Exploring the Global Dimensions of the War in Ukraine

On September 28, 2022, Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies hosted a “Beyond the Headlines” (BtH) event during which Pardee School professors dissected the different elements at play in the war in Ukraine.

The panel discussion was led by Kevin Gallagher, Professor of Global Development Policy and Director of the Global Development Policy Center, and featured Research Professor Jorge Heine; Kaija Schilde, Jean Monnet Chair in European Security and Defense, Associate Professor of International Relations, and Director of the Center for the Study of Europe; Jack Weinstein, Professor of the Practice of International Security; and Min Ye, Associate Professor of International Relations. Panelists explored the threat the Ukrainian conflict poses to global security, the politics and strategies shaping the war, the impact of the war on the Global South and China, and much more.

Gallagher began the conversation by asking about the military element of the conflict and the increasing security risks posed by Russia. Weinstein said that from the start of Russia’s invasion, there was a perception that Ukraine’s army could not stand against the seemingly invisible Russia; however, this narrative has changed as Ukrainian forces hold their own forcing Vladimir Putin to enact a draft. When asked what the United States and European Union (EU) can do to prevent Putin from using nuclear arms, Weinstein said the U.S. should have taken a stronger stance against their use along with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

As this is a global conflict, panelists were also asked how the war in Ukraine is affecting different parts of the world. In discussing Europe, Schilde said that the war has been highly disruptive for the EU. She mentioned that the war has resulted in the weaponization of different civilian markets – agriculture, migration, energy, etc. – which has fundamentally transformed EU politics.

From left to right: Jack Weinstein, Min Ye, Jorge Heine, Kaija Schilde, and Kevin Gallagher
From left to right: Jack Weinstein, Min Ye, Jorge Heine, Kaija Schilde, and Kevin Gallagher. (Source: Pardee School)

Ye detailed how Russia’s invasion has complicated its relationship with China and how it’s aligning itself globally. The war in Ukraine created a great dilemma for China’s domestic and international policy. On the one hand, one of China’s strongest held norms is respect for sovereignty, which Russia flew in the face of by invading Ukraine. However, China has not officially condemned Russia for its actions for fear of losing a powerful ally, so it is occupying the middle ground. Another unfortunate consequence of the war according to Ye is that its has created dynamics within China in which elites are more accepting of a potential military conflict with the U.S.

Ambassador Heine discussed the impact on the Global South and whether this war represents the “West vs. the rest.” According to him, the Western objective in this war has shifted since its start from protecting Ukrainian sovereignty to defeating Russia, and this is not a view held by all in the developing world. Heine argues that this is no longer “democracy vs authoritarianism” when you have democracies like India and Pakistan staying neutral; it’s easy to see why there has been a rise in non-alignment as a result of this conflict.

Following formal remarks, panelists took questions from the audience of BU students and scholars on the likelihood of conflict in Taiwan, how to deal with Russia post-conflict, and more.

A recording of the event can be viewed above or on the Pardee School’s YouTube channel.

Beyond the Headlines is a regular series at the Pardee School that seeks to cultivate informed conversations among experts and practitioners on issues that are currently in the news headlines, but to do so with a focus on intellectual analysis and longer-range trends. Recent Beyond the Headlines discussions have focused on topics including the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II, the global perception of U.S. presidential elections, civil-military relations, BrexitInternational Women’s Day, and the crisis in Kashmir.