On Feb 24, Vladimir Putin launched an attack on the country and citizens of Ukraine. In an effort to educate students about the ongoing conflict, Shippensburg University hosted a panel with some local experts. The panel, made up of three experts, included Catherine Clay, David Wildermuth and Mark Sachleben. Clay specializes in Russian history, and was a Fulbright scholar in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 1999. Clay presented some early history on the eastern European migration, and the beginnings of the Russian empire. Learning the history of these two countries can help us better understand the motives that are present today.
“The historical relationship between Ukraine and Russia is extremely complex,” Clay said. “And history in this situation of complexity, is really ripe for abuse.” Clay explained that there are certain historical narratives that Putin pushes onto his people, in order to justify this conflict. In reality, Ukrainian people have been struggling for independence for a long time.
“The Ukrainian nation, and the Ukrainian state for that matter, has been regularly denied an independent cultural or political status for two centuries,” Clay added.
David Wildermuth spoke next, an expert in German-Russian relations, and European World Wars. Wildermuth drew connections between other wars and the current conflict. He shared stories about the trauma and hardships that Ukrainian peoples have suffered for decades.
“The character that this war has taken on, I would argue that it is very reminiscent of the last war fought on this territory,” Wildermuth said.
Wildermuth presented the point that, Ukrainians are psychologically prepared to fight an asymmetrical war such as this one, due to their rich history of conflict.
“Ukrainians understand the costs of that war, and having rebuilt their country after World War II, and are not surprised by these costs. The broad sort of partisan war, fought behind enemy lines, belongs to the national lore. This is what they have turned into song, this is what they have commemorated memorials to,” Wildermuth said.
The third speaker, Mark Sachleben specializes in European politics and international relations.
“We should not be complacent about peace and democracy,” Sachleben said. He believes that this conflict could reshape global relations on a level not yet seen.
“The ability of a country like Ukraine to stand up to devastating military power, is both awe-inspiring and it’s enlightening as well,” Sachleben said.
Students with an interest in global politics and international relations may enjoy Sachleben’s books such as “Seeing the Bigger Picture.”