To the Editor:
Rana Hilal’s news article (“Professors weigh in on Ukraine crisis,” March 3), recently caught my attention. Hilal writes that “professors, along with students from or with an interest in Eastern Europe, are united in their uncertainty and concern for the situation”, and yet her article reflects none of the situation’s “uncertainty.”
Professors and trusted members of academia are generally reliable and unbiased sources in situations like this. The perspectives of Valerii Kuchynskyi, a career diplomat from Ukraine and a SIPA professor, or Robert Legvold, a professor in the department of political science whose areas of interest include “the foreign policies of Russia [and] Ukraine” should have provided some novel insight into the delicate situation unfolding in Ukraine.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true: Hilal’s article suffers from severe tunnel vision, focusing less on Ukraine and more on Russia and Russia’s apparent foreign policy transgressions. It does a twofold disservice to its readers: first by presenting academia as some sort of monolithic, ideologically united group, and again by presenting the situation in Ukraine as simple and without the need for a divergence of opinions.
We’ve become accustomed to offhandedly dismissing statements made by the Kremlin—this approach is not wholly unjustified, but it has lead us astray before. Consider, for example, when the Kremlin announced that it had material proof of Syrian rebels using chemical weapons. This claim was later corroborated by independent U.N. reports. So where are our professors’ reflections on the ascension of the leaders of ultra-nationalist Svoboda and Right Sector to top posts in the interim Ukrainian government? Are we to continue ignoring these concerns, simply because they’re brought forward by Russian officials?
This letter is neither a defense of Putin, nor of the Duma that approved military intervention in Ukraine. But precedent shows that these conflicts rarely parallel the Star Wars-ian “good rebels” versus “evil empire” narrative as closely as we’d like. Instead of perpetuating a one-sided narrative of “the Russian aggression” and ignoring the true nuances of the situation, Spectator should aim to report a more cautious and multifaceted perspective in the future.
Mikhail Klimentov, CC ’16
March 5, 2014
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