USM history faculty reacts to war in Ukraine

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Since February, Ukraine and Russia have been engaged in the largest conflict Europe has seen since the second World War. The conflict has inspired international uproar, including reaction from professors at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Earlier this month, Associate Professor of History Dr. Brian LaPierre shared his condemnation of the war with The Student Printz and WUSM’s Southern Miss Today.  

To add more perspective, The Student Printz reached out to other members of the history faculty – Heather Stur and Joe Weinberg. 

Stur is a professor of history who studies U.S. foreign relations and the Cold War.

 In her view, Putin is looking to regain the power of the territory Russia lost after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Given the risks, she thinks that the United States is right to avoid military action. 

“I don’t think the U.S. will get involved directly, either by sending in ground troops or deploying airstrikes,” Stur said. “…having just gotten out of Afghanistan…I don’t think there is the political will to commit the U.S. to fighting in another country when U.S. interests are not threatened.” 

Stur noted the parallels between the current conflict and the Cold War. She hopes that like back then, factors such as the threat of nuclear war will keep the two rivals from facing each other directly.

This also means that, for now, it is unlikely the U.S. will reinstate the draft, a fear that many have had in times of conflict.

 As Stur explains, “…widespread opposition to the draft among the American public ensures that any effort to reinstate the draft would be political suicide.”

Weinberg is another history professor specializing in international relations. Like Stur, he’s hopeful that the war will remain contained to Ukraine and Russia.

As for the millions of refugees from the conflict, Weinberg is sure that the U.S. will continue to send support, though this may be because most of the refugees will be resettling in Europe. 

“It’s a lot easier to be supportive of an issue that isn’t ‘your’ immediate problem,” Weinberg said. 

Despite the international backlash against Russia, he believes the war is unlikely to challenge Putin’s reign. 

“It could absolutely jeopardize his position. That being said, he’s got a pretty firm hold on power over there, so it would take some major defections from his inner circle – or a change of heart on his part – to jeopardize that hold,” Weinberg said.

Both professors agree that the war will have far-reaching consequences.

Stur expressed concern for Russia’s other neighbors. 

“I worry that if somehow Russia manages to take control of Ukraine…Putin could turn the other direction and attack countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, or others,” Stur said. 

On the other hand, Dr. Weinberg was concerned about the United States’ role in the war.

 “This war will do a lot—one way or another—to shaping the next 20 years of the US’s role in the international community, “ Weinberg said. 
Read LaPierre’s letter to the editor on the war in Ukraine at https://studentprintz.com/letter-to-the-editor-lies-hubris-and-imperial-overreach-vladimir-putins-ill-advised-war-in-ukraine/.