AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin hosted a panel of foreign security experts to discuss the war in Ukraine this week.
The panel was hosted by the Asia Policy Program, the Clements Center for National Security, Strauss Center for International Security and Law, Intelligence Studies Project, Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.
At the end of the discussion, the moderator asked each panelist to talk about one thing they’ll be watching over the next few weeks. Here’s a bit about each panelist and how they responded:
Putin’s regime in question
Sheena Chestnut Greitens is an associate professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and founding director of the Asia Policy Program.
“I’ll be watching to see how events, in terms of military operations in Ukraine but also all of these aspects of the international response, translate into regime security and pressure on Putin personally at home.”
Pay attention to the Russian public
Alexandra Sukalo is a postdoctoral fellow at the Clements Center and will be joining the Naval Postgraduate School in the fall as an assistant professor of modern Russian history and security policy.
“I will be focusing on the Russian people. Navalny is no longer active. He’s in prison and arguably will be for the rest of his life, and I’m curious to see if there will be the next Navalny. There are protests going on in Russia now, but I think that, speaking to regime pressure, if there’s a sizable Russian population that some of these oligarchs, some of Putin’s inner circle, could feel the pressure for themselves and say maybe this is time that Putin now has led us down a dangerous path we can’t return from and so I’m really focusing on Russia.”
The politics of Europe
Zoltan Feher is an America in the World Consortium Predoctoral Fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at The University of Texas at Austin; a Hans J. Morgenthau Fellow with the Notre Dame International Security Center at the University of Notre Dame; and a Ph.D. candidate (ABD) in International Relations at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
“I believe that President Putin has seriously miscalculated on several fronts: the first of which is obviously the military operations. He underestimated the Ukrainian resistance. I think the planning for the military operations was inadequate. He seriously miscalculated the response from the world. He underestimated the response of the European Union, his friends and allies within the European Union including Hungary, and this crisis is really going to threaten peace and stability within Russia and his own regime. Unfortunately, I’m really expecting right now a very protracted conflict with a lot of blood on both the Ukrainian and the Russian side, so I’m not very optimistic about the outcome of the military invasion itself. I’m a little more optimistic that this has already changed the politics of Europe. It’s changed the foreign policy of several countries, and I think this invasion is really undermining Putin’s power at home.”
The Russian military and China
Jeremi Suri holds the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. He is a professor in the university’s Department of History and the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and the author of several books on contemporary politics and foreign policy.
“Russia has a long history of major regime change, beginning with the military and not in a coup but a series of military desertions and military departures from the authority and power, so I’m watching how Russian soldiers respond, how the Russian military responds.”
“I’ll throw one other out there…I think China is Putin’s only way out right now either through escalation or through departure.”
The historical importance of Kyiv, Ukraine
Steve B. Slick is the director of the Intelligence Studies Project, a joint partnership between the William P. Clements Center for National Security and the Strauss Center for International Security and Law. He retired in 2014 after 28 years as a member of CIA’s clandestine service.
“The treatment of Kyiv. I think he [Putin] has military options: he can either attempt to enter and destroy the city, which would have enormous ramifications because of the historic sites and the symbolic significance. This is where Vladimir the Great accepted Christianity on behalf of the Slavs…He has an alternative, he can lay siege, he can start negotiations. If he destroyed Kyiv, I think this is literally a turning point.“
Bobby Chesney is the director of the Strauss Center, holds the James Baker Chair and serves as the associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Texas School of Law.
“Watch the activities of the Russia-based ransomware crews, if they start getting reckless in destructive operations it’s going to compel a response, and we’ll be in a very difficult escalation situation.”
You can read more from Chesney on why he believes Russian cyberattacks aren’t happening on a large-scale right now in Ukraine, but could unfold later around the world.
Read more about the panelists and their experience on the University of Texas website.