Ukraine panel discussion

Nolan Swenson, Co-Sports Editor

UW Oshkosh professors discussed the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, what it means to democracy and authoritarianism, its human costs and more as part of a panel discussion March 3.

Members of the discussion were Karl Lowenstein, history; Tracy Slagter, political science; Jordan Karsten and Trisha Jenz, anthropology; and Ula Klein, women and gender studies. History professor Michelle Kuhl was panel moderator.

Lowenstein stressed the themes playing out in Putin’s current movements.“This is the difference between history and historical mythos,” Lowenstein said. “History is messy and uncertain while mythology is clear-cut and self-serving.” He added: “Putin is caught in a historical mythos due to his belief in the unity of the Slavic people. Putin sees himself as the unifier of their peoples after the dissolution of the Soviets.”

Slagter told not just the story of Ukraine and Russia, but also of democracy and authoritarianism. She said this current fight shows the state of liberal democracy in the world and determines it to be a proud one, citing the brave and justified fight of the Ukrainian partisan and soldiers.

“What terrifies Putin is western democracies’ reach and how people will yearn and fight for it, ”Stagter said, which shows the power of democracy in opposition to oligarchs and autocrats.

Karsten and Jenz both focused on the human cost that Ukrainians must endure. Currently, there are people hiding underground with their children in order to survive bombardments.

Karsten said: “In 2013, Ukrainians saw that they needed democracy and they could not trust autocrats and non-democratic leaders. Kiev is the heart of the Slavic nations and by allowing democracy to thrive there, Russian oligarchs and autocrats are threatened and afraid of the cultural influence of Ukraine. Ukrainians don’t believe that they will lose; they’ve already lost many in their longstanding fight for democracy and are unwilling to leave their current freedoms behind.”

Jenz discussed the impact Ukraine had on her while she was in the country, and said it is a part of who she is., “Keep Ukraine close to your heart,” she said.
Klein said Russian forces suggest that people just leave; however, many are forced to stay and receive or give care.

People being stuck on the wrong side of the border isn’t strictly a matter of health receivers and providers, but rather of race and economics, Klein said, as African refugees aren’t receiving similar treatment as Slavic Ukrainians.
She also talked about how one views people is important on the global scale. “We aren’t analyzing Putin as a person, and are rather treating him as insane instead of a man caught up in his masculine daydream,” Klein said.

Other key questions answered during the two-hour panel discussion include:

Q: Targeting civilians is a war crime, How do you think the United States and United Nations (U.N.) will respond?
A: The panelists said that the Geneva conventions have already been broken, as illegal targeting and weapons were used. They also said that the international court of justice has opened up an investigation due to Ukraine claiming that Russia made a false claim about genocide

Q: The Ukrainian ambassador questioned Russia’s place in the U.N. What is their place in the future on the council?
A: The panelists said that, while this is not the first time a member’s place has been questioned, it is the first time the place of one of the big five member’s has been. They also said that they don’t know who will step into their place.

Q: Could the war expand into other countries?“ What is the future for this, could the war expand?”
A: The panelists said that if Putin moves into any other countries, the conflict will inevitably expand.