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UT Professor Jeremi Suri: 'The Best Way to Think of Putin is Mussolini'

A 2006 photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin. "My prediction is that we'll see more Russian aggression, not less, in Eastern Ukraine," professor Jeremi Suri tells Texas Standard.

U.S. troops began joint military exercises in Poland this week, in response to Russia's continued incursion into Ukraine.  The Pentagon says troops will also be deployed to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev on Monday as a show of support for the pro-Western Ukrainian government. As he met with the nation's leaders he called on Russia to "stop talking and start acting" to defuse the crisis.

So far, that doesn't seem to be happening. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned Kiev that any attack on Russians in Ukraine would be considered an attack on Russia.

So what is next for Ukraine? Are diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation failing? What about sanctions?

UT Professor Jeremi Suri talks with The Texas Standard.

Texas Standard host David Brown spoke with JeremiSuri, professor at UT-Austin's Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the Department of History on what could be next.  

"My prediction is that we'll see more Russian aggression, not less, in Eastern Ukraine," Suri says. "There will be a call from our allies, Poland, the Baltic States, the Czech Republic – countries that have reason to fear – will be calling for more … American military action in the region. We should expect to see that."

Suri also placed Putin in a historical context. 

"The best way to think of Vladimir Putin is Benito Mussolini," Suri says. "This is the leader of a state who has made himself into a dictator, popular at home, by thumping his chest and flexing his muscles. This is a society with an economy that's going in the wrong direction, and the way he builds support at home is by expanding around him."

"He does not have an aim for world domination as Hitler did, and he does not want to challenge the United States in all corners of the globe as the Soviet Union did," Suri continues. "He wants to be the dominant force in Eastern and Central Europe. We can't let that [happen] because we have too many of our own economic interests, and too many allies of our own in the region."  

Listen to the interview in the Soundcloud player above. 

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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