Russian Invasion of Ukraine Elicits Selective Outrage & Sympathy

While I’m gratified to see the outpouring of support for Ukraine and its people on various social media channels, I realize how selective it is knowing that the US government and military have done the exact same thing. In a sense, Russia is taking a bloody page out of the US foreign policy playbook, which is replete with acts of subversion, destabilization, invasion, occupation, war, etc., all with the goal of regime change in countries that are perceived to be threats to US “national interests”.

Here are two comments I made in response to posts on LinkedIn, plus statements issued by the Fulbright Association and the Institute of International Education (IIE), two entities with which I have and had an affiliation.

About a statement issued by the School for International Training (SIT): I agree. I just wish US HE institutions would have the courage and integrity to speak out against the violent actions of their own country’s government and military, e.g., the invasion, occupation, and destruction of Iraq. Russia is following in the footsteps of the US in implementing regime change in countries it views as a threat to its “national interests.” (It’s a piker, in this respect, when compared to the US.) Do you recall SIT issuing such a statement in the spring of 2003?

About an article written by a well-known US journalist who is a LI connection that began thus: “Aggression, deception and subversion: Those are the hallmarks of Russian foreign policy under Vladimir Putin. And so it is today.” Sounds exactly like much of US foreign policy. Two peas in a pod. (I know the red, white, and blue nationalists reading this will be offended but it’s important to speak the truth.) Exhibit A. Here’s the op’s response: I take your point. No problem. And one from a Canadian colleague: It is as if no one working in media can remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. How much tolerance did the USA have for missiles on their door step? (As you may recall, or if you know your history, that crisis almost triggered WW III.)

Here’s a de rigueur statement issued by NAFSA: Association of International Educators: We share the world’s outrage over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and feel deeply for all who are caught in the crossfire and those with ties to the region. This is a shameful act of aggression, and our thoughts are with all who will be forced to bear the cost of this war with their lives and livelihoods.

This violence is in direct opposition to what NAFSA stands for: a peaceful, just, and globally connected world, and the improvement of democratic institutions. We will continue to advocate for affected international students and scholars, and we affirm the importance of international education as a force to foster understanding and respect among people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

And here’s a recent email, Fulbrighters Standing with Ukraine, sent by the Fulbright Association to US program alumni, including yours truly:

Dear Fulbrighters and Friends,

We share your dismay with the return of warfare to the European continent, breaking 75 years of peace. These are the same 75 years of the Fulbright Program, launched by Senator Fulbright to be an enduring force for peace through understanding. The tragic and violent attack on Ukraine is a moment of action, and a moment of reflection.

As we watch the images from Ukraine—children huddled in subways, destroyed buildings, and attacking helicopters—we must send resources where they are needed. I urge you to use this NPR article to find organizations such as the International Red Cross, Nova Ukraine, and Save the Children to receive your financial support today. Doctors without Borders, one of the recipients of the Fulbright Prize for International Understanding, is at work in Ukraine and deserves your help.

This is also a moment to reflect on our commitment to keep the Fulbright Program strong and relevant. When conflict erupts, we should ask if we could have done more, as citizen diplomats, to prevent it. We are not naïve. Peace is hard to build and maintain, and it can be destroyed easily by hatred, resentment, and autocratic leadership.

So what can we do? We can have faith that ordinary people like you and me can make a difference in most cases and in many places worldwide. We can continue to work as hard as we can to advocate, educate, and serve. When the world seems to have gone mad, as it has now, we can keep trying.

As a community, we condemn the attack on the Ukrainian people, and we deplore the loss of life and wanton destruction. We agree with President Jimmy Carter, another Fulbright Prize Laureate, who said today that the US and its allies “must stand with the people of Ukraine in support of their right to peace, security, and self-determination.”

Last but not least, here’s a Statement on the Crisis in Ukraine from the Institute of International Education (IIE), the same organization that killed an essay I had written about the Iraq invasion and war that was slated for publication in a major US regional newspaper: We are saddened to witness the violence occurring across Ukraine and join the world in mourning those affected. For over a century, IIE has worked to build a more peaceful, equitable world, and today we are as committed as ever to our mission of fostering mutual understanding. Peace is not a quick endeavor nor achieved unilaterally. Through a range of partnerships and programs such as the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund, IIE Artist Protection Fund, IIE Odyssey Scholarship, and the IIE Emergency Student Fund, we support those in crisis to access safety and continue their pursuit of education. (Full disclosure: I served as country director of IIE-Vietnam from 2005-09.) IIE’s statement is intentionally low-key and non-committal (note that “war” becomes “crisis”) because it has offices in Kyiv and Moscow.

I agree with each of the above statements. So, what’s the beef? The fact that I don’t recall seeing similar statements after the “shock and awe” US invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003. I find this selective outrage and sympathy to be the height of hypocrisy. It’s all about US(A), after all.

Other more practical factors include an unwillingness to call a spade a spade and criticize the US government because of “relationship” in the spirit of “don’t poke the (US State Department) bear” (NAFSA) or official funding (IIE, Fulbright).

Postscript: Another reason for this selective reaction is that it’s primarily white folks who are on the receiving end of state-sponsored violence this time.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

3 thoughts on “Russian Invasion of Ukraine Elicits Selective Outrage & Sympathy

  1. An email from Anatoly Oleksiyenko in Toronto. Let me know if you’d like links to any of the articles he listed. They disappeared in the copy/paste.



    Dear Colleagues and Students,

    Thank you for your emails and words of compassion. I appreciate everyone’s support in these difficult, utterly tragic times. It has been difficult not to fall into despair, as Russian fascists continue to destroy my country and kill my people. (Regarding the choice of the term “Russian fascism” please read or

    But despair is not an option. I cannot adequately state how proud I am of my countrymen – my family and friends – ordinary people like you and I. Ukrainians are showing astonishing courage, determination and perseverance in defending democratic values and freedoms. They are doing it for themselves, for Europe, and the world. My son and my brother and their families, who are in Kyiv now (the capital of the largest country in Europe, which is experiencing an air raid as I write this), wish me to convey their gratitude to our allies from democratic countries, who have been providing military, financial, intellectual and spiritual support for them and the people of Ukraine. I am immensely thankful too. Global solidarity is so essential to defend democracy in vulnerable places like Ukraine, but also all over the world. There is much at stake in this war for all of us.

    My son called for donations to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and provided accounts in the attached screenshot. For the people being bombed and shot every day in cities across Ukraine, there is no more urgent way to help. Putin’s missiles are killing peaceful civilians, destroying hospitals and critical infrastructure, and the Russian regime has no concern or shame about their war crimes. If you wish to respond to my son’s request and make a donation, please do so.

    Another way to help is to contribute to projects developed by academics, students, and their universities in Ukraine. Last week, we hosted a presentation by Professor Serhiy Kvit, President of the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy (NAUKMA). You might have seen his recent call for international help in the University World News. Those of you who may want to support the NAUKMA, the oldest university in Kyiv, please get in touch with Professor Kvit directly by this email:

    Those of you who feel that you prefer other avenues, Yale’s Professor Timothy Snyder has provided a useful list of ways to help on his substack, which I would recommend to follow in order to get scholarly and very well informed insights on the recent developments in the region.

    In choosing your readings about Ukraine, I ask that you seek out authors who understand its languages, history and culture. For far too long, Ukraine has been viewed through a Russian, colonial lens. Please check your sources and avoid Russian propaganda – the propaganda of the aggressor-state, which is being wielded as aggressively as its military invasion. As scholars, we must all cultivate critical judgement, and make others aware of the dangers of disinformation, which are a part of the hybrid and real wars waged by fascist regimes. The Russian war in Ukraine offers a wake-up call, and an opportunity for the global community to learn how to deal with hybrid war strategies, and inoculate their countries against the fascist philosophy and corruption that Russia has been exporting for years. For Ukrainian news in English and other useful links, please consult this page. If you are interested in more, please let me know.

    For those of you who are interested in a deeper dive into Ukrainian history, culture and politics to better understand how we got to now, and why Ukrainians are putting up such a formidable fight, I recommend the following:

    Anne Applebaum (2017). Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine. Moreover, her excellent collection of articles provides insights on how the Ukrainian question is discussed in the West, Russia, and Eurasia currently. See this link in the Atlantic. You can also follow her on Twitter: @anneapplebaum

    Serhii Plokhy (2021). The Frontline: Essays on Ukraine’s Past and Present. This collection of essays expands on themes covered in his previous books, but it also provides current commentary and reflections. You can find more of his books on Ukraine, Russia and the former Soviet Union here. Prof. Plokhy has also recommended a list of books recently. For updates, see his Twitter: @SPlokhy

    Timothy Snyder (2012). Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. In addition, his best-seller “The Road to Unfreedom: : Russia, Europe, America”, where he explains the origins of Russian fascism, can be found here. Prof. Snyder’s collection of papers is listed at his university profile For the most recent updates on Timothy Snyder’s writing and media appearances, please follow him on Twitter: @TimothyDSnyder.

    Serhy Yekelchyk (2020). Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know. His other publications can be found on his webpage.

    I have provided Book Depository links above, but feel free to find these books on other platforms or in bookshops of your choice. Your university libraries most likely have them as well. If not, please consider ordering them for your library and your students.

    Links to my own research on Ukrainian higher education (and particularly on the threats of the Soviet/Russian legacy) can be found below under my contact info. You can download these papers from the ResearchGate or ask me for a copy. I will be happy to share.

    Please also follow the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (HURI) for talks and other events at Facebook or Twitter: @HURI_Harvard.

    Again, thanks for all your support. It is much appreciated. Stay well, hopeful and healthy!

    With very best wishes,


    (Sorry for any typos or hyper-link problems – these may be unavoidable after sleepless nights and stressful days).


    Anatoly Oleksiyenko, Ph.D. (Toronto)

    Associate Professor, Higher Education
    Director, Comparative Education Research Centre (CERC)
    Editor-in-Chief, Universities & Intellectuals
    HKU Faculty of Education

  2. Yes … I agree …

    thanks for your efforts,
    Peace be with you…

    Jon Anderholm
    Sebastopol, California

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