DENVER – 9NEWS interviewed University of Denver professor Jonathan Adelman about the latest developments in the Ukraine crisis, including Russia's annexation today of Crimea. Adelman is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at DU.
Adelman believes the hands-off policy of the Obama Administration with respect to foreign relations contributed to Russia's decision to annex Crimea. "Because here, in spite of what the administration has done, the Russians have gone ahead and effectively annexed Crimea today and are making it part of Russia."
Other countries in the Middle East and even Japan may view Russia as a more important international player than they used to.
"They're arguing that the Americans are just not here for us. And that's what Crimea is really about. The rhetoric is there (from the United States). The talk of international law is there. But it's not backed up either by the potential use of force or the feeling that the Americans are really serious about this."
A Russian TV anchor even said on the air that Russia could turn the U.S. into "radioactive dust"
But Adelman doesn't take such talk seriously. "On a nuclear level, zero. There's no possibility. Even on a conventional level, the Russians have lost their edge." So what was the point of that comment? "That's just something Putin is using to push the United States because he doesn't believe Barack Obama is going to intervene anyway. If he thought he would, you'd see a different Vladimir Putin."
On a broader level, Adelman believes Putin sought to annex Crimea in order to regain Russian importance on the world stage, in spite of U.S. claims that the annexation is against international law. "What we're talking about here now is not international law as the President of the United States talks about it. Vladimir Putin could care less about international law. What Vladimir Putin cares about is trying to resurrect some part of the old Russian empire. Not the old Soviet Union, probably not even Ukraine, but picking up pockets of Russians that he can add."
Where will it all end? According to Adelman, it isn't likely to get worse. "That's the one thing about Russia under Putin. He knows when to stop and that's been a great danger with authoritarian leaders before, they didn't know when to stop."
One concern includes the economic conditions in the rest of Ukraine, where the GDP per capita is about $3,800 compared to $51,000 in the U.S. According to Adelman doctors there earn about $295 a month. Those economic problems could continue to cause trouble for the former Soviet republic, although Russia doesn't appear eager to annex any more of Ukraine beyond Crimea.