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The grim realities and uncertain prospects of the war in Ukraine were examined from all fronts Tuesday night in a first-ever Schar School of Policy and Government multi-campus, in-person “teach-in,” presented by the Center for Security Policy Studies (CSPS) and cosponsored by the International Relations Policy Task (IRPT) learning community.
CSPS director Ellen Laipson moderated from a conference room in Arlington’s Van Metre Hall; a second panel convened in Fairfax’s Horizon Hall. Overflow live audiences of George Mason University students, including many from the Schar School’s Democracy Lab learning community, participated in the brisk 90-minute event by asking questions of professors at both campuses.
The discussion, an event that combined audiences of graduate and undergraduate students, was broadcast in real-time via Zoom. View the recording: https://youtu.be/5FbaZQXzJkI
- Professor Mark N. Katz presented a thorough examination of Russia president Vladimir Putin’s personality traits and lagging legacy and speculated on Putin’s ultimate intentions with the invasion of Ukraine.
- Professor Janine R. Wedel, a specialist in international corruption who taught in Ukraine in 2015, put into context the ancient civilization and culture the Russians are trying to destroy with the invasion, pointing out, among other aspects, that Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv is older than Moscow.
- Assistant Professor Michael Hunzeker, a Marine Corps veteran who led forces in the Iraq War, described details of the ground war that international audiences are seeing in real-time on social media. As for the Russian convoy that seems stalled as it makes its way to Kyiv, Hunzeker pointed out it took coalition forces 15 days to reach Baghdad in 2003.
- Professor Desmond Dinan, a former advisor to the European Commission in Brussels, suggested the crisis strengths and unifies the European Union.
- Associate Professor Eric McGlinchey, who researches Eurasian and Central Asian politics, put the current crisis into context by recalling the history of the former Soviet Republics.
- Distinguished Visiting Professor Richard Kauzlarich, former ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Azerbaijan, described the uncertain diplomatic opportunities to bring the war to an end.
- For her part, Laipson said the U.S. intelligence community has performed well and the decision to release intelligence on Putin’s plans denied him the element of surprise.
- Associate Professor Anton Liagusha, a Ukrainian “scholar in exile” at the Schar School who studies the media’s influence on politics and culture, applied his expertise to Russia’s propaganda and warned what Putin might do in the near future.
In the most moving testimonial of the evening, Schar School PhD student and graduate research assistant Mariia Panga, a Ukrainian national who has been in the U.S. for seven months, reminded audiences that “Russians are killing Ukrainians right now, even as we speak” and, with remarkable emotional control, read a letter listing those in her home country that she would like to provide words of encouragement but cannot.
“I cannot express all the anger and frustration, despair and fear I have been experiencing for the past two weeks,” she said. “Every morning I text my family members and friends to check if they are still alive.”
Among those family members is “my 5-year-old niece, who tells younger kids in the bomb shelter, ‘Don’t be afraid, it will be over soon.’”