The fourth program in the Ukraine: What’s Next? series, held at USF Sarasota-Manatee on May 24, 2022, focused on diplomatic and humanitarian aspects of Russia’s war on Ukraine. The program featured seven experts who were able to speak to different dimensions of the crisis, some of them offering reports from time they have spent on the ground in Ukraine since the war started. We strongly recommend this program and the entire series. If you can’t watch the entire three-hour conference, check out the portions that might be of particular interest.
Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cC06VnLeuCM&t=172s.
The program series is a collaboration among the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, the Air Force Association Florida West Coast Chapter, Cyber Florida, the Global Interdependence Center, Security Management International, the USF Institute for Public Policy and Leadership, and USF ResearchOne.
After introductory remarks (and it is the right video, though in the opening prerecorded clip USF President Rhea Law mentions another part of the series), General Scott Gray, who moderates the conference, offers a useful overview of the series to date.
The Humanitarian Crisis
In the first segment, at 00:07:58, Professor Jody McBrien, who has taught in the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies at USF since 2005, discusses the Ukrainian refugee crisis (). In 2021–2022, Jody has been a Council on Foreign Relations Tenured Professor Fellow at the OECD in Paris. Speaking from Paris, she outlines the challenges as more than six million Ukrainian refugees have fled their country and details both admirable efforts and challenges as EU countries welcome refugees and strive to provide shelter, food, and education. She also discusses how to help.
In the second segment, at 00:35:32, Tom Callahan, Vice President for Strategy, Innovation, and Evaluation, CRDF Global, delivers keynote remarks. Tom’s qualifications include his service as senior professional staff on the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and his service in the State Department in policy planning and diplomatic security. At CRDF Global, he specializes in emerging trends in international security and technology and in strategic planning ().
In his keynote, Tom addresses the big picture regarding the war, its key players, its global impacts, and the global response, with an incisive discussion about Russia’s and China’s designs on reconfiguring the world order and how Russia’s war in Ukraine may impact China’s approach. Then he turns to how the US might enhance its capabilities and mechanisms. One example is more effectively tapping the expertise of the Department of State’s Office of the Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia (EUR/ACE) (). Having spent time in Ukraine recently, he praises the “soldier diplomacy” of the US 82nd Airborne in effectively facilitating the work of the coalition supporting Ukraine. He describes the flexible and responsive “concierge approach” he witnessed as refugees enter EU countries — a far cry from simply sending people into encampments. He offers a pointed warning as the US tries to thwart Russia’s and China’s aims to make the world a more authoritarian place: Foreign policy that flipflops with every election handicaps our ability to counter authoritarian regimes.
Food System Impacts
In the third segment of the program, at 01:16:30, the focus turns to the food crisis that is unfolding as a result of the war. Bill Hampton, Director of Communications at USF Sarasota-Manatee, interviews Dr. Sylvain Charlebois of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University (). Sylvain Charlebois is a Canadian researcher specializing in the global food system, food distribution, and food policy. Sylvain discusses three elements of the impending food crisis: climate change impacts; pandemic impacts; and, now, Russia’s war in a region that supplies 30% of the world’s wheat. Wheat, barley, corn, sunflower oil, and fertilizer are in short supply, and distribution and commodity prices have spiked. Nations hoarding their own supplies make shortages worse elsewhere. He expects famines in NE Africa and in parts of the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Though many Ukrainian farmers are still producing crops despite the war, the problem is getting that food out of Ukraine to the places that depend on it.
In the fourth segment of the program, at 01:30:00, General Scott Gray interviews three panelists who have been working, in different capacities, with Ukrainian forces and refugees.
(1) Nicholas Krohley, PhD, is the founder of Frontline Advisory () and a civilian advisor to militaries. He specializes in how militaries can understand societies in which conflicts take place. Nicholas spent three years in Ukraine helping to prepare for a Russian invasion there, with a focus on the fault lines in Ukrainian society that the Russians might take advantage of.
(2) Neysa Holmes, PhD, is a USF grad and president of the NGO Mindful Hearts of Atlanta, which provides services to refugees entering Poland from Ukraine (). Neysa’s work addresses international human trafficking and fundraising to meet the needs of refugees and victims of human trafficking.
(3) Dustin Ostberg () is a retired Marine special operations expert and explosives safety professional working with Battelle Energy Alliance. Dustin recently returned from Kiev, where he helped to train Ukrainians, from farmers to teachers to special forces.
Panelists address questions such as whether Russia had underachieved and Ukraine overachieved in the war to date, whether we will ever see Ukrainians who were transported into Russia return home again, what drone warfare might look like going forward, what the timeline might be for a return to normalcy in Ukraine, what the challenges are in getting humanitarian aid to Ukraine or helping refugees to new temporary homes, and whether Ukraine might accept a “neutrality” agreement and cede some of its territory to Russia as a condition for peace. There are a number of important reality checks in their discussion.
Evacuations and Contingency Airfield Ops
The final segment of the program, beginning at 02:29:08, is a presentation by Brigadier General Bob Ranck, USAF (retired), on “Contingency Airfield Ops,” and, specifically, noncontested and contested evacuations. As General Ranck explains, “The mission of a Contingency Response Wing is to bring in tailored cross-functional forces to assess, open, secure, and operate an airfield in a contingency environment.” He discusses noncontested evacuations such as the evacuation of people from New Orleans following Katrina and contested ones such as the evacuation from Afghanistan, where the 82nd Airborne surrounded an airfield to protect people who were fleeing that country after its government fell to the Taliban. As the war in Ukraine grinds on, the 82nd Airborne is currently stationed in Poland, where it may potentially be called upon to spearhead a contested evacuation if circumstances deteriorate. Bob Ranck’s presentation offers us insight into how such a mission would work and how contingency airfield ops are supporting humanitarian efforts now.
We hope readers enjoy Part 4 and the rest of the Ukraine: What’s Next? series. Listed below are all the programs in the series to date.
Part 1 – Military and Intelligence Insights (April 13, 2022)
View the conference replay at .
Part 2 – Financial and Economic Impacts (April 27, 2022)
View the conference replay at .
Part 3 – Cyber Security Analysis (May 10, 2022)
View the conference replay at .
Part 4 – Diplomatic and Humanitarian Aspects (May 24, 2022)
View the conference replay at
Part 5 – Hearts and Minds: Information and Misinformation (June 08, 2022)
We will provide a writeup for this program soon. The video of Part 5 was just completed and published June 29, 2022 and you can view it here in advance of our future commentary: https://youtu.be/gz-sv99796I?t=17
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