Russia-Ukraine, one year later: U-M experts can discuss

February 22, 2023
Concept illustration of the Russia Ukraine conflict. Image credit: Nicole Smith, made with Midjourney


University of Michigan experts can discuss Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine and the ensuing war as the one-year anniversary approaches.

Javed Ali, associate professor of practice at the Ford School of Public Policy, is a former senior U.S. government counterterrorism official.

“As a result of the staggering number of battlefield losses over the last year, Putin is likely to adjust the campaign with the recognition that the Russian military cannot continue to operate at the current rate,” he said.

“Given the increased pressure Putin will put on his commanders to achieve concrete objectives, it is more likely he will authorize more aggressive cyber operations—which to date have not been as significant or effective as some experts thought given Russia’s past use of cyberattacks against Ukraine—or unconventional warfare methods like sabotage and assassinations in Western countries supporting Ukraine as additional tools.

“Putin will also very likely increase efforts to divide the West and foster discontent within Ukraine through propaganda and disinformation, and deepen relationships with countries like China, Iran, North Korea and India that to date have allowed Russia to withstand setbacks on the military front and blunt the impact of numerous economic sanctions and trade restrictions.”


John Lee, professor emeritus of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, is an expert in nuclear reactor safety and can comment on how the invasion and occupation have affected nuclear safety at Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, and other locations.

“Russian troops have been occupying the six-unit Zaphorizhzia nuclear plant since March 2022, and plant operators have tried to maintain adequate cooling of the reactors even after shutdown by utilizing emergency diesel generators when the offsite power lines were disrupted or destroyed,” he said.

“The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency requested Russia to allow the regular operating staff to maintain the surveillance of the power plants, and so far, the regular staff have been able to continue. The same goes for the Chernobyl site for the proper maintenance of the containment dome. The International Atomic Energy Agency has permanent teams at all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and at Chernobyl, although the call for a protection zone around Zaporizhzia has not been heeded.”

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Greta Uehling is an anthropologist and lecturer in international and comparative studies. Her recent research focuses on the experience of people displaced by the war in Donbas and the Russian occupation of Crimea since 2014, focusing on their political agency, tolerance and human rights. She can talk about ethnic conflict, human rights and a possible refugee crisis.

“One of the things we’ve seen with this war in Ukraine is the politicization of friendships and families,” she said. “So, people had to develop new strategies for having companies, for example. International conflicts are replicated at a sort of interpersonal level. Some relationships survived and some relationships didn’t. Interpersonal relationships matter for the relationship’s outcome and the war’s outcome.

“I can confidently say that Ukraine will be overcoming the damage for the foreseeable future. Children growing up in Ukraine learn the names and the caliber of weaponry before the sounds of barnyard animals. They learn when to head for an air raid shelter before they learn to read. These traumas are complex and layered and will shape lives for decades. The legacies of the conflict will be worked out for many generations to come.”


Melvyn Levitsky, professor of international policy and practice at the Ford School of Public Policy, is a retired U.S. ambassador and served as officer-in-charge of U.S.-Soviet bilateral relations and political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He can discuss Russia’s history, politics, international relations and diplomacy.

“It is hard to say how the war will likely pan out in the coming weeks. So far, Russia’s plans for a quick victory have been thwarted,” he said. “We have to remember the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Kremlin experienced substantial public opposition when the body bags began returning home in droves.

“There is no endgame in sight. Neither side will be able to declare victory, though a settlement could be constructed that allows both to declare that their interests were advanced. Russia’s relations with the West will be shaky in the future. The West will be even more wary of Russian policies. Western Europe will try to shore itself off any dependence on Russia for energy sources.”


Eugene Bondarenko, lecturer of Ukrainian and Russian languages and cultures, studies Ukrainian society. He has experience in the region and has worked as an interpreter. He can discuss the geopolitical security issues and cultural context, and can fact check any cultural or historic claims.

“Dictators like Putin often say that democracy is weak, decadent, unable to protect its citizens. This year, Ukraine and its allies have shown this notion to be just as false as it had been in 1939,” he said. “Ukraine is not strong because it has thousands of tanks, missiles, and combat aircraft. It is strong because its people feel a sense of common duty to fight so that they and their descendants may choose their own path.

“Putin may imitate cohesion through censorship and marching troops on Red Square, but the reality is that in Russia, the Kremlin and the people fear one another, while in Ukraine they see themselves as one and the same.”


Daniil Manaenkov is an economic forecaster focusing on the United States. He worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, where he managed the bank’s macroeconomic forecasting model.

“With the end of the war in Ukraine nowhere in sight, Russia’s nuclear exports—a major source of fuel for U.S. nuclear power plants—will likely come under sanctions sooner or later,” he said. “Electricity prices will likely rise somewhat as a result until the U.S. can ramp up its own uranium enrichment capacity.

“In addition, the just-announced pause of Russia’s participation in the New Start treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms control deal, threatens the resumption of the nuclear arms race, which could cancel part of the ‘peace dividend’ the U.S. economy enjoyed since the early 1990s.”


John Ciorciari is an associate professor of public policy and director of the Ford School of Public Policy’s International Policy Center and Weiser Diplomacy Center.

“A year after the Russian invasion, the geopolitical divides surrounding the Ukraine war show no sign of abating,” he said. “NATO and the European Union have shown greater cohesion than might have been expected, and Biden’s surprise visit to Kyiv is just one of many indications that Western support for Ukraine will remain strong in the foreseeable future.

“At the same time, most governments around the world have either stood on the sidelines or quietly abetted the Russian war effort. Most governments in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America have refused to join in Western sanctions, including major economies such as China, India and Brazil. Despite Russian atrocities and the terrible toll of the war, many observers in the Global South continue to view the war as a conflict between Russia and the West rather than a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“The South African government’s decision to host naval exercises with Russia is the latest indication that nominally nonaligned countries will continue to help Russia withstand sanctions and diplomatic ostracism from the West. For many governments—and especially authoritarian ones—the prospect of continued Chinese and Russian support evidently outweighs concerns about international norms designed to help protect vulnerable states from aggression. That bodes poorly for peace, suggesting that Russia may be able to sustain its military campaign for some time to come.”