On March 17, the Department of Government hosted “Russia’s War Against Ukraine, in Context,” a colloquium in the Naclerio Commons featuring guest speaker Olena Lennon, adjunct professor of political science and national security at the University of New Haven.
With her additional background as a native Ukrainian as well as being an expert on Ukrainian politics and Eurasian geopolitics, Lennon gave some of her opinions on some of the main figureheads of this war.
“Zelensky was an incredible leader but wasn’t always great,” Lennon said. “He had two choices; be overthrown by Putin or be overthrown by Ukrainian citizens, he chose wisely to stand with the people.”
“I actually think Putin is rational, he just has a different set of facts and information as his intelligence services don’t tell him the truth because he has too many ‘yes-men’ around him,” she said.
Some students looked forward to hearing Lennon’s analysis of the Ukrainian war in order to learn from another perspective that media outlets may not have covered.
“I want to learn more about the situation in Ukraine because I feel like there is more to it than what I am seeing on T.V. or social media,” said freshman Keara Mulrooney. “I just hope they come to an agreement soon and not let the situation get worse.”
Lennon’s presentation and background as a Ukrainian native also made other students feel heard due to their own heritages relating to Ukraine and Russia.
“I am personally Ukrainian and Russian, so being in this interactive environment with a fellow Ukrainian made this a very personal issue that I associate with on an emotional level,” said freshman Miriam Shomstein. “It is also difficult to understand everything that is going on from the news, so having a politician summarize the main points about this is very helpful and informative.”
Lennon continued the colloquium by sharing videos that were posted to social media regarding the Ukrainian citizens fighting against the Russian army.
One video titled “Storyful Olga Gaisumova” showed unarmed Ukrainian citizens jumping on Russian army vehicles and not letting them pass into Ukraine, which only showed how unprepared the Russian forces were.
“Putin had misled his own forces by saying they were successful as there were text messages from dead Russian soldiers claiming that they didn’t even know what they were asked to do in Ukraine,” said Lennon.
Many students were outraged by the videos and believe that larger organizations such as NATO should be taking more actions to stop Russia.
“It has definitely exasperated my empathy for the Ukrainian civilians and made me incredibly angry with Vladimir Putin after hearing his flawed rationale and reasoning to start a ‘military operation’ against Ukraine,” said Shomstein. “I left this colloquium feeling an overload of emotions to say the least.”
After the presentation, students and professors had the opportunity to ask questions in a brief Q&A, where she provided more in-depth answers on how this invasion can affect the rest of the world and where she thinks it will lead to.
“I encourage everyone to look at the price we are paying by allowing this invasion to happen,” Lennon said.