign policy. Part three examines the messages Putin’s actions toward Ukraine are sending abroad. Hill notes at the outset that “To begin to understand Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approach to the current crisis in Ukraine, we have to start with an effort to understand the man himself.”

Vladimir Putin is a product of his environment—a man whose past experiences have informed his present outlook and world view. As Clifford Gaddy and I propose in our recent book, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, Putin is best understood as a composite of six multiple identities that stem from those experiences––the Statist, History Man, Survivalist, Outsider, Free Marketeer, and Case Officer. We argue that it is the combination of all these identities that made Putin an effective behind-the-scenes operator in Russian politics and helped propel him into the Kremlin in 1999-2000. These same identities are now at play as Putin deals with Ukraine and with the West’s response.

Steven Pifer, director of the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at Brookings and a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told Bloomberg TV:

I think it looks like Putin is moving, in fact, very quickly to annex Crimea which … is probably going to be seen as the most blatent land-grab in Europe since World War II. And what it’s going to do is limit options in negotiating some sort of a path that de-escalates the crisis and fairly quickly trigger additional American and European sanctions on Russia.

Listen to the full segment below:

Pifer also writes that “The best revenge against Moscow is to help the Ukrainian state succeed. That is, to put Ukraine on a firm path to a growing economy with stable democratic institutions.”

Hill, along with Brookings President Strobe Talbott and Senior Fellow Clifford Gaddy (her co-author on Mr. Putin), are quoted extensively in this Bloomberg News article about Putin’s motives and the role of history. International condemnations of Russia’s actions just reinforce Russian identity, according to Gaddy, who says that “It’s part of the myth—God, or history, testing Russia, subjecting it to tests and trials. In so many times in their history, in extreme circumstances, they managed to prevail.”

Tanvi Madan, director of the India Project, examines India’s reaction to the situation, writing that “With national elections around the corner and few direct Indian interests in Ukraine, attention and coverage have been quite limited.” However, as she points out, “Indian economic analysts … have been concerned about the negative impact on the stock market, the value of the rupee and energy prices. This reason is indeed partly why India would like to see the crisis resolved speedily and peacefully.”

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

See our research and commentary archive on Ukraine.