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Aerial Norwich Campus View in early spring

SPECIAL EDITION: Thinking about COVID-19? So is Norwich faculty.

Everyone is adapting to new realities as we learn to work remotely, educate students and serve people in need and this transition has stimulated intellectual curiosities. Norwich has a series of interdisciplinary essays featuring faculty members’ perspectives on the coronavirus to help us all think through the consequences our nation is facing.

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n October 27, 2022, President Putin reaffirmed Russia’s aggressive stance by declaring that the world faces the “most dangerous decade” since the end of World War II. The opening statement of the US National Defense Strategy (NDS) released on the same date, declares that “President Biden has stated that we are living in a ‘decisive decade,’ one stamped by dramatic changes in geopolitics, technology, economics, and our environment." Further, the NDS states that we are facing a complex world in the truest sense of the word.

Amongst this complexity, the Russian aggression in Ukraine adds a significant amount of uncertainty and chaos to a world already far from equilibrium. At the same time, it provides some certainty, clarifying ambivalent positions and confirming allegiances. We are in an "us versus them" moment: Russia against the "West".

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S House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022 was followed by a series of China’s military drills surrounding Taiwan, which led the world to worry when and how China will materialize its longing for national unification. As noted in the Economist’s “China has chilling plans for governing Taiwan,” recovering Taiwan is now on the agenda for Xi Jinping to legitimize his fourth term leading the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Image of NATO

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he world has never been closer to nuclear war than it is at present with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (BBC, 2022; Nichols, 2022; Lloyd, 2022). Many blame the war on NATO’s expansion following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is said to have constituted an existential threat to Russia’s interests – and the war is the inevitable result.

Salting the Earth cover photo

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istory has shown that if a great power, upon defeat, is not integrated into the post-war order, then over time it will begin to undermine the world order itself. To understand the current Russian attitude, we must remember the Soviet Union's "loss" in the Cold War and Gorbachev's embrace of the West, which later was perceived by many in Russia as humiliating. It prompted a large number of Russians to view the West as an arrogant squanderer of a unique, hard-won opportunity for peace and security; as looking down its sophisticated nose at Russia as “unequal.” National pride was wounded; Putin’s feelings have been hurt.

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ewspapers and journals have concentrated recently on the prospects for Putin using a nuclear weapon, most likely a low-yield one, in the conflict with Ukraine. This danger, while sizeable, is not the only one that the world faces as a result of Putin’s reckless invasion. Equally problematic, and perhaps more deadly, in my view, is the threat of a civil war in Russia following Putin’s departure from office (one way or another). This opinion piece explains why I believe a civil war is likely.

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henever one is tempted to compare the past and present and to utilize history in order to better understand current happenings, it is prudent to bear in mind Carl von Clausewitz’s warnings regarding the problems with “the superficial notice of historical events” and of the difficulty of presenting such events “before the eyes of a reader in such a way as is necessary, in order to be able to use them as proofs.”[1]

The Role of Creativity in the World

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reativity has always played a great role in the world by defending and promoting peace and upholding core values of life, such as love, goodness, and justice.

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e live in a world of pervasive and profound asymmetries – in size of countries, in economic power, in military might, and capacity to project and control information. We also live in a world that features rules against going to war, except for defense. When a country elects to go to war, it must thus construct a case for its decision – a casus belli, a “provocation” that justifies its “response”. 

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t is time for Canadians to take a serious look at our neighbourhood – Russia to the North and the US to the South.

Any country bordering Russia – even across a frozen sea – has cause for concern these days. New sea lanes and more exploitation of arctic gas and oil by state-owned companies starved of world-class technology make Canada’s military and environmental defence more urgent than ever. Our southern neighbor also needs a hard look.

The importance of leadership on military effectiveness cannot be overstated: “many factors decide the outcomes of battles,” and “leadership is often the most important” (MCoE, 2018). However, US military underestimations in recent conflict regions, such as Afghanistan, have been attributed to a failure of leadership to understand and communicate effectively with both host cultures and foreign coalition partners  (Stavridis, 2021).

When contemplating a military undertaking, it pays the powerful to return to the classics. Had Vladimir Putin remembered his Thucydides, he’d have thought twice about invading Ukraine.

We are not finished with COVID-19 yet, or more precisely, it is not finished with us. However, there are many lessons we have hopefully learned as we prepare for the next pandemic. I will outline how an understanding of exponential growth, thoughtful improvements in education and an increased public involvement in support of science can all be part of our societal strategy for an improved response next time this happens.

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