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Journalist analyzes Russia-Ukraine conflict

| Friday, November 7, 2014

Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies hosted journalist Lawrence Sheets to speak about the current situation in Ukraine in a lecture titled “Russia and Ukraine: A View from the Ground,” the third in a three-part series of lectures Sheet gave on the political and historical nuances of Russia.

20141106, 11052014, Lecture, Rosie BiehlRosie Biehl | The Observer
Sheets, who served as the National Public Radio’s Moscow Bureau chief and currently works for the International Crisis Group (ICG), focused his talk on the political instability that characterizes Ukraine.

“What we face is a very, very serious challenge to all of Europe and to the international order,” he said.

According to Sheets, the current situation in Russia is product of Russia’s imperialist attitudes, which translates to serious consequences in Ukraine. Sheets said while Ukrainians have a unique perspective on their identity with regards to Russia, they characterize their country as more than an extension of the Russian federation.

Sheets said Russia’s ethnic makeup and its variety in language usage make it so difficult to categorize.

“If you ask me which country is most difficult to model in terms of stability, I would say its Ukraine,” Sheets said. “Ukraine is a very divided country.”

Sheets said it was problematic that many American citizens don’t know what is going on in Ukraine and attributesd this to the fact that around 1992-1993, there was serious discouragement to learn Russian culture or the history of the Soviet Union.

“There’s very little expertise on the country,” he said. “It has to do with the fact that there is a decreasing expertise on the former Soviet Union. … There seems to be a conscious effort to avoid discussing what is happening in Ukraine.”

Sheets said the nation of Georgia also currently faces problems because its government is characterized by a lose joining of politicians with different ideologies, agendas and political strategies, which leads to destabilization within the country.

“If you’ve been noticing what’s been happening in Georgia, there’s a very serious political unraveling in that country, and it’s been predicted for a long time,” Sheets said.

According to Sheets, this political unraveling, along with economic destabilization in Ukraine could potentially spell problems for Russia.

“This brings up the question of serious destabilization within Russia itself,” Sheets said.

Sheets said Russia currently restrains currency interventions to $350 million per day, and that, with a population of 145 million people, this was not nearly enough.

“An unstable Russia could easily come about as a result of failed policies in Ukraine,” he said.  “The fact that the central bank is restricting its currency interventions to $350 million today indicates that there’s worry about the capacity of the government to hold up National currency.”

Sheets said Ukraine also currently faces severe problems with its economy.

“It reflects deep divisions within Ukrainian society and issues of Ukrainian identity,” he said. “This history of Ukraine, militarily, is not a classical military history; it’s a history of partisanship.”

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