By Adam Zubek
Marvin Kalb, a renowned political analyst, came to SPC Seminole campus on Tuesday to discuss the rapidly deteriorating situation in Eastern Europe, with Russian forces annexing the southern Ukrainian region known as Crimea.
Kalb, a veteran journalist sporting over 30 years of award winning reporting for CBS, spoke at the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions following the release of his new book “Imperial Gamble: Putin, Ukraine and the New Cold War”.
His accomplishments have without a doubt granted him all the experience on the topic necessary to write a book, with reporting for CBS and NBC news, where he worked as Chief Diplomatic Correspondent, Moscow Bureau Chief, and also as anchor of Meet the Press.
The event began with a buffet dinner and a simple audience participation survey question, done through text message. The question: “Should the U.S go to the aid of Ukraine militarily if Russia is to formally annex it as it did to Crimea?” The survey had 3 answers: yes, no and undecided.
After an introduction by David Klemont, the executive director of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, Kahlb took the stage and began his presentation. Kalb spoke about what has become almost a cult of personality in Russia, headed by their charismatic leader, Vladimir Putin. The Russian people have become so entranced and accustomed to his leadership, that they believe that “Putin is Russia, and Russia is Putin” said Kalb.
Kalb went on to describe how Putin came to power; after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, a man named Boris Yeltsin was the Russian President. When it was time for Yeltsin to leave office, the question became “Who is a strong enough leader to take his place?”
The answer came in the form of a young KGB officer named Putin. Putin was chosen to succeed Yeltsin because of his decisiveness, and his ability to get things done. “Putin’s capacity to cut through red tape and make things happen is what Yeltsin saw in him” Kalb put.
Putin has serveral other traits that made him the best fit for the job. His willingness to realease the old ways and an immense sense of Russian nationalism allow him to lead his nation with ferocity “Putin believes that the whole word revolves around Russia, and he understood that Communism did not work” Kalb said.
The story of Ukraine and Russia’s relationship with each other is a messy one. With Ukraine only being declared a country after World War II, it still remained a Soviet satellite state until 1991, when it gained its independence. Before then, Ukraine was simply within Russian borders, so it goes without saying that the country has a sizable Russian population.
This heritage linking the country to Russia is what caused the turmoil of recent years, as Kalb describes it, Russia claims that Ukraine has always been a part of Russia, and should remain so, bringing us to to today, as Russian troops occupy south Ukraine and a civil war grips the rest of the nation. Kalb made Putin’s reluctance to allow Ukraine to thrive on its own very clear “Russia will simply never allow Ukraine to gain total independence.”
Russia however, has its own set of problems. A weak economy based mostly off natural gas and oil, that is still struggling to rise above decades of Communist scarring, as well as unspeakable amounts of political turmoil has left a nation on shaky ground. “Every 80 or 90 years or so, the place blows! Don’t be surprised when you turn on the radio one morning and hear there are tens of thousands of Russians in the streets denouncing Putin. Remember, you heard it here first!” said Kalb
After his presentation, Kalb sat down with David Klemot for a less formal discussion session. This was then followed by a Q&A with the audience which allowed a deeper understanding of the situation, as well as some valuable insight into Kalb’s thought process. The results of the survey question that the evening started with were then announced, with 14 people in the audience being in favor of American intervention, 9 being against it and 13 undecided, the room was clearly split. The evening concluded with a book signing for anyone who has purchased Kalb’s new work.
Kalb’s warning about a new Russian uprising hit a little extra hard, as 2017 will mark the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Could we see the beginning of a new Cold War? Will the Situation in Ukraine devolve into a full blown conflict? Will Putin become more moderate and work to bring stability to the region? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain, something’s got to give.