South Coast political science professor, who taught in Ukraine, talks about current crisis
Dr. Peter Haslund says Russian military forces may overwhelm Ukrainian military, but believes civilians will continue resistance, and make occupation difficult.
A longtime political science professor on the South Coast who’s spent time in Ukraine says despite the warning signs about a Russian invasion, he’s still surprised that Vladimir Putin actually did it.
"I thought we'd gotten beyond this....this notion that you just walk into somebody else's country, and take it over," said Dr. Peter Haslund. He was a political science professor at Santa Barbara City College for 40 years, and is currently a member of SBCC’s Board of Trustees.
Haslund helped create the college’s international, and Global Studies programs. In 1990, he took one of his classes to Ukraine for a study abroad program. He shows a scrapbook of his stay, which has photos and a tiny flag.
"Ukraine (at the time) was still part of the Soviet Union," said Haslund. "This flag was illegal. I was carrying an illegal flag."
He says during the visit, they saw the seeds of democracy taking root.
"We decided one evening to go to the opera. There was sort of a roundabout near the opera house," he said. "In the middle of the roundabout, there was a big statue of Lenin. It was there when we went in. When we came out, it was on a big flatbed truck, ready to be hauled off."
Haslund says while everyone knows about the attack, most people don’t know about Ukraine’s troubled history. In the 1930’s, when dictator Joseph Stalin ruled the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian people suffered through purges and abuse. The Soviet Union used Ukraine as its bread basket, taking crops while leaving little for those who grew them.
It was so bad, that when Nazi Germany invaded Ukraine during World War II, some Ukrainians initially welcomed the Germans. But that quickly changed when the Nazis began genocide operations, and stripped the region of its food.
It’s estimated that five to seven million Ukrainians died during World War II. After the Germans were defeated, Ukraine once again fell under the rule of the Soviet Union, until it became an independent nation in the 1990’s.
Haslund says the Ukrainian military will be hard pressed to stand up to Russian forces, but that Russia will have a hard time if it tries to occupy the country.
"The Russian forces will probably soon overwhelm the Ukrainian forces," he said. "But, the resistance is likely to continue, and make life quite difficult for the occupation force."
Haslund has been in touch with a Ukrainian friend, and admits he’s worried about what will happen to the young man.
The longtime political science professor says he thinks Ukrainians are disappointed that they haven’t received more international support. He believes U.S., and international sanctions will make a difference, but that it will take more time than most people think.