On Wednesday, March 10, 2022, Meredith’s Department of History, Political Science, and International Studies hosted an information session on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The information session, held via Zoom, began with Professor of History Greg Vitarbo giving a brief overview of the region’s history and how it influenced the current war.
Moments in history reviewed included Ukraine’s forced reincorporation into the Soviet Union in 1921, Stalin’s man-made Ukrainian famine in 1932-33, and Stalin’s bloody purges of 1937-38.
Despite Ukraine becoming an independent country after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia still considers it a part of their territory.
“Many Russians, most notably Putin, never reconciled themselves intellectually and emotionally to the fall of the Soviet Union. They saw it as the dissolution of a great power in part sabotaged by the West and a profound humiliation on the international stage,” said Vitarbo. “Putin has really played into that sense of humiliation.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Jeff Martinson followed up by discussing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and how its expansion has been a catalyst for Russia’s invasion. Though Ukraine is not a member of NATO, many Western democracies have responded to the current conflict.
“One of the things that has really shocked Putin is the display of unity between the United States and the European Union,” said Vitarbo.
After the presentations, the discussion opened for students and others in attendance to ask questions.
The questions asked included the possibility of World War III, the impact of sanctions against Russia, Putin’s strategy and thought process, the censorship of media in Russia, and NATO’s assistance to Ukraine.
As for the outcome of the war, the professors hypothesized what Putin’s next moves may be.
“Putin is a prideful man. He is not going to back down; that might be the end of his dictatorship. However, what might happen as Dr. Martinson alluded to, the more this thing drags on, it is not a good look for Russia killing civilians,” said Vitarbo. “He might change his definition as to what acceptable victory is.”