Tillman Scholars Reflect on the Invasion of Ukraine

Blog | 02/26/2022

Following years of tension, particularly the last few months, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalated on Feb. 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine by air and by ground. Fighting continues throughout Ukraine, including Chernobyl, Odessa, and the capital, Kyiv. The United States and several of its allies, including France and Germany, condemned the attacks and introduced sanctions against Russia.

Many of our Tillman Scholars — remarkable service members, veterans, and military spouses — entered the service in support of creating a better future and ensuring continued peace across the world, including Eastern Europe. As this conflict continues and puts that peace at risk, we asked them to reflect on the news from Ukraine and help their fellow citizens further understand this conflict and what it means.

Maggie Smith
2011 Tillman Scholar

In an article in The Conversation in early February and an interview this week, Maggie argued that Russian and Ukraine have been at war for years — online through cyberattacks.

“Russia has been waging this fight since at least 2014 (and) Russia has been aggressive in its attempts to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty. Russia’s intent is to sow confusion, shape the public perception of the conflict and influence the ethnic Russian population within Ukraine,” she wrote.

“They’ve interfered in Ukrainian elections, targeted its power grid, defaced its government websites and spread disinformation. Notably, Russia has a pattern of pairing information with military operations as tools of national power. During previous military conflicts in eastern Ukraine, the Russian military employed cyber capabilities to jam Ukrainian satellite, cellular and radio communications.

“Overall, Russia sees warfare as a continuum that is ongoing with varying intensity across multiple fronts.”

Gretchen Klingler
2017 Tillman Scholar

Gretchen offered her thoughts, particularly on how Western alliances can work toward peace and how Americans can offer support to those affected by the conflict.

“As news continues to break in Ukraine, the world is reminded of the importance of alliances and international partnerships. The sanctions put in place by the U.S. government are one example of how we can show diplomatic support for Ukraine and our NATO allies, while leaving room for even stricter options should Russia pursue a further ground invasion. Just as our NATO allies supported our troops in Afghanistan, we must be prepared to support them as they supported us.

“Additionally, Ukrainians fleeing their homes for safety will need assistance from the international community.  Should anyone be looking for ways to help, I would encourage them to research and donate to humanitarian organizations helping Ukrainians find refuge in Eastern Europe.  Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania have already begun receiving Ukrainian refugees, and every little bit of support helps.”

We will continue to share thoughts and perspectives from Tillman Scholars as this situation continues to unfold.