The war in Ukraine ruins Russia’s academic ties with the West

Then Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022has universities in Europe and the United States condemned the war and cut ties with Russia entirely. In the following questions and answers, Arik Burakovsky, an expert on relationships between the United States and Russia, highlights the future of cooperation between Russia and the West in higher education.

What kind of ties have existed between Western and Russian universities?

Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, Western and Russian higher education institutions have been formed hundreds of partnerships and collaborated in various initiatives. These activities have included academic exchanges, curriculum development, joint online courses and collaborative projects.

Russia has been working for the last two decades to make its universities more prestigious. The Russian government internationalized and updated their higher education system. This meant moving away from Soviet traditions and adopt European standards for higher educationin particular the transition from the one, five-year “specialist” degree to the two-part “bachelor-master” system.

In theirs the desire for global competitivenessRussian university built international branch campus in the former Soviet Union. They also offered more opportunities Russian students studying abroad and attracted more international students. The number of foreign students in Russia almost tripled, from 100,900 in the 2004-2005 academic year to 282,900 a decade later.

Russian universities have opened more courses in English and established joint and dual degree programs with Western universities in a variety of disciplines. For example Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences offers joint bachelor’s and master’s degrees with the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom.

What have these relationships produced?

Western and Russian students have learned about each other cultures, languages ​​and societies. Researchers in Russia and the West have worked together on research projects related to exploration of outer space, particle physics, climate change, biodiversity in the Arctic and many other areas.

However, as geopolitical tensions increased over time, Russian authorities became concerned about what they believed were efforts to “educate young people in a pro-Western way.” form a protest electorate and inculcate a hostile ideology. “Then Putin began to choke international academic bands by imposing restrictions on them.

Russia has dissolved academic relations with the West through legislation on so-called “foreign agents“and”unwanted organizations. ” The government stepped up scrutiny of foreign funding and banned dozens of Western think tanks, charities and universities that had previously worked in Russia. These banned organizations include Atlantic Councila party political think tank for international affairs in Washington, DC, and Bard Collegea private liberal arts college in the state of New York.

2021, Russia banned all educational activities not approved by the government. This includes collaboration with foreign universities. Before Russian academics meet foreign researchers, they must notify the government.

In my work at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University since 2017, I have conducted collaborative teaching, research and academic exchanges with universities and think tanks in Moscow, St. Petersburg. Petersburg and Vladivostok. I have seen students and experts in the two countries gain mutual understanding of international affairs of share different perspectives and learn from each other.

These interactions were formally terminated by the university where I work on March 15, 2022, as they are now considered “morally unacceptable. ”

Western universities have condemned Russia’s attacks on Ukraine.
Sergey Bobok / AFP via Getty Images

Is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatening these relations?

Yes. The Ukrainian government has called for an academic boycott of Russia. Many colleges have withdrew students from Russia. They have that too paused scientific cooperation, cut off the financial ties and increased scrutiny of donations from Russia. These movements are all part of one global wave of condemnation against the invasion.

While many academic leaders have called for caution about going too fast, some American and European universities have already done frozen their relationships with Russia entirely. The University of Estonia and Belgium collectively decided to sever all ties with Russia.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology completed its high-tech teaching and research collaboration with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow on 25 February. The partnership, which began in 2010, had been strengthened by one five-year extension and multi-million financing in 2019. Still, the program had been stuck in controversy since 2018 over sponsorship from sanctioned the oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

Many European governments, such as Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Norway, Latvia and Lithuania, has asked its universities to completely sever ties with Russia. The United Kingdom announced on March 27 that it would do so stop tens of millions of pounds in funding for all research projects with links to Russia.

What are the reasons for and against breaking the bonds?

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online take a moral stance against Putin. They also say that they are meant to fight corruptionreduce risks of espionageblock Putin’s propaganda machine and prevent technology theft. Chris Philp, Britain’s Minister for Technology and the Digital Economy, says he does not see ‘anyone’ with good conscience can cooperate with Russian universities. “

Opponents claim that by shutting down Russian academia, the Western world is alienating Russian students and researchers and create a bad precedent for international academic cooperation in general. They maintain that scientific transparency promotes democracy and human rights, helps counter disinformation in Russia and encourages conflict resolution.

Lawrence Bacow, president of Harvard University, emphasizes the value of academic diplomacy. He points out that “individuals are not necessarily responsible for the policies of their governments.” March 9, University of Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies broke off their relationships with Russian universities whose administrations expressed support for the war.

How will these broken ties affect higher education in Russia?

By closing lines of communication with Russia, Western universities can become unknowingly helped Putin’s efforts to isolate Russian students and academics. Putin wants to convince young people and academics, who tend to be more western and anti-authoritarian than the rest of the population, that there is no hope for them now that they are alone.

say Russian researchers they feel increasingly disconnected from the West and discouraged about the future of Russian science. The Russian government announced on March 22 that it would prevent its researchers from participating in international conferences.

Are Russian academics free to condemn the invasion?

A climate of fear prevails over people in Russia who oppose the war. A new law punishes the spread of intentionally “false” information about the military with up to 15 years in prison. In his televised speech on March 16, Putin promised to cleanse Russia of pro-Western “scum and traitors“, Set the stage for a serious domestic strike.

Russian researchers can not criticize the invasion without risking dismissals, fines and imprisonment. Saint Petersburg State University has expelled 13 students who were imprisoned during protests against the war. While more than 700 government-appointed Russian university presidents issued a statement of support for the “special military operation” in Ukraine, almost 8,000 Russian researchers expressed opposition to the war in an open letter condemning the hostilities.

Hundreds of thousands of members of Russia’s liberal intelligentsia and political opposition fled the country in the wake of the war. They are afraid of political persecution and conscription. As space for freedom of expression closes quicklySome universities abroad have opened up temporary teaching and research positions for Russian researchers in search of a sanctuary.

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