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Former Reagan Staffer Doesn't Expect Further Russian Advancements

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The eyes of the world are watching to see how things unfold in Ukraine, including right here, in Reno.

Ty Cobb is a Reno resident that served under President Ronald Reagan, as Director of Soviet, European, and Canadian Affairs during the Cold War in the 1980s.

While the west is denouncing Russia's action in Crimea, he says President Vladimir Putin's approval is actually going up in his own country.

Ukraine has been in a transition since last month's revolution that left the country vulnerable and without clear leadership. "They are just struggling to bring together a government that can act decisively," Cobb said.

Cobb says Moscow is making its moves based on weakness, rather than strength. But having a presence in Ukraine could boost morale in Russia. "Russia without Ukraine is Russia," Cobb said. "With Ukraine, it is the semblance of the old empire."

Some see Russia's presence in Crimea is an invasion. Others say it's preventing more violence in Ukraine.

Most of the population in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is ethnic Russian.

"That doesn't make them pro-Russia, they don't want to secede from Ukraine, necessarily," Cobb said. "But it does give a pretext for the Russians to move in there. But the driving force is really their access to the Black Sea."

Russia has naval bases on the Black Sea that give them access to parts of eastern Europe and the Middle East.

"My best guess is that this will be contained," Cobb said. "The Russians ultimately will withdraw from Crimea when they have guarantees that they have access to the naval bases there."

Cobb says there is no easy way for the United States to handle this conflict, saying military intervention is out of the question. He says Russia could face sanctions or even be kicked out of the "Group of Eight."

But sanctions could also hurt American companies with investments in Russia, and cut oil supply. "If you restrict the exports of Russian oil and gas to the world market, that's going to drive up the scarcity of oil and gas and the price that everybody will pay," Cobb said.

Cobb says he doesn't expect Putin to move troops into eastern Ukraine.

He says any further steps would be a disaster for Russia, and would force western countries to intervene, one way or another.

Written by Paul Nelson
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