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Discussion highlights conflict in Ukraine

| Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Hesburgh Center for International Studies hosted the event “Dinner and Discussion: The Crisis in Ukraine,” a discussion that focused on Russia, Ukraine and the political and ideological motivations that encompassed them on Tuesday evening.

The discussion was led by Russian scholar Alexander Martin and leading international relations scholar Dan Lindley, who are both fellows of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies. The pair attempted to explain the historical, political and ideological relationship Russia has with Ukraine, Europe and NATO.

Martin said while there are similarities between the crisis in Crimea and the Cold War, there exists a failure to understand the Russian political system.

“Russia is not a dictatorship in the sense that you might assume,”  Martin said. “The Russian government is a political machine. It’s a system in which multiple groups have to work together, but that is dominated by a small number of people, particularly Vladimir Putin”.

Martin said Russia’s political system is largely influenced by people who occupy positions in the military, police and other occupations relating to defense and security, which is influential in international relations.

“The people who dominate the Russian political system are people whose careers have mostly been spent in what Russians call the ‘power ministry,’ [where the] people’s number one concern has been national security. That leads them to view international affairs in terms of threats,” he said.

Russia’s history and ideological viewpoint is crucial to understanding the events in Crimea, Martin said, for Russia is not just a nation, but a multinational empire.

”[Russia] is a state with a unique purpose and a unique destiny,” Martin said. “Russians see themselves as having a special role or mission that is reflected in Russian orthodoxy and Soviet socialism.”

Lindley mainly discussed the relationship between Russia and NATO. NATO created part of the problematic relationship between the U.S and Russia, Lindley said, due to its role in the fall of the Soviet Union.

“The U.S looks at events in Crimea and the Ukraine from two main perspectives: liberal internationalism and conservative primacy,” Lindley said.

Lindley defined liberal internationalism as an ideology centered on spreading western values and democracy to other countries, while conservative primacy places more importance on America’s relative position of power in the world.  Both views support NATO expansion in countries bordering Russia, yet fail to understand the implications, he said.

“Both are wrong and both are dangerous in their approach and explanations to what’s going on.” Lindley said.

 

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