Russia's Actions in Ukraine Subject of USF Talk
USF Provost, Dr. Ralph Wilcox, wanted Milani, the Executive Director of the USF Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies, to organize an event focusing on recent events in Ukraine, including Russia's military intervention in Crimea.
"His argument was that as a globally engaged university, it is one of the responsibilities of our university to inform and educate our students as well as the community about important and developing news," Milani said.
So, between USF faculty and Milani's contacts in the world of foreign affairs, he had three experts lined up to take part in a 'campus conversation' Thursday afternoon - barely 26 hours after Wilcox's initial request.
"This gathering should be recorded in the Guinness Book of (World) Records as the fastest conference organized in USF history," Milani joked as he started the panel discussion.
Speakers included Walter Andrusyszn, a USF adjunct professor of International Business who served at the White House as the Director for Northern and Eastern European Affairs in the National Security Council; Dr. Darrell Slider, a professor in USF's Department of Government and International Affairs and an authority on Russian regional politics and President Vladimir Putin; and Bill Ostrowski, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer who serves as a technology advisor to Special Operations Command.
The trio spoke to students, faculty and members of the public, including the Bay area Ukranian community, about the reasons behind Putin's recent actions in the region and how the U.S. might respond.
Despite what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says, Andrusyszn feels the stand-off marks the onset of what he calls a "new Cold War situation."
"It's like the old times of the (19)50's and the 60's where the two interests collide with each other, where Putin will take a position that is opposed to Western interests and the West is now on a track of opposing Russia and its interests as well," he said.
He added that he feels this latest conflict will end like the first Cold War did -- with Russia again on the losing side.
"It will last for a number of decades, maybe a generation or two, just like the Cold War did and then some seminal event will happen," Andrusyszn said. "People will rise up and they will resist that kind of authoritarianism and that will happen in this instance as well because Putin can't impose his will without becoming more and more authoritarian, which is what he was doing in Russia as well."
"This (Putin's actions) is a very popular move within Russia," Dr. Slider added. "Largely because there are no debates in Russia and no free speech.
"If there was a serious discussion of what this means, how does this relate to international law - what if someone holds a referendum within Russia and decides they want to be independent? Is that enough to become independent?" Slider said.
Members of the audience also weighed in on the situation.
Anastasiia Prychyna, a USF junior who was born in Ukraine, had joined protestors in Kiev's Independence Square during the recent winter break.
"At that point it was peaceful situation, so it was no shots, no deaths, it was just provocations from police and police take people and then they'd beat people, but it wasn't like it was (later)."
Last month, dozens of protestors were killed in clashes with police - Prychyna believes some of them were her friends. She appreciated that some at USF were talking about her former homeland.
"Because the world needs to know what happens," the 19-year-old psychology major said. "I'm talking to my roommates, my suitemates and people on campus, a lot of them do not know what's happening really."
Milani said that these kinds of discussions where both experts and people whose lives are directly affected by events can serve to educate others.
"The U.S. is the world's only remaining superpower and the more we learn about the rest of the world, the more enlightened our policies are going to come toward the rest of the world," Milani said.
On March 17th and 18th, the Center will host another series of presentations, The Greater Middle East and Central Asia in 2020 and Its Implications for American Foreign Policy.
"Rather than discussing what is going on in the Middle East and Central Asia today, we are going to focus on the future trends," Milani said. "We will examine which trends are sustainable and which ones are not."
The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the Patel Center for Global Solutions. It will open at 9 a.m. Monday, March 17th, with a keynote lecture by author and New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, who will talk about the post-America Middle East.
Other topics covered over the two days include the future of Syria, what American foreign policy might look like in 2020 and possible economic opportunities in the region.