DALLAS TWP. — From where he sat halfway around the globe, Misericordia University’s Christopher Stevens said the conditions are right for the beginning of another Cold War with the referendum Sunday in Crimea to join with Russia.
Stevens, assistant professor in the school’s Department of History and Government, has visited Crimea and watched with interest each development that led up to the vote.
“We’re going to be dealing with this issue for a while,” he said Sunday afternoon during an interview on campus.
So much of what happens next depends upon what Russian President Vladimir Putin does, Stevens explained.
Putin, who is “almost a dictator,” said Stevens, can absorb a lot of political costs at home. But if he backs down and seeks a diplomatic way out, there is the possibility Russian nationalists will outflank him.
The West has threatened sanctions, condemned the aggression and vote. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, said in a prepared statement,”A vote is in no way free or fair if it is held at gunpoint. In the coming weeks, I expect Congress will come together on an aid package for Ukraine that will show our nation’s robust support for the Ukrainian peoples’ legitimate aspirations for democracy and freedom.”
Further action could follow if Russia “continues to flagrantly flout international norms,” Casey said.
That’s the expected response from the U.S. The West has to keep up the condemnation, according to Stevens.
However, as much as the United States and the European Union protest, one of them will give in with the amount of exports at stake. And China figures prominently as a “wild card,” for Stevens.
“European political unity over this will be a serious test,” Stevens said.
“And, like I said, if China is able and willing to help Russia evade the consequences of sanctions then Russia can last even longer. I think America will be the last to blink,” he said.
Should Europe fold first, the United States could use that as a way out, he added.
Stevens saw missteps on the part of the parties involved: by the United States in not demanding the formation of a unity government; by the Ukraine by acting irresponsibly; and by Russia intervening.
He said he was surprised by Putin and attributed it to “sort of bravado” assumed by him thwarting the plans of the U.S. to attack Syria and acting as power broker in Iran.
Still there is no immediate outcome, but the longer it continues, Putin has the upper hand.
“Eventually this is probably going to be resolved in a way that Russia wants,” Stevens said.