Ukraine crisis makes for complicated topic for Seminars at Steamboat

Joel Reichenberger

— There’s an inherent difficulty in giving a speech about Russia and the Ukraine these days.

There’s a real chance everything you prepare in notes in the weeks, days, maybe even hours, before the event is likely to be outdated when it actually comes time to take to the lectern.

“It’s an incredible fast-moving target right now,” said Matthew Rojansky, who will tackle the subject as well as he can at 5 p.m. Monday for a Seminars at Steamboat lecture at the Strings Music Pavilion.

His talk is titled “Troubled Waters: U.S. Relations with Russia, Ukraine and the Former Soviet Region.” Tickets will be distributed starting at 4:15 p.m., when doors open.

“I sat down to prepare notes for this talk last week, and it was right in the middle of the airline disaster unfolding,” he said. “The idea that there’s any clear picture that can be depicted, that’s just not the case. This is just as fast as events in this region have ever moved. It’s reminiscent of 1989 to 1991 in terms of the drama and what’s happening on the ground.”

Rojansky traveled to the region as a student, focused on Russian history and politics and has been fascinated ever since.

Now, he’s the director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., and from 2010 to 2013 was the deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in addition to founding Carnegie’s Ukraine program.

The end result may not be as world altering as the breakup of the Soviet Union, but then again, it may be, he said.

There’s a tremendous amount at stake, in the region and around the world, starting with Ukraine’s sovereignty and ending with the global political and economic alignment that has existed for nearly 70 years.

Some of the actions and implications are more direct. Others, such as the United States issuing economic sanctions against Russia, are not.

“It’s the beginning, I believe, of the emergence of an alternative to the post-World War II economic and political order,” he said. “This is much bigger than Europe.

“The way I think about this part of the world, there isn’t another place in Europe that has a more dramatic extreme and therefore fascinating history. You study even German, French or English history, and they’re really interesting. But they don’t have the highs and lows you find in Russian history.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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