• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Photo: Headshot of Rich Barlow, an older white man with dark grey hair and wearing a grey shirt and grey-blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 12 comments on Russia and Ukraine Explained and Analyzed

  1. This is a great read, Rich. Thanks to all for the insight.

    I have to confess to not sleeping well over this the past few nights. Let’s keep the folks of Ukraine in our thoughts.

  2. Thank you for a great article. I tend to agree with most of what the two professors say, but would like to put Professor Lukes’ statements about Russian expansion since the 15th century in context.

    Many years ago, at the time of the Cold War, I also read the figures about Russia having expanded xxx miles towards the West … xxx miles towards the South … xxx miles towards the East … In fact, an analyst calculated the number of square miles per year!!! If I am not mistaken, the piece was triggered by British concerns that the Russians were advancing in Central Asia and approaching India … hence the Anglo-Afghan Wars

    There is no doubt that Russia expanded … but this was very much part of the massive European expansion of the 18th and 19th century. It was no different from the United States expansion towards the Pacific , or the mighty overseas empires of Portugal, Spain, Britain and France.

    The Russians were “somewhat lucky” because Siberia was virtually empty, but they fought nasty wars in the Caucasus and elsewhere … they even partitioned Poland with the Prussians and the Austrians … and they fought endless wars with the Ottoman Turks for control of today’s Ukraine and the Balkans.

    It cannot be denied that Russia was an expanding empire but she was far from unique.

    However, the invasions they suffered are not a myth, and Hitler was only the last.

    They had Napoleon also coming from the West … and before that Swedes and Poles … and from the East they had Tatars and Mongols who destroyed their state several times.

    The Russians are afraid of the outside world and it is actually a wonder that they have not invaded more! They genuinely fear the West and cannot think of NATO as purely defensive. They have a siege mentality.

    I read somewhere that during the 1980s the CIA went to Ronald Reagan and convinced him that the Russians were truly scared … so Reagan moderated his “Evil Empire” statements.

    It is true that we cannot trust Putin. But because of their history, I find it difficult to believe that the Russians will ever trust the West.

    1. Since the 1939 invasion of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union or Russian army attacked or intervened militarily in Finland (1940), Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania (1940), Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), Afghanistan (1980), Georgia (2008), and now Ukraine. The Russian argument of being surrounded by enemies does not stand ground in confrontation with their aggressive history of expansionism and brutal russification and/or Sovietization of territories they tried to subjugate.

  3. “Igor Lukes: The situation is dangerous. Russia has committed a massive force to seize a peaceful sovereign country that never presented any threat.”

    Ukraine has been wanting to join NATO. That presents a threat to Russia. It appears that this is the root cause due to which Putin decided to invade.

    1. Ukraine may have tried to gain membership to NATO, but it was not granted nor is there any indication that it’s status would change. This is demonstrated by the Western governments not commuting troops directly to the conflict

    2. And once Russia takes over Ukraine they will look around and see there are now many more NATO countries next to them. Then what will they do to alleviate that ‘threat’?

  4. Only those who have lived through the horrors of total war will understand what is going on. Academic deliberation is pointless at this time.

    Ukrainians have the right to join any organization they want as they are an independent country. Putin’s feelings are of no relevance here. The military aggression, killing, and subjugating countries and their populations to the will of the strongman can’t be tolerated. The peers of BU students in Ukraine are dying to defend their abandoned and imperfect country, while some BU academics are falsely portraying the USA as the ultimate evil and source of all wrongs. Ask the Ukrainians who they look to most for help! The test of this American generation is coming whether we like it or not.

  5. Please inform people about the real story behind Luganks and Donetsk. How Ukrainian air force bombed the middle of the city right near the kindergarten and a children’s playground in an attempt to kill the leaders of Lugansk, how there was a massive internal war in Donetsk. How LNR and DNR formed. All of that is vital information.

    Also, how about you guys look into other wars going on right now? Saudi bombing Yemen, Israel bombing Syria, USA bombing Somali, Turkey bombing Rojava. Please talk about the fact that since 1945 81% of all wars were started by USA.

    I am not saying either side is right or wrong. All I am stating is facts and I am trying to bring them to light. I want people to make decisions for themselves and be able to think and not just consume the information they are told to believe.

  6. As a Ukrainian, it is very painful to hear some of the comments about Ukrainian “crisis”. It has always been about Russian Aggression. Ukrainian nation is the stronger in spirit, patriotic, talented, courageous, and now desperately in need for help! Not debating who is right or wrong, but the world unity and support to the nation that is so brave and standing alone! in front of the 3rd largest army in the world. We are defending not only our land, but the whole concept of democracy and other countries that are lucky enough not to be neighbors with the country aggressor.

  7. “Igor Lukes: The situation is dangerous. Russia has committed a massive force to seize a peaceful sovereign country that never presented any threat.”

    Exactly! However, what is missing here is to mention 2008 Georgia. This was the first time Russia openly invaded independent sovereign nation. And what did Obama and Angela Merkel do? Symbolic sanctions and staying quite. This is exactly what motivated Putin to become an international bully and go after Crimea and Eastern Ukraine at first and then attack the rest of the country.

    The US, EU & NATO made huge mistakes in dealing with Russia and treating Putin as a rational decision-maker.

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