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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

Editorial: To the spirit of Ukraine

When missiles began to pierce the night sky and rain down on Kyiv a year ago, we did not think we would be able to write this piece. Like many analysts, we suspected Russia’s war crimes would lead to the tragic death of Ukraine and its people. At the time, calls abounded for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to flee the country, fearing he would be killed by the Russian invaders. 

In Zelenskyy’s now-famous quip to the U.S. embassy, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” the president foretold of the great miscalculation of Ukrainian strength and determination. We have been introduced to and reminded of the unbreakable spirit of Ukraine, with the words of Roman Hrybov, a Ukrainian border guard serving on Snake Island: “Російський корабель, іди нахуй” (Russian warship, go f--- yourself); stories of a Kyivan grandma taking out a Russian drone by throwing a jar of pickled tomatoes at it reflect the resolve and commitment to self-determination that have protected freedom in Ukraine.

Because of this strength, we are able to write this piece today. One year later, we feel it is necessary to discuss the war and affirm our unwavering support for Ukraine’s fight for freedom and democracy.

It’s not entirely correct to date the conflict as a year old. Russia initiated this war when they used force to unlawfully annex Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The people of Ukraine have known violence in their country ever since, as Russian-backed separatists have waged war in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine. Yet, on this anniversary of Russia’s escalated aggression through the entirety of Ukraine, we write largely in reference to the events of the past year.

To begin, we must affirm our commitment to the resilient people of Ukraine as they fight off Russian terror. This is a war waged by a rogue nation led by an autocrat with no regard for humanity. Russia has committed war crimes in an attempt to slaughter the Ukrainian nation in order to bring about a regime change and authoritarianism at odds with public opinion. 

Putin’s warmaking has been enabled by Russian oligarchs. Of the Russian citizens who did not flee en masse after Russia’s partial mobilization, some remain silent to avoid becoming a target of the state and its coercive apparatus, while others explicitly support the invasion.

As such, we applaud Western efforts to cripple Russia’s domestic economy with unprecedented economic sanctions, though these efforts have had mixed results. While these sanctions have yet to bankrupt the Russian war machine or create domestic conditions which lead to popular uprising and regime change, we hope they continue and intensify. 

However, economic sanctions alone are insufficient to halt Russia’s state-sponsored terrorism. We accept that this is not a conflict that can be resolved peacefully, but rather only with the defeat of Russia’s armed forces. As such, we support the provisions of aid to Ukraine. 

Like it or not, the West is involved in this war and must be willing to back Ukrainian forces fighting to uphold our shared values. Doing so is also integral for protecting the defensive security of NATO-member countries against the bleed of Russian aggression. The most advanced military equipment is required to not only defeat the Russian army but also to ensure peace in Europe and the North Atlantic.

President Biden’s decision to send tanks and heavy arms to Ukraine was a step in the right direction and has proved that tanks can be provided without escalating the scale and extent of Russian aggression. We applaud German chancellor Olaf Scholz’s policy reversal to provide Leopard 2A6s to Ukraine and hope French President Emanuel Macron will agree to provide Leclerc tanks. Now, those tanks and arms must be delivered.

We stand with the Ukrainian resistance and will support them as they remove Russian occupiers from Eastern Ukraine. 

While these seem like distant policy maneuvers that the Tufts community has no hand in shaping, at Tufts, we can take tangible steps to extend our support to the Ukrainian people. In the spirit of our motto, “Pax et Lux,” we owe it to Ukrainians to protect the light of Ukrainian freedom and democracy in the face of Russia’s invasion. Our community’s focus on global politics and civic engagement means that we cannot play a passive role in responding to Russian brutality.

We call on the university to provide educational support to the people of Ukraine. 

In 1951, Sir Roger Mellor Makins, the British deputy undersecretary of state, began work to establish a living memorial to George C. Marshall, former United States secretary of state, for his efforts in rebuilding Europe and its economy in the aftermath of the second World War. With Parliament’s passage of the Marshall Aid Commemoration Act of 1953, the Marshall Scholarship was born, which now provides up to 50 scholarships for postgraduate study in the United Kingdom to American students each year.

In similar fashion, Tufts can establish two fully funded scholarships for Ukrainian students to pursue a degree at The Fletcher School. Such an action would not only thank Ukrainians for their bravery and resolve but also affirm the Tufts community’s commitment to freedom, democracy and prosperity — and train the policy makers who will be tasked with rebuilding Ukraine after Russia’s defeat. 

Further, we call on Tufts’ alumni association to establish an endowed chair for Ukrainian studies within the School of Arts and Sciences. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a movement within the discipline of Slavic studies has called on the field to be decolonized. For too long, studies of Eastern European and Eurasian politics, history and culture have focused by and large on Russia. Yet a host of cultures, nations and states exist within the post-Soviet sphere, and their stories need to be told. As such, the Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies has worked to address this bias in education, calling on scholars to share, analyze and uplift stories of the post-Soviet bloc from those other than ethnic Russians.

Therefore, establishing a professorship reserved for scholars of Ukraine will be both a means of recognizing Ukrainian resilience while addressing gaps and inequalities within the field of Slavic studies.

We are fortunate to have the Ukrainian perspective already represented in our undergraduate education. Oxana Shevel, an associate professor of political science at Tufts, has informed both Jumbos and citizens worldwide on the war. Her course, Soviet Russia and Post-Soviet Politics, breaks with the Russo-centric curriculum usually present in history and political science classes on the post-Soviet sphere, highlighting the other nations of the former USSR and their histories. 

Shevel’s expertise extends beyond the confines of campus, as she has provided analysis to an array of media outlets to make whatever sense can be made of the geopolitical conflict. She has offered insight into issues ranging from Ukrainian national identity, modern history, defensive aims and reconstruction all while her home country is being attacked by Russia. 

The Daily has been particularly privy to the expertise of Ukrainians at Tufts. Sophomore Mariia Kudina has published a column in the Daily this year in which she documents and explains the war in Ukraine.

Kudina provided analysis of Ukrainian military strategy and survival shelters. She told the stories of Ukrainian women held captive by the Russians, the kidnapping of Ukrainian children and the inhumane shelling and starving of Mariupol. 

And still, while offering these insights, Kudina personified the human costs of Russian brutality. She provides the Daily and the greater Tufts community with a reminder that behind headlines such as “Russia has lost nearly half its main battle tanks” and “Ukraine readies along all fronts for Russia’s next big attack” lie real human suffering and trauma. 

While the West speculates if “A year after invasion, has Russia already lost?” Kudina reminds us that long after Ukraine’s triumph, the impact of the war will be felt across generations of Ukrainians. She has provided a personal account of the toll the war has taken with striking details of understanding and processing collective trauma. She has also taken us on a journey with her back to her homeland, providing the Daily and our readers with firsthand accounts of the war.

Thanks to Mariia Kudina; thanks to Professor Shevel; thanks to President Zelenskyy; thanks to Roman Hrybov; thanks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine; thanks to the unbreakable spirit of Ukraine and the unwavering resolve of Ukrainians, we are able to write this peace today and exclaim proudly that we will always support freedom in the face of oppression, democracy in the face of authoritarianism and Ukraine in the face of Russian brutality. 

Slava Ukraini!