Tizoc Chavez, a visiting assistant professor of government at Colby College in Waterville, has been discussing the Russian invasion of Ukraine with his students. Photo courtesy of Colby College

While war rages in Eastern Europe with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, educators closer to home are discussing the global conflict in classrooms to help students better understand how the United States plays a role in the ongoing international conflict.

Tizoc Chavez, a visiting assistant professor of government at Colby College in Waterville, has discussed the still-developing invasion with students in his course on presidential leadership.

The professor draws on his background in history of presidential diplomacy to help guide students through the complex and complicated issue and demonstrate why the United States plays such an important role given its strong global stance following World War II.

“From a historical perspective, you haven’t seen this kind of cross-border aggressions in Europe since World War II, with the potential for the largest ground war since the end of World War II,” Chavez said in an interview Friday.

Chavez’s students have spent time in recent weeks recapping the latest developments in the Russian invasion of Ukraine while analyzing any U.S. options, including economic sanctions and the “reliability and credibility” of America’s overall security efforts in Europe. President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a host of economic sanctions against Russia and its elites, as did a number of nations. That trend continued and escalated Friday as the U.S. and other countries moved to also sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin and other financial institutions in an attempt to isolate Russia and impose consequences.

“Students are engaged and seem concerned. In our lifetime we haven’t seen anything like this, so it’s new for them as well,” Chavez said. “The biggest challenge we’re seeing is students not having a frame of reference.”


Given how quickly the situation is changing in Ukraine, students have a better understanding that the invasion “is something they need to pay attention to,” Chavez said.

By Friday afternoon, Russian troops continued their attempt to take over Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. Ukrainian officials reported 137 deaths and 316 injured after the first day of fighting, with civilian areas and military sites targeted in Putin’s most aggressive effort to date to redraw the world map and revive Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.

Because Ukraine is not a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO, the aid that can be offered by the United States is limited, he said, though that’s not to say that there would be no impact to the U.S.

Meanwhile, Putin on Thursday warned against Western military intervention, threatening consequences “such as you have never seen in your entire history,” in remarks that have raised fears of nuclear retaliation.

“The only thing that might potentially try to deter Putin would be through a military option, but right now that is off the table,” Chavez said. “So you’re left with economic, political and domestic tools, which, at this point, don’t seem to actually do anything.”

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