A Ukrainian serviceman holds a rocket launcher at battle positions outside the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. As Russian troops intensify their assault on Ukraine and its people, it is unclear what will happen next. (Maksim Levin, Reuters)
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SALT LAKE CITY — As Russian troops intensify their assault on Ukraine and its people, it is unclear what will happen next. The occupation presents long-term challenges for Russia, and a University of Utah political science professor said Ukrainians have fought for independence before.
“Ukraine has a tradition of fighting for its independence,” said political science professor Marjorie Castle, who has studied this part of the world for several decades.
She said the international political order has been relatively stable in Eastern Europe over the past 50+ years. Now he was fractured within days. The Russian invasion of Ukraine dramatically and quickly changed the regional balance of power. Castle thinks the uncertainty is as high as it has been in a long time.
“We don’t know what Putin’s plans are for Ukraine,” she said.
It remains unclear which part of the country Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to control.
“It unfortunately seems certain that he is planning to set up a puppet regime,” Castle said.
The political science professor called this a depressing and grim possibility, “given the size of Ukraine, given its importance, given Ukraine’s hard-won democracy,” she said. .
Despite Russia’s military power, Castle points out that occupying a neighboring country is complicated and costly. If there are Ukrainians ready to help Putin establish a regime, it may be less costly politically and financially.
“If it turns out to be difficult, then I think he’s going to have a very hard, long and expensive job with it,” she said.
Castle cited a recent survey of Ukrainians that shows almost 60% are prepared to personally and actively resist a Russian invasion.
We cannot assume that Putin aims to rebuild the Soviet Union. But the invasion of Ukraine raises this question.
“I agree that he doesn’t want to reassemble the Soviet Union,” Castle said. “But, his vision of Russian security, of Russian prosperity, of Russia taking the place it should take in the world requires dominating its neighbors.”
Which makes the United States and its allies very nervous.
“The world has changed and we are facing gigantic uncertainty, both about what will happen in Ukraine and about the international order.”