Russia's aggressive moves in Ukraine won't pay off in the long run and may lead to the eventual removal of Russian President Vladimir Putin from power, according to a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Roman Popadiuk said Putin has created a large amount of ill will around the world by annexing Crimea, and he will lose his bid to take control of additional parts of Ukraine.
During the next 12 to 18 months, Popadiuk predicted that the Russian economy will be hurt by sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies; democratic forces in Russia will be strengthened; independence movements in Muslim areas under Moscow's control will be emboldened; Putin's popularity in Russia will fall; and the oligarchs who support Putin will become disillusioned with him.
"He could be removed from power or have his power curtailed in the not-too-distant future," Popadiuk argued.
Moscow has arranged for "provocateurs" to stir up trouble in Ukraine, Popadiuk said, but he noted that the Ukrainian government has finally begun a counter-offensive against them.
Popadiuk expressed strong doubts that Putin's regime will invade Ukraine. "They know they can't invade," he told me. "They don't have the popular support in the region," and would face a devastating guerrilla war if they go in militarily.
Popadiuk was the first U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, named by President George H.W. Bush. He served from 1992 to 1993. He is now a principal at Bingham Consulting.