As some of you know, I’ve been in Ukraine for the last few days.
A couple of months ago long-term Friend of the Blog Matt Duss contacted me and indicated that there would be an opportunity to visit Kyiv in September. I said yes without hesitation, and began to make preparations. These included not simply the plans for the trip itself, but also accommodations for fulfilling my teaching obligations while I was away. My department was supportive, as was the University of Kentucky. My family was both enthusiastic and anxious, with the former somewhat outweighing the latter. Even though we had no intention to approach the front, there was still some reasonable trepidation; missiles and drones have a habit of landing in Ukrainian cities.
Why go to Ukraine? The opportunity presented itself and it seemed to me that I would regret it if I didn’t take advantage. I believe deeply in the Ukrainian cause, and wanted to support it in any way that I could. I am a scholar of war and national security, and yet had never stepped foot in any of the country (including Iraq and Afghanistan) engaged in an active conflict situation. As a member of the faculty of the Patterson School, I feel that I have an obligation to educate the Commonwealth with respect to international affairs, and visiting Ukraine could only assist in that mission.
The trip proceeded under the aegis of the Center for International Policy, with some financial support from the University of Kentucky as well as a couple of independent donors. We visited Kyiv and Odesa, where we spoke with government officials, civil society activists, businesspeople, military personnel, and international volunteers. The situation in Ukraine is both simpler and more complex than you expect; as we know in war, even the simple is terribly complicated. Ukrainians are absolutely committed to winning this war, and they believe that they will prevail. I also believe that they will win, although I have some doubts as to the completeness of the victory. I’ve studied war a great deal but I’ve never been among a people who are living through a war, a real war that has killed a hundred thousand of their fellow citizens and that might kill a hundred thousand more. And yet Ukrainian society continues to function, sometimes in ways that I did not expect.
I got back to the United States this afternoon and will return to Lexington tomorrow. I’ve put together a travel diary that I will post over the next few days. I’ll be publishing material on more specific aspects of the visit (the state of Ukrainian higher education, for example) here and elsewhere over the next few weeks. I’ll publish a few photographs here, but far more will be on my Instagram account (here), if you wish to follow. Thank you for your indulgence.