Ukraine: expertise of LMU researchers

April 29, 2022, Kharkiv, Ukraine
April 29, 2022, Kharkiv, Ukraine

Understanding Putin’s speeches, evaluating possible consequences of the war: We talked to academics from various disciplines.

From a historical perspective, what are we to make of the Russian government’s arguments and objectives in the war on Ukraine?

"Russia’s attack on Ukraine can in no way be explained by the objectives officially proclaimed by the Russian government. Putin is not really looking to push NATO back, nor is he concerned with self-determination for Ukraine’s Russian population," says Martin Schulze Wessel , Chair of History of Eastern Europe and Southeastern Europe at LMU, in an interview from 2 March 2022.

"My theory is that Putin is trying to turn the clock back. He has often said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest geostrategic disaster of our day. He wants to revive the way things used to be. Putin wants to reverse the dissolution of the Soviet Union and bring its former republics back into a constellation where the Kremlin is the center of power.

How are we to class the invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s justification for it from an international law perspective?

"The Russian government has employed abusive argumentation that distorts international law. It has combined false or at best unproven claims with contentious legal positions in such a way as to turn the law upside down," says Christian Walter , Chair of Public International Law and Public Law at LMU, in an interview from 2 March 2022.

"Fundamental principles of international law such as territorial integrity and prohibition of the use of force are being cast aside with spurious arguments based upon the right of peoples to self-determination, which is supposedly being denied to Russians in Donbas, in order to justify a war of aggression. In fact, Russia is not engaged in a small military operation, as Putin has claimed, but a military attack that fulfills all the conditions of aggression as defined by the United Nations in 1974."

"In many people, the media coverage of the war in Ukraine has triggered a sense of menace that had long been forgotten," says Thomas Hanitzsch , Chair and Professor of Communication at LMU with a strong focus on journalism studies in an interview from 16 March 2022.

"I vividly remember a video from the Kremlin in which Putin, sitting at his desk, announced that he had put Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on higher alert. For many people, this evoked memories of 40, 50 or 60 years ago. Fears were suddenly rekindled.

Since the 1990s, we in Western Europe had settled very nicely into our comfort zone. And now, all at once, all that has crumbled away."

How are we to understand Putin’s speeches regarding the war on Ukraine? Literary scholar Riccardo Nicolosi analyzes the speeches on the war against Ukraine and recognizes an escalation that began years ago.

"Putin has a whole department full of speechwriters. Dozens of people, each responsible for different areas. That said, we are fairly certain that he himself gets involved in writing his own speeches. The question is therefore: What does Putin himself believe- I think he is convinced that Russia is indeed in a decisive struggle against the West. That has been a common theme of his presidency," says Nicolosi in an interview from 21 March 2022.

Juliane Prade-Weiss , Professor of Comparative Literature at LMU, with a special focus on Eastern European literatures, studies the discourses justifying mass violence.

In an interview from 29 April 2022, she said: "Historical narratives often seek to justify mass violence. They construct references which can encompass a few decades as in Putin’s case, but can also span centuries or even millennia. Repeatedly, we also see justificatory rhetoric that makes use of religious motifs. What is tricky is that the historical narratives that are being asserted there are often incorrect in a straightforward sense. History is always a story based on facts. But the question as to how to combine these facts and, most importantly of all, what conclusions a society draws from the things that happened, is always a question of reconstruction and reinterpretation. However, this leaves the door open to the sinister possibility of using reconstruction not for preventing further mass violence, but precisely for allowing it to happen again."

Fleeing with your life in danger while some relatives have to stay behind: What does that do to refugees who have come to Germany from Ukraine? In an interview from 20 April 2022, trauma expert Thomas Ehring , Professor of Clinical Psychology and Psychological Treatment at LMU, where he also heads the Outpatient Treatment Center, says: "Essentially, it is helpful if children and youngsters can go to school and adults can be integrated in training programs or get jobs. That can have a stabilizing effect.

The important thing is to build structures and give them an outlook for the future. If refugees realize that they will not be able to engage in a sensible occupation for a long time, that has a negative impact.

As a general rule, we need to show a lot of understanding - especially at the start, because the people often do not know how their relatives are doing and are therefore deeply concerned".

In an interview from 28 March 2022, PD Dr. Florian Zabel , geographer in the Hydrology and Remote Sensing research and teaching unit at LMU, illustrates the consequences of the invasion of Ukraine on global food security:

"Wheat is a staple crop across North Africa. It is crucial for food security there. For comparison, 70 percent of cereals in Germany are used as animal feed. In countries across North Africa, things are different. For people in poor countries, even small price increases like those we have been seeing for some time now, are a huge problem."

On 22 April 2022 Professor Monika Schnitzer , who holds the Chair of Comparative Economics at LMU’s Faculty of Economics and is a member of the independent German Council of Economic Experts, gives an interview on the repercussions of the Ukraine conflict for the German economy.

Asked for an outlook, she says: "Germany has to diversify and become less dependent on individual countries and companies from which we have hitherto sourced raw materials and input products - and not only to avoid potentially being vulnerable to blackmail. The German automotive industry, for example, procures roughly half of its wiring harnesses from Ukraine. Now that this source is offline, the assembly lines in Wolfsburg [at VW] have come to a standstill.

In addition, there are certain goods that are also subject to security concerns. Official sources are now warning against some software products, such as antivirus programs from Kaspersky, a Russian company. I used to see the risk as less serious. Today, I would say that technological quality and price are not the only issues: The nationality of the company is also important - and whether that company’s government could misappropriate the product as a gateway for cyber-attacks."

Fabian Waldinger is a professor at LMU’s Institute for the Economics of Innovation. He has studied how the first two World Wars affected academia.

In an interview from 23 March 2022 Fabian Waldinger talks about what the war in Ukraine means for science: "Science is always best when international collaboration is involved. Stand-alone national strategies don’t work in academia."