Opinion
              Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych during their meeting in Moscow on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Alexander Nemenov, pool)
              Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych during their meeting in Moscow on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Alexander Nemenov, pool)   

Why the U.S. should support Ukraine’s pro-EU protestors

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David Adesnik
Visiting Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
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      David Adesnik

      David Adesnik is a visiting fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works on isolationism, national security strategy, and democracy promotion. He is part of AEI’s American Internationalism Project.

      Before joining AEI, Adesnik was a research analyst at the Institute for Defense Analyses. He has served as deputy director of Joint Data Support at the US Department of Defense, where he focused on the modeling and simulation of irregular warfare and counterinsurgency. Earlier, he spent several months in Baghdad as an operations research and systems analyst for the Coalition Provisional Authority’s counter–improvised explosive device (IED) unit, Task Force Troy during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2008, he was part of John McCain’s presidential campaign national security staff. From 2002 to 2009, Adesnik was the coeditor of OxBlog, a blog started with a fellow Oxford University classmate.

      A Rhodes scholar, Adesnik has a doctorate and master’s degree in international relations from Oxford University, where he wrote about the democracy promotion efforts of the Reagan administration. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University.

While the current debate focuses on Ukraine, it is essential to remember that the United States’ broader goal should be to undermine Putin’s legitimacy. Last year, he faced widespread protests after the rigging of parliamentary elections. While Russia is more prosperous than Ukraine and its democratic opposition less influential, the U.S. should be thinking long-term. We simply don’t know when the opportunity will come to detach a satellite like Belarus or even to support a democratic triumph in Russia itself.

For now, the outcome in Ukraine is uncertain. Just hours ago, Putin finalized an agreement with Yanukovych to purchase $15 billion of Ukrainian debt and sharply reduce the price of Russian gas exports. Clearly, Putin is on the defensive and is offering carrots because he is afraid of the backlash against potential sticks. Perhaps the appearance of generosity will sap the protesters’ will. Or perhaps their anger will flare at yet another brazen demonstration of Putin’s disregard for the popular will. Without reforms, the Russian bailout amounts to little more than a stopgap measure. The struggle will continue. The U.S. and Europe should continue to stand behind the Ukrainian majority, because our interests and theirs are now the same.