Russia-Ukraine: U-M experts can discuss

February 24, 2022
Written By:
Fernanda Pires


University of Michigan experts can discuss Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine and its implications on global politics, economics and the human scale.

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

“Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine will have many dimensions and create effects in both the physical and cyber worlds, but the longer Russian troops occupy the country the greater the risk to those forces and Putin’s calculus on how long they will stay,” he said. “In the meantime, the U.S. is likely already executing its own well-synchronized campaign plan in concert with NATO and other partners that involves multiple instruments of national power like military aid/support, intelligence activities, covert action, cyber operations, diplomatic pressure, and punishing economic sanctions.”

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Ronald Suny, professor of history and political science, is a senior researcher at the National Research University-Higher School of Economics in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

“The crisis between Russia, NATO and Ukraine has now escalated into an all-out war,” he said. “How did it come to this? In the West, there is a certainty that the blame must be put firmly on Vladimir Putin, who indeed initiated the current crisis by placing more than a hundred thousand of his troops in readiness near the Ukrainian border. Pundits and politicians read this as an imperial move to invade and take over Ukraine.

“In my opinion, this was a dangerous gun-to-the-head negotiating strategy by Putin to push the U.S. and NATO and Ukraine to negotiate a new security structure in Eastern Europe, reversing the expansion of NATO eastward up to the borders of Russia and the placing of U.S. rockets in Poland and Romania. When the West made no serious moves, except futilely by President Macron of France, to restore the Minsk II protocols—which in the opinion of many (including me) were the off-ramp to the crisis—Putin escalated and led his country into a dangerous preventive war, the outcome of which is unpredictable.”

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Yuri Zhukov is an associate professor of political science and research associate professor at the Center for Political Studies. His research focuses on the causes, dynamics and outcomes of conflict, at the international and local levels. He can discuss the Ukrainian government, separatism and other topics related to Ukraine.

“The desired end state of this military operation, according to the Kremlin, is the Ukrainian state that has been demilitarized and ‘cleansed of Nazis,'” he said. “By ‘Nazis,’ they mean officials in the current Ukrainian government, as well as activists from the 2014 revolution and other pro-Western public figures. The actual far-right elements in Ukrainian politics do exist, but they remain marginal movements that consistently fail to win more than a couple of percentage points in parliamentary elections.

“Russia is casting a much wider net. This means regime change, and a potentially long-term occupation. This will almost certainly entail mass arrests, show trials, extrajudicial killings and the establishment of a Russia-friendly police state. Every Ukrainian with a pro-Western political orientation will be at risk.

“The pretext for the operation is a set of external security concerns, including NATO expansion to Ukraine, which was never an immediate or even very realistic possibility. A Russian-occupied Ukraine will obviously not be able to join NATO. But history has also shown that external security challenges tend not to go away when a country invades its neighbor. Russia, with its painful experience in World War II, should know this.”


Paolo Pasquariello is a finance professor at the Ross School of Business. His research interests include international finance and information economics.

“The Cold War was not only a protracted military standoff by proxy but also—and perhaps principally—a battle of ideas about the world order and the meaning of humanity,” he said. “The Soviet Union lost that battle but fought it. Millions envied the Soviet economic and political might. Many aspired to be part of the Soviet Union. Countless others, albeit misguided, saw it as protecting and projecting their own ideals.

“Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, an independent country, is not only a tragic error that will cost many lives but also an attempt to bring Russia back on the world stage. Russia has already lost that battle before it even begins. Russia inspires no economic and political envy. Nobody aspires to be a Russian. Nobody sees Russia as protecting or projecting any ideals besides those of a fading dictator enriching himself and of a few oligarchs owning real estate, boats and soccer teams in foreign countries. The Russian tanks rolling into Ukraine are a display of weakness, not strength, by a nation retreating into irrelevance.”

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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.

“Putin is often seen as enjoying a commanding position at home that enables him to pursue expansionist policies abroad. Yet the decision to attack a major neighboring state and suffer broad international sanctions may suggest a different story—one of a vulnerable leader willing to take risks abroad to secure his position at home,” he said. “If the invasion does not go well, Putin could face serious domestic blowback, both from ordinary citizens and the military brass sending young men and women into a needless war.”


Dan Slater is a professor of political science and the director of the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies. He specializes in the politics and history of enduring dictatorships and emerging democracies.

“This war is not Russia against Ukraine. It is Vladimir Putin against peace and democracy, both on Russia’s borders and within Russia itself,” he said. “Brave democratic dissidents within Russia are likely to be among this war’s first and worst victims. The world needs to stand with Putin’s opponents in Russia as well as in Ukraine. And Putinism, a worldview that combines cultish support for strongman rule with a quest for national glory through cultural purification and so-called traditional values, needs to be defeated everywhere, from Ukraine to Russia to the United States.

“Putin has all of these traits in spades. But this war is not in Russia’s national interest in any meaningful way. Nobody is threatening Russia’s territorial integrity, or even questioning it. Crippling economic sanctions are going to make the Russian economy scream. We can only hope that concerted outside pressure will make Putin eventually reverse course and refrain from further aggressions, gradually allowing Russia to regain its rightful leading place in the community of nations, which Putin has now so tragically squandered.”


Adam Casey is a postdoctoral fellow at the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies. His research broadly considers the relationship between external intervention and domestic politics in nondemocracies. He can discuss Russian foreign policy, authoritarianism and Putin’s government.

“The events of the last (several) hours or so are absolutely tragic,” he said. “Russia has launched an all-out assault against Ukraine that appears aimed at overthrowing the Ukrainian government and possibly killing or imprisoning much of its leadership. In his declaration of war, Putin vowed he would seek the ‘de-Nazification’ and ‘demilitarization’ of Ukraine.

“It is worth reiterating that all of the Russian justifications for this war are false or great exaggerations. This is an unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. And Ukraine will fight alone. The evidence so far is that Ukrainian forces are fighting back hard but Russia may have achieved air superiority and could then launch strikes at will across Ukrainian territory. It remains to be seen how long Ukrainian forces can fight back and what plans Russia might have for a postwar political order in Kyiv.”


Eugene Bondarenko ​​is a lecturer of Ukrainian and Russian languages and cultures, who 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.

“This is the first war I’ve ever supported in terms of wanting the U.S. to intervene anywhere. I’m not a 100% pacifist, but in my lifetime, this is the first justifiable war,” he said. “I think that the historical perspective is urgent. If we don’t answer this challenge, everybody like Putin, who has ideas about what shouldn’t be part of their country, is going to take that as carte blanche to do what they would like. If there was ever a time to step in for a victim, this is that. We did it in 1939 and, unfortunately, it’s time to do it again.”


Barry Rabe is a professor of public and environmental policy. He examines the political feasibility and durability of environmental and energy policy, emphasizing efforts to address climate change in the United States and other nations.

“The tragedy unfolding in Ukraine underscores profound uncertainty over future relations between Europe and Russia,” he said. “This includes the question of Russian natural gas exports and whether European nations can achieve timely transition to alternative energy sources, including nuclear, gas from other sources, and renewables to reduce their near- and long-term dependence on now-dominant Russian supplies.”


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.

“As a result of this, energy prices will spike, first in Europe, but also in the U.S. for both oil and natural gas,” he said. “The flow of natural gas to Europe may get disrupted, resulting in work stoppages across Europe. Sanctions on Russia’s energy sector are possible as well, which will cause a serious dislocation of existing energy market arrangements. Sanctions might also impact some raw material prices.

“If Russia is kicked out of SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), the repercussions for the global financial system are unknown, but a serious financial shock is possible. Global geopolitical risks are rising as well. China might move in on Taiwan, under the fog of the Russia-Ukraine war. To sum up, inflation and supply chain stress are likely to ratchet up, increasing the risk of a domestic, stagflationary episode.”


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.


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.

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Pauline Jones, is a professor of political science, can discuss the historical origins of the crisis, territorial integrity and internal politics of Russia and Ukraine.