In a talk and Q&A event hosted on Mon., Advisor for the Center for International Security in Washington D.C. and University of Connecticut alum, Dan Fata spoke about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Fata said during his time at UConn, there were numerous opportunities in the world, and many students and scholars had a positive outlook on the future. He said that now, though, due to access to a vast array of information and increasing polarization in the U.S. and around the world, the dynamism and opportunities available for peace around the world are different.
“How this war ends will determine what the future looks like and how history will be written,” Fata said.
The talk and Q&A was hosted by UConn political science professor Stephen Dyson, introducing Fata as an alum who graduated from UConn in 1994 and was the Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO policy under president George W. Bush.
“Dan was part of the U.S. delegation to the Munich Security Conference during which Vladimir Putin gave a fiery speech,” Dyson said. “Emphatically rejecting the post war security order. A speech which in many ways foretold the aggressions he has launched since.”
Fata said when he was in UConn in 1990, the world was exploding with change. He said 30 years ago, most of the world had thrown out dictatorships and communism and was largely on a path towards democracy.
“The First Gulf War would be launched, cementing the U.S. as the world’s sole super power, and the final dictatorships in Latin America were turned over and now democracy was the norm throughout South and Latin America…” Fata said.
Fata then said in his final years, Clinton would become president, Nelson Mandela would be freed from jail and the Soviet Union would cease to exist.
“The European community would become the European Union and Russia would be invited to NATO’s partnership for peace,” Fata said.
Fata said there was an idea after World War II and the fall of the Soviet Union that nations had arrived at the end of history, that the end of it would be written and peace would follow. Yet, he said, 30 years later, experts are still trying to process what is going on.
“How did we get here, and how does it end?” Fata said.
Fata said there were 3 major things that led to the invasion of Ukraine: a foundation laid by President Putin, misunderstandings by Europe and the U.S and the effect of the pandemic.
Fata said, ever since the conference in Munich, Putin has started a “launch party of a resurgent Russia.” He said Putin felt that Russia was being taken advantage of and he needed a distraction from rising tensions within the nation as Russian inequality grows due to Putin not investing in Russia’s own infrastructure.
“We decided to meet Putin where he was,” Fata said. “Instead of treating him just like another nation, we decided collectively, because there was fear and division, to treat him like a great power. And so that emboldened him.”
Fata also stated that NATO and Europe did not take Putin’s red line comment seriously when it came to the idea of Ukraine and Georgia joining the treaty. Then, with the advent of COVID-19 and while world economies were struggling with the pandemic, Fata said Putin had not met with anyone.
“He just stayed in the Kremlin conjuring up these ideas of how he was wronged in  – oh by the way 1 million Russians died of Covid and those infrastructure issues that existed were never fixed,” said Fata. “And so a bad situation just got worse…by all accounts the constitution was rewritten where he could run for another 12 plus years and there are all these popular uprisings as well. So a guy that’s paranoid and isolated decides now is the time for all those conditions I just laid out…”
Fata said that, currently, the most likely scenario for Ukraine is a long-standing guerilla war and that countries around the world are watching the conflict and taking measures to protect their own interests in national security.
“We’re also seeing economic deterrence in the form of sanctions, and so countries are going to figure out how to change and insulate themselves…” said Fata.
Fata said what happened in Ukraine and what is happening in Russia may cause a rebound of democracy around the world, with more people wanting to have their voices heard, to have self-expression and to shape their own future.
“There’s an opportunity to make sure our country plays a positive role,” said Fata. “It’s a very confusing, exciting and opportunistic time. We’ll see where it all ends.”