Russian President Vladimir Putin will try to seize more territory beyond Crimea, a slim 54 percent majority of National Journal's Security Insiders said.
"There is nothing about the international response so far to his actions in Crimea that would discourage Putin from annexing additional portions of Ukraine," one Insider said.
After Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea, National Journal's pool of national security experts believe Putin is eyeing more territory that was formerly under Moscow's control.
"Putin will make every attempt to secure his gains in Crimea by adding predominantly ethnic Russian territories in Ukraine and, quite possibly, Transnistria from Moldova," one Insider said. "Now that he has an appetite for conquest, Putin may find the idea of seizing further territory irresistible."
Poltava, another Insider noted, the site of Peter the Great's victory over Charles XII of Sweden that established Russia as a major force, is in eastern Ukraine. "If Putin can grab Crimea for historical reasons, than Poltava can't be far behind."
A sizable 46 percent minority was skeptical that Putin would risk it, after Western leaders levied a spate of economic sanctions against Putin and threatened higher costs to further Russian aggression. "Putin got a big political boost with an almost bloodless annexation; anything else would be bloodier and costlier for him," one Insider said.
Putin, another added, "doesn't have the military capacity to take and hold a significant amount of new terrain."
1. Will Russian President Vladimir Putin try to seize more territory beyond Crimea?
- Yes 54%
- No 46%
"Areas of eastern Ukraine remain at risk unless Putin senses the economic costs from increasing sanctions make further action too costly."
"Because he can and the West can't really do anything credible about it."
"What's to stop him? Certainly neither the U.S. nor NATO."
"Russia will seize territory in Ukraine that provides support to Crimea, such as electricity facilities, and probably enough of eastern Ukraine to give Russia a land bridge to Crimea. Without such a bridge, Russia will perceive a strategic vulnerability: Ukraine could isolate Crimea economically, forcing Russia and Crimea to conduct all commercial ties by sea and air, which would be expensive. Hopefully Ukraine will not cut off economic ties with Crimea."
"Putin will continue pushing, a bit at a time, until real resistance arises. Then we'll see."
"But there will be a 'decent interval' while he tests the water's temperature."
"He will stop only when he perceives he stands to lose more than he gains. Kicking him out of G-8 and freezing a few high-level Russian bank accounts doesn't cut it. Significant economic aid to Ukraine to bring about stability, entering into active discussions with Sweden and Finland to bring them into NATO, reopening missile defense discussions with Poland, publicly reaching out to Baltic States for stronger NATO ties, and accelerating modernization of our aging nuclear-deterrence systems are more effective actions to shift regional balance of power and make it a very high price for Putin to pay for a Crimea he already controlled in a de facto sense."
"Until the United States and its allies show that they have the power (and willingness to use it) to stop him, Putin will continue his adventures in the 'Near Abroad.' Count on it."
"Maybe not now, but he continue to be as opportunistic as he has been in Crimea.
Will anyone really be surprised when this happens in short order?"
"After two world wars, the stability of Europe is a core vital interest of the U.S. and finds substance in the commitment to NATO and Europe; until Putin looks the U.S. military in the eye across a defined boundary, his aggression will continue ... time to equip and train Ukrainians or find the next fire break."
"Given how small the consequences were for taking Crimea, Putin must be tempted to take more to solidify his holdings and give him additional leverage for negotiations in the future."
"I expect some fabrication (alleged persecution of ethnic Russians, for example) as a pretext for further incursions."
"If Ukraine rejects Russia's proposal to codify politico-military neutrality (as seems likely), or seeks NATO membership, or if it falls into civil war, Putin will seize territory beyond Crimea."
"I don't expect massive movements but I think it is more than likely Putin will use this period and the excuse to protect 'endangered' ethnic Russians in bordering states."
"No blitzkrieg—in eastern Ukraine he'll keep the pot just below a boil, but hot."
"Unlikely for land grabs but expect aggressive moves to expand area of influence.
"He's crazy, but not that crazy!"
"He recognizes that by moving beyond Crimea he will prompt even the somnolent Europeans into increasing their defense budgets and upgrading their defense posture and operations."
"Probably not for the near term. But he will hold Trans-Dniester and may well go into eastern Ukraine if he senses the May elections are going the wrong way."
"Between now and the May 25 Ukraine elections, he has the time and capability to influence the future government, so he need not invade."
"But if the response to Crimea is too light (like it was in Georgia) we are simply inviting future 'corrections' to Russia's borders."
"He will digest what he has taken and watch the West's reaction before doing more overtly, however, he is likely to be covertly encouraging Transnistria and other such regions to 'join' Russia."
"It's not even clear Putin knows."
"Crimea was a bloodless and surprising lightning strike; eastern Ukraine would be more contentious. It's still possible, but unlikely."
National Journal's National Security Insiders Poll is a periodic survey of more than 100 defense and foreign policy experts. They include: Gordon Adams, Charles Allen, Michael Allen, Thad Allen, Graham Allison, James Bamford, David Barno, Milt Bearden, Peter Bergen, Samuel "Sandy" Berger, David Berteau, Stephen Biddle, Nancy Birdsall, Marion Blakey, Kit Bond, Stuart Bowen, Paula Broadwell, Mike Breen, Mark Brunner, Steven Bucci, Nicholas Burns, Dan Byman, James Jay Carafano, Phillip Carter, Wendy Chamberlin, Michael Chertoff, Frank Cilluffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clemons, Joseph Collins, William Courtney, Lorne Craner, Roger Cressey, Gregory Dahlberg, Robert Danin, Richard Danzig, Janine Davidson, Daniel Drezner, Mackenzie Eaglen, Paul Eaton, Andrew Exum, William Fallon, Eric Farnsworth, Jacques Gansler, Stephen Ganyard, Daniel Goure, Mark Green, Mike Green, Mark Gunzinger, Todd Harrison, John Hamre, Jim Harper, Marty Hauser, Michael Hayden, Michael Herson, Pete Hoekstra, Bruce Hoffman, Linda Hudson, Paul Hughes, Colin Kahl, Donald Kerrick, Rachel Kleinfeld, Lawrence Korb, David Kramer, Andrew Krepinevich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, Cedric Leighton, Michael Leiter, James Lindsay, Justin Logan, Trent Lott, Peter Mansoor, Ronald Marks, Brian McCaffrey, Steven Metz, Franklin Miller, Michael Morell, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Shuja Nawaz, Kevin Nealer, Michael Oates, Thomas Pickering, Paul Pillar, Larry Prior, Stephen Rademaker, Marc Raimondi, Celina Realuyo, Bruce Riedel, Barry Rhoads, Marc Rotenberg, Frank Ruggiero, Gary Samore, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, John Scofield, Tammy Schultz, Stephen Sestanovich, Sarah Sewall, Matthew Sherman, Jennifer Sims, Suzanne Spaulding, James Stavridis, Constanze Stelzenmüller, Ted Stroup, Guy Swan, Frances Townsend, Mick Trainor, Richard Wilhelm, Tamara Wittes, Dov Zakheim, and Juan Zarate.
This article appears in the March 31, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.