JCU Hosts Discussion on Russia's War in Ukraine and Future of Transatlantic Relations

John Cabot University’s Guarini Institute for Public Affairs and Temple University’s Rome campus presented a discussion called “Russia’s War in Ukraine and the Future of Transatlantic Relations” on July 5th. The event, which was moderated by Costanza Hermanin, was followed by a discussion by Emilia Zankina on “The Line-up to Brussels: Prospects for Future EU Expansion” and Ivan Krastev’s keynote speech on the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia's War in Ukraine and Future of Transatlantic Relations - From left: Emilia Zankina, Costanza Hermanin, and Ivan Krastev

Russia’s War in Ukraine and Future of Transatlantic Relations – From left: Emilia Zankina, Costanza Hermanin, and Ivan Krastev

Emilia Zankina is an Associate Professor in Political Science and Dean of Temple University Rome campus. She holds a Ph.D. in International Affairs and a Certificate in Advanced East European Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Her research examines democratization and elite transformation in Eastern Europe, populism, civil service reform, and gender political representation. Ivan Krastev is the Chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences, IWM Vienna. He is a founding board member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the Board of Trustees of The International Crisis Group and a member of the Board of Directors of GLOBSEC, as well as a highly successful author.

Zankina opened the discussion with a brief history of the EU and NATO and the prospects for their expansion. She explained that enlargement has been the norm in the history of these organizations and provided a historical analysis of the growing membership. This expansion has been driven primarily by the political purposes of consolidating democratic governance, which subsequently results in economic benefits due to the support of a market economy. Additionally, joining the EU and NATO offers member countries a geostrategic orientation. Because of these benefits, their membership is very intertwined as many countries will apply to both organizations rather than just one. Historically, it was easier to gain NATO membership because the EU had stricter membership requirements, but this is no longer the case. The EU has had seven major enlargements since its creation, and there is currently a debate as to whether the EU should continue to accept more member countries as the applications begin to line up or if a new organization designed for a larger community needs to be created.

Following Zankina’s overview of the expansion of the EU, Krastev began his talk on the conflict in Ukraine and how Russia’s actions have impacted transatlantic relations. He explained that part of the reason for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can be traced back to the end of communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. There is a lingering resentment among Russian leaders that the end of communism also brought about the end of the Soviet Union. As such, political figures like Vladimir Putin are using this destruction of the Soviet identity to alienate the Ukrainian people from the Russians in what he called “identity politics.” Krastev believes that the war in Ukraine is not an attempt to restore the Soviet Union and that Putin’s July 2021 article called “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” is very anti-Soviet. He added that in the same article Putin states that Russians and Ukrainians are the same people.

Krastev also discussed three major changes in Europe that were prompted by this conflict. As a result of the invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden broke their historic neutrality and agreed to join NATO. Additionally, the German government publicly announced their support of Ukraine, thus ending their previous stance of pacifism regarding the conflict. The third change was the unexpected response of Poland as they welcomed roughly two million Ukrainian refugees across their border. He attributed this unified response of outrage in the west Europe’s sense of collective identity. While conflict such as this is not unexpected, the war being between two European countries came as a surprise and a source of anger to many. Using the idea of a strictly European conflict, Krastev explained that this is part of why the war in Ukraine is not comparable to the Cold War as many people have made it out to be. He attributed this to the lack of a global response, and the fact that this matter is one of identity politics, not ideological politics as was the case with the Cold War.