'The world has changed': U. political science professor analyzes Putin's next moves in Ukraine

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SALT LAKE CITY — As Russian troops intensify their assault on Ukraine and its people, it's difficult to determine what will happen next. Occupation presents long-term challenges for Russia, and a political science professor from the University of Utah said the Ukrainians have fought for their independence before.

"Ukraine has a tradition of fighting for its independence," said political science professor Marjorie Castle, who has studied that part of the world for several decades.

She said the international political order has been relatively stable in Eastern Europe over the last 50 plus years. Now, it's been fractured in a matter of days. The Russian invasion of Ukraine dramatically, and quickly, changed the regional balance of power. Castle believes uncertainty is as high as it's been in a long time.

"We don't know what Putin's plans for Ukraine are," she said.

It remains unclear how much of the country Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to control.

"It seems unfortunately certain that he may be planning to set up a puppet regime," Castle said.

The political science professor characterized that as a depressing and dark possibility, "given Ukraine's size, given its significance, given Ukraine's hard-won democracy," she said.

Despite Russia's military might, Castle points out that occupying a neighboring country is complicated and expensive. If there are Ukrainians willing to help Putin establish a regime, it may be less costly politically and financially.

"If that turns out to be difficult, then I think that he is going to have a very hard, long, expensive slog with it," she said.

Castle cited a recent survey of Ukrainians that shows nearly 60% are willing to personally, actively resist a Russian invasion.

We cannot assume that Putin aims to rebuild the Soviet Union. But, the invasion of Ukraine raises that question.

"I agree that he doesn't want to reassemble the Soviet Union," Castle said. "But, his vision of Russian security, Russian prosperity, Russia taking the place that it should take in the world requires dominating its neighbors."

Which leaves the U.S. and its allies very nervous.

"The world has changed, and we're facing a gigantic amount of uncertainty, both about what will happen in Ukraine, and about the international order."

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