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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Russian, A&M students swap Ukraine opinions

 
 

With the mayor of Kharkiv, an eastern Ukrainian city, shot in the back Monday and Vitaly Churkin, Russian representative to the U.N., stating that another Cold War will not result from the current chill between the West and Russia, the Ukrainian conflict is making international headlines.
As an educational opportunity, Larry Napper, former U.S. ambassador and senior lecturer at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, arranged for his students to hold a video teleconference with the Russian Diplomatic Academy in Moscow.
Seated in a hall of impressive columns and large Russian flags, Russian students in Moscow shared their perspectives on Ukraine-U.S. relations with the Aggies who were seated in a much simpler conference room in College Station.
Claire Berger, international affairs graduate student, said all of the Russian students voiced their support for the official Russian position.
“It was interesting to see that they very much all did support the official Russian position,” Berger said. “Whereas our class, not really being affiliated with the U.S. government, had varying degrees of support for the official U.S. position. We were able to kind of speak more from personal opinion when they had prepared statements. But it was still a very productive discussion.”
Unlike the Bush School, the Russian Diplomatic Academy in Moscow is affiliated with the Russian government. Patrick Hogan, international affairs graduate student, said he believes the Russian students did not stray from the official Russian position because of their affiliation with the Russian government.
“The difficulties on their part are that it is almost tied to a job,” Hogan said. “They were probably recorded on their end by the Russian government. They did not have anything really besides what the government line was to really say or expound upon.”
Hogan said most of the conversation revolved around the Crimean-Ukrainian conflict, and that the Russian students affirmed that Russia’s intervention of Crimea was morally justified and
legally legitimate.
Alexey Ilin, international affairs graduate student, is from Barnaul, Russia. She said the Russian students most likely did not convey their true sentiments, whatever they may be.
“I also noticed that some people prepared speeches and were very much supporting the official government position,” Ilin said. “I also believe that they were required to support the official
Russian position.”
Regardless of whether the students in Moscow were required to support their country’s position, Hogan said the Russian students raised many interesting points the Aggies had not heard before.
“One of the things that really has stuck with me was that they viewed themselves in the coming years as Russia becoming a hero nation in international politics, more so a dynamic player opposite the United States and China,” Hogan said.
Ilin said Russia wishes to serve as a counterweight against the U.S. in international politics.
“‘Hero nation,’ as I see it, is not just a concept of a great power, but a power that is fighting for justice and restoring justice,” Ilin said. “And in that case, NATO and the U.S. were received as the power that, for the last two decades, has been invading countries, breaking justice and behaving aggressively. Now the Russian federation is trying to balance the world and Ukraine is kind of a battle for that. I know that this is more a black-and-white view of world politics, but that is the way many Russians see it,” Ilin said.
Monday saw an increase in U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia in an effort to urge the nation to uphold their commitments regarding the occupation of Ukraine, according to a transcript of a conference call on Ukraine sanctions released by the White House.
Berger said it was interesting to speak to the Russian students in Moscow because they likely represent the next generation of Russian diplomats.
“Something that really stuck out to me was their extreme displeasure with NATO’s actions over the past few decades or so,” Berger said. “Just that the Russian perspective on these issues and how this next generation is kind of moving past a Cold War view on the relationship, but there are still a few sticking points and some things that we have differences in our perspectives.”
Christopher Bielecki, agriculture leadership, education and communication graduate student, said overall, he found the discussion enlightening.
“We spend a lot of weeks here in the classroom talking about U.S.-Russia relations, and of course we can speak of the U.S. side,” Bielecki said. “But this experience was that we get to hear a group Russians who are engaged in diplomatic or public service speak about the Russian position authentically. So it was a cool experience, a real learning experience.”

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