With the Russian invasion of Ukraine reaching its fourth month, I have been wondering why coverage of the conflict has been decreasing. Have we forgotten? Who is responsible for maintaining awareness of global conflicts and catastrophes? What role does the media play in our increasingly narrow attention span? Admittedly, it’s challenging to combat media sensationalism and to stay up-to-date on an ongoing conflict that is both emotionally and mentally draining. In reflection of the past 121 days, this piece highlights our sibling presses’ coverage of the Ukraine invasion and provides a guide to this human rights catastrophe in hopes of ending the cycle of ignorance and preparing ourselves for a more informed, sympathetic, and understanding future.
“Yet the Russian invasion of Ukraine brings another stark truth to the fore: without peace, our efforts at building a sustainable future are predestined to fail. The consequences of such a failure are dire.”
It goes without saying that war isn’t good for anything, especially the environment. Martin Gutmann and Dan Gorman, authors of Before the UN Sustainable Development Goals, explore the impact of the Russo-Ukrainian war and the dangerous consequences it already has for our planet. Citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), they explain that the world finds itself at a critical point with the climate disaster—that must be met with immediate action. They write, “History shows us, however, that the disruptive effect of war also runs deeper and far beyond the geographic limits of fighting. In recent decades, historians have documented in painstaking detail how past wars have thrown a monkey wrench in our delicate relationship to nature.” Unfortunately, this post concludes that with a new era of global conflict on the horizon, it seems the attention paid to climate change will be pushed further into the margins, and climate disaster will remain imminent.
“China’s framing of the conflict has been closely aligned with Russia’s—alignment that is more than rhetorical, given the centrality of information strategies to the unfolding course of conflict.”
The relationship between Russia and China has raised fear in Western democracies for decades. Sheena Chestnut Greitens, author of “The Impact of the Ukraine War on Asia” in the November/December 2022 double issue of Asian Survey, explains that the “China-Russia partnership is not a comfortable one, but it does not need to be in order to be durable.” This post highlights the main reasons that China does not publicly interfere with the Ukraine invasion and the various reasons to maintain a confusing position in the international arena. Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine on February 24 directly undermines China’s core principles of “territorial integrity, sovereignty, and non-interference,” which appeared in their joint statement in early February 2022. Greitins concludes that “from China’s standpoint, the more effort the U.S. and its allies have to devote to Europe, the better China’s position will be; there is no reason Beijing should help solve American strategic dilemmas if the result would be renewed focus on strategic competition with China.” This piece provides a breadth of knowledge and understanding about the influence China is seeking to gain and pulls the Russo-Ukranian war further out into the international arena.
“In other words, cyber peace, like all forms of peace, is not the default setting. It takes considerable effort—before during and after conflict—to achieve.”
It seems a new era of conflict is finally entering the international arena: cyber warfare. Scott J. Shackelford, author of Managing Cyber Attacks in International Law, Business, and Relations: In Search of Cyber Peace, discusses what the future of war and peace might look like for states as observed by the use of cyber defense and offense in the Russo-Ukranian War. Shackelford asks, “From ransomware impacting communities around the world, to state-sponsored attacks on electrical infrastructure, to disinformation campaigns spreading virally on social media, we seem to have relatively little bandwidth left over for asking the big questions, including: what is the best we can hope for in terms of ‘peace’ on the Internet, and how might we get there?” In trying to answer these big questions on cybersecurity, Shackelford concludes with an incredibly interesting observation that “states fight in cyberspace the same way they fight in the physical world.” Although there are many unknowns about the future of cybersecurity and cyber warfare, it appears that although cyber peace is not a guarantee; it will likely follow the same patterns as every method conflict before it.
“To resist all such attempts to silence us we should embrace being woke and show that we are determined to keep the spirit of dissent alive and well in our culture.”
Stuart Sim, author of A Call to Dissent, examines the fight between the right and the woke in light of the Ukraine invasion. Sim highlights an often forgotten aspect of the invasion—the protests of the Russian people over the war. “As far as the Russian government is concerned, its official line on the war is to be accepted at face value by the country’s population and it is all but treasonous to question this in any way.” It is vital to remain aware of the actions of authoritarian governments, like Russia’s, and the steps that they take to silence their citizens. However, not all is lost. I dare say that this piece offers a light at the end of the tunnel: that we need to remember the definition of being “woke” because “above all it means to be in favor of social justice, it is surely a warning sign when any government decides to wage war on that.” I really appreciate the message of this post because although the international shift to the right often feels overwhelming, Sim points out that the best act of resistance is to demonstrate an unending determination to maintain the spirit of dissent in our life and culture.
“For a democratic left that has grown suspicious of laughter in recent years, the case of Volodymyr Zelenskyy serves as a timely reminder of laughter’s peculiar political efficacy and emancipatory potential.”
Did you know that before Volodymyr Zelenskyy was president of Ukraine, he played the role in the hit Urkaine television show Servant of the People. Patrick T. Giamario, author of Laughter as Politics: Critical Theory in an Age of Hilarity, explains that “Zelenskyy’s rapid move from the comic fringe of Ukrainian politics to the very center of great power conflict was unexpected, and to many commentators, a source of alarm.” But instead of sharing that alarm, Giamario wonders, “Does laughter’s prominence today suggest something more fundamental about the political prospects of our current social conjuncture?” Drawing on critical theory, the history of political thought, and racial and gender politics, Giamario finds that as a trained comedian, Zelenskyy is acutely aware of the cracks in social order and how to mobilize feeling toward a common goal—precisely as he has done since Russia invaded Ukraine. While the current Ukranian crisis is not a laughing matter, Giamario theorizes that “laughter doesn’t have a politics; it is a site of politics. And politics, as we know, can be liberatory or reactionary, courageous or cowardly.” This idea of laughter combined with the leadership of Volodymyr Zelenskyy demonstrates the nature of gelopolitics in a global circumstances that are becoming increasingly less funny.
FINAL THOUGHTS . . .
I would like to conclude with an observation. It seems that the conflict in Ukraine and its disastrous consequences have fallen out of the news cycle of the mainstream media. I began this post hoping to find a silver lining of mutual compassion in the world conflict, but I feel I’ve come up relatively empty. It is important for us to acknowledge the current state of our world—the good, the bad, and the doomed—even though it is easier to cower and hide from the often difficult reality. One thing remains the same: there is necessity in scholarship and educating oneself on the history and present nature of global interactions. This is how we maintain hope, how we find our compassion, and how we help one another navigate the unknown future.
If you are interested in learning more and gaining a wider understanding of the Ukraine invasion—what came before, what is happening now, and what the predictions are for the future—check out these publishers’ reading lists!
- Columbia University Sales Consortium
- Columbia University Press and Distributed Presses
- Harvard University Press
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Mcgill-Queen’s University Press
- Rand Corporation (media commentary)
- Stanford University Press
- University of Chicago Press
- University of California Press
- University of Toronto Press
- Yale University Press