By Nick Erickson
Even the brightest minds at the heart of the conflict or strongly connected to it struggle to understand what is happening and what will come next. Will Russia, with troops stationed on Ukraine’s eastern border, invade? Or is it a highly organized bullying game?
Basically, there’s enough evidence to suggest either way is possible, but not enough evidence to tip one way or the other.
“What we have seen in recent weeks, even in recent months, actually falls under these two scenarios,” said Volodymyr Dubovyk, associate professor of international relations and director of the Center for International Studies at the Mechnikov National University of Ukraine. Odessa. “But it’s definitely a crisis. And the timing was also confusing.
Dubovyk was one of five Ukrainian scholars who joined the Elliott School of International Affairs hearing on Friday to share their views on the current tensions between Ukraine and Russia. Over 180 people listened at its peak. Elliott School professor Henry Hale, co-director of the New Approaches to Research and Security in Eurasia (PONARS Eurasia) program and moderator of Friday’s event, said it was important and necessary to adding to the diversity of voices given to this ongoing situation in Eastern Europe.
“We heard Ukrainians on the street, Ukrainian government officials, many American voices and many Russian voices,” Hale said. “But what we wanted to do here was introduce you to a variety of leading voices from Ukrainian experts not only on politics in Ukraine, but also on Russian-Ukrainian relations and broader concepts that they are looking for in their career.”
The academics each gave an outline of their assessment of the crisis. They discussed the origins of the conflict, possible outcomes, structural reasons for the tensions and the reaction of Ukrainian society to a potential war.
Baylor University Associate Professor of Political Science Sergiy Kudelia said the conflict in Donbass is key to understanding the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
He said a conflict between the two countries in the Donbass region has been going on since 2014 and has created favorable conditions for a military escalation. A Russian invasion of Ukraine would be triggered by an escalation of violence in the Donbass, he said, adding that Russian diplomats in recent weeks have expressed concerns that Ukraine’s pressure for the NATO membership could lead to military cooperation with the West.
Kudelia said the economic and political costs may be a reason to downplay the likelihood of Russian invasion, but it would be dangerous to ignore the threat.
“There must be an open acknowledgment of the fundamental factors behind the tensions and a serious effort to address them,” Kudelia said.
Tetyana Malyarenko, Professor of International Security and Jean Monnet Professor of European Security at the Odessa National University Law Academy and non-resident scholar at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies in Uppsala, Sweden, discussed of these economic costs and noted that the Ukrainian economy had suffered during its eight year conflict with Russia. She said that despite an increase in military spending, it would still be a fraction of Russia’s defense budget.
“It is very useful to analyze the direction of the Ukrainian society, economy and leadership in the face of the crisis and to predict how they will react in the event of a real war,” she said.
Olexiy Haran, research director at the Democratic Initiatives Foundation and professor of political science at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, believes that it would not be in the interests of the Ukrainian government to launch a military offensive and that most Ukrainians prefer peace because it has emerged into a democracy. Oxana Shevel, a professor of political science at Tufts University, noted that even with this mindset among many Ukrainian citizens, there are concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin is operating in his own unchecked bubble when it comes to politics. Ukraine, especially with the COVID-19 restrictions limiting the amount of people around him.
She thinks, however, that it would be difficult for Putin to forcefully control Ukraine’s foreign policy, especially with other countries like the United States threatening sanctions and cutting Russia off from the international community if such measures are taken. were taken.
Dubovyk hopes that Western intervention can provide some kind of unity and that, in general, Ukrainians are happy to have the support of the United States, which has just committed 3,000 troops to Eastern Europe. East.
“Ukrainians are really happy to see that we are not being thrown under the bus and the West is actually ready to be strong for us,” Dubovyk said.