Campus, News

CSULB professors weigh in on the Ukrainian crisis

By: Jonathan Bigall and Jessica Bustos

Russia invaded Ukraine Thursday Feb. 24 in reaction to the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

CSULB professor Andrew Jenks is a specialist in European history and Russia.
CSULB professor Andrew Jenks is a specialist in European history and Russia.

Andrew Jenks, a Long Beach State history professor who specializes in modern European and Russian history, said the basis for Russia’s invasion was sparked by the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO.

The NATO treaty was formed in 1949 to defend against possible invasion from the Soviet Union.

Jenks said Russian leaders had questioned NATO’s existence since the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The growing membership of NATO, especially in former Soviet states like Ukraine, has worried the Russian government.

“The West aggressively expanded NATO membership to former communist and Soviet states,” Jenks said. “Think about it this way, if Canada and Mexico joined a military alliance directed against the United States, what would we do? That’s how Putin felt with regard to the relentless expansion of NATO.”

Journalism professor Christopher Karadjov, originally from Bulgaria, said the justification for Russia’s invasion was over Donetsk and Luhansk, located in eastern Ukraine.

The geography of Ukraine and Russia. Credit: Associated Press
The geography of Ukraine and Russia. Credit: Associated Press

These Ukrainian territories, although technically part of the country, had been under pro-Russian leadership since Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, creating separatist regions.

On Feb. 21 Putin signed a presidential decree recognizing the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, which was broadcast on Russian state television.

“It’s as if Texas or California suddenly declared independence and Mexico invades to back them up,” Karadjov said.

When Russia initiated the invasion of Ukraine, President Biden joined European allies to impose financial sanctions on Russia that would hold $1 trillion in assets, freeze all assets in the U.S., and block tech-based exports in an effort to maximize the long-term impact.

Karadjov said the effects of these sanctions wouldn’t be seen for some time, considering Russia had time to prepare propaganda pushing Russian nationals in support of Putin’s decision.

Jenks said the sanctions imposed by the U.S. would not deter Putin, saying they were nothing more than a “symbolic act.”

In retrospect, Karadjov compared Russia’s invasion to WWII which caused the U.S. to intervene after several advancements by the Axis powers.

He also said the NATO alliance has a written charter, where allies agreed to come to the defense of one another and has thus forced the U.S. to defend the borders of Poland, Romania and Germany.

As of Sunday Feb. 27, Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be on high alert as the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arranged a meeting with a Russian delegation.

“You can’t do much when you have a nuclear power with actual nuclear weapons,” Karadjov said.

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