Archive for November, 2014

Vladimir Putin and the Crisis in Ukraine: Policy and Personality

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Prof. Allen Lynch

According to Prof. Allen Lynch, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is the byproduct of two vectors of policy that predate Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in the Kremlin: (A) The desire of Moscow’s ruling elites that Russia be the dominant power throughout the territories of the former Soviet Union; and (B) NATO expansion. But Putin’s policy toward Ukraine not only reflects these political tendencies but also lessons that he learned during his family and professional socialization. These are: (C) Vacuums of power will always be filled; fill them yourself before others do, and (D) But in the process, be wary of over-extension, a lesson that Putin derives from his mastery of Judo, in which sport he attained advanced black belt status.

Prof. Lynch spoke at the Wednesday, November 12, 2014 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The program was moderated by SSV President Robert McGrath. Listen to the podcast to hear the details.


Allen Lynch, is the current professor of international relations and Russian studies at the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia, and was director of research at UVa’s Center for International Studies (2010-2012) and was director of the University’s Center for Russian and East European Studies (1993-2008), raising $1.5 million for graduate fellowships in Russian and East European Studies.

Prof. Lynch has a PhD in Political Science from Columbia University (1984) and a BA in History from the State University of New York Stony Brook (1977) where he was also the All-American kicker/punter in 1975 in the 80-team National Club Sports Association.

He has held positions at the Harriman Institute for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union, Institute for East-West Security Studies (New York City), Feris Foundation of America, and is currently co-treasurer for the Friends of the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. He is a Visiting Professor at the Free University of Berlin, East China Normal University (Shanghai), the Graduate School for Social Science (Paris), and the Radio Free Europe Research Institute (Munich). He is also a Visiting Scholar at the Russian Research Center, Harvard University, University of Lyon, France, and the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland (2014).

Mr Lynch’s publications include Vladimir Putin and Russian Statecraft, translated into Chinese; How Russia is Not Ruled; Does Russia Have a Democratic Future?; Europe from the Balkans to the Urals co-authored with Reneo Lukic; The Cold War Is Over Again; The Soviet Study of International Relations. He has also published in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and various journals in North America, Europe, Russia and China.

He has received the Marshall D. Shulman Award for Best Book by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies and Teaching Awards from the University of Virginia and the American Political Science Association.

Prof. Lynch has consulted for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the FBI Academy, the U.S. Air Force’s Special Service School, the U.S. On-Site Inspection Agency, the U.S. Army’s National Grounds Intelligence Center, and the Kettering Foundation.

He speaks Russian, French and Italian and reads in German, Serbo-Croatian, and Spanish. He is married to the former Tullia Maffei. They have one son, Thomas, who is now working in Washington, D.C.

Program Summary

Professor Lynch’s presentation summarized the key events that have led to the present moment in this crisis in the Ukraine; a crisis which is also a crisis of Russian-American and Russian-European relations. He also posed the questions, Why is the Ukraine so important to Russia; and secondly, How did we get

He advanced a thesis which is basically this: the current crisis that we have been experiencing since last November (2013) is the byproduct of two forces that have been building ever since the middle of the 1990’s–long before Putin came to power in Moscow and Bill Clinton was still the U. S. president. The first has to do with NATO expansion: the progressive extension of NATO eastward to include almost every former Soviet satellite ally in east central Europe and the three Baltic states. The second also predates Putin: the clear determination of Russia’s leaders that Russia should be the dominant international power on the territories of the former Soviet Union. In the Ukraine, these two vectors have come into a conflict that cannot very easily be resolved. Professor Lynch traced events going all the way back to 988 AD and then jumping forward to 2008 and finally into the present.