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Connecting dots: Naples seminar shows effects of Russia-Ukraine War on U.S., allies, communities

The city of Mukachevo, Ukraine.
Joanna Kakissis
The city of Mukachevo, Ukraine.

Showing how conflicts, incidents and related activities mesh with United States national security policy and defense strategies will be one of the focus points of a seminar hosted by The Naples Council on World Affairs.

“The Path Forward into a Decisive Decade” seminar being held Friday (Feb. 24) is part of the council’s mission to “educate, inspire, and engage Americans in international affairs, and the critical global issues of our times.”

Six faculty members of the National War College are speaking at the seminar to inform guests on different geographical areas and how they relate to the United States.

“Keeping in touch with what's going on in the world is a great part of everyday life. And it's a very important part of it under the current circumstances and stress that we're facing from Eastern Europe, certainly from Russia, from North Korea, from Iran and China,” Mimi Gregory said. She's vice president for programs, as well as special activities chair and global scholars chair, for the council.

Ft. McNair
Associated Press
Special to WGCU
TThe National War College of the United States is a school in the National Defense University. It is housed in Roosevelt Hall on Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., the third-oldest Army post still active.

Dr. Mariya Omelicheva is a political scientist and professor at the National War College in Washington, D.C., teaching national security strategies. She’ll be presenting “Russia and Ukraine: The Knowns, Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns” at the seminar.

She said she plans to discuss how the continuation of this year-long war may have implications for the future of the world, and especially for the United States.

Her research interests are in soft security, specifically terrorism, counterterrorism, and drug trafficking. She has always been geographically focused on Eurasia, and has researched Russian foreign policy, Russian defense policy, and its relation to neighboring countries.

She told WGCU News she believes it’s important to inform the local community of world affairs to understand how it affects not just the suffering countries, but how trickle-down effects will impact the United States.

“Our ability to protect, defend and enjoy security, prosperity, and values are contingent upon the safety, security, prosperity of Europe," Omelicheva said. "Europe has been one of the largest trade partners of the United States."

“It is one of the largest investors of the United States, and we invest a lot into Europe. You know, the United States and Europe are bound by collective security defense article five of the Northern Alliance,” she said. “So if something happens to one of the other members of the Northern Alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, the United States will have to step in, in the form of the provision of the troops.”

Although Ukraine is not a member of NATO, the war is taking place so close to the borders of NATO, there's a chance of escalation if members of NATO are targeted either deliberately or inadvertently by something such as a stray missile.

Polish Police
In this image made available by Polish Police, experts look through the site where a missile hit, killing two men, in Przewodowo, eastern Poland, on Wednesday Nov. 16, 2022. Polish and NATO leaders at first thought it was Russian-made but later evidence showed it was an errant Ukrainian-fired missile.

Omelicheva explained something that happened last year: a Ukrainian missile landed in Polish territory and killed three citizens. But before a full investigation, the missile was presumed to be Russian.

Russia has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world and the U.S. could potentially be in those crosshairs when other NATO territories need American defenses.

“It is really, you know, frightening even [to] start thinking about the kind of literal nuclear war for example," Omelicheva said. "So, it is in everyone's interest to stop this, to hold this fighting, to hold this conflict, and to end this war on terms that are acceptable, not to Russia, but to Ukraine.”

“It's an aggressive war, barbaric war, with all kinds of violations of humanitarian law...and it's very important to not let Russia go unpunished,” she said.

Omelicheva explained how the war affects the United States economy.

“We all experienced a spike in gas prices this year... Granted, Russia's war in Ukraine is not the only contributing factor to this happening. But it is an important contributing factor to this happening,” Omelicheva said. “The global food shortages, again, the United States has not been affected nearly as much as some other countries. But there are some trickle-down effects in terms of the gas prices, contribution to the inflation rates in the United States, even possibly price spikes on some of the food staples.”

Eight million refugees have fled Ukraine because of the war. She said that although citizens may long to return home, they’ll become comfortable and eventually legalized in the countries where they live now.
The U.S. has taken in some of the refugees.

Poland Ukraine War Refugees
Czarek Sokolowski/AP
A boy holds a toy as he rests in a center for Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday March 11, 2022. Warsaw has become overwhelmed by refugees, with more than a tenth of all those fleeing the war in Ukraine arriving in the Polish capital, and prompting Warsaw's mayor to appeal for international help. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

“It will be a huge challenge to rebuild all of the housing infrastructure and the industrial infrastructure," she said of the war in Ukraine. "Like right now, about a third of Ukraine's economy is destroyed, and about a half of its energy-producing infrastructure is destroyed. So we hear about people not having gas, electricity, even (living) in darkness at least parts of the day. The choices that they will have to make is kind of to have this temporary; it can be very long, to live in these kinds of conditions.”

“A longer-term effect is that this outcome of the war will fundamentally change the structure of the power distribution at the global level,” she said. “... If the United States does nothing in this war, or starts doing less, United States’ global reputation, and its soft power will diminish. I mean, it has happened. It's very, very difficult to build, it's very easy to destroy, it just takes a few little things. And the Americans who will travel abroad will feel it in how they are treated.”

“One of the things that we, the Americans, need to maybe do better is look into the future and think beyond today and tomorrow and be less reactive, but really be cognizant of the long-term implications of our actions today, and how consequential decisions that we make today would be. And even if we don't feel most immediately the effects of this war on us today, we may feel it in the future,” Omelicheva said.

The cut off to RSVP for this seminar was Feb. 20; however, Gregory says the Naples Council on World Affairs has a series of lectures every few weeks. About 220 people are expected to attend Friday's seminar and learn from Omelicheva and her peers.

Dr. Richard Andres, professor for national security strategies at the National War College, will be presenting “Putin’s Cyber Policy.”

Professor Jaimie Orr, dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs at NWC, will be presenting “War Crime Accountability.”

Dr. Dawn Murphy, associate professor for national security strategy, will be presenting “China’s Rise in the Global South: The Middle East, Africa, and Beijing’s Alternative World Order.”

Dr. John Mark Mattox, associate professor at NWC, will be presenting “Nuclear Dynamics.”

Captain Trent Hesslink, faculty member at NWC, will be presenting “An Uncertain Future.”

“We're all pretty much on the same wavelength in terms of what the concerns are," Gregory said. "They are mostly with the countries that I mentioned earlier (Russia, China, North Korea, Iran). So, in any case, this is where we are at this moment in time. And it's a dangerous moment. It's a moment that bears watching and leadership."

More information on lectures and other opportunities held by the Naples Council on World Affairs can be found on the group's website.

This story was produced by FGCU Journalism's Democracy Watch. Hayley Lemery can be reached at hklemery9681@eagle.fgcu.edu