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USF professor says she doesn't think Ukrainian invasion will happen

Russia Ukraine Standoff FS Blue
Posted at 10:42 PM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 23:17:29-05

TAMPA, Fla — The stand-off between Russia and Ukraine continues and White House officials warn that military action in the next few days is highly possible.

In November, we watched as 150 national guard troops were deployed to Ukraine to help train troops.

And now, we're learning of even more local connections to this international stalemate.

ABC Action News spoke with the President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Andrew Futey, who says that people on the ground in Ukraine are "preparing, but not panicking."

Futey adds that part of that preparation includes some help from the U.S. government and its allies.

"Ukraine needs the necessary military weapons to defend itself. We're not asking, we've never asked for U.S. Soldiers, but give us the resources to defend ourselves and to implement harsh and hard-hitting sanctions against Putin, his regime," he said.

He also adds that there is concern that an invasion could have a global ripple effect for Russian allies.

"China's watching to see what they can do with Taiwan, North Korea's watching to see what they can do with South Korea, Iran's watching to see what they can do with the Middle East," said Futey.

To understand how we got to this point, we spoke to Dr.Tatsiana Kulakevich. She's an Assistant Professor of Instruction in Research Methods and Quantitative Analysis at the University of South Florida (USF) and a Research Fellow at USF Institute on Russia.

"Russia has always considered Ukraine as in its sphere of influence. And after 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea, Ukraine started leaning more and more towards the west," she said.

Dr. Kulakevich also says she doesn't think Russia will invade because it would be too costly economically and politically.

"It's going to be a lot of consequences, it is costly for Putin to invade, he will not be able to maintain large and full-scale war," she said.

And according to Dr. Kulakevich, money is behind one of the many reasons that Russia wants to maintain influence over Ukraine.

"Right now, Ukraine matters because there is a gas pipeline going through Ukraine which pumps a lot of gas into Europe. However, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that is, according to Russia's plan, will deliver gas directly to Germany bypassing Ukraine. Right now, this pipeline, this Nord Stream 2 pipeline is was completed, but it's not operational. It's already reducing the importance of Ukraine," she said, "And if the Nord Stream 2 pipeline starts operating, which Germany wants because it aligns with its national interests, then Ukraine will become less and less important, but right now it matters. Russia receives money through the transit and can deliver, right now, on its energy promises and contracts."

If the U.S. does not take a strong stance against Russia right now, Dr. Kulakevich says it will face two major impacts.

The first is a loss of global credibility. According to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the U.S. entered into an agreement with Russia, the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, and Ukraine —and it essentially asked that Ukraine refrain from using its nuclear weapons, unless in self-defense, in exchange for support from the UN and the other countries in the agreement. It also promised that all countries listed in the agreement would honor Ukraine's sovereign borders.

"In this regard, the United States already made a promise and it needs to demonstrate credibility, that you can trust a 'major power' and it will deliver on its promises," said Dr. Kulakevich

She predicts that the other impact would be economic because many global economies are interconnected.

"Just because of these tensions we already see a rise in oil and gas prices, and we will experience even more of that. And we have to remember about investors. Investors will be pulling out their investments, " Dr. Kulakevich.

In the meantime, Futey tells ABC Action News that the best way for the community to support Ukrainian people is through education or by physically showing up for them.

"We're holding religious vigils around the country," he said.

As the world watches Russia and Ukraine, a Tampa Bay non-profit says they're standing by and ready to help evacuate people if need be.

The co-founder of Project Dynamo, Bryan Stern, says the group is currently rescuing Americans and others, who were left behind after the collapse of the Afghan government.

Airport arrival

In fact, that's the whole reason the group got started last August.

Since then, Sterns estimates that they've rescued hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

Their most recent mission was held on January 22.

And when it comes to current tensions between Ukraine and Russia, Stern adds that the group is currently exploring their options.

"Hopefully, there is no need for anyone to be evacuated out of Ukraine, and everything just kind of deescalates peacefully and it's okay. We're not alarmists, we're not screaming [that] the world's coming to an end, but we also want to be well prepared if the need arises," he said.