News / Europe

Analysis: Putin’s Next Move

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands at the presentation ceremony of the top military brass in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 28, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands at the presentation ceremony of the top military brass in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 28, 2014
Catherine Maddux
With Russian troops amassed on the Ukraine border, some observers are worrying about what is being called a “post-Crimea crisis.”
And as the West awaits Russia’s next moves, analysts are examining Russian President Vladimir Putin’s public statements for clues as to whether he plans to build on his successful land grab of Crimea by going after other territories with large Russian-speaking populations. 

Think Transnistria: the breakaway majority Russian enclave in neighboring Moldova that already has a minor Russian peacekeeping force on the ground.
“The readout from the Putin to [Barack] Obama call last week, from the White House, was a focus on trying to find a way to a political, diplomatic solution,” said one former NATO official,  Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder, now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
“The same phone call was read out by the Kremlin, emphasizing the dangers of quote ‘extremists in Ukraine,’ and that President Putin's worry as expressed to Obama about events in Transdinistria,” he said.
That leads to the inevitable question: does Putin have the military might to roll into other Russian-speaking regions, such as the Baltic States, and annex more territory?
The answer is a firm yes, said Admiral James G. Stavridis, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
“They [the Russians] certainly can do it… they will begin to incur real costs and there will be a real fight,” he said.
“From a military perspective, the more territory you try and hold onto, the more complex your challenges become,” Stavridis said. “All of a sudden, 20,000 troops, 30,000 troops don't look like enough. Again, I think it's an unlikely move, but not an impossible one.”
NATO meted out its punishment to Putin during a meeting of its foreign ministers in Brussels this week, declaring that its cooperation with Moscow was over.  The alliance also said it was reviewing options to reassure NATO allies, particularly those who border Russia in Eastern Europe.
There were signs of hope when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei in Paris in recent days, offering a ray of hope that Moscow was open to a political solution. But there have been little hints since of possible resolution.
But  it’s hard to know if Putin is serious about pursuing diplomacy with the West, said Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution and a former deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration.
“It could turn out to be a sham on the Russian side – a distraction – but it’s also conceivable that it might produce some agreements that would calm down a situation that is extremely unpredictable and dangerous,” he said.
Meanwhile, after Russia’s formal annexation of Crimea, the situation is far from stable even though a large majority of population is pro-Russian and supports joining the Russian Federation.
Crimea is also home to a sizable Ukrainian minority, along with Muslim Crimean Tatars, who may feel threatened by Moscow and the nationalistic sentiment in the region. 
The situation is so unsure that some are leaving, said Vice News Correspondent Simon Ostrovsky, who spent nearly a month filing video reports from Crimea – before and after its annexation.
“I think some people are playing this wait and see game,” he said. “I know at least one Crimean Tatar woman who has gone to western Ukraine and has remained there for the whole period of the conflict with her children. I know ordinary Russians and Ukrainians as well – I’ve just overheard conversations while I was there – them saying they are going to take their children out… and sort of anecdotally I heard [that] a lot of Ukrainians feel pressure to leave,” Ostrovsky said. “Whether that’s imagined pressure or actual pressure, I’m not sure."
Analysts say It remains to be seen what Putin’s next move will be – and how the United States and European Union will respond.
“There is no question that the Russian strategy going forward is going to be to weaken the now rump Ukrainian state as much as possible, make as much mischief there as possible… simply to roil the situation with hopes that there will not be calm, there will not be stability… there will not be genuine democracy and constitutional government,” said Talbott.
And that plays into Moscow’s overall strategy, he said, “which is to be surrounded by states that are in one of two categories: either they are vassal states or they are basket cases.”

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Comment Sorting
by: Sunny Enwerem from: Lagos Nigeria
April 07, 2014 9:30 PM
Like I have always said, Putin's Russia should be challenged militarily as a means of deterrence if not Crimea is just the first of more Ukrainen region to be lost to Russia and until Ukraine joins NATO and becomes a nuclear power state Russia will keep up the bully.

by: Artur from: Kyiv
April 06, 2014 6:44 AM
Frankly speaking, I disappointed by the West and how it conducts this issue with Russia. Ukraine made its choice in favor of EU and USA,but you don't help us to concrete our commitment to be with you. You won't defend us when Russia would kill us.
In Response

by: Vladimir from: Moscow
April 07, 2014 2:44 PM
Don't cry Artur! You are like kids. Big brother didn't help to his little friends. You have to make choose and strive to do all that possible for your independence. But If half of your compatriots on one side and half on the other, and your government can't nothing to do with that, you have to sit very quietly and wait when someone make decision for you in favor of the one part. You have to take it. If it's your side you are lucky. It merely funny to read articles like this that Russia going to occupy Baltic countries etc. Please try to find out about Russian history. How do you study the history in America now? As I see you study history as a Russian people studied history and other subjects during USSR - only what is necessary for the "right" direction of the party and government. Who need YOUR democracy? Iran ? Syria? Afgan? etc. The list is endless.

by: clinton werner from: Tokyo , Japan
April 05, 2014 11:55 PM
We don`t want to be caught off guard this time waiting for Putin`s move. This time we have to have our forces there , there has been great cooridination in NATO & The EU but we need to act more swiftly.
I admire the Ukrainians for their Magnificent Stance In Maidan
Square , a reminder of just how Precious Liberty Is & This Is Now A Critical Test For The Free World!
Let`s Win This !!!

by: Eastariel Noneofyo-bizniss
April 05, 2014 2:40 PM
Please pardon our USA, President Putin. But I think we've been over-doing it on the whole "Game of Thrones" spiel. We've been trying to limit Barack's TV consumption to more appropriate family-friendly specials, like Spiderman (not spickerman), The Simpsons (not simpletons), and Cosmos (not sos-woes). I wouldn't object to you pre-reminding our CIA Daycare to be a little more discerning with Barack's media diet.

by: Ed Hamilton from: Colorado, USA
April 05, 2014 12:54 PM
I think this is a big time, serious issue for USA foreign policy.
Our USA is living the big lie -- that is, these histories are kept out of sight of the people.
"The Public Be Suckered"
I suppose that this status quo provides sizable leverage to Putin -- who has the continuing option to speak out.

Note again that the foregoing postulates CONTINUING disadvantage to the USA of the status quo.

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