Ukraine in Crisis: Former President Richard Myers, political science faculty offer perspective

Manhattan residents hosted a silent candle march in solidarity with Ukraine at Triangle Park on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (Archive photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Since Russian military forces began their invasion of Ukraine in late February, many questions have arisen over what the near future might hold. During a panel discussion on Friday, March 4, Kansas State faculty talked about various issues related to the war in Europe amid the current tensions of the political climate.

The Department of Political Science and History held the panel, with Jeff Pickering, professor of political science, serving as moderator. Panelists who spoke at the event included Vera Smirnova, assistant professor in political geography; Carla Martinez Machain, professor in political science; Andrew Orr, associate professor in history and Richard B. Myers, former president of K-State and retired United States Air Force General.

During the panel discussion, Orr said the Western perception of Putin being a “master strategist” is wildly exaggerated.

“There are things he is extremely good at … controlling Ukraine is something he is very bad at,” Orr said. “I want to frame this invasion as a result of 20 years of failed Russian policy aimed at subordinating Ukraine to Moscow’s political control.”

Smirnova said Putin is threatening the sovereignty of Ukraine, even though he has publicly claimed to recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty even as he called the country of Ukraine “an exception” of sovereignty.

Smirnova read Putin’s remarks from the speech, in which he said, “I am confident that the true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia, together we have always been and will be many times stronger and more successful. We are one people.”

Smirnova said the history between the two countries goes back a long time, with much geopolitical debate between Ukraine and Russia on whether they are independent or one country.

Martinez Machain said that Ukraine is not a member of NATO, which impacts the decision of other countries to place troops there.

However, she said, in an attempt to combat Putin’s militarism, the U.S. and several other countries have helped fund Ukraine’s military and placed several sanctions on Russia, which have already caused financial damage to the Russian currency.

According to Martinez Machain, the U.S. will continue its support of Ukraine without sending troops themselves unless Russia attacks a NATO country.

Former President Myers also spoke during the panel, providing his perspective based on personal experience as a high-ranking military figure and his relationship with the Russian government.

“The Russian military has always been a blunt instrument of force, reckless even,” Myers said. “The Russians don’t worry [about civilian casualties] at all. … If the Russians want to continue in this very, sort of, sloppy military operation … they will never win the hearts of the Ukrainian people.”

Myers said he hopes the Ukrainian resistance wins but recognizes the possibility of Russia implementing a puppet government in Ukraine if their invasion attempts are successful.