Profs and Pints Charlottesville presents: “Understanding the War in Ukraine,” a look at the invasion’s causes and possible outcomes, with Allan C Stam, professor of politics and public policy at the University of Virginia, scholar of armed conflict, defense consultant, and Cold War-era veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces.
It’s one thing to try to make sense of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine simply by sifting through the daily onslaught of news related to developments there. It’s another to be able to view the conflict through the lens offered by political science and the wisdom it has acquired by studying centuries of wars between nations.
To help you benefit from such a perspective Profs and Pints is bringing to its Graduate Charlottesville stage Dr. Allan Stam, a leading scholar of armed conflict who directed the international policy center at the University of Michigan before coming to the University of Virginia’s school of leadership and public policy. Along with conducting survey research in Russia and serving as a consultant to the Department of Defense and the US Navy’s Joint Warfare Analysis Center, Dr. Stam was written extensively on war outcomes, war durations, mediation, and alliance politics. His books on such subjects include Democracies at War, The Behavioral Origins of War, Why Leaders Fight, and Win, Lose, Or Draw.
He'll start by looking at how Russia’s invasion is motivated by both greed and grievance. As for the greed part, Ukraine was once an extraordinary asset of the Soviet Union, and it could potentially become one to an expansionist Russia as a source of raw materials, grain, sea access, heavy and medium industry, and information technology. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s sense of grievance arises from his decades-old annoyance at the expansion of NATO and his view that it poses an existential threat to his nation.
Dr. Stam also will look at why efforts to deter Russia from invading failed, and how efforts to strike a bargain between the two sides were complicated by a lack of agreement over what a war between them might even look like.
Considering how the war is being presented as a threat to democracy, he’ll look at what we know about what happens when democracies end up at war with autocracies. He’ll discuss how democracies have an advantage in that they tend to make better strategic decisions and to command more loyalty from their forces, but autocrats are exceptionally dangerous foes, exceptionally prone to escalation, because they know that a catastrophic defeat might lead to their violent overthrow and death.
Among the questions Dr. Stam will tackle: What impact do economic sanctions have on the decision making of authoritarian leaders? Is there really something to the claims that Russia might use nuclear or chemical weapons? How long and how costly are wars like this one in general and how do we know that? What might the war in Ukraine tell us about the risks of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and Taiwan? (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: Members of Ukraine's 25th Air Assault Brigade. (Photo from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine / www.mil.gov.ua ).