Ukraine and Russia War has been a topic discussed by renowned International Relations scholars, politicians, diplomats, as well as the general public. After a year since the 2022 invasion, the International Community has not come to a consensus on what comes next. Both Russia and Ukraine are running low on artillery. Russia is also running low on militants- conscripting the population for the first time since World War II. There are countless “what-ifs” of the conflict. One of the major questions, though, is the question about nuclear weapons and what impact they play in the war.

Ukraine agreed to completely denuclearize after the collapse of the Soviet Union in exchange for security. However, with Russia being one of the nine countries with nuclear weapons and having one of the largest air defenses, there is debate on whether or not this was the right choice. Professors Russell Bova and Andrew Wolff argue that nuclear weapons in Ukraine are not necessary. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, does not want a nuclear war. One of his explanations for invading Ukraine was to stop the expansion of NATO. Although, using nuclear weapons on the country would be an almost surefire way to guarantee a war with NATO in Eastern Europe. Many question why the Russian military has not invaded other Eastern European countries to rid the threat of nuclear weapons pointed at Russia. The answer lies in the fact that NATO would have to intervene, especially with its growing membership since deterrence only works if the threat is backed by action.

Nuclear weapons have also deterred the United States, a primary actor in NATO. Putin knew that the United States did not want another war across the globe, as confirmed by President Joseph Biden after withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in August 2021. Both Russia and NATO are state actors- they know the consequence of nuclear war. Professor Wolff argues that because of this, there is little reason to worry: a Proliferation Optimist approach. However, Professor Bova argues that if Putin feels like he is backed into a corner he may forgo rational thought, a Selectivist view. I believe though, that Putin wholeheartedly believes that Ukraine is Russia’s, and is inherently his. I do not think he would want to use nuclear weapons on his own land, regardless of how powerless he feels.

This talk was exceptional and was easily related back to concepts of International relations such as beliefs on nuclear proliferation, functions of force, and intergovernmental organizations. My only criticism is statements comparing Ukraine and Afghanistan. There was a comment that Afghanistan was taken over because Afghans did not have a “will” to fight. I thought this was incredibly outlandish. There is an incredible difference between being supported by large Western powers and being invaded by them.

I wish, though, that there was more discussion on the daily lives of citizens in both Ukraine and Russia. I believe it is very easy to forget that people still have to exist while atrocities occur. There was a discussion on Ukrainian Art, but none was shown. I would like to see how this time is expressed by a multitude of people. I think that is the most important thing to remember during these hardships for Ukrainian civilians- they are people surviving day-to-day. During times like these, it is easy to remember statistics, but I believe we owe it to remember the individual.


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