On March 4, Dr. Margarita Balmaceda was hosted by the Diplomacy Alumni Association of Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations to provide more understanding of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The event began with Dr. Balmaceda’s explanation of how the situation had escalated to war. She spoke about the dissolution of the Soviet Union and how when it split into fifteen republics, only one was recognized as the legal successor to the Soviet Union. The other republics were asked to give up their nuclear weapons in return for guarantees which were not fully recognized. This led other countries, specifically the Russian Federation, to take advantage of their weakness.
Ukraine also had a serious issue with corrupt leaders and with its ties to Russia. In 2013, Ukraine was set to improve relationships with the European Union, with former President Viktor Yanukovich insistent on making a deal despite concerns of provoking Russia, says Reuters. However, just three months later, Yanukovich struck a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with $15 billion invested into the Ukrainian government. Then, the Revolution of Dignity occurred, which Russia used to claim that Russian speakers were in danger and invaded the Russian Spring, eastern and southern Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, according to Al Jazeera. The Russian Spring was engineered by Putin and the corrupt Ukrainian President, giving Russia control of parts of Ukraine since 2014. These parts were then controlled by Putin’s puppets, described by Dr. Balmaceda as “mafioso terroristic regimes.” Russia then forced Ukraine into the Minsk Agreements, which would have allowed the Russian-controlled states back into the Ukrainian Parliament.
Ukraine has not followed the Minsk Agreements, which, if they were followed, would have allowed the Russian-controlled territories into the Ukrainian parliament with veto powers. According to Dr. Balmaceda, these territories would have exercised their power as wedges against progress away from Russia. This is a process that Russia has done numerous times in the past to maintain some form of control over former Soviet territories.
Regarding energy, Dr. Balmaceda’s specialty, Russia has supplied Ukraine with energy since 2013 and continued to do so through the uprisings in 2014. Russia has also worked to discredit Ukraine in the energy market and maintain its superiority. Russia became known for its reliability, discouraging European nations from looking elsewhere and creating Ukrainian invisibility. Germany has also contributed to creating Ukrainian invisibility, preferring Russia and previously the Soviet Union to be reliable sources of energy. This is why Dr. Balmaceda found it so encouraging that European countries were canceling certain projects such as Nord Stream 2 and the import of Russian energy.
Dr. Balmaceda also believes that Putin is caught up in his own lies and beliefs in a world of Russian greatness and becoming a victim of his own propaganda, isolated from his advisors. He no longer lives in reality, but rather lives in a world of Russian superiority and control. His advisors no longer have any true input, but rather seem to be afraid of Putin. She also noted that Putin is using mercenary forces to attempt to fight the war on the cheap and not risk as many Russian lives; she then suggested that the United States should also step up either sending in significantly more military aid or following Russia’s actions and hiring private military contractors to support Ukraine.