Bonus Episode: As recent events in Ukraine continue to unfold, hosts Rachel and Emily turn to members of the Stout community for information and support. Guest Dr. Kim Zagorski, International Relations expert, details the timeline leading up to Russia's invasion, the impacts it will have on us here in the U.S., and how Putin's decisions are impacting Russia. Guest Scott Pierson, Director of the Office of International Education, offers valuable guidance for processing the recent events on a local, community level.
Dr. Kim Zagorski, Internation Relations and International Studies Specialization
Scott Pierson, Director, Office of International Education
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Hello, everybody! You are listening to Inside Stout, a UW-Stout podcast that focuses on the stories of students, staff, faculty, and the entire campus community. I'm Rachel Hallgrimson.
And I'm Emily Laird. Certainly, by now you've heard about the ongoing events in Ukraine and we felt it was time to discuss. Today we welcome two guests, an expert on international relations, faculty member Kim Zagorski, and Scott Pierson, director of international education to help us understand, unpack, and approach everything we're seeing unfold.
Hi, Rachel and Emily. I am Kim Zagorski. I am a professor in political science and the areas that I study are international relations and mass media and foreign policy.
Fantastic. So you know all about what's going on in the Ukraine right now, and that's exactly why you're here. And that's exactly what we wanna know. Where did this start? What's the timeline? How did we get here?
Good questions. Like most big international events. You have to pick a, a, a starting point. So my starting, point's going to be about 10, 12 years ago, where we had a revolution in Ukraine. But before we do that, I need to take a quick detour further back in the past. So if anyone in the stout community has had modern world history, these events will be familiar to you. So in 1812, we have Napoleon in the Napoleonic wars. He decides it's a really great idea to go invade Russia. What he didn't count on was the Russian winter. So on the way back after almost sacking Moscow, uh, he hit winter and most of his troops died fast forward to, um, world war I, and you have the Eastern front where the German empire is fighting the Russians and the, uh, Germans got to, um, areas in, in Russia for the Russian empire.
They were pushed back. Fast forward to world war II and Hitler, um, invading in multiple fronts in Eastern Europe and in Russia. And so it takes quite some time for the Russian army to push the, uh, to push the German army, uh, further and further west until we have the VE day, where the European, uh, theater closes because you have the meeting of French, British, American, and the Russian troops. After that, we have the cold war and Stalin, who is the, uh, head of the Soviet Union at the time, realizes that three attacks are enough. We need to do something, which is why we have Eastern Europe becoming communist fast forward to 1989. We have the fall of the Berlin wall and this buffer zone that rush the Soviet union has created in Eastern Europe is starting to fall and become democratic by 1991, we have the fall of the Soviet union and all of these, um, now countries on the Eastern part, excuse me, the Western part of Russia.
And you might have heard him in the news already, Estonia Laia, Lithuania, Belarus, and along with Ukraine are all breaking away. And so to some extent, Russia is becoming a bit more exposed at first. It was just Estonia Laia and Lithuania, but where we pick up our story about 10, 12 years ago in Ukraine, there is this discussion. If you will, about where Ukraine's future is going, is it going to still be eastward facing and, uh, focus in and tie in with the Soviet or the former Soviet Union with Russia, which is where it was at at that point, or do they realign themselves and, uh, go westward facing perhaps become part of the European union. Um, ultimately part of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which would provide, um, security if needed against Russia. So as you might have heard, um, over the past several years, uh, there's been questions about, uh, the government of Ukraine and, uh, it being with corruption.
And so when we're, we're about to, at our starting point, there still was a government that had a lot of corruption. Uh, and so part of that revolution was to try to, uh, um, to clean that up along with having that westward, uh, facing government Putin sees that as a threat, again, that traditional buffer zone is getting smaller. And so in 2014, he invades Ukraine and takes over this peninsula called the Crimea, which is on the Black Sea, gives Russia more access to sea, to the sea. And you don't have to worry about, uh, freezing water, like in their northern ports. The world didn't do very much at the time outside of sanctions. And it became a stalemate until about two months ago, when things started heating up again and Putin was making aggressive motions towards Ukraine. President Zelensky announcing that Putin had, uh, tried to assassinate him, um, or had plans to remove him from office.
And we start seeing the west take more and more interest in what is happening. And we end up having a standoff until Russia decides to invade in. Um, it's about, about a week ago now, uh, the question is why, uh, one of it, one response is that again, that security buffer, the second is a question about whether Vladimir Putin wants to get the Russian empire back, not the Soviet Union, um, but the older Russian empire, um, of which Ukraine was part of along with, um, Belarus Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. And I also just saw an article the other day that into the lead up of all of this tension, Zelensky was trying to pivot, some of his economy, uh, towards green energy, because they have huge stores of lithium, which is now necessary for a lot of the green energy components. That could have been another reason because that would've given Ukraine much more independence from Russia.
So it seems like around 2014, I don't remember exactly in the timeline where you said this is happening, but the decision for the Ukraine to either choose to go with Russia or to choose to go with the European Union, is that kind of where Putin's looking and saying, they're not making a choice. So it's obviously they don't wanna be with us, but because they don't, they're not with the EU yet, they can't fight back. Is that part of it?
It is. So, um, from Putin standpoint, they made a decision, they made the wrong one. Obviously they should be going with him. And this is where you get into the complications with international alliances international treaties. So the European Union is primarily economic, okay. But there are attempts to get some, um, at least some coordination with foreign policy and military and the, and the European Union certainly has resources. They are deciding to spend money on weapons to send a Ukraine of more importances in North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which was created to, uh, at the beginning of the cold war to prevent, uh, Russia from going and taking over Western Europe. So that agreement says if Russia attacks one of the members, we all will join into protect Ukraine, doesn't have that now, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania do.
They're a part of NATO.
They are part of NATO, which is why, um, uh, Putin hasn't done anything outside of cyberattacks. Ukraine is in that vulnerable position because it's not part of NATO. And so you don't have that automatic guarantee. And if NATO comes in to help, there's been discussions and no-fly zones, um, uh, sending in more than just giving weapons and, um, machinery, uh, to help. Then we take it up another notch to a global conflict. The U.S. and European countries are fighting against Russia. So Ukraine is really stuck.
So what does this mean for us at home?
The impacts that people here in Menomonie and the Stout community are going to experience are going to be largely pocketbook issues. So driving into, when I was driving in today, I saw that gas had gone up another 10 cents a gallon. So we're about 20 cents higher per gallon than, than we were a week ago. That's going to be the immediate effect,
Gas prices. Where we may also see, um, increases is in, uh, material or food products that rely on grain because a significant part of the world's grain comes from Ukraine. Mm. And that is going to be taken out of the supply, which means there's going to be more demand for a smaller supply. So that means price of Ramed noodles are gonna go up. Um, pizza's going to go up. We saw this back again in, or back in 2007, when there was another supply issue with food pizza went up, gas went up, and you're gonna see higher prices for dairy and for meat as well because of the grain that's used to feed the livestock. So we're gonna see that, that knock-on effect there, in terms of additional effects, depending on how long the crisis goes. We may see an increase in heating prices, uh, and energy prices simply because a lot of, uh, countries are depending on gas, natural gas and oil from Russia.
And right now that's not being sanctioned, but if it does, or Russia decides to cut it off, then those supplies are going to have to go elsewhere. I mean, part of that, we're already seeing with gas prices, but not so much with natural gas, but that may increase as well. Another thing, if anyone is waiting for their Xbox S or their Xbox X, it's probably gonna be a little bit longer. Oh, just simply because of the supply chain, uh, disruptions, Russia has banned all of, uh, European flights and probably American over Russian soil, but then the Europeans and President Biden in his State of the Union Address, uh, have blocked all Russian, uh, flights from an, uh, in their airspace. Which means everything is going to have to take a little bit longer of an air route or going by sea, but we already have huge supply chain backups there as well.
We do. Wow. And you know, those are the repercussions that we're gonna face, but what's been really fascinating in all of this in the, in the week we've been in. This is to see the repercussions that Russia is facing.
Yes. Uh, the goal there, because we can't do anything militarily because that will lead to a larger conflict. Right. The goal has been to stifle Russia economically, and this has meant, um, isolating from the international community. There are, um, embargoes in place, um, for certain trading, um, goods. So for example, electronics here in the U.S. cannot be shipped over to Russia.
Oh, I saw apple pulled all their products.
Yeah. Russia. Okay. Wow. Um, and there are certain websites that are blocking access to Russia, uh, Russian users, uh, there's been, uh, a temp or, well, there's been, uh, so if we look at cyberspace, in addition to Apple, we also have, uh, uh, Facebook is part of, uh, and, and Twitter. And I believe YouTube as well, blocking, um, certain official websites. And, uh, there's been attempts by the Ukrainian that call themselves the UT or the Ukrainian IT Army to counter Russian, um, misinformation and disinformation. You also have certain websites that are blocking Russian users. And when they try to access those sites, they, uh, get a pro-Ukrainian message that is popping up. So we've got that, that cyber situation. Financially, we have, uh, the assets of the Russian government of LA Putin and his close associates, which, uh, are referred to as oligarchs.
All of their private assets have been frozen in most of the world. And then the Russian banking economy or banks have been cut off from doing any type of, uh, commercial transactions within, um, the world. And so the is, um, cuz Russia had rainy day fund in case something happened. They had the dollars that are needed for international trade sure. And finance and the goal there is to, um, pretty much bankrupt that by having Russia support its currency. So in, uh, in Russia, the food prices are, are going up. I, the value of the Rubal, the last time I checked was less than a penny, to the dollar. Wow. Or so, uh, if you had one rub and exchange it, you would get less than a penny. So the effects on the Russia, the average Russian people are devastating. Yeah.
Let me ask you about that in a sense that, and I certainly don't want to take anything away from the Ukrainian people. Obviously, they didn't ask for this. What I'm curious about is the average individual in Russia, to your knowledge, do you know if they were anticipating how quickly this went left?
No, it was, uh, and, and, and to some extent there were people that didn't even know that they were there or okay. Or if they were there, it was just a quick operation. Something that would be over in a few weeks or a few days and nothing to worry about. So yeah, this is if, if they were, if they had gotten the information because, uh, Putin has a very, very tight control over information in Russia, be it the internet, uh, radio, TV, newspaper, controlling the information and controlling just the agenda. And what people know, uh, protest has been cracked down. Dissidents are fed pelodium and usually die because of radiation poisoning. That's happened several times over the past six or seven years. So there is, um, a little bit of an information vacuum. Some people obviously, did know we saw protests in St. Petersburg and elsewhere, but this blog Putin didn't even know, realize that it would go this, this bad, this fast. So it, it, yeah, definitely is coming to a surprise.
Do you think Putin is getting a lot of pressure from those around him to stop this or any?
I don't think so. Okay. The pictures that we've seen have been, uh, of Putin physically isolating themselves. So we've seen pictures of really long conference tables like that would see, like
I've seen one.
Yeah. And Putin is at the head of one end and everyone is gathered at the other end and we don't know, we don't know.
I thought maybe he had COVID.
I thought there would be people on standby, like to, to, you know, defend him if they came at him or something. That's what I thought, like a security thing. It,
Part of it is at first it was the suspicion of maybe blocking for COVID, uh, that, uh, like we saw the picture of the French president Macron and the, the distance there that the agreement was that if you got closer, you'd have to take a Russian COVID test, which will give up a bit of your DNA. And the suspicion is that, you know, we don't wanna give up our DNA to the Russians, but then you look at his own internal advisors who presumably have had the tests that are still far away. So it's, it really is this question of what is going on, uh, is he isolating himself even further, which is, you know, not unheard of when you have an authoritarian leader, that things are really badly to just have your most closest advisors with you. But again, that distance is just it's no one knows.
Very interesting. Wow. Well, before we wrap this up, I'd like you to try and explain what Putin's end game is with this. What does he want? What does he hope to happen? What's he want? And how can we, you know, if you can give us and our listeners some sort of perspective to take and to help us move forward and stay informed and how to talk with other people about it,
There's a couple and games possible. One suspicion is that Putin really did think it would be really quick. The Russian troops would go in the gov Ukrainian government would fall and fold, and then he could put a pro Russian leader in. And everything's fine. There's also that question about how serious Putin is about recreating the old Russian empire, which would mean physical occupation of these territories so far, wherever possible. He has, uh, supported pro-Russian leaders in all of what we call the breakaway Soviet republics, all of the little states that went free after the fall of the Soviet Union. So that could be a goal. Um, part of it too, is that question of, is he simply trying to create a buffer zone? We, we don't know exactly all of those are possible outcomes. How to talk about this?
I will would say, just start in and have a conversation like we are, if you're not sure what is happening, your major news outlets will have information. Um, you can listen to coverage if you're watching a nightly newscast or listening. Um, I would, I would stay away from YouTube. Um and Reddit and Facebook simply because anybody can post. Uh, and so going to other reputable news outlets would be the best if you want a real time. Uh, the New York times and the Washington post have had really good coverage and the New York times as Stout students and faculty and staff, we have free membership through the libraries. So if you go to the Stout Cloud and then go to the library's website, they'll have instructions on how you can get your free subscription. And they have a, uh, uh, a link where you can click on that are, are live updates.
And so that's how I found out that the international, uh, Federation of people that do cat shows have bands, uh, any Russians from showing their cats and that the equivalent of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Paris have taken, the, uh, the, the statue of Putin down. But then also that the Russians were firing cruise missiles and hit government sites that they're targeting civilians and that they, uh, hit a TV tower in in Kyiv. So yeah, I saw that it's the, the, uh, theater of the absurd versus, you know, the heartbreaking you can, you can get that all right. Um, in terms of worrying I'm, I'm Gen-X. So I grew up at the end of the cold war. So some of this is a bit of a repeat, um, not to say I'm not worried and that I'm not concerned, but, uh, unlike others that may have been born.
After the cold war, right. It's something very new. We see Russia as yeah. One of our perennial foes, but nothing to the extent of this. Right. I would say, yes, it's right. To be concerned, but don't overly worry about it. Um, similar to what they were telling us when COVID started, don't, you know, don't doom scroll. And so don't, don't doom scroll when you're looking with Ukraine, uh, there is no willingness, um, by the us and Europe to directly engage in conflict with Russia over Ukraine, because it would have the possibility of growing very fast, right. Uh, economic sanctions also take time. And so, unfortunately for everyone involved in Ukraine and Russia, it may take a while. Okay. So be aware, but at this point don't be overly worried about it. Talk, discuss, right. Become aware, because as we're seeing what we saw with COVID, and as we're seeing now, what happens outside of the United States matters. Right. And, uh, so to, to have a say in what's going on, at least in terms of U.S. decision-makers, you need to be aware, um, to make good decisions.
And I've just been in those two boats. So you kind of hit on the one is the heartbreak that we have, my generation, we have come out of recessions, wars, pandemics, and now this, um, and then on the other side of it, that hopeless optimist, right. That after this global pandemic and how strained everything has been lately, it is nice to see everyone coming together in unity over something. Um, It's a sad thing, and it's, it's unfortunate that that's what it's come to, but sometimes it's just good to see people coming together again.
Yes, definitely having that, that, that common purpose, even if it is, you know, a wax statue being taken out or saying, you know, Russia, you can't be part of Eurovision Music Contest. Um, these little international organizations who may not have that big, um, impact are kind of coalescing along with publics to say, no, this isn't right.
Well, Kim, we can't thank you enough. This has been eye-opening for many reasons. Yeah. Uh, but it's just really great to have this conversation, especially with someone from our Stout community who is so informed.
Well, thank you for having me. I enjoyed being here and please continue to listen to this, uh, Stout podcast because you all do really great and informative shows.
Thank you, Kim. When we think about world events, it's often easy to, to consider them a world away, but the reality is impacts of the Russian invasion in Ukraine can extend far past the cost of food and price of gasoline. For many, maybe even right outside your door, the events in Ukraine tug on heartstrings as they hit emotionally close to home, to try to remember that just like we live in a global economy, we also live in a global community. Our next guest is going to discuss the impacts of these current events within the UW-Stout and the greater nominee community. And our next guest on the podcast is someone a little bit closer to home here campus with our international students is Scott Pierson, Director of International Education. Welcome.
Thank you, Rachel. It's good to be here.
Yeah. Tell us a little bit about how we can connect all this back to our campus.
Sure. As we've seen during the COVID 19 pandemic, when something happens overseas, it doesn't just stay in one particular area. It's, we're all interconnected. It's a global world. Yeah. Um, our students here may have relatives, other parts of the, um, the, the world, right. Um, they may themselves have immigrated from overseas. And then of course we have a lot of international students on our campus too, over 40 countries represented, um, about 180 international students setting at, at UW-Stout. Right. So when something like this does happen and it has implications that things could get they're already really, really bad, but there's a possibility for them to even get worse. Right. Um, it really does. And should concern all of us.
How do we, as staff, faculty, fellow students approach this with, with each other, how do we talk about it? What's the best way to approach the conversation about a conflict of this size and something that might be impacting the person sitting next to you in class or someone that you're teaching?
Right. Extreme sensitivity, and an understanding that, you know, you know, you, you don't know truly who you're talking to and you don't know, you know, the background that they have, the experience that they've lived. Right? So when something like this happens, it's just really, really important to keep in mind that it's okay to ask questions. It's okay to be inquisitive. Right? But at the same time, there's a lot of, of, um, real tricky, you know, situations that can hit home in a big way. Right. So, yeah, when you, when you broach certain topics like this, that you don't know fully the context behind, and, and it can be very, very complex, you know, um, I, myself am not an expert in this particular area. Right? Um, but I do know that, you know, when you, when you have, um, relatives or you have, or, or put it this way, we are a nation of immigrants.
Right. So all of us have roots from somewhere throughout the world. Right? So, uh, that person sitting next to you, it, it could be that he or she has again come from, from overseas, the, you know, an early stage in, in his or her life. Right? Or it could be that, um, he or she is an international student. Right? So you just really don't know, and you want to approach it in a way where you're not making light of the situation, you know, to have a lot of, a lot of sympathy for, for what other people could be going through. And I think it's really important to also know that, you know, this is not, uh, a situation that involves one nation. It already involves multiple nations. It's, it's, it's every nation throughout the entire world that's already been impacted or had had some kind of a, a statement or, or put forth certain, certain measures, right.
To prevent situation getting worse. Um, and when we, when we think about that, you know, if people are going to be, cause a lot of people have been reaching out to our office and they've been saying, oh, do we have any students from Ukraine? You know, and how can we help? That's that's always amazing to hear and to see that, that outcry of support when something like this is happening, but it's more so than just this just Ukrainian students. Right. Um, you know, equally I'd be, I think people should be asking, do we have any Russian students? Yeah. Or do we have any students from former Soviet states? Do we have any European students? Um, do we have any us citizens? Because again, we're all tied together. Everything that we do is so complex and so global, right. So, um, this is a humanity issue right now.
It's an not, it's not one particular nation. And then we all have to come together. We have to look for a peaceful and prosperous solution. Right. Um, for, for all of us. Um, but when we look at, at this particular situation and, and if you wanna, you know, think about who's suffering, um, think about, you know, students from Russia, um, and, and, uh, the fact that they might not agree with, with the regime that's, that's, that's, you know, taking these, these measures, um, and freedom of speech is not the same everywhere in the world. Right? Yeah. Now very good point at stout. We don't have many international students that are on student visas from Russia, Ukraine, but I know for certain that we do have us permanent residents or citizens, um, of other countries that are here, but they might be dual citizens. So when they are, you know, um, listing who they are and their demographic information, they're just gonna say, United States or United States resident, we would have no idea, you know, that they actually have, um, ties to, or are from another place. So again, we have to be really, really careful in terms of how we approach this, because again, we all are, are impacted in some way, shape or form
Some very good points. Scott, Emily, do you have anything?
Yeah. Scott, when you're receiving these calls, um, asking about Ukrainian students or Russian students, what is your office guiding people to do?
There's, you know, a few different things. Um, one is that we are, are want folks to know that we are here to support students. You know, our, our office wants to create a very, very welcoming environment, an environment where students, when they are setting here, they feel like, um, it's a safe place, um, where they can express their, their beliefs and their viewpoints, but at the same time, know that, um, they're not gonna be in a threatened environment. Right. So, um, our office does a lot of, of outreach to our students, um, a lot, a lot of programming to our students. Um, and, um, we also know the there's a lot of great work that's done at a community level. Right. So, um, I, we were contacted recently about, um, some, some vigils that are, that are gonna be done locally. Um, there's a lot of prayer groups that are, are gathering behind this.
Um, I did hear that the, um, the Menomonie school district does have a student currently from Ukraine. And, um, you know, there there's a lot of work. Um, that's a lot of rallying behind a lot of support. I think it's, it's, that's one of the greatest things about the nominee area. The people are here are so very, very welcoming and so very, very caring, definitely. So it's always reassuring to, to hear from members of the community and, and to see that they're genuinely, you know, interested and, and, and worried. Um, what can we do? I think a lot of things are being done on a national level, on an international level. Um, but I think what's most important for us to remember as administrators, um, or as faculty of the university is, um, that we need to be sympathetic. We need to be understanding the situation is, is, um, is pretty serious.
And, um, for example, a lot of the, that are being done right now, the sanctions that are being put forth against, uh, the Putin regime and, and Russia in general. Um, well this could impact some of our current students that, um, want to make payments on their tuition and fee balance, right. If banks are going to be, uh, right. Significantly impacted, then that could mean that there's delays and payments. So getting money out of, of a foreign country, maybe it's a former Soviet state, right. That works through the central bank of Russia. Um, or it's, it's Russian students in general, um, could have an impact on, on how we process, you know, our, our payments here on campus. Right. Um, so the whole world again, is, is going to be impacted if it hasn't already been. And we just have to understand that there are significant, um, challenges that we will face as human beings. Um, and we have to, to, um, to make sure that we're, we're giving a little bit of flexibility, a little bit more of understanding in the way that we operate, do things.
Thanks so much, Scott, for giving your perspective.
The other thing I should mention is that we are, um, very, very worried about the, the campus community and the greater community here. And, um, for example, we have two faculty right now that I'm aware of that are originally from Ukraine and, um, we're, we're calling forth some, um, new supportive measures, some support group meetings on campus. Um, excellent. We really want to again, hear different perspectives, um, obtain a better understanding and then see how we can, we can help people who are, are the most impacted, right. Um, so we've, we've already put forth some of those in the, the coming days, and I'm sure that they'll be continuing on a regular basis. Um, so you know, the more that we, the more that we can come together when something like this happens, the better off we all are as human beings.
Excellent. Well, we will definitely share where folks can find that information to get involved in those support groups and to be in those conversations. So thank you so much, Scott, for joining us on the podcast. Welcome.
Speaker 2 (36:14):
We wanna thank both our guests for furthering our knowledge on the national conflicts, affecting both Russia and Ukraine and how we can approach this here at home in our Stout community. Rachel, tell our listeners where they can find us
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