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American University Experts Comment on the War in Ukraine

As you work on your coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we would like to share insights from four distinguished American University experts: Keith Darden, Associate Professor at the School of International Service; Robert Hauswald, Associate Professor of Finance at the Kogod School of Business; Eric Lohr, Professor and Chair of the Dept. of History, College of Arts and Sciences; and Garret Martin, professorial lecturer at the School of International Service. For a link to the full media briefing that was recorded on 3/17/2022, please contact     

These comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

On Zelensky’s Request for No-Fly Zone 


Keith Darden said: “Under the current Biden administration position, a no-fly zone is not going to be something that the United States is going to entertain. But [Zelensky] actually asked to close the skies over Ukraine. That can be done through more sophisticated air defenses … That’s very much in the cards and very likely to happen. There are air defense systems that we can provide that are short of establishing a no-fly zone. A no-fly zone would lead to a direct military confrontation with Russia.” 

On the sanctions placed on Russia 


Robert Hauswald said: “That the sanctions inflict real economic damage on the Russian people is without any question, but whether that will be sufficient to turn the Russian elites against Vladimir Putin is as good as anybody’s guess. We see food shortages, you start to see rationing and from what we hear from friends in Russia, everybody’s afraid of returning to the coupon system — where you essentially get ration cards which you have to use for buying food and other things. And people are preparing for that.” 

Garret Martin said: “The stickiness of sanctions in so far as how long they can endure. We know from historical precedents that they can last. We also know that the sanctions that have been imposed on Russia after Crimea and the downing of the Malaysian airline plane are also still in place and that’s eight years later. I think it is quite clear that the EU and the US can show unity on that front. As to the effectiveness of sanctions, the track record is not generally great in so far as something as major as regime change or really compelling a major change of behavior.” 

Keith Darden said: “The technology sanctions are the most significant because those influence the long-term capacity for Russia to sustain its military. Russia requires a lot of U.S.-patented electronics in order to rebuild some of the military hardware that they have lost in Ukraine. Many companies have voluntarily withdrawn from the Russian market, which is also a significant sanction on Russia — for example, many pharmaceutical companies are no longer selling pharmaceuticals in Russia. Those corporate sanctions would be the easiest to reverse should the fighting cease. If there is a real change in climate, these unofficial sanctions, which are quite extensive right now, could end and companies could come back.” 


On refugees and surrounding countries 


Eric Lohr said: “We can’t lose sight of how historic this is. This is one of the biggest flows of refugees in the shortest period of time we’ve seen since World War II — and what Poland and Romania and Hungary are doing is so commendable and I don’t know that it was entirely 100 percent predictable.” 


On the Ukrainian identity, nation-building and the Russian world 


Eric Lohr said: “Oxana Shevel, one of the great experts on Ukraine, said that, ironically enough, Putin will go down as one of the great Ukrainian nation-builders in history, possibly, because this external threat really fused a lot of different internal divisions. The project of Russian world was kind of sputtering, and, I think, this will be a pretty decisive blow too. And, in fact, what you are seeing is a different kind of Russian world – a world of political dissidents, something you haven’t seen for decades. And these political dissidents, we know, are going to be extremely strong advocates for strong policies against the Putin regime. And this is something that Putin suddenly created.”