Richard Weitz, a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at Hudson Institute and an Expert at Wikistrat held a lecture in American House in Kyiv on Wednesday. He shared his opinion on some of the recent pressing issues of the world politics.
Answering about the North Korea threat and the possibility of war, he said:
"I still think that the risks of war are low. I don't expect North Korea to attack the United States out of the blue. I think that they want weapons to defend themselves and will exlude the option that the U.S. attacks on North Korea. So that North Korea is then free to engage in other activities, doing other provocations. But his time, they won’t even worry about the U.S. bacause they can say that “if you try to intervene we will destroy L.A.” or whatever. So it's part of an offensive strategy that is not designed as much to attack U.S., but to neutralize the U.S. to get more of free hands to do what it wants regionally, which is not good, because it's pretty easy to do some miscalculations and so on".
About current discussion of Ukrainian crisis in the news agencies of America, he noted that the information on the issue has recently declined:
“Most news does not address international issues at all. There are exceptions on big news that focus on urgent issues such as Korea. There was a large focus of course on Ukraine in 2014 and that has declined over time. I have not seen much discussion at all in the last year on Crimea. There is some discussion of eastern Ukraine whenever there’s ceasefire announcement and whenever they’re broken, sometimes they’ll have specials. But in general Ukraine has declined in importance it’s been replaced by discussion of other issues, Korea, Syria.
And there’s a solid opinion that there are Russia-backed separatists, according to him. And if Russia were not interfering, Ukrainian government can easily be occupying these territories and reintegrate them into the rest of Ukraine,” he said.
Answering if American influence has weakened recently, allowing Russia and China to become more aggressive, he commented:
“It’s a good question and U.S. intelligence is having an open debate about this. On one hand it’s somewhat natural as both Russia and China they experience research and developments in recent years so whereas under Yeltsin the Russian government may oppose NATO but didn’t have other means to block it other than appeal and Chinese didn’t have the Navy or anything that could insert their control. But they now have these capabilities and more of the will to use them. So it’s somewhat natural in at least military terms that Russia and China rising. How long Russia will continue to rise unclear,” he said.
Richard Weitz believes China to be a more of a challenge in a long time perspective than Russia:
“I think the U.S. and its partners in Europe are much better defended so I think it’ll be difficult for Russia to repeat Crimea-type operation in the Baltics or anything like that. China is more of a challenge. Because at least in Europe Russia confront pretty strong nato alliance and a pretty solid consensus against further Russian expansion, Russian influence. Whereas in asia, Asian powers are divided, India don’t want to open ally with the U.S., they Philippines going back and forth south Koreans want to focus on NK don’t want to get in confrontation with china. It’s harder of the us or anyone else to rally the forces against china. I’m more worried ling term about china and U.S. confrontation.
Lethal weapons to Ukraine
According to him, there are split arguments on this issue. Arguments “for” is that it would decrease the aggression and allow the other allies to follow the US example. And another one is that Ukrainians are dying there and it will be the right thing to help. But augment “against” is that at the same time it could cause conflict escalation.
Despite the willingness of U.S. Defense Minister James Mattis to provide the weapons to Ukraine, the expert said:
“It’s not quite his decision; it has to be president Trump’s. Normally he listens to Mattis, but you know he has a thing for Putin.”
As it was reported earlier according to U.S. Defense Minister James Mattis, it becomes quite clear that the US will fight with Russia diplomatically, but providing lethal weapons is more a military and political step than a diplomatic one.