- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2014

When the pundits and press feast on a global event, they must make room for the historians. Such is the case with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine matter, now drawing academic commentary. And those analysts who think Mr. Putin pines to recreate the Russia of yore may be on to something.

Putin may be brutal and dictatorial but he is pursuing what he sees as his nation’s interest, that is, to re-establish Russian power in the area of the former Soviet Union, if not beyond,” says Barry Strauss, a Cornell University history professor.

“He is following the traditional, expansionist Russian policy of Peter the Great. From the peaceful perspective of today’s United States or Western Europe that seems totally out of place, if not mad,” Mr. Strauss explains.

“Yet it remains to be seen if Putin will pay much of a price for his actions. Until and unless he meets more resistance than he has so far, he is unlikely to stop.”

His colleague Valerie Bunce, a professor of international studies and government on the campus, has an alternative take.

Putin is gambling that, with this military intervention in Crimea, he can undermine the new government in Ukraine, generate the very chaos that justifies his illegal actions in Ukraine while encouraging Russians to support him and fear unrest in their own country,” she says.

“By sending Russian troops to Crimea in the south of Ukraine while encouraging protests in eastern Ukraine, Putin is doing his best to render Ukraine as unstable - as Russian propaganda has already claimed. Thus, his aggressive actions, while certainly violating international law, are building a case for those actions,” Ms. Bunce adds.

“In the process, while Putin wins political support at home and lays the groundwork for a return of Crimea to Russia.”