Kent State panel discusses Russia-Ukraine conflict

Joyleah Odom, Reporter

Global solidarity for Ukraine is quickly taking root across the nation as President Vladmir Putin continues to attack Ukrainian civilian regions. He attacks on the premise that Ukrainian people are nationally and ethnically no different than Russians and the notion that this is a war against fascism, said associate professor Richard Steigmann-Gall Tuesday night.

Following Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, the College of Arts and Sciences held a panel where Kent State professors discussed the politics, the global and national response and the implications the war will have for human rights.

“I open my remarks today in solidarity with the brave women and men fighting for their country, fighting for democracy and fighting an unjust, unprovoked, attempt at tyrannical regime change,” said panelist Neil Cooper, the director of the School of Peace and Conflict Studies. “The events over this past week are not the outbreak of war, they are the continuation and escalation of a war that has been ongoing since at least 2014.”

The invasion of Ukraine came to a shock for most of the world. President Vladmir Putin has expressed his displeasure with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expanding eastward after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In a televised speech Feb. 24, Putin said he viewed the likelihood of Ukraine joining NATO as a “hostile act.”

Associate professor Gabriella Paar-Jakli spent time elaborating the history of the European Union, eastern enlargement and why it holds weight in conversations surrounding Russia and Ukraine.

“It is a big deal. I can not emphasize that enough. It is not only an economic powerhouse and a political powerhouse, but it also has the legacy of 70 years of peace,” Paar-Jakli said. “If you belong to the European Union that means that war is unimaginable.”

If Ukraine joins the European Union it will directly hinder any future plans for the return of the Russian Empire, which comprised Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The three latter countries joined NATO in 2004.

Despite not being a member of the European Union, Ukraine has received global support in response to Russia’s invasion, said associate professor Andrew Barnes.

There has been remarkable unity among nations in supporting Ukraine that includes Ukrainian allies imposing heavy sanctions on Russia– freezing assets, placing travel bans on wealthy individuals close to Putin and cutting off Russia’s central bank. NATO and its member countries are also moving troops and delivering supplies to strengthen the eastern border.

“There’s been rapid action that appears meaningful, and they demonstrate a willingness to suffer at least a little bit of pain at home,” Barnes said.

While some Ukrainian citizens have fled their homes in search of safety, others have joined citizens’ militias.

“They do have a real military force, which is vastly outnumbered, but nonetheless a professional fighting force and they have had widespread support from the population, some of whom are returning from abroad,” Barnes said. “These citizens are taking up arms themselves, they are supplying support for the fighters. They are trying to sabotage the Russian advance.”

The damage from these attacks, and the ongoing conflict, will be irreversible.

“While it hasn’t gone as well for Putin and his government as they probably expected, nonetheless, it’s causing terrible human suffering,” Barnes said. “Well over 600,000 refugees are escaping the country, with many more on their way. People who remain in the country have taken shelter where their food and water is running out and so on.”

Joyleah Odom is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].