Dr Fitzgerald said a significant part of the Russian invasion was likely aimed at demonstrating to the world that the country is a modern international power.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — After weeks of warnings, escalating tensions, international mediations and confusion — Russia crossed Ukraine’s borders and invaded the country late Wednesday night. The attack sparked outrage and condemnation from the international community, as well as concerns about the impact the invasion could have on the rest of the world.
A University of Tennessee political science professor, Dr. Michael Fitzgerald, has warned people that the invasion could have long-term consequences as leaders begin sanctions on Russia and respond to the invasion with threats of further escalation.
“We’re going to have a long journey here,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s not a short-term crisis in my opinion, the Russians are back.”
He said that since 1991, when former US President George HW Bush and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev ended the Cold War, Russia has opposed NATO expansion and opposed a unified Germany.
As part of the negotiations that ended the Cold War, he said Russian troops left East Germany with assurances that NATO would not expand to their borders. However, he said NATO continued to expand towards Russia’s western border.
He also said that Russia was left out of international negotiations after the battles in Serbia and Yugoslavia, and for Russian nationalists like Putin, NATO bombing during the Kosovo war could still resonate today.
“What we see here is a legacy from the end of the last Cold War, until now when, ultimately, Putin warned that as NATO got closer and closer, the Russians would whatever is necessary to create a buffer between itself and the west,” he said.
Over the past 20 years, he said, Putin has modernized his army into a powerful force on the ground, with shows of force in Crimea and the formation of Russian-backed eastern Ukraine.
He said there were early signs that Russia was expanding its military when the country began to get involved in the Middle East, with a presence in Syria.
“Over the past 20 years, NATO and the United States have fundamentally rejected Russia and the Russians as serious players in international events, and Putin has expanded his ability to be a player in international events” , did he declare. “Putin has developed his ability to do this stuff, the West hasn’t matched that ability or willingness to resist him, and now we have to face reality.”
He also warned against taking Putin on the word that the Russian military would leave Ukraine. He said if Putin saw an opportunity to take control of the country, he would likely seize it.
He also said Ukraine was unlikely to reclaim its eastern territories. He also warned that Russia could try to establish a Ukrainian government that would be more favorable to Russian interests, despite warnings from Western leaders about economic sanctions.
“I think they’ve already priced in the economic price of this, and I think they doubt the rest of the world will maintain economic sanctions,” he said.
He said the United States was unlikely to send troops on the ground to Ukraine, and he said NATO had not guaranteed a military response either. He also said NATO would likely need to bolster its military in Eastern Europe to maintain a strong presence against a new Russian threat.
Dr. Krista Wiegand, an associate professor of political science at UT, said the same. She said the countries had gone through 45 years of the Cold War without directly fighting each other, and that was unlikely to change.
“I think it’s highly unlikely that US troops will directly fight Russian troops even if the war escalates,” she said. “The United States has never fought a war against another great power with nuclear weapons since they were invented.”
“The other choice we face is to recognize Russia’s sphere of influence,” he said. “NATO could start serious and protracted negotiations with Russia on a new geopolitical map that Putin has drawn in Russia.”
He encouraged American citizens to read a translation of Putin’s speech to Russia about his actions. He said Putin intended to tell the world that Russia was a modern nation with a strong military in that address.
“I think it was a veiled threat that, ‘We’re back and finally if we can’t negotiate solutions and you won’t give in to our status in the world… be prepared for it to happen. be more than just a conventional answer,'” he said. “We are, in many ways today, in the most delicate situation we have known since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
He warned that economic sanctions or international public opinion could not be decisive in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.
“We have to calculate how willing and able we are in the west to counter Russian nationalism,” he said. “There are no questions, we are in Cold War II.”