UMKC political science professors discuss the Russian-Ukrainian conflict


UMKC political science professors Greg Vonnahme and Rebecca Best recently weighed in on the violent events unfolding between Russia and Ukraine.

Vonnahme said the significant and devastating effects on Russia’s economy of Western sanctions are causing people to question the sustainability of the war.

“Sanctions were an important part of the Ukrainian resistance,” Vonnahme said. “The Ukrainian army is significantly weaker than Russia.”

Vonnahme also mentioned that Russia is under attack on two different fronts.

“They face much tougher Ukrainian resistance, and much greater economic and financial resistance and pressure from the west,” Vonnahme said. “These two things are mutually reinforcing, where Western sanctions will likely get stronger as the Ukrainian resistance resists the Russian invasion.”

Countries around the world continue to impose harsh sanctions on Russia. These sanctions affect finance, trade and travel and specific individuals. The value of the ruble has reached historically low levels.

Additionally, private sector companies like Coca-Cola, Netflix and BP Plc either halted operations or cut ties with the country after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Best claimed the cost of the conflict was more than Putin had anticipated.

“Putin assumed his popularity would rise and it would end quickly,” Best said. “He thought it would really show how weak NATO and the West are.”

Instead, Best believes that this war had the opposite effect and instead strengthened NATO. As an example, she mentioned Germany’s surprising decision to help Ukraine by suspending the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and providing additional military aid and spending.

“If one of the goals was to reduce the NATO threat to Russia, I don’t think that’s been accomplished,” Best said. “It has really strengthened NATO in a way that not much has recently.”

Vonnahme agreed, saying, “We see a much more unified Europe than before.”

Although the media has covered the widespread Russian protests, a new poll has led researchers to suggest that a majority of Russians are in favor of war. This could be due to state media in Russia.

“It restricts the narrative that ordinary people in Russia hear,” Best said. “So there’s definitely opposition, but the average Russian doesn’t necessarily have a clear picture of what’s going on.”

Unfortunately, Best said things that are bad for Russia are not necessarily bad for Putin.

“It may be in Russia’s interest to back down, but not Putin’s,” Best said. “Especially if he can’t make himself the winner.”

Vonnahme further explained what makes Putin so dangerous.

“Putin’s constituency is a smaller group of government officials, military officials and wealthy oligarchs,” Vonnahme said. “Putin is unlikely to be overthrown anytime soon.”

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