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May 11, 2016

Event Summary: ‘Russia, Ukraine and the West: Causes and Consequences of the Current Conflict’

by
Henry Jackson Society

by Jim Ormiston

On the 11th May Professor Matthew Rojansky gave a talk hosted by The Henry Jackson Society titled ‘Russia, Ukraine and the West: Causes and Consequences of the Current Conlfict’ was held at The Henry Jackson Society’s offices in Millbank. Professor Rojansky is Director at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars.

Professor Rojansky gave a broader overview of Eastern Europe and Russia than the title indicates, allowing him to address the issues in a comprehensive manner.

He began by expressing scepticism at attempts to psychoanalyse Putin – we can’t get into his head. Based on the regime’s actions and statements he suggested that Putin is presently attempting to reverse changes Gorbachev made to the Russian state during the 1980s. He explained that the European Project is fundamentally at odds with the modern Russian worldview, and that Russia sees NATO as nothing more than a veil for US interference.

The appropriate response is to “keep calm and carry on”; we shouldn’t exaggerate the threat of Russia as an infinite evil, or Putin as a bogeyman – we would face similar problems from Russia in his absence.

Answering questions at the end Professor Rojansky explained that Russian people are deeply interested in foreign policy and concerned with their place in the world. Offering the primary face of opposition to the US demonstrates Russian relevance. Thus, if Western leaders denigrate Russia, then Russia will demonstrate its substantial power.

He also contended that in the Ukraine the West is sponsoring forces that could not possibly deliver a just liberal democratic future for Ukraine in the event that they acquired genuine control of the country.

Finally the Professor criticised the notion that Putin has demonstrated superior strategic nous to his rivals: Putin’s success flows from setting far easier objectives to those of his rivals – destabilising Eastern Europe and the Middle East is less challenging than building stable democracy.