Map Credit to Encyclopedia Britanica
BY: AMY DAO
Debate arose in Professor Badal’s International Relations class at Cypress College with liberal versus realist perspectives regarding Western involvement in the current Russia-Ukraine War. With talks of Ukraine joining NATO prior to Russian invasion, both sides argued whether the proposal is partially to blame for escalating the conflict. Both perspectives discussed in class are two major viewpoints in International Relations as a whole. Here’s what they had to say:
Political Science Professor, Gloria Badal, argues from a realist perspective, that the West should have never intervened. Russia is a major global power in a world of bipolarity, where two states hold majority powers. From the 1990s to present, Russia has made it clear they would not tolerate Ukraine joining NATO. Looking geopolitically, a neighboring country at their border joining a surrounding military defense organization is a large threat, and Ukraine should not have taken that lightly.
Badal explains the security dilemma, defined by Columbia University International Politics Professor Robert Jervis, as the increase in one state’s security leading to other states’ fear for their own security. She argues there is a western-centric viewpoint in International Relations, drawing examples from China-Russia and other global alliances. “We see this as a threat, so why don’t they?” she said. “There’s a strong possibility that if you push him into a corner, he’s going to do something crazy – it’s a nuclear country,” Badal said.
Political Science student, Cole Thompson, takes on a more liberal approach. However, liberalism in the context of International Relations is more aligned with states approaching conflict with morality and cooperation. Thompson argues in favor of the West and their role in NATO with Ukraine. “NATO is never going to attack Russia in a first-strike,” he said. Thompson argues NATO’s role as a global entity is to keep everyone safe and to protect democracy and human rights. There was never a formal agreement and the West should be able to expand NATO. Thompson argues Russia has undermined and threatened democracy in the West. Regarding misinformation, Russian propaganda has a narrative that Ukraine is the enemy. “Russia can’t sustain this war forever,” he said.
There is one thing that both have unanimously agreed on. Despite current negotiations for peace, Russia may not back down so easily. “Don’t underestimate the machismo,” Badal said. Despite heavy economic sanctions, Badal incorporates an individual level of analysis, which focuses on leaders as a source of international power. “Putin does not feel these sanctions at all. He’s never going to feel it.” she said. “He over believed in military prowess, how hard and fast economic sanctions were,” Badal said. “But this is the case with leaders. There’s a mistake in calculation.”
Thompson also agreed with Putin’s “machismo” in the context of Russia’s endurance in the war against Ukraine. He said, “Putin has to exert his strength, because his country was founded from a weak standpoint; the only thing he has is military power. There is a real concern that Putin has to look tough – to show that Russia is strong.”
Professor Badal’s International Relations class at Cypress College is conducted on Zoom every Monday and Wednesday from 10:40-12:05pm.