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Political science professor offers insight into predicting Putin’s next move

Feb 25, 2022, 5:18 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 4:56 pm
BANGKOK, THAILAND - FEBRUARY 25: A Ukrainian protester holds up a poster of Russian President Vladi...
BANGKOK, THAILAND - FEBRUARY 25: A Ukrainian protester holds up a poster of Russian President Vladimir Putin with the word "killer" during a rally outside the Russian Embassy on February 25, 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand. Protests have erupted around the world in support of Ukraine after Russian forces invaded the country. (Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY— As Russian troops intensify their assault on Ukraine and its people, it’s difficult to determine what will happen next. Occupation presents long-term challenges for Russia, and a political science professor from the University of Utah said the Ukrainians have fought for their independence before.

“Ukraine has a tradition of fighting for its independence,” said Political Science Professor Marjorie Castle, who has studied that part of the world for several decades.

She said the international political order has been relatively stable in Eastern Europe over the last 50+ years. Now, it’s been fractured in a matter of days. The Russian invasion of Ukraine dramatically, and quickly, changed the regional balance of power. Castle believes uncertainty is as high as it’s been a long time.

“We don’t know what Putin’s plans for Ukraine are,” she said.

It remains unclear how much of the country Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to control.

“It seems unfortunately certain that he may be planning to set up a puppet regime,” Castle said.

The political science professor characterized that as a depressing and dark possibility.

“Given Ukraine’s size, given its significance, given Ukraine’s hard won democracy,” she said.

Despite Russia’s military might, Castle points out that occupying a neighboring country is complicated, and expensive. If there are Ukrainians willing to help Putin establish a regime, it may be less costly politically and financially.

“If that turns out to be difficult, then I think that he is going to have a very hard, long, expensive slog with it,” she said.

Professor Castle cited a recent survey of Ukrainians that shows nearly 60% are willing to personally, actively resist a Russian invasion.

We cannot assume that Putin aims to rebuild the Soviet Union. But, the invasion of Ukraine raises that question.

“I agree that he doesn’t want to reassemble the Soviet Union,” Castle said. “But, his vision of Russian security, Russian prosperity, Russia taking the place that it should take in the world requires dominating its neighbors.”

Which leaves the US and its allies very nervous.

“The world has changed, and we’re facing a gigantic amount of uncertainty, both about what will happen in Ukraine, and about the international order.”

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Political science professor offers insight into predicting Putin’s next move