The ’17s met last Thursday (3/31/16) to discuss summer travel leadership assignments and the current state of affairs between Putin and Ukraine. As far as the Baltic Trip discussion goes, each of the ’17s was given a country (either Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Stockholm, or general leadership activities) and the month of April to become a subject matter expert of his or her respective country and develop an itinerary for the time spent in that country, as well as travel between one country and the next destination.
Following the general run-down of the Baltic trip, we had a productive discussion about the potential for further Kremlin action in Ukraine, and whether Russia in Afghanistan and Syria recently could be considered an indicator for future military conquests re: the cover article of the most recent issue of the Economist: “Hollow Superpower: Putin, Syria and the Propaganda Machine.” Ukraine is currently very reliant on Russia for economic reasons, and due to massive amount corruption and extremely inefficient bureaucracy in the Ukrainian government Ukraine finds itself unable to achieve its goal of military expansion in order to provide sufficiently formidable resistance against Russian forces. The ’17s reached the consensus that, although the Russian economy is currently experiencing a bout of depression, to Putin, military action is an end in itself rather than a means. Therefore, now that his involvement in propping up Assad in Syria has been terminated, and was for the most part successful– at least temporarily– Putin needs another military outlet in order to increase his approval ratings among the Russian people, Ukraine being the obvious candidate. Is aggression on the part of Putin dangerously imminent? The ’17s say, due to the current state of Russian affairs, not necessarily. However, it might not be a bad idea for NATO to focus its attention more heavily on that area should conflict arise.