OPINION: Ukraine may be far away, but the war hits home


Emilio Morenatti | AP Photo

Natali Sevriukova reacts next to her house following a rocket attack the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine Wednesday night after weeks of heightened tension between the two nations. Since then, videos have surfaced on social media detailing the horrors of what is being called the largest ground war in Europe since World War II.

It can be easy to ignore these international incidents — even of this magnitude — when we are so far removed from the conflict. We’re two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, and Americans are as politically polarized as ever. The news has been downright depressing to follow for the last few years, making it an appealing option to tune it out in a time of yet another crisis.

But we need to fight the urge to do so. We need to pay attention to what is happening in Ukraine. It’s historic, it’s horrifying and it could have implications that spread beyond Eastern Europe.

“Just from a human standpoint, the death and the physical destruction is momentous,” DePaul journalism professor Rick Brown told The DePaulia. “It’s changed the world order that’s been in place since World War II… There’s always the concern that Putin could embolden if he’s not stopped here and go further.”

The scenes of the invasion have been alarming. Air sirens blared across Kyiv as civilians attempted to flee the city. Explosions from Russian bombers and fighter jets were seen and heard throughout Ukraine. Many Ukrainians are taking shelter in subway stations to avoid surface blasts.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged civilians to help defend the nation.

“We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country,” Zelensky tweeted. “Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities.”

So far, the United States has strongly condemned Putin’s invasion and imposed sanctions on Russia’s economy. The sanctions will affect the American economy as well, with gas and food prices expected to rise.

President Joe Biden said on Thursday that the U.S. will not be sending American troops to fight on behalf of Ukraine. But they may have to get involved if fighting spills over to the several NATO countries bordering Ukraine.

Russia’s capture of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and Putin’s threats of nuclear war serve as reminders of potential consequences, should outside forces intervene.

The ongoing anti-war protests in Russian cities show this is an invasion by Putin and the Kremlin. Thousands of protestors have already been arrested by Russian police in an effort to silence them. As much as Putin may try to downplay this, much of his country is not behind the conflict and his actions surrounding it.

It’s a scary, complicated situation that is difficult for me to wrap my head around. Even as I sit here reading article after article, it’s leaving me with more questions than answers.

DePaul political science student Hugh Villasana finds himself in a similar predicament. Despite being a frequent follower of the news, Villasana says that coverage from many major outlets has made this situation difficult to follow.

“I don’t really even understand why Russia is invading,” he said. “I feel like the media focuses more on the conflict and soundbites. It doesn’t inform me as much as I’d like it to.”

He still doesn’t see this as an excuse to ignore the conflict, altogether.

“I think it’s important for everyone to be politically educated as best they can,” Villasana said.

The prominence of social media as a news sharing source has made this even more complicated. Since the invasion started on Wednesday, fake and/or old videos and photos have made rounds on platforms like TikTok and Twitter.

The amount of actual conflict happening in Ukraine right now makes it harder to determine what is actually happening, versus what is fake. Brown has his own thoughts on staying informed.

“Don’t take any old junk that’s circulating on social media,” Brown said. “You’ve got to go to reputable news organizations who care about getting it right and have incredible standards in their reporting. You don’t want to go to something that may have its own agenda, or its own political point of view that is promoted there. It’s more important than ever to go to reputable, trustworthy news outlets.”

In the op-ed I wrote last week, I acknowledged that even the most reputable news outlets have writers with their own agendas, many of whom have financial ties to the defense industry. That’s why it’s important to not only pay attention to who is publishing stories about this conflict, but who is writing them, too.

It’s not easy to follow all this. But we need to try our best. We owe it to the people of Ukraine, to ourselves and to democracy.

“You can’t take democracy for granted,” he said. “So when you see something like this happen, when a country like Ukraine that wasn’t threatening anybody, gets attacked by an authoritarian state like Russia, it could be just one more little [vulnerability] that could eventually weaken our democracy.”

The war in Ukraine has already been devastating for those who live there. We may be far removed from the conflict geographically, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us. It’s important for us to stay informed, as the global implications of the Russian invasion are dire.