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University flash panel discusses potential outcomes of Russia-Ukraine war

“The only solution is to defeat Putin sooner rather than later,” Taras Dobko, vice-rector of Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) said during a virtual flash panel on the war in Ukraine hosted by the Nanovic Center for European Studies Wednesday afternoon.

Dobko was joined by Law School professor Mary Ellen O’Connell and political science professor Michael Desch in discussing the state of the Ukrainian nation, the international response to the conflict and the end of the war as it enters its second year.

Dobko began by reflecting on the strength and resiliency of the Ukrainian people throughout the war. 

“Ukrainians proved that they could face danger and continue to create art, manufactured goods, learn new things and live human lives,” he said.

The feeling of a distinct Ukrainian identity has increased in the past year, Dobko pointed out, with Russian symbols being removed from public spaces and the use of the Russian language dramatically decreasing.

“Putin has achieved the exact opposite of what he aspired. He is pushing Ukraine into becoming anti-Russian for generations to come,” Dobko said.

Dobko also argued that the war is now entering a new stage and that Ukraine and its allies must adjust their goals accordingly. 

“Against all odds, Ukraine has survived,” he said. “But new uncertainties emerge and cause new worries. Will Ukraine, aided by the West, be able to win and restore its territorial integrity? How to negotiate just peace?”

On the subject of peace talks, Dobko asserted that “85% of Ukranians are not ready for any territorial concessions,” and that the country would continue to fight until it can reclaim the entirety of its occupied land.

O’Connell echoed many of Dobko’s points, stating that the Russian invasion is “the most significant armed conflict since the adoption of the United Nations (UN) Charter in 1945.”

She explained that the war has also caused extreme economic harm globally and within Russia.

“Russia has put the global economic system, the system of human rights and international humanitarian law and the chance to defend the climate and the natural environment, as well as the state system itself, at risk,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell also argued that the complete expulsion of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory is the only acceptable resolution to the war. 

“Ukraine must prevail in this conflict,” O’Connell said. “A Russian defeat of Ukraine, even in the short run, will only introduce more chaos in the world than anything we have seen in the first year of the war.”

Desch, on the other hand, offered a point of view more critical of Ukraine and its prospects of victory.

“For many in the West, it’s clear-cut, black and white. Putin is bad, the Russians are deluded and Ukraine is completely on the side of the angels,” he said.

While there is “some truth to that,” Desch argued it’s not that simple.

Desch attacked Ukraine’s high levels of corruption and questioned both the intentions and the durability of the Ukrainian nationalist movement. 

“The level of corruption in the Ukrainian government remains astronomically high,” Desch said, adding that recent firings of corrupt government officials is “just the tip of the iceberg.”

Desch was also critical of Dobko’s touting of the decreasing use of the Russian language in Ukraine.

“A lot of the impetus behind the decreasing use of Russian in the public space has been a result of coercive policies of the Ukrainian government, including laws passed restricting the teaching of Russian,” he said.

Turning to the end of the war, Desch argued that “the strategic situation is largely a stalemate and will remain a stalemate.”

He said he thinks the United States must broker peace talks, with the only two realistic outcomes from such negotiations being the partition or neutralization of the country.

Dobko pushed back on this idea, placing the blame for the war on Russia.

Although the situation in Ukraine remains perilous for Ukrainian sovereignty, Dobko expressed a sense of optimism about his country’s fate.

“There is a strong feeling that we are making some kind of history and can shape our future,” he said.

Contact Liam at lkelly8@nd.edu.

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UK Diplomat Catherine Arnold visits University

The University of Notre Dame welcomed Catherine Arnold as a guest speaker at the Eck Visitor Center on Sept. 12.

Arnold is a British academic administrator and former UK diplomat. Since Oct. 2019, she has been the Master of St Edmund’s College at the University of Cambridge. Arnold is the fifteenth person to hold that post and the first woman.

After being introduced by vice president and associate provost for internationalization, Michael Pippenger, Arnold gave a speech reflecting on the roles of academic institutions and religion in shaping ethical, global leaders.

Arnold used the example of the recently late Queen Elizabeth II of England to reflect on change and constancy.

“’I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,’” she quoted from the British monarch. “Even before taking the reins of power, she proved to be an exemplary leader.”

Arnold said she believed human nature was the primary obstacle to leadership and unity.

“As technology changes all around us, humans remain stubbornly constant,” she told the audience.

She specifically provided one of her alma maters, Cambridge, as an example of how allowing a Catholic influence through its St. Edmund’s college would strangle free thought.

“Both [the church and the college] had a fear of change,” Arnold commented. “It is not enough to hold a world-class degree… indeed, there is more room in educational establishments other than just academic fundamentals.”

She followed by saying that Notre Dame is a leading example of how the combination of mind and heart can be accomplished.

Pippenger said he sees this theme at work in his duties overseeing Notre Dame international gateways and their goal to attract parts of the world not traditionally attracted. He said he calls Notre Dame an “experiment of globalization.”

Through discussion, Arnold and Pippenger said they agreed that by going out into the world and training to be a global citizen, students can recognize how religion plays into education, free speech, public policy, ethical business practice and other areas.

Arnold said she hopes Notre Dame will foster more “conscious leaders.” She said she believes that it is crucial to train leaders who understand their impact on others and that a conscious leader must be comfortable and resolved in making decisions that exclude others.

“The more power you have, the more you realize that there is often no right or wrong answer; you almost always exclude someone,” she explained.

Arnold also was able to provide the Observer with some guidance for Notre Dame students, connecting her lecture themes with real-world advice.

“Don’t ever listen to just one person’s piece of advice,” she said. “Seek out different people’s perspectives, and then continue to press both them and yourself with existential ‘why’ and ‘so what’ questions.”