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Could nearby NATO member states benefit from the Ukraine crisis?

While much of Ukraine's future seems to be in the hands of Russia's Putin, other NATO member states concerned about Russian aggression may end up benefiting from the conflict. Kimberly Marten, a political science professor at Barnard College and Columbia University, joins Hari Sreenivasan.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    For more about the situation in Ukraine, we're joined now by Kimberly Marten. She is a political science professor at Barnard College and Columbia University.

    So, Putin was able to send in forces right before this cease-fire and this create this kind of, almost no man's land. There weren't any new rounds of economic sanctions this week. It almost seems like he was in a much better position coming out of it.

  • KIMBERLY MARTEN:

    I think everybody recognizes that whatever kind of political settlement is eventually reached is going to be one that favors Putin's interests. Russia just has stronger military forces. Russia has the ability to control Ukraine's economic future because of the natural gas pipeline link. And as a result, that means that Russia has just all along been in a stronger bargaining position.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Now, have we created another kind of protracted, frozen conflict? I mean, in the region, in Georgia there's South Ossetia and Abkhazia and then in Moldova, we saw Transnistria. And now are we going to basically see eastern Ukraine as this longstanding conflict?

  • KIMBERLY MARTEN:

    People have been saying that for a number of months — that that's probably what the end result is going to be. And that certainly is something that again is in Putin's interest because he would like to have more influence in Ukraine. He would like to have Ukraine always knocked slightly off balance so that they don't know what he might do next. He would like to demonstrate that he has more power than the Ukrainians do.

    And so certainly by making it a frozen conflict situation where Ukraine never really has a definitive sense of sovereignty over its own territory, that's in Putin's interest.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And Ukraine has no incentive to try to keep this as the status quo, and they're in a weaker bargaining position.

  • KIMBERLY MARTEN:

    And we've already seen that the cease-fire has been broken. And it seems from the news reports that it's probably being broken on both sides, and that's not surprising because both sides really have an incentive to try to get more from the military situation before they sign a final peace agreement.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Have the sanctions created any sort of disincentive, a strong enough disincentive for Putin?

  • KIMBERLY MARTEN:

    I don't think so. The sanctions will probably have some long-term negative economic impacts on the Russian economy. We've already seen that happening a little bit. But I think the general sense is that the sanctions were put into place because nobody could figure out anything else to do.

    And so it was showing that the United States and its European allies were angry and were not going to let this pass, but in fact have very limited ability to have much influence over what Russia does.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And Europe has a much stronger trading relationship with Russia than the US, right?

  • KIMBERLY MARTEN:

    Yes, they do, no question. Both on the natural gas level and then just on general exports and imports and all kinds of consumer goods.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    When we look at the longer arc, considering what we saw with the protests on the street from the initial decision on whether Ukraine wanted to ally with the European Union and NATO or not, who's gotten what out of this?

  • KIMBERLY MARTEN:

    I think that Putin is going to come out being the victor who's gotten the most. What he obviously has is Crimea, which he didn't have beforehand. It has not yet been recognized by anybody else. NATO made it very clear in the statement that it release a couple of days ago that it is not going to recognize Crimea. And so that limits Putin's gains.

    For example, a lot of people have talked about the oil deposits that are located off the shore of Crimea. But Putin needs western technology in order to develop those oil fields, and so as long as there's no recognition, that doesn't bring him any economic gain.

    He doesn't really gain anything economically from this. It's more a gain of power. It's a gain of what he can say to his home population about what he's accomplished as president. And so it's really much more an individual gain for Putin politically than for Russia as a state, because over the long term, Russia is not going to particularly benefit from this.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And what about the former Russian territories that are now part of NATO? How do they see this? Is Ukraine likely to be able to join ever?

  • KIMBERLY MARTEN:

    I'm not sure about whether Ukraine will ever be joining. As long as there's a frozen conflict on Ukrainian territory, they can't possibly join. And that's probably one of the reasons why Putin is interested in having a frozen conflict there, so that there is no border security.

    But in a sense, the other members of NATO may have actually gained from this, because Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in particular had always been very concerned about the possibility of Russian aggression at some point in the future.

    And Putin's actions toward Ukraine have actually made the NATO alliance more focused on those areas and more desirous of showing that they are, in fact, NATO member states that will be protected, in this case, by a new rapid-reaction force that will be a sub-group of NATO members states that will rotate around the territory and be prepared to intervene at any time it's necessary.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Alright, Kimberly Marten from Columbia and Barnard, thanks so much.

  • KIMBERLY MARTEN:

    Thank you so much for having me on.

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