The New York Times quotes the Atlantic Council’s Irena Chalupa in a piece on how recent international actions against Russia have not deterred President Vladimir Putin’s designs in the region:
But much has changed between Ukraine and its giant neighbor in recent months and it is not clear how much their interests will overlap. Nor is Kiev entirely without cards to play. On Monday its military inflicted serious damage on the largely Russian separatist force, killing more than 40 fighters and raising the possibility that the military has at least some chance of succeeding.
What Russia would do if that started to happen is an open question. But for now, at least, the strategy seems to be to destabilize Ukraine as much as possible without leaving conclusive evidence that would trigger more sanctions.
“I don’t think he has blinked,” said Matthew Rojansky, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, referring to Mr. Putin’s not invading eastern Ukraine. “He has eased up because he sees a situation that he likes better.”
That leaves Mr. Borodai as a central figure in Ukraine’s immediate future. He may seem to have come out of nowhere, but in Russia he is a known quantity. He comes from a group of ultranationalists who were part of the far-right Zavtra newspaper in the 1990s. Their Pan-Slavic ideas, aiming for the unity of Slavic peoples, were considered marginal at the time. But they have now moved into the mainstream, helping formulate the worldview of today’s Kremlin, said Oleg Kashin, a Russian investigative journalist who has written extensively about Mr. Borodai.
“He’s the Karl Rove of Russian imperialism,” said Irena Chalupa, a fellow at the Atlantic Council.