International Relations Program and Political Science Department host Ukraine crisis panel discussion

By Andrew Wernette


anel discussions on the growing crisis in the Ukraine were held in Elliott Hall Auditorium on Tuesday, March 11 at noon. Professor Peter Trumbore, Director of the International Relations Program of the Department of Political Science, hosted the event. The panel also included Professors Christian Cantir and Greg Allar of the Political Science department as well as Professor Carroll Hart of the International Studies Program.

The panel started off by going over the most recent events in the region, highlighting the protests against the government after it rejected closer ties with the European Union in favor of those with Russia. Also mentioned was the subsequent flight of the Ukraine’s disputed president, Viktor Yanukovych, and also the tense situation surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

From there the panel attempted to examine the situation in depth.

“There was never a united Ukraine,” said Hart, referencing the populace’s steep division between pro-Europe and pro-Russia citizens. She went on to say that the region has historically been a land of competing influences, of both Russian and other nationalities, back to the times of Mongol rule.

The panel spoke about Crimea’s ethnic Russian majority, along with its sizable Ukrainian and Tatar minorities. The conversation then turned to what Russia’s, or perhaps Russian president Vladimir Putin’s, agenda is in its actions.

“I think, strategically, the goal of Russia is not to lose Ukraine,” said Cantir.

Allar believed that Putin was acting based on the controversial invasion of Grenada by the U.S. in 1983, which saw international condemnation. The panel also pointed out the Ukraine’s wealth of mineral resources like coal, which have lured Russia’s eye. A former member of the Soviet Union, the group also agreed gaining control of the Ukraine could be part of Putin’s plan to form a new, “Eurasian” pact of countries.

“I don’t know if their plan is to go beyond Crimea in this particular history,” said Cantir. He also explained that this has made other nearby countries uneasy, and that the question among them is: How will the Western countries respond? The panel agreed that, while military action from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member nations to confront Russia’s advances were unlikely, the West was left with a lack of leverage to mediate the situation. But they did believe negotiations between the two sides were forseeable.

“It’s not that we need a regime change in Russia,” said Allar. “We need a behavior change in Russia.”