Posted on: February 25, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Mariah Trujillo, Editor-in-Chief

Imagine the fear of unknowing, the anger of war, and the pride in fighting when chances are slim. All of these emotions have raced through the mind of Paul Terlecki, a freshman at Moraine Valley and a Ukrainian citizen at the time of war.

“I have the majority of my family in Poland and Ukraine–Poland from my dad’s side and Ukrainian from my mom. The recent bombing in Ukraine worried me,” said Terlecki. “I am not 100 percent sure that all of my family in Ukraine is safe. President Zelensky announced all males between the age of 16 and 60 are drafted and sadly, must risk their lives in order to protect our country and to save the younger generations.” 

Early Thursday morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a devastating attack on Ukraine from air, land, and sea. Europe is now witnessing its first major war since World War II. Moraine professors late last week provided perspective on the big-picture, worldwide implications, and the effects the war will have on Chicago and Moraine Valley.

This is arguably the biggest geopolitical event in recent history…[It sets the stage] for the battle of democracy vs. autocracy globally and likely Cold War 2.0.”

Kevin Navratil, Political Science Professor

Nearly 200,000 Ukrainian Americans live in Illinois, according to ABC7, with more than 50,000 in Chicago. Terlecki, who was born in the U.S., fears for his family who may be under attack right now.

“I believe that I have some of my cousins that have been drafted,” he said. “I have not been updated if the rest of my family have moved to Poland or another neighboring country.”

A father hands his child over to his mother before saying goodbye as she leaves Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Credit: AP was taken from ITV news.

While his mother’s family in Ukraine has taken the greatest hit from the war, even his dad’s family in Poland has felt the effects. 

“My dad’s brother is currently in the military for Poland,” said Terlecki. “All I know is that he is on the front line, ready to defend Poland when Russia makes their move.”

Before the war, Terlecki dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player. However, he is pursuing a computer science degree at Moraine as a “backup career.” Now that the war has begun, his plans here in the U.S. have changed.

“I believe that I will go personally to Ukraine and help out my fellow countrymen as soon as a finish this semester at Moraine,” he said. “I won’t make a major impact, but every little bit helps. I have to go help Ukraine. It is where I am from, and I am proud of it.”

Past leads Putin to see threats to his regime

Although the war began last week, the tension between Russia and Ukraine has been building for decades. 

“Since Putin came to power in Russia in 1999, he has viewed his mission to avenge Russia from what he views as its ‘post-cold war humiliations,'” explained Merri Fefles-Dunkle, a Moraine Valley professor of history, political science, and sociology. “Russia went from being the strong Soviet Union to being a nation that at one time had food delivered to it by the U.S.

“Sometimes memories are short, but in Russia, they are not. Russia was invaded twice by a western power in the 20th century, so memories are very long in Russia.” 

The mark left by the past, combined with recent inroads of western influence, contributed to Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine, according to political science professor Kevin Navratil. 

“Ukraine is the most important former republic of the Soviet Union for economic, security, and cultural reasons, and as Ukraine moved closer to the West and became more democratic, Putin viewed this as a threat to his regime,” said Navratil. “There has been much talk about Ukraine potentially becoming a NATO member. This would be perceived as a major threat to Putin.” 

Several NATO members surround Ukraine and Russia, including Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. “Russia has always been nervous of having countries it hasn’t been able to control on its border,” said math professor Jason King, who has heavily studied the situation.

‘Cold War 2.0’ likely, nuclear threat possible

As Russia battles to take control of Ukraine, the U.S. has implemented strong sanctions preventing Russia from many financial outlets but has refrained from deploying American soldiers to battle in Ukraine. These circumstances will change if Russia implements an attack on a NATO-associated country. 

“If the Russians were to take further steps that signal intentions towards Baltic states like Lithuania, Latvia, or Estonia–which I do not think they would–then we would definitely be escalating the rhetoric and steps because they are NATO members,” said Fefles.

“That being said, I didn’t think he’d ACTUALLY invade Ukraine, either, so maybe don’t ask me!”

According to Article 5 of NATO, an attack on one is an attack on all, and a nuclear war could be pursued.

A teacher and Ukrainian volunteer weeps while awaiting deployment to Kyiv. Taken by Andriy Dubchak for The New York Times.

“Russia is a nuclear power and has essentially signaled they would use them if confronted by the U.S. directly,” Navratil said. “However, wars don’t proceed in a linear fashion and can go sideways. We don’t have a template for wars between two major sovereign states that share a border in the 21st century.”

While the war has not made its way to American soil, the American people will not be left unaffected.

“We are already facing the highest inflation in the past 40 years,” Navratil said, “and Russia is the second-leading producer of oil and natural gas. Ukraine is a major producer of corn and wheat, so in addition to higher energy prices, we will also experience higher food prices.”

With thousands of people lost, and men and women fighting for their country, the implications of this war go much deeper than the gas prices. This ongoing dispute has led to bloodshed and the possibility of a nuclear war. 

“This is arguably the biggest geopolitical event in recent history,” said Navratil. “At best, there will be a significant loss of life in Ukraine, damage to the global economy, a dangerous precedent for other state actors like China to take similar actions, for example in Taiwan, a set stage for the battle of democracy vs. autocracy globally and likely Cold War 2.0.”

Moraine professors say it is essential to remain aware, as the effects of this war overseas will travel.

“It is important to know what is happening in the world around us. No matter how much we might like to ‘turn inward’ and forget what is happening in the outside world, we cannot,” said Fefles. “Do not wait for someone else to inform you. Inform yourself.”

On Monday, at 11 a.m. political science professor Kevin Navratil will host a panel discussion regarding the war in Ukraine alongside faculty members Merri Fefles-Dunkle, Josh Fulton, Jason King, and Jim McIntrye. The panel will explain why they believe Russia invaded Ukraine as well the potential implications this war could cause internationally. The event will be held via WebEx and can be accessed through this link. For more information, contact Kevin Navratil at navratilk2@morainevalley.edu.