Posted on: August 31, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Marcus Collins

By Nick Stulga, Editor-in-Chief

Six months into the Russia-Ukraine war, the big question is, who’s winning?

The answer isn’t as clear as it might seem, but four Moraine Valley professors gave their take during a panel discussion on Aug. 29 as part of the college’s Democracy Commitment program.

“I think Putin is the biggest loser so far, from the moment the war protracted,” said history professor Jim McIntyre. “He hasn’t achieved his goals and it’s costing him a lot of blood and treasure.”

However, geography professor Jason King pointed out that Russia has made vital comebacks in wartime throughout history, including when the country was still called the Soviet Union.

Professors Kevin Navratil, Jason King, Jim McIntyre and Josh Fulton discuss their thoughts on the Ukraine war six months in as part of a Democracy Commitment event.

“I think in World War II, like in January 1941, everybody wrote off the Soviets,” King said. “The Russians are really good at bumbling invasions, but over time they gain strength, they gain cohesion. Who knows?”

With news of the war slowly leaving Western news cycles, Americans may be out of the loop, so the event aimed to recap what has happened over the past six months. About 53 students attended the YouTube livestream and five more attended in person at Moraine’s library. This was the first time a Democracy Commitment event was livestreamed, and library Department Chair Troy Swanson said he was happy with the turnout.

In addition to McIntyre and King, history professor Josh Fulton and political science professor Kevin Navratil, who is coordinator of the Democracy Commitment program, tried to answer the question of who has the upper hand in the war. 

“The longer it lasts, it’s really going to bleed Russia white, in all sorts of ways: economically, politically,” McIntyre said. He pointed out that the Russian army has not accomplished much.

Fulton agreed, saying, “If [the army is] that great, they should have already won. Period.”

However, Fulton said we should not get overly optimistic about the possibility of a Ukrainian victory.

“We want to have cautious optimism, guarded optimism,” Fulton said. “Whatever this is now has not yet been the achievement of [Putin’s] political objectives.”

We want to have cautious optimism, guarded optimism. Whatever this is now has not yet been the achievement of [Putin’s] political objectives.”

History professor Josh Fulton

Fulton said that doesn’t quite mean we should bank on Ukraine winning the war. 

“For as dictatorial as Putin is, for as repressive as the Russian state is, for as conflicted as it is, it’s still a superpower with a hell of a lot of weaponry, and the ability to drag this out for a really, really, really long time,” he said.

Looking at large-scale European conflicts in the first six months, Fulton says there may still be a lot more time before the Russia-Ukraine war reaches an extreme or significant turning point. There’s also the issue with Ukraine’s economy, which he estimates could lose 20 percent of its GDP this year.

“They’re beginning what appears to be a financial crisis,” King said. “Russia is projected to fall, I think I read 9 or 10 percent, which is also big, but it’s not 20 percent. And Ukraine is poor and it’s smaller and it’s obviously being attacked, as opposed to Russia.

“They’re kind of fighting two fronts: they’re fighting a military front and also trying to keep their country solvent.”

There’s so many ways this could go off the rails. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen.”

History professor Kevin Navratil

But the bad news for Ukraine doesn’t end there. Navratil said he’s seen estimates as high as 45 percent GDP loss. This means Ukraine may have only half its economy left standing by the end of the war. To put it into perspective, imagine you go to your local grocery store and find half of the groceries and cashiers gone. You would have to either find another store, hope your usual list is obtainable, or change your list completely.

Now imagine that grocery store feeds and provides for the whole population of Ukraine. That’s what could happen this year.

This ABC News video includes a quick recap on recent events six months into the conflict in Ukraine.

“One of the concerns that I have is that the media attention fades and as our general interest around the world fades, what happens to support for Ukraine?” Navratil said. “What happens when potentially gas prices and energy prices really skyrocket?” 

King believes Putin may have been banking on the West losing interest in the war, which may take U.S. focus off of financial aid. So far, the U.S. has donated a whopping $24 billion, which is four times Ukraine’s annual defense budget, according to Fulton.

Whatever the case, it looks like neither side is getting its piece of the political pie.

“I’m hoping to see some potential change in what might be objectives, I guess,” King said. “Right now, Putin’s main objectives are not possible, not achievable. Zelenskyy’s objectives are probably not achievable either.” 

For the time being, we can be thankful that the war hasn’t centered around our home country, the panel said.

“We’ve been very lucky so far,” Navratil said. “As bad as this war’s been, there hasn’t been direct conflict between the United States and Russia. Or between Russia and the major powers in the European Union. There’s so many ways this could go off the rails. Hopefully that doesn’t happen.”

Upcoming Democracy Commitment events

The Impact of the Conservative Majority on the Legitimacy of the Supreme Court
WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 5, 1-2:15 p.m. in the Library Lounge (Building L) or Library YouTube stream

WHAT: The current Supreme Court has a right-leaning tilt, which could threaten current American legislation.

WHO: Tish Hayes, information literacy librarian; Merri Fefles-Dunkle, professor of history and political science; Shanya Gray, counselor; and Kevin Navratil, professor of political science, consider the historic nature of the current Supreme Court.

2022 Election Overview
WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 25, 11 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., Library Lounge (Building L) or Library YouTube stream

WHAT: The event will take a look at the upcoming 2022 U.S. midterm elections.

WHO: Political science professors Deron Schreck and Kevin Navratil will answer questions about the 2022 election, talk about who may control the U.S. House and Senate, and talk about Illinois’ key campaign races.