“In this current state of uncertainty, it’s difficult to predict anything right now, but, at the macro level, it does feel like the end of one era and the beginning of another,” said Henry, whose areas of specialization include Russian politics, Eastern Europe, and the European Union. “The period coming to an end is the so-called post-Cold War era,’” she observed, “which has involved the gradual extension of the EU and of NATO and seen one of the longest periods of peace and prosperity, albeit a period not without its troubles.” The question now, said Henry, is what will the next era look like?
“Sanctions against Russia will also severely impact European import, some more than others,” she said. “Similarly, refugee flows coming out of Ukraine will also hit some countries more than others.” The question to consider, said Henry, is the extent to which such developments are likely to affect the solidarity of the European allies facing Russia.
Henry also raised the worrying prospect of the conflict spreading into the eastern parts of the Baltic states—Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia—which are NATO members. On the subject of NATO, Henry also pointed out that Putin’s actions could potentially reinvigorate the alliance, with non-member countries like Finland and Sweden now considering joining. “If Putin’s plan was to weaken the NATO alliance,” said Henry, “it seems to have backfired.”
On the wider front, Henry said she would be keeping a close eye on the relationship between Russia and China. Beijing and Moscow are diplomatic allies for sure, she said, but China is not without its misgivings regarding the Russian attack on Ukraine.
“One of the things that’s puzzling me is that Putin has embarked on such a risky venture for Russia. The Ukraine situation risks undermining Russian interests in every sphere—economic, domestic, and international.” These are humbling times for political scientists, said Henry, who talked about a different, more unpredictable style of political decision-making emerging from the Russian leader.