Columbia Faculty Weigh In on the Crisis in Ukraine

Learn what faculty members think about the unstable and alarming situation of Russia's military incursion in Ukraine.

March 09, 2022

The situation in Ukraine is becoming increasingly more volatile and grave as Russian troops quickly move further into the country and the casualties mount. Why did Putin decide to make this extraordinarily dangerous decision to invade Ukraine? What impact will this have on our global energy supply? Will sanctions make an impact? Find out what Columbia faculty members have said in the media and in panel discussions about Russia's act of aggression. This article will be updated as more news clips become available.

Behind Putin's Thinking

Matthew Murray, adjunct prof of international and public affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), writes in Global Anticorruption Blog about Alexey Navalny's recent statement on the invasion in Ukraine and wonders whether Putin invaded in order to expand corruption at home. (Mar. 2, 2022)

Stephen Sestanovich, professor of international diplomacy at SIPA, is quoted in an article in the Boston Globe (Mar. 1, 2022) in which analysts offer opinions on Putin’s anger and mental health: “People who say he’s [Putin] long had a lot of anger toward the West are right, but what seems to have changed is his sense of proportion, of what he can get away with and what he should risk.”

Kimberly Marten, professor of political science at Barnard College, spoke with Preet Bharara about the Ukraine crisis on the Stay Tuned with Preet podcast. She broke down four potential explanations behind President Putin’s decision-making. (Feb. 24, 2022)

Timothy M. Frye, professor of post-Soviet affairs in the department of political science, discussed (Feb. 15, 2022) the mixed signals coming from Moscow regarding its intentions in Ukraine with CBS News.

How Did We Get Into This Situation and What Are the Possible Consequences?

In the New StatesmenAdam Tooze, professor of history, writes, "In the economic realm, the U.S. and Europe have applied sanctions that were never previously considered." (Mar. 2, 2022)

Elise Giuliano, lecturer in political science and the director of the MARS-REERS program and the program on U.S.-Russia Relations, appeared on PBS MetroFocus (Mar. 2, 2022) to discuss President’ Biden’s State of the Union Address and the implications for Ukraine.

Tooze was interviewed on The Ezra Klein Show to "explain how the war in the financial markets is shaping the war in streets of Ukraine." (Mar. 1, 2022) 

Katharina Pistor, professor of comparative law and director of the Center on Global Legal Transformation, writes in a piece published in Project Syndicate (Feb. 28, 2022) that “although Vladimir Putin alone is responsible for the war in Ukraine, it is worth remembering that prominent Westerners played a key role in shaping Russia’s post-Soviet trajectory. They insisted that market reforms must take priority over political reforms, and we are still living with that choice.”

“We imagined this orchestrated unleashing of violence in cyberspace, this ballet of attacks striking Ukraine in waves, and instead of that we have a brawl. And not even a very consequential brawl, just yet,” said Jason Healey, senior research scholar at SIPA, in The Washington Post (Feb. 26, 2022).

Ian Bremmer, adjunct professor at SIPA and president of Eurasia Group, discussed on CBS Mornings (Feb. 24, 2022) the consequences of Russia's invasion in Ukraine.

Giuliano spoke (Feb. 15, 2022) with Bobby Cuza on NY1’s “Inside City Hall” about the Russian troop buildup on the Ukrainian border, how the situation got to this point, and potential steps to avoid conflict.

Frye spoke (Feb. 12, 2022) with MSNBC about Russian attitudes toward the latest developments

What Does This Mean for NATO and Can Diplomacy Still Work?

In Foreign Affairs, Eddie Fishman, adjunct professor at SIPA, writes along with Chris Miller from the Fletcher School, "It is possible that the threat of sanctions failed because Putin was determined to invade regardless of the cost. It is also possible that Putin underestimated the damage that Western sanctions would cause.” (Feb. 28, 2022)

Marten recently penned an op-ed, "How this invasion threatens NATO: Seeing Putin’s Gameplan," (Feb. 25, 2022) in New York Daily News about how Russia's invasion will impact NATO.

Fishman, adjunct professor at SIPA, in The New York Times's piece, "Putin Insulated Russia’s Economy. Will Biden’s Sanctions Hold Him Back in Ukraine?" (Feb. 22, 2022), noted how Biden's early sanctions were a “a shot across the bow" and how Putin should expect more serious sanctions soon.

Jeffrey Sachs, University Professor and director of Center for Sustainable Development at SIPA, wrote (Feb. 22, 2022) in The Financial Times about why the United States needs to make compromises on NATO.

In an article published in Foreign AffairsSestanovich wrote (Feb. 16, 2022) that neither NATO membership nor neutrality is the answer.

The Impact of the Invasion on Global Energy Supplies

In The Boston Globe article, "Future Turns Dark for Russia’s Oil Industry," Tatiana Mitrova, a fellow at the Columbia Center on Global Energy Studies, said that "there will be a massive orientation of [Russian] oil and gas flows from European markets, first of all to China."

Jonathan Elkind, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy, talked to NPR's "The Takeaway," (Mar. 7, 2022) about how energy supplies are factoring into Russia's war. 

In The Financial Times's piece, "Oil Price Rises to Highest Level Since 2008 on Talk of Russia Oil Sanctions," (Mar. 6, 2022) Jamie Webster, a fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy noted that the market shows that the world is having a hard time dealing with the reduction of Russian oil supplies.  

In an interview with the BBC's "Business Daily," (Mar. 4, 2022) Jason Bordoff, co-founding dean of the Columbia Climate School and director of the Center on Global Energy Policy, said that part of what is constraining us on cutting off oil from Russia is our dependence on fossil fuels.

Bordoff is quoted in a Politico article about wartime energy (Mar. 1, 2022): “The ability of the West to inflict pain on Russia in response to its aggression is constrained by the fact we’re so dependent on Russia for energy, particularly natural gas into Europe.”

In The Financial Times's piece, "Soaring Oil Prices Constrain US Ability To Crack Down on Putin Over Ukraine," (Feb. 25, 2022) Elkind noted that there is still a possibility of more energy sanctions on Russia. “We’re in ‘Who the heck knows?’ zone at this point.”

Bordoff, in The Washington Post article, "E.U. Will Unveil a Strategy to Break Free From Russian Gas, After Decades of Dependence," (Feb. 23, 2022) stated that it takes time to build out renewable energy and that Europeans will "have to be willing to pay a premium" for now.

"It’s very difficult to see how Europe could ever replace Russian gas," said Anne-Sophie Corbeau, a global research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy, in an article for E & E News (Feb. 23, 2022).

Bordoff stated that it is unlikely that Russia will stop exporting in The Washington Post's "White House Weighs Measures to Stabilize Gas Prices If Russian Hostilities Over Ukraine Send Costs Skyrocketing" (Feb. 22, 2022)

Earlier this month, Bordoff wrote a Foreign Policy piece titled “Don’t Blame Putin for Europe’s Energy Crisis” (Feb. 1, 2022). He noted that “Europe will be increasingly exposed to the volatile price of imported gas in the years to come unless its leaders take steps to reduce the risk of energy price spikes and prepare for inevitable and unpredictable swings in energy supply and use.”

Recent Ukraine-Related Events Around Campus