The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    SSU students and faculty react to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

    Constant hostilities from Russia regarding political relationships with Ukraine have been going on for years, but the threat of war has become more real than ever before. 

    Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, began his invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, Feb. 24, an invasion many are now fearing could lead to the next World War. 

    Amidst violent attacks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy, has refused to flee Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, despite declaring martial law. 

    When martial law is in effect, the military commander has unlimited authority to make and enforce laws. 

    “We are here, in Kyiv, we are defending Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said while surrounded by several top officials demonstrating the country’s leadership didn’t flee. 

    On Feb. 25, Zelenskyy requested help from the rest of the world to defend Europe. “In all countries, in all cities, take the streets and demand peace for Europe, peace for Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said. 

    “Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences,” U.S. President Joe Biden said hours after the Russian assault began on Ukraine, “Today, I’m authorizing additional strong sanctions and new limitations on what can be exported to Russia. This is going to impose severe cost on the Russian economy both immediately and over time.”

    Dr. Diane Parness,  Political Science professor at Sonoma State University with concentrations in comparative politics, European politics, and Russia, understands that this conflict will have significant consequences for the U.S., both politically and economically. 

    Parness cleared the air for students worried about getting drafted. “The last time a draft took place in the U.S. was 1973. We’ve been involved in a significant number of conflicts since then without any call for a draft. A draft would be politically unpopular for obvious reasons. It would be the last recourse of the Chief Executive,” Parness said. 

    Parness also summarized where Putin is coming from in his attack on Ukraine. 

    “This conflict could challenge many assumptions about post-Cold War Big Power confrontations. Putin is very powerful, but he is not omnipotent. In the past, when faced with confrontation and protest from his own people and the international community, he has paused, backed down, negotiated, and made concessions,” Parness explained. 

    “As you’ve heard many times, Putin considers the breakup of the Soviet Union the greatest disaster of the 20th Century. He feels Ukraine is part of Russia and should be returned to Russia. So do many Russians and many Ukrainians, especially in the East. But that doesn’t mean he seeks to conquer Ukraine in one piece. If he comes away from this battle with two new independent Republics (Donetsk and Luhansk, in the Donbas region) on his western border, he will declare that a victory.  He will bide his time, heal the economic wounds Russia will suffer from the sanctions, and wait for the next opportunity. He already has the Crimea,” Parness went on to state.

    Parness recognizes that her students understand how important it is to follow the current world news. She has been hosting a discussion at the start of every class for students to participate in to encourage their sharing of ideas, which they’ve been very active in doing. 

    A large portion of the SSU community has been following the current invasion as conversations surrounding the news can be heard around campus. 

    Tessa Vandenberg, a 20-year-old Political Science major said, “I’m more worried than ever about the state of Ukraine and its people suffering due to this unnecessary use of force. Putin continues to push the idea that Russia is simply reclaiming its historical boundaries while completely ignoring the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. I truly hope that sanctions and the political measures that NATO allies are taking against Russia bring the country and Putin to their senses and end the prospect of WW3.”

    Sean Stanley, a 21-year-old Economics major said, “It feels like the start of WW3 and what’s even more jarring about it is the media coverage. With social media now, I have literally seen videos posted of Russian soldiers and Ukrainian refugees each from their own perspectives. It looks like a joke and is hard to take seriously sometimes. I hope that action can be taken to stop the violence immediately before Putin is allowed to do whatever he wants with no repercussions. What happens here is gonna play a big role in world politics for a long time and, much like COVID, will be a major incident in the history textbooks our children will ask us about.” 

    Stanley isn’t the only student who’s received most of their news updates via social media.

    “I’ve been drowning in updates about Russia the past few days. It got to the point where all of the posts on my TikTok were about it and I ended up needing to delete the app because it was so overwhelming,” Logan Knowlton, a 21-year-old Psychology student said. 

    “A totalitarian leader is invading a country that he considers a part of his own and is refusing to acknowledge the individuality of a completely sovereign nation. It’s imperialism and colonialization…and a lot of it just comes back to old white dudes being in charge,” Kristen Arnett, a 37-year-old Geography, Environment, and Planning major said. 

    Arnett has seen history repeat itself in devastating ways multiple times over. “When I read the news Thursday, I thought about the war in Afghanistan beginning the year I graduated high school. Here we go again.”  

    Arnett easily sympathizes with all of the people impacted by the current events taking place and recognizes the privilege she has to be able to raise her child in a war-free country. “As a parent, you’re going to do whatever you can possible to get your kid out…I saw footage of fathers putting their wives and children on buses and I just can’t fathom having to do something like that. As a mother, I would die.”  

    “What a privilege it is to be able to go to sleep at night knowing ‘I’ll read the news in the morning,’” Arnett said. 

    On Friday, Feb. 25, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Response Force was activated to assist the allies on Russia’s border. On Sat, Feb. 26, The U.K. Defense Ministry said British forces had arrived in Eastern Europe to further reinforce NATO’s eastern front. 

    Countries are also continuing to escalate sanctions on Russia’s economy.

    “We commit to ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication’s (SWIFT’s) messaging system. This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally,” the leaders of the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, said in a joint statement on Feb. 26.

    SWIFT connects banks around the world and is vital to international finance. This decision will directly impact Russia’s economy. 

    On Sunday, Feb. 27, the European Union and Canada closed their airspace to Russian planes as Putin placed Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert. 

    Ukrainian and Russian officials were set to meet on Monday Feb. 28, “All we can do is keep our eyes on the news and hope for the best,” Knowlton said. 

    COURTESY// Garry Knight

    Londoners stand in protest against Vladimir Putin and Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine which began mid-February.

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