Vasyl Volodymyrovych Myroshnychenko, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Australia, met with Lehigh students over Zoom on Sept. 7 to speak about the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia.
The Ambassador has held his role since March 2022, after the conflict broke out. Before this, he worked at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center, a nongovernmental organization working to amplify Ukrainian voices internationally and to counter Russian propaganda.
Myroshnychenko devoted time to outline the historical and current situation happening across the globe — but also highlighting the global community’s involvement.
He said it was financial assistance from allies like Britain, Germany, France, Australia and the United States that allowed Ukrainian forces to push Russia out of half the territory it previously occupied. He said a recent survey concluded 90-95% of Ukrainians believe Russia will be defeated.
Despite these gains, Myroshnychenko said Russia is holding strong in its three lines of defense and is outnumbering Ukraine in artillery.
“We cannot allow a bigger power to challenge borders by force,” Myroshnychenko said.
Political science professor Janet Laible said the conflict in Ukraine is reflective of the fundamental values of democracy the United States believes in and fights for.
“Other people are giving their lives for those values,” Laible said. “We don’t necessarily have to agree with how they run their country after the war, but I think we do have to care about their survival.”
The war has affected the entire world economically, which Laible said is one example of why it is important for students to care about global politics regardless of their major or career goals.
Harris Rosenthal, ‘27, a finance student, said it is impossible to just consider the American stock market when you are thinking about the economy because everything is connected in a globalized world.
“A war in Ukraine can increase oil prices, which inflates the prices of every single product for every single company,” Rosenthal said.
Myroshnychenko said Ukraine provided 10% of the world’s grain and more than half of the sunflower oil in many countries in Asia and Northern Africa.
He said Russia has made it impossible to continue trade via air or water which has hurt Ukraine economically and tightened grain supplies in many countries.
Bill Hunter, director of the Lehigh United Nations Program, said the university has been an accredited NGO with the U.N. for 19 years, which allows Lehigh students to meet with ambassadors on campus and at the U.N. headquarters in New York City.
Rosenthal described how the partnership allows students to ask ambassadors direct questions, cut through politicians’ rhetoric and get a clearer picture of global politics.
Shortly before the war broke out in February 2022, Hunter said students were given the opportunity to speak to the Russian Ambassador and ask questions about Russia’s intent to invade Ukraine.
Since the war broke out, Hunter said Lehigh has provided many opportunities for students to learn more about the war in Ukraine through panels, discussions and academic programs.
“It’s an educational process, to hear opinions that you either don’t agree with or don’t understand,” Hunter said. “Come in the room and act respectfully, but otherwise challenge that person. ‘Why do you believe this? Why is your country doing this? Help us to understand what your perspective is.’”