University vice president discusses Ukraine: motives, responses

Ben Miller
Layout Editor

Every seat was filled, and students lined the walls in the International Lounge Monday at 3 p.m. for a talk by a Franciscan University of Steubenville vice president on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the American response.

Daniel Kempton, vice president of academic affairs and a political science professor, said there were three main motives for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine: to recreate the power of the Soviet Union, advance geo-strategic policy and increase economic gains.

Kempton said he believed Putin is not actually interested in the reformation of the USSR, but rather in the power that they held returning to Russia.

“Not technically reversing (the fall of the USSR), but trying to recreate that ‘great power’ status,” Kempton said.

Kempton next addressed the geographic benefits of Russia taking over Ukraine.

The lack of warm water ports in Russia could be part of the country’s motivation for invading, Kempton said. He said that aside from taking Kyiv, much of the Russian invasion has been creeping south toward the Black Sea.

Kempton said oil and gas exports are very important to the Russian economy, and Ukraine was causing problems for the Russians.

He said Ukraine was trying to get monetary benefits from a Russia-Germany pipeline that goes through their lands.

Moving on to discuss the United States response, Kempton said that this was a story of many missed chances, beginning with two instances in Ukraine’s history of the country trying to join NATO.

First was the 2008 election of former President Barack Obama, whom Kempton said was not interested in having Ukraine join NATO. Second was the 2010 election of Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian ally, to the Ukrainian presidency. Between Obama and Yanukovych, the move for Ukraine to join NATO lost all momentum.

Another missed opportunity was the Budapest Memorandum. Signed in 1994, this document said that, in exchange for denuclearizing, countries such as Ukraine would have Russia, U.K. and U.S. protecting their sovereignty.

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine and America’s lack of action, Kempton said both countries are breaking that agreement.

Another mistake made by the U.S. was not arming the Ukrainians until recently.

“We should have been preparing for them (in the) last decade,” Kempton said.

One big blow to Russia came under the administration of former President Donald Trump, Kempton said. Trump took limits off of the American oil and gas industry.

“What did that do to Russia?” Kempton asked. “Suddenly, one of the largest consumers of oil and gas … drops from major consumer to somewhat of a producer.”

Kempton said the final missed opportunity came under the administration of President Joe Biden, who reversed Trump’s sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Russia now uses the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to provide Germany with oil in order to circumvent Ukraine’s control over the more direct pipeline.

“You’re limiting Ukraine’s power if you allow this to take place,” Kempton said.

After Kempton spoke, the floor was opened to questions. Ron McNamara, coordinator of student leadership development, and Robert Doyle, who holds a doctorate in American culture studies, spoke for much of the Q&A.

Freshman Gia Smith, president of the Political Science Association, said the event exceeded her expectations.

“It was fantastic. Dr. Kempton did a great job,” Smith said. “I learned a lot.”

Freshman Brigid Mack said that the talk was very informative.

“I did not know quite exactly what was happening because all of my information is filtered through quite a liberal press,” Mack said.

The talk was hosted by the Political Science Association.

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