Security Insiders: Putin Will Try to Seize More Territory Beyond Crimea

“What’s to stop him? Certainly neither the U.S. nor NATO,” one Insider said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
National Journal
Sara Sorcher
March 30, 2014, 8:14 a.m.

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?

(64 votes)

  • 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?”

“Watch Trans­nis­tria.”

“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.

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