“Putin’s war against Ukraine” subject of the April 5 conference in Staatsburg

Michaela Pohl, a history professor at Vassar College who has studied Russian President Vladimir Putin since he came to power in 1999, recalls her obsession with Chechnya during her first year in office.

It was then that Putin viewed the new nation on Russia’s southern border as an existential threat to his existence.

“When I gave my first lesson to Vassar, I was already worried about him at the time,” she said. “The war in Chechnya had just resumed, and he made mistakes, and every war since has followed the same pattern.”

Pohl, who joined Vassar’s faculty the same year Putin became president, will speak on “Putin’s War in Ukraine” on Tuesday, April 5 at 7 p.m. at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Staatsburg, on Old Post Road in historic Hyde Park. This writer will host a question-and-answer session after the conference.

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Pohl’s speech will touch on the history of Russia, the Soviet Union, and then its breakup on Christmas Day in 1991, when the hammer and sickle flag was replaced by the Russian state tricolor. newly independent. Putin was then in the KGB.

She said the war in Ukraine was a step in Putin’s drive to restore some of the empire he lost in 1991.

“He felt that the breakup of the Soviet Union was a huge disaster,” said Pohl, who grew up in Wiesbaden, West Germany, then emigrated to the United States for his undergraduate studies and of graduate studies. “It’s true that you only talk about Russia. It was also a release for so many people. He is blind to non-Russians who have been liberated.

She says Putin is waging what he calls “hybrid warfare,” with Russia’s propaganda machine investing heavily in disinformation, as well as relentless bombing, killing of civilians and besieging cities.

“He’s got a well-oiled machine,” she said.

Pohl’s scholarship delved into Putin’s scorched-earth war for control of the Chechen Republic and attacks on independent journalists, like Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in Moscow in 2006. This scholarly paper, published in the journal, “Problems of Post-Communism” in 2007.

She has been to Ukraine four times, her first visit in 1988 and her last in 2008, when she drove from Germany to Odessa to interview resistance sources in Chechnya.

“I knew Anna and she signed me to a book she wrote,” Pohl said.

Pohl warns that Putin’s war in Ukraine carries risks for him in Moscow.

“Putin’s plan for regime change and the destruction of Ukraine’s security apparatus and military is violent and risky,” she said. “It can backfire on us. Civil society in Russia may seem broken, but it is not entirely destroyed, and unexpected changes could also occur in Russia.

Follow Tax Watch columnist David McKay Wilson on Facebook or Twitter @davidckay415. He has been writing on Hudson Valley public affairs since 1986.

Jessica C. Bell