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Russian military build-up ‘a distraction,’ expert says

EVANSTON, Ill. — Reports of Russian military build-up near the Ukrainian border could be a way for Vladimir Putin to distract from internal challenges, according to a Russian affairs expert from Northwestern University.

Olga Kamenchuk is associate research professor at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. She is an expert in Ukrainian affairs, Russian-American relations and national security. She previously led international research for the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM), the largest polling organization in the former Soviet Union region. Kamenchuk can be reached at

Quote from Professor Kamenchuck
“As the rally around the flag inspired by the annexation of Crimea in 2014 has worn off, Russians are becoming increasingly critical about developments in the country, especially as the economy continues to go down, and corruption flourishes with no outside enemies to blame. This could be a distraction away from the real problems facing Moscow.

“It might be a test and a challenge for Joe Biden, who is apparently busy with fighting the pandemic, reviving the U.S. economy while also trying to solve the crisis on the southern border. He has a lot on his plate. Putin, who was just called a murderer and whose attempts to set a PR show with Biden were ignored, knows it’s a challenging time for a new president and sets an extra test for him.

“One thing is clear – appeasing Putin as it happened in 2014 will not contribute to security in Europe or in the world.”