On Wednesday, University of Tulsa faculty from multiple disciplines conducted a moving and informative roundtable discussion regarding the causes, effects and potential outcomes of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack has not gone as expected, said TU Political Science Professor Emeritus Robert Donaldson, who served as president of the university from 1990 to 1996 and is widely recognized as one of the region’s top experts on Russian foreign policy. He went on to say that Putin did not anticipate the resistance and resolve exhibited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Instead, Russia now faces a united West, severe economic sanctions, grounded flights, a shuttered stock market and a worthless ruble.
“Ukraine is a rich, beautiful, complex place,” said Benjamin Peters, associate professor and chair of the TU Department of Media Studies. Peters has lived in both Russia and Ukraine and added that Americans should be concerned about the situation Ukraine not only because of the atrocities of war but because the country produces everything from the wheat we eat to the apps on our smartphones. Peters encouraged attendees to read news from trusted sources, learn about Ukrainian history and culture, and donate to reputable charities.
The TU faculty were joined by Martin Jirušek, an assistant professor of international and European studies at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, and Kateryna Klymenko, an assistant rowing coach at TU who served as an athlete instructor at the Ministry of Sport in Kyiv, Ukraine. Assistant Professor Zenia Kish, the organizing force behind the event and a rising global media scholar, is Ukrainian and her family has been directly affected by the war. She introduced the panel and outlined the mounting immigration and humanitarian crises. She and Klymenko spoke directly and powerfully about the loss their loved ones are facing in Ukraine.
Jirušek said Putin’s military operation is failing and he is facing mounting pressure from Russian companies. The professor said Putin will likely have to consider some sort of concession to save face. “There will have to be some unpleasant compromises” for both sides, Jirušek said.
Donaldson agreed and added that Putin is now dealing with his own military leaders who view the attack on Ukraine as a “debacle” along with Russian citizens who fear for their family and friends in Ukraine. “It’s for the Russian people to say, ‘This is unacceptable,’” Donaldson said. “What Russia has done to its own people is heartbreaking.”
Adjunct instructor Olga Randolph (BA ’06) shared with the audience her insights on the bravery of people within Russia who are protesting the invasion of their neighbor, despite the threat of severe penalties. And she shed light on the Russian-speaking population in the Tulsa area, many of whom originated in Ukraine.
McFarlin Professor of Psychology Elana Newman, who studies the effects of trauma on journalists, offered a list of news sources that provide accurate reporting on the evolving situation in Ukraine. Here are a few of her recommendations: Reuters, The Associated Press, BBC, The Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Sky News, CNN, Al Jazeera, Radio Free Europe and Kyiv Independent.