Global policy experts from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs expressed great concern over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the implications for European security, and the plight of refugees fleeing the war, in an online forum on March 16.
Associate Professor Dipali Mukhopadhyay; Diplomat-in-Residence Mary Curtin; former dean (and UMN professor on leave) Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International (RI); and alumna Colleen Ryan (MHR ‘21), a border monitor with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), hailed the unprecedented response from the European and global communities in accepting refugees from Ukraine and aiding the Ukrainian military.
But they said the longer-term outcome of the conflict is still unclear and could have global consequences. Here are some key points of their discussion:
About Russia’s aggression:
- This is an exceptional, and pretty scary, moment: the first time since the end of the cold war that we can imagine a nuclear event that could alter the shape of human history.
- Russia is perpetrating one of the most unabashed, unvarnished, illegal uses of force ever in modern warfare, with no pretense to justify their actions.
- The remarkable demonstration of resistance by the Ukrainians has moved western democracies to respond. This has been a rallying cry for diplomacy, and demonstrates what multilateral cooperation can produce.
- The need to provide a diplomatic off ramp for Russia is very important. The potential outcomes of the situation range from bad to worse.
- There’s good reason for the United States and its allies to refrain from escalating the conflict with Russia. The risks involved in going further are substantial. Measures labeled ‘limited’ and ‘humanitarian’ rarely stay that way. They become complex wars that creep well past their designated mission.
- The Russians will likely suffer a great deal in the medium and long term. That raises questions about how Russia will react if it’s humiliated and bankrupted by the west. That hasn’t worked very well in the past.
About the refugee crisis:
- Up to three million Ukrainian people have fled the country, and Poland is hosting more than half of them. The response in Poland has been encouraging and heartening.
- Reports that Ukraine and Poland are obstructing third-country nationals at the border are discouraging. All refugees should be treated with dignity, no matter their country of origin.
- The far greater long-term challenge will be serving those who remain in Ukraine, some 40 million people, after the fighting is over and their cities need to be rebuilt.