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Kennedy School prof. reflects on Ukraine crisis

Published: October 31, 2014
Section: News

On Tuesday, Oct. 30, Dr. Karl Kaiser of the Kennedy School of Government spoke at the “The Ukraine Crisis: Implications for German Foreign Policy, the European Union and Transatlantic Relations.” The event was sponsored by the Center for German and European Studies, the Brandeis International Journal and the International and Global Studies Program in the Faculty Club Lounge.

Kaiser is an adjunct professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and director of the Transatlantic Relations program at Harvard University. He has taught at the University of Bonn, Johns Hopkins University, Saarbruecken University, the University of Cologne, Hebrew University and Harvard University.

The event began with an introduction by Professor Sabine von Mering, the director of the Center for European and German Studies at Brandeis, who discussed a modern, post-war Germany.

“It is interesting how much the idea of a strong Germany has changed,” said von Mering. “Now, Europe is almost clamoring for a strong Germany.”

Next, Lucy Goodheart (IGS), introduced Kaiser, describing his “deep commitment to the study of the transatlantic trade,” and his biography that “reads like an intimidating who’s who of foreign policy.”

After the glowing introductions by the Brandeis faculty, Kaiser began his talk. He started by explaining how the “Ukraine crisis hit us not completely unexpectedly, but with many unexpected dimensions,” and he then analyzed where the world stands in terms of the transatlantic relationship, NATO, EU and Germany, because of this crisis.

“The post-Cold War system has come to an end. We are new entering a new era” and should not assume the Ukraine crisis is over, argued Kaiser. Military action can still escalate.

He detailed the severity of the Ukraine crisis. His first point was that, for the first time, a whole part of a country was annexed by trained Russian troops. The second point Kaiser made was that this intervention was in another country, by military force and unmarked vehicles, and military artillery came to support so-called local rebels. In a post-Cold War world, this was considered unthinkable. Kaiser’s third point was that Russia claimed a right of intervention to protect the rights of Russians living outside of the border, which is an ethnically based idea of expansionism. Kaiser pointed out that over half of all states in world are multi-ethnic, which could lead to a disaster if this was an acceptable reason for intervention.

“Imagine Africa, with its enormous number of ethnicities having governments that have that right. Imagine what would happen to Africa,” he said. “Latvia and Estonia have large Russian population, and the question remains: What might happen to them?”

Kaiser then discussed a solution to the crisis. Memories of previous wars for many people renders a new war out of the question. The alternative to war, Kaiser argued, is sanctions. Sanctions, however, also hurt the parties that impose the sanctions. He spoke about how we no longer have the Russia of the past, of the Cold War period. He described Russia as an “authoritarian regime run by old KGB and Soviet elites supported by the oligarchs.”

Although Putin has violated many international laws, European policy in the long run is unthinkable without a good relationship with Russia, Kaiser said. He concluded by saying that though there are still enormous problems and the world does not know what will happen in Ukraine, the world must come back to a situation where Russia can cooperate with the Western powers.

The event concluded with Kaiser taking questions from the audience. The next event hosted by the Brandeis International Journal and the International and Global Studies Program will be Nov. 13, when a panel of experts will speak on the rise of insurgency across the world. Topics to be covered include the Russian Separatists in Ukraine, Boko Haram and ISIS.