When Putin initially invaded Ukraine, people thought it would not last long. There was little confidence that a former comedian would have the fortitude to stand up to the military strength of Russia under Putin. The US even made arrangements for Zelensky and his family to safely leave Ukraine. Instead, he chose to fight with his men in the trenches.
While mildly impressed, and some may have even been cynically amused, when he addressed the global world, we surely all assumed we were watching a dead man walking. He was Putin’s number one target for ‘disposal’, and the list for others was long.
Zelensky lived and amazed the world with his courage. The world has been amazed with the courage, spirit, passion and military skill of all the Ukrainians. Yet, Put is relentless in his violent determination to make Ukraine surrender as a sovereign nation. We also know that a Putin victory would not end with Ukraine’s border. Democracy remains at peril.
So, how can we predict now this will end? And to what consequences beyond the rubble Putin has made of too much of Ukraine and the negative impact on Russia’s economy. Putin has been further weakened by the very mercenary fighting force he thought would bring him victory.
To launch our 2023-2024 ICWA program series for Distinguished Speakers, we have Dr. Regina Smyth, Professor of Political Science at Indiana University. Her primary research interest is in the dynamics of state-society relations in former empire states of the Soviet Union. She has written extensively on political development in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, including her recent book Elections, Protest, and Authoritarian Regime Stability: Russia 2008–2020 (Cambridge University Press, 2020) which demonstrates the evolution of the Kremlin’s efforts to manage elections and limit social protest. Smyth’s book Varieties of Russian Activism: State-Society Contestation in Everyday Life (IU Press, 2023), with Jeremy Morris and Andrei Semenov, and her recent work on the Moscow Housing Renovation Program (forthcoming in the American Political Science Review) show how Russian society has evolved despite growing state repression between 2010 and 2020. She currently directs an international project, Building an Anti-War Commons in the Russian Diaspora, that explores political and social activism among wartime migrants.
Smyth’s analysis of contemporary politics appears frequently in The Conversation, The Washington Post Monkey Cage, and the PONARS Policy Program in Washington DC. She is a frequent media commentator for US and international press outlets. In 2011-2012, Dr. Smyth was a Fulbright Scholar in Russia and was affiliated with the Department of Political Science at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia. In 2020-2021, she held a fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and the Kennan Institute.
Smyth’s research, largely based on original data collection and analysis, has been funded by the National Science Foundation, International Research and Exchanges Board, US - Russia Foundation, National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, the National Security.