Not everything about the conflict in Ukraine is black and white.
Dr. Victoria Vernon, assistant professor of economics at SUNY Empire State College, gave a discussion in the Lecture Center on Oct. 22 to help students understand the gray areas of the topic.
In the discussion titled, “Conflict in Ukraine: How Did We Get Here? How Can We Get Out?” Vernon discussed her personal and academic life growing up in Ukraine in the ‘80s.
“The armed conflict in Ukraine is deeply rooted in history, the economy, politics and the culture of a profoundly divided nation,” Professor of Educational Studies, Nancy Schneidewind said.
Vernon presented a slideshow to support her remarks with maps of Russian territory, graphs of the economic growth in Ukraine compared to other countries and other information.
She also discussed historical figures, such as Vladimir Putin, the current president of Russia, Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian political activist and Viktor Yanukovych, the fourth president of Ukraine.
Vernon stated that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is pushing towards the Russian boarder and has no business being there.
“Civil war escalates, drawing in Russian and NATO military forces,” Vernon said.
She explained how Russia claims the U.S. is orchestrating conflict to get back at Russia by expanding empires that are getting too close.
“Current polls in Russia state that the U.S. is enemy number one,” Vernon said. “They say that the U.S. should go home and mind their own business.”
One of her suggestions on how the country can get out of this conflict included the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, two regions of Ukraine, or to have them become a part of Russia.
The discussion left the audience understanding that Russia wants a war, spends money on propaganda and that there are many parties to blame for this conflict. Most of the audience members who spoke were Ukrainian citizens.
Some of the topics Vernon discussed started arguments among the audience.
A citizen of Ukraine, Olga Chernyak, and a male audience member argued over whether or not Stepan Bandera was a Nazi.
“You see how controversial this topic is,” Vernon said.
A few of the other Ukrainian audience members agreed that her history lesson was like “reading a Soviet textbook” and recommended that she study more Ukrainian history.
“It was actually better than I expected,” said Chernyak. “She did present both views, but her history lesson was very inaccurate.”