CSUB faculty reflect on Russian invasion of Ukraine


Mark Martinez By Ben Patton/The Runner

Graciela Aguilar, Staff Writer

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine entering a second month, The Runner reached out to several CSUB faculty members who teach political science and communications to get their perspectives.  

Overall, they agree: There is no justification to the violence and destruction currently happening in Ukraine. 

According to Mark Martinez, political science department chair at CSUB, Russian oligarchs have recurringly felt some form of threat of Eastern Europe, regarding security. Most of these fears have been manifested through Putin’s own beliefs. 

However, Martinez says that up until the point before the attack on Ukraine began on Feb. 2, there has been no significant threat to Russia regarding security issues. Weeks prior to the invasion, satellite images reveled at least 100,000 Russian troops and tanks piling up along the borders of Ukraine, during that time, Putin denied any allegation of the invasion that was set to come just a few weeks later.  

Meanwhile, Martinez says Europe and the United States all suspected the same, that Russia was planning its invasion to stop Ukraine from moving closer to the west. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, and as of now is advancing in three main directions. Crimea in the south, Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east, and Belarus in the north.  

Martinez says Russia aims to destabilize Ukraine and to keep it from moving closer to the west where it can’t partnership with The North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO is an organized international military alliance of many countries. Putin has said in the past that he would take the necessary steps to stop the expansion of NATO in Europe and has even suggested it stay out of Europe completely.  

“Putin would like to see one of the NATO Partners jump into the conflict, whether that be by coaxing or antagonizing them, it is all a part of a greater geostatistical plan to give leeway to his actions for his attacks,” Martinez said.  

Martinez has, been closely following the conflict and agrees that if NATO partners are not forced into the conflict, the United States should remain with minor to no intervention in the conflict.  

The Russian-Ukraine war could have had different implications if Ukriane would have continued it partnership with NATO back in 2013. According to NATO, if one power is attacked, all members would be involved. This, however, isn’t the case. Now, Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, says he does not want partnership with NATO during this delicate time.  

 President Zelenskyy has urged NATO for a no-fly-zone over Ukraine. No fly zones are usually implemented by NATO to protect populations from all or certain aircrafts flying over a designated area.  

According to NATO, a no-fly-zone cannot be implemented due to concerns over nuclear warfare, which can lead into a dangerous conflict, the ominous threat of nuclear war has kept NATO from making any risky decisions. Putin controls the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and has already threatened anyone who might intervene in his plans.  

Dirk Horn, a political science lecturer at CSUB, says that wars start between nuclear powers when one side suffers a causality.  

“There’s a reason why the United States and the Soviet Union never got into a direct conflict during the Cold War. We had lots of proxy wars, where we would use other States essentially and fight our battles there for what type of government those states would have. But we never got into direct conflict because we have nuclear powers. When you have nuclear powers that can escalate into a nuclear war rather quickly,” Horn said.  

Horn further explained that NATO is one large alliance; if one partner is attacked, all partners must act in protection of their fellow allies. However, since Ukraine is not a part of NATO, there isn’t much that can be done, apart from supplying aid.  

CSUB Communications professor Elizabeth Jackson, a former Fulbright Scholar Specialist in Russia, recently reflected on her time in Russia and the devastating attacks on Ukraine. The Fulbright program allows overseas universities, cultural centers, and other institutions abroad to form projects that host a leading U.S. academic or professional at their institution to work on diverse, short-term collaborative projects. Jackson worked to reset the cultural boundaries and stereotypes of African Americans in Russia. As well as give a number of lectures on journalism during her time there. 

Communications professor Elizabeth Jackson has been teaching at CSUB for the past 27 years.
Photo by CSU Dominguez Hills

Before she departed to Russia, she turned to her close friend Ann Simmons at The Los Angeles Times who helped Jackson understand Russian culture and basic knowledge of the country. Simmons is now the Moscow Bureau Chief of The Wall Street Journal.  

Jackson has visited Russia three times, twice as a visiting scholar presenting papers and lectures on redefining hip-hop culture within the perspectives of Russian students. As well as how American educational systems were now introducing hip hop studies to understand cultural demographics.  

“Being a Fulbright scholar, it allows you the opportunity to be able to open your eyes and understand that people are not monsters,” said Jackson relating to the ongoing conflict currently happening in Ukraine.  

“It’s such a deep and intimate connection, getting perspectives on culture, meeting fellow academics, and students, you get to see a lot of things, and what you recognize is, this incursion on Ukraine, has nothing to do, for the most part, with the Russian population. This is the doing of Putin. We cannot see the Russian population to blame or hate for Putin’s actions. Especially of the people are getting incorrect information due to the states control over media and internet use,” Jackson said. 

Jackson offers a similarity between former President Trumps actions towards people of color and Latinx people. Even if the president was putting children in cages or telling house representatives who are women of color to go back to their countries, his actions to not reflect who the American people are and what they stand for. The same should be viewed for Russian citizens.  

Together with U.S. President Biden, leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom as well as the European Union, have begun imposing harsh economic sanctions to try and stop Russia. Biden has initiated the State Department to release up to $350m worth of weapons from US stocks to support Ukraine.