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Experts say Military Intervention Reveals Putin’s Greatest Fears

NEW YORK, Mar 10 2014 (IPS) - Russian military forces pushed into Ukraine, because Russian President Vladimir Putin believes his own conspiracy theories. This was the hypothesis of experts from a variety of fields, who met at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) in New York Monday.

The panel, which included Richard Betts, director of SIPA’s International Security Policy programme, Jan Svejnar, former presidential candidate in the Czech Republic, Valery Kuchinsky, retired career diplomat for Ukraine, Peter Clement, former deputy director, CIA Directorate of Intelligence, and Jason Bordoff, former special assistant to President Obama, pointed to the power struggle that continues from the Cold War era.

“The question of what Putin believes or doesn’t believe is a big question,” said Betts. “I think he’s bought into his own narrative.” The SIPA director described that narrative as the West trying to sabotage Russia. “He’s surrounded by likeminded people,” said Betts, “and Putin very much reflects a KGB view of the world.”

Following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Putin was the first head of state to offer his condolences to U.S. President George W. Bush. But, Betts said, “along the way, a lot of other things happened.”

In 2002, the U.S. withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia. In 2004, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, formed in 1949 to combat the Soviet Union, expanded its membership to include former Soviet states, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

As a result of this and Ukraine’s pro-Russian president’s fall from power, Putin is nervous, said Clement. The former CIA deputy director reasoned that the Russian military intervention of Crimea could be a land grab, a bargaining chip to guarantee Russia’s economic and political prominence in the country, or Putin’s personal legacy project.

“He’s been in power 18 years,” said Clement. “He’s the man who brought Russia back. He brought back the economy. He made Russia a force again. And he increased Russia’s land space. It’s clear he bemoans the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

 
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