Brookings Scholars on the Ukraine/Crimea Crisis, 3/27/14

The International Monetary Fund has agreed to a multi-billion dollar aid package for Ukraine, as Russia deployes an estimated 30,000 troops along Ukraine’s eastern border. Brookings experts continue to offer commentary and recommendations on the unfolding challenges. See previous editions of this roundup herehere, and here.

Tomorrow, March 28 at 11:00 a.m., Brookings President Strobe Talbott participates in a live Spreecast with the Wall Street Journal. Learn more and ask questions here.

There was never a belief anywhere that Russia was going to evolve into a NATO-like partner or a democracy. It was always a belief, in fact, that particularly on issues that related to Russia’s neighborhood, that Russia was always going to be difficult.

Jeremy Shapiro, to The Associated Press

Yesterday, Senior Fellow Clifford Gaddy, co-author with Fiona Hill of Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, spoke to an audience at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center on “The Mind of Putin.”

“There are two possible interpretations of what [Putin’s] doing,” Gaddy said at the event. “Russia, as the biggest land power in the world, does not have the protection of an ocean separating it from its potential enemies” and therefore “It needs a buffer zone …” However, he said, “there is another interpretation… that this is an imperial project.” But we won’t know for sure until Putin’s next move, Gaddy added.

“The worst thing we can do,” said Gaddy,

is make Ukraine be the dividing line between East and West. We have to make it be the bridge between the two. If we make Ukraine the dividing line between us and Russia, we’ve lost Russia forever in the sense of Russia being a ‘normal country,’ a country we can engage with in a normal way.

Read more about his remarks here.

Michael Doran

, the Roger Hertog Senior Fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, wrote about President Obama’s foreign policy with respect to both Syria and Russia and how that may play out in terms of the Iran nuclear negotiations.

… Obama’s true message to Assad, Putin, and Khamenei was not, “Negotiate with me or face military action” but “Hand me a fig leaf and I will retreat.”

To judge by events now unfolding on both the Russian and the Iranian fronts, that message has been heard loud and clear. In the former case, it is undoubtedly true that many factors of a purely domestic nature have gone into determining Putin’s well-documented belligerence toward Ukraine and other countries bordering Russia. Still, the Russian leader’s decision to act forcibly must have been eased by Obama’s flaccid performance in the Middle East. As Scott Wilson of the Washington Post noted about the president’s warning to Putin to keep his hands off Crimea, “[r]arely has a threat from a U.S. president been dismissed as quickly—and comprehensively.”

But the real consequences of the Syria debacle can be seen with respect to Iran.

Read the full piece here.

In an interview on The Tavis Smiley Show, Bruce Jones, author of the new Brookings title “Still Ours to Lead,” said that the Ukraine situation “is a really critical test for American leadership and for the west.” He said,

There are certain things that the United States can do by itself in response to what Russia has done in Crimea, but it’s in a much stronger position if we can galvanize the western alliance, if we can galvanize the Europeans and if we can keep the Chinese and the Indians and others from being too supportive of the Russians in this context. … but I think we see in a crisis like Ukraine this isn’t going to be a military action but it is going to take the United States using every other lever of its power—economic, political, coalition-building—to try to contain Russia and reverse this.

Learn more about this interview and watch the video.

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

See our

research and commentary archive on Ukraine