CU-Boulder professor and Russian-Ukrainian expert comments on latest Aug. 29, 2014


CU-Boulder professor and Russian-Ukrainian expert comments on latest events in eastern Ukraine

Aug. 29, 2014

John O’ Loughlin is a professor in the geography department at the University of

Colorado Boulder. He studies conflict in countries and the political geography of the post-Soviet Union, including Russian and Ukrainian geopolitics and ethno-territorial nationalisms.

Here are comments from O’Loughlin concerning the latest developments in southeastern Ukraine. On Wednesday a separatist counteroffensive -- which Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion sponsored by Russia, and which sent armored troops across the border -- has opened a new military front along the Sea of Azov and put the rebels within striking distance of Mariupol, a port city that is the second-largest in Ukraine’s southeast.

Why would Russian President Vladimir V. Putin risk sending in Russian troops, as suspected by Ukraine and NATO?

CUT 1 “A lot of people don’t seem to understand how critical Ukraine is in the Putingeopolitical worldview. I mean this is the key country. Everything else is less important.

(:09) And he feels that if the Ukraine becomes part of NATO, part of the West, then the kind of pro-Western wave would reach Russia itself. It would also be a threat to his own position in Russia. So he’s determined to make a stand here.” (:24)

Why now?

CUT 2 “In June and July the areas controlled by the rebels shrank dramatically. And all signs were pointing in the last couple of weeks that the rebels were on the run. (:10) So I think Putin about two weeks ago saw that the jig would be up for the rebels and knew that unless they came to the rescue that essentially the Ukrainian government, the Kiev government, would be able to take back those areas that they had lost in April and

May.” (:28)

What is the goal for President Putin?

CUT 3 “In terms of the end game I think what Putin is hoping to achieve is basically a stalemate in which the Kiev government is not able to take control over Luhansk and

Donetsk and that the rebels will essentially maintain their control of all the areas along the border – the kind of parts bordering on Russia -- and then essentially work out a cease fire with the Kiev government. And so effectively it will be kind of a defacto state.”


Can the Ukrainian army stop the latest offensive?

CUT 4 “I doubt it. Now we’ll see what happens in the next couple of days. If Mariupol falls to the rebels -- slash -- Russian troops, then things have changed significantly.

Everybody agrees that the tide has turned in the last couple of days. And there’s no doubt that there’s been a huge infusion of Russian weapons and Russian soldiers. (:20)

And there are clearly indications that Russia has now directly entered the battle and still maintaining the pretense that there are no Russian troops.” (:28)

Will NATO and the United States help Ukraine by sending heavy artillery and other weapons?

CUT 5 “They might. They’ll certainly increase their military aid and they’ve already promised significant amounts of economic aid to the Ukraine. They’ll do a lot of things like they will have more troops on bases in the NATO countries bordering Ukraine and

Poland and the Baltic and places like that. (:16) And they’ll certainly have a lot more air patrols and other kinds of demonstrations of NATO’s interests. But beyond military aid

I don’t think that they’d get directly involved.” (:28)