What Brookings Experts Are Saying about Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

President Obama declined to call Russian military incursions into Ukraine an “invasion,” but Brookings experts are calling it a “war” and an “invasion.” Below are highlights of some of their recent commentary and tweets.

Steven Pifer, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and director of the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at Brookings, writes in Politico Magazine that “The West’s current strategy isn’t working. It’s time for new steps designed to encourage Moscow to change course.” Pifer advises that Western powers, through increased sanctions and providing Kyiv with lethal military assistance, “encourage a political settlement that ends the fighting and leaves Kyiv in charge in Donetsk and Luhansk, albeit with provisions that take account of Russian concerns.”

Pifer also spoke to Bloomberg TV about the situation, stating that “as the Ukrainian military has increased its competence … Mr. Putin concluded that the separatists on their own were going to be defeated.” Pifer called for the West to consider additional sanctions and to “begin providing lethal military assistance to the Ukrainian military … give the Ukrainian military the ability not to beat the Russian army but to raise the costs of Russian aggression in Ukraine.”


Last week, in an interview with WorldPost, Brookings President Strobe Talbott said of the Russians: “They have already invaded Ukraine.” He added that:

I find it maddening and incomprehensible how governments and the media keep talking about the possibility, the danger, the threat of Russia invading.

Russia invaded Ukraine early in the spring. They started with the so-called “little green men” — Russian soldiers without insignia on their green uniforms — then proceeded with uniforms with epaulets and the annexation of Crimea. Russia has been the force behind, and on the ground, with the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

It is an invasion that is already well in place. It is detrimental to managing the situation to play along with the transparent falsehood that the Russians are putting out that they have not invaded Ukraine.

At a Brookings event on the Ukraine crisis held earlier in August, Talbott, Brookings experts Cliff Gaddy and Thomas Wright, and Politico Magazine’s Susan Glasser discussed recent events and Russia’s role in the global order.

Gaddy, co-author of a recent book on Vladimir Putin, said that Russia would not likely engage in a “full-fledged” invasion of Ukraine “with official Russian troops” because “Putin thinks that that’s our trap, that’s what we want to force him to do.” Continuing, Gaddy said that:

This project is much, much bigger. His project is much bigger than Ukraine. It has very little to do with Ukraine, per se. It’s for the future of Russia. And his repeated statements that, historically, Russia today would be a great nation, as populous as the United States, as powerful as the United States, if over 100 years ago Russia had not continually been drawn into wars and revolutions, I just find it difficult to believe that a guy can say that as many times as he said it and be so shortsighted and so stupid as not to think that the whole game plan here is to lure him into a military invasion of Eastern

Talbott called the situation “‘Guns of August’ type stuff. The guns are already firing,” he said, adding:

It could go one of two ways: either an all-out really serious war
in Ukraine, which will be devastating to Ukraine above all, but very devastating to Russia
and will be a real test for the Alliance, or he can back down. And I think we have not
wasted our time to talk about his biography and what we understand to be his political
personality. He doesn’t strike me as somebody who backs down

Get the event transcript, audio, and video here.

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

Visit our archive of research and commentary on Ukraine.