Political science professors discuss the war in Ukraine


Professors from Auburn’s political science department hosted a panel Tuesday night to discuss the war in Ukraine.

“It’s going to be one of those times when we look back in history 30, 40 or maybe 100 years from now, and remember how it plays out,” said political science professor Matthew Clary.

Peter White, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, discussed Russian and Ukrainian military performance. He pointed out that originally Russia wanted to take control of Ukraine and take control of it within 24 hours with minimal damage, but that did not happen.

“At present, [Russia is trying to stop doing this cleanly and quickly]and is going to do it relatively slow and messy,” White said.

White discussed the forces of the Russian army and its invasion strategy.

“The Russian military is structured around methodically blowing things up with rockets, guns and bombs. Many analysts fear that’s what Russia is going to do now,” White said.

He also referred to Ukraine’s attempt to win over public opinion using “information warfare”.

“Ukraine is winning the information war,” White said. “They have our sympathy. They have our respect. Russia has been caught off guard in this area, which they are generally considered to be quite good at.”

White said the Russian military had a long list of things they did wrong. White said Russian troops were not told they were heading to the Ukrainian border for training exercises, but rather that they were there to invade Ukraine.

White explained that many conscripted Russian soldiers abandoned their trucks, so much of the food and resources could not reach the front line for the army.

Clary discussed what the United States and the rest of the global community have done to support Ukraine.

“What has sort of materialized in the last four or five days in terms of sanctions and isolations imposed on Russia is really impressive,” Clary said.

Clary said the sanctions will have an effect on Putin and the Russian economy.

“I guarantee Putin feels as isolated as he’s ever felt. Their economy is in tatters, and it’s just going to get worse,” Clary said. “The average Russian is struggling to pay their bills. People can’t pay their mortgages because interest rates have doubled overnight.”

Clary said he believed the sanctions would not be temporary and would be put in place for the long term to cut off business with Russia.

“It’s not going to be just a temporary thing. These are very long-term choices that these countries in Europe and these companies are making,” Clary said. “They basically say, ‘Russia is out of business’.”

Clary said this is a historic moment for the United Nations as it is the 10th time in history that the United Nations has held an emergency session of the general assembly.

“While that doesn’t really mean they’re going to do anything legally worthwhile…it will be an opportunity for the world to stand up against Russia,” Clary said.

The last speaker, Pëllumb Kelmendi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, explained how different schools of international relations explain war.

Kelmendi spoke about the humanitarian aspect of the war and how it affected the Ukrainian people.

“It is important to state the obvious first. And that is that there are tens of millions of people in Ukraine right now facing violence, deep insecurity and uncertainty,” said Kelmendi. “Families are uprooted. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced.

Kelmendi discussed many potential causes of this war. Scholars will continue to debate the causes of this invasion for many years to come, but there are finally three key factors to pay attention to, he said.

“These factors have to do with power, they have to do with institutions, both international and national, and they have to do with ideas, norms and identities,” Kelmendi said.

Kelmendi continued to discuss the changing global distribution of power and how China seems to be gaining more power while the United States seems to be losing it.

“It could have created an opening for Russia to reaffirm its ambitions in Europe,” Kelmendi said.

At the end of the panel, Clary ended by discussing the possibilities of what could happen next.

“I think we all feel it,” Clary said. “It’s probably going to work in favor of Russia. Russia has superior power. Eventually, they’re probably going to win this fight.”

While Clary thinks Russia is likely to defeat Ukraine, he said Russia’s actions will have long-term political consequences.

“Europe has broken away from Russia,” Clary said. “It’s going to last at least a decade. The post-Cold War era is over. … We’re heading into a new era in which you’re going to see that kind of Cold War mentality and behavior coming back.”

White had a different perspective.

“I think Putin is in a really bad place right now, and I don’t think the Russian military can sustain this indefinitely,” White said. “I don’t think Russia – economically and politically – can sustain this indefinitely.”

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