Marvin Kalb, former CBS Moscow bureau chief, traces how the Crimea of Catherine the Great became a global tinder box. The world was stunned when Vladimir Putin invaded and seized the seaport region of Crimea in March 2014. In the weeks that followed, separatist rebels aided by Russia took over territory in the area surrounding Crimea in eastern Ukraine. The United States and its Western allies immediately imposed strict sanctions on Russia and have continued to tighten those sanctions.
This sharp deterioration in East-West relations has raised basic questions about the policies of Vladimir Putin and the future of Russia. Marvin Kalb, who reported from Russia in the 1950s for Edward R. Murrow and served as the CBS Moscow bureau chief in the early 1960s, argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Putin did not "suddenly" decide to invade Crimea and then instigate a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine. He had been waiting for the right moment in the months after Ukrainians rose up in bloody protests against the pro-Russian president in Kiev's Maidan Square. Those demonstrations had led Putin to the conclusion that Ukraine's opposition constituted an existential threat to Russia.
Imperial Gamble examines how Putin reached that conclusion by taking a critical look at the recent political history of post-Soviet Russia. It also journeys deeper into the Russian past to more fully explain the roots of Russian nationalism that drives both Putin and the Russian people who support his actions in Ukraine.
Kalb argues that the post-cold war world today hangs on the resolution of the Ukraine crisis. So long as it is treated as a problem to be resolved by Russia, on the one side, and the United States and Europe, on the other, it will remain a danger zone with global consequences. The only sensible solution lies in both Russia and Ukraine recognizing that their futures are irrevocably linked by the geography, power, politics, and history that Kalb brings to life in Imperial Gamble.
Marvin Kalb is a nonresident senior fellow with the Foreign Policy program at Brookings, a senior adviser at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and a Murrow Professor Emeritus at Harvard, USA. In his long and distinguished career, he served as the chief diplomatic correspondent for CBS and NBC, the Moscow bureau chief and the host of Meet the Press. He focuses on the impact of media on public policy and politics, and is also an expert in national security, with a focus on U.S. relations with Russia, Europe and the Middle East. His most recent book is The Road to War: Presidential Commitments Honored and Betrayed (Brookings Institution Press, 2013).