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
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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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