Press-Republican

May 4, 2014

SUNY Plattsburgh faculty discusses Ukraine crisis

By AMY HEGGEN
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Four SUNY Plattsburgh faculty panelists at a Model United Nations forum weren’t surprised at Russia’s successful annexation of Crimea. 

Forrest Studebaker, adjunct lecturer in political science; Connie Shemo, associate professor of history; Daniel Lake, associate professor of political science; and Dhimitri Qirjo, assistant professor of economics and finance; all gave their opinions on the Ukraine crisis at a recent forum. 

Lake said the annexation was an easy move for Russia as it was unlikely to face opposition. 

“They could also make a claim to ownership,” he added. 

Though taking Crimea wasn’t a challenge, Lake said Russia would probably avoid expansion into other parts of Ukraine lest they face a large, unhappy Ukrainian population. 

“I don’t see an expansion being very likely because I don’t think Russia wants to take over that sort of opposition,” he said. 

‘UNDER THEIR THUMB’

While the panelists thought that Russia isn’t considering similar moves in other countries, Lake said he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin would continue to meddle in the Ukraine, “to basically keep Ukraine corrupt and disorganized to keep them under their thumb.”

If Russia destabilizes the Ukraine, Lake explained, others won’t be able to have as much influence over the country.

“I expect to see continued disorder in the Ukraine unless they manage to find a leader who’s not corrupt,” he said. 

Studebaker pointed out that Putin is benefiting domestically from making the move. 

From an economic standpoint, Qirjo said that a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help Ukraine build its economy would be a waste. 

“Even if the IMF bails Ukraine ... Ukraine is 144th out of 177 in terms of corruption,” Qirjo said. “This is like throwing money in the ocean.” 

Adam Saccardi, SUNY Plattsburgh Model UN Vice President and forum moderator, asked the panelists about Russia’s decision in relation to the United States.

“I don’t think that people (in the United States) care that much,” Shemo said. “I think if Syria hasn’t moved anybody, such intense human suffering, I don’t think Ukraine will.” 

Saccardi also asked why the United States decided not to take military action. 

“Our military is double the size of Russia,” Lake said. “It’s not a power issue; it’s recognition that the U.S. doesn’t have any compelling interest to intervene.” 

‘NO ACTION A BAD OPTION’

Qirjo said that 70 percent of Russia’s exports are oil and gas and that their productivity is only 19 percent of the United States’, making the country very inefficient.

“The modern Russian economy is the same size as Italy’s,” Studebaker said. 

Though all the panelists agreed that international law was broken by Russia, Shemo said that laws have to be enforced to hold power. 

“Sanctions are the first thing the West should do,” Qirjo said. “In the short run, I think that’s the best action the West could take.” 

He added that sanctions could affect the global economy. 

Lake said taking no action against Russia is a bad option. 

“Not doing anything helps undermine the legitimacy that Russia shouldn’t do this,” he said. 

Though a majority of Crimeans voted to succeed from Ukraine, Shemo said to take the poll results with a grain of salt. 

She explained that Crimea is a summer resort region that will be affected by the annexation. 

“A lot of their resort business has plummeted because of the conflict,” she said.