Deciphering Russia and the West: Kimberly Marten in Profile

PONARS Eurasia
01 Dec 2017

(Harriman Magazine) Russia is in the headlines now more than ever, thanks to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Trump, allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, and issues of cybersecurity more generally. Kimberly Marten, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, is now one of the go-to Russia experts for radio and television. Marten’s big break came on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (March 6, 2014), where she explored the reasons for Vladimir Putin deciding to risk so much on Crimea. More recent media appearances are clustered around Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow: NPR’s All Things Considered (April 11, 2017) and Charlie Rose (April 14). It’s easy to see why Marten keeps getting invited back. She’s good at taking large, complex issues, and breaking them down into bullet points. For example, from the Charlie Rose appearance on April 14, 2017: What does Putin want? Answer: (1) to remain in power; (2) to go down in history as the man who made Russia great again; (3) to be treated as an equal. Or: Putin is a tactician; someone who’s reactive and opportunistic. As she put it in her article, “Putin’s Choices: Explaining Russian Foreign Policy and Intervention in Ukraine” (Washington Quarterly, Summer 2015), Putin is a judo master, not a chess master. “Judo is about immediate tactics, not long-term strategy. A judoka walks into a room, sizes up the opponent, probes for their weaknesses, and tips the other off-balance in a flash—causing the opponent to fall from their own weight.” Breaking down the narrative into manageable and memorable bytes, and having recourse to thumbnail psychological sketches, allows Marten to get her point across in the tight time frames of the fast-paced media. [...]

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