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‘Escalation of the conflict would be a step closer to direct contact with NATO’

Social scientists comment on Russia’s war on Ukraine

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Social scientists at Northwestern University comment on Russia’s stepped-up drone attacks on Ukraine ahead of Victory Day, the May 9 holiday commemorating the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany. Russia’s attacks followed alleged Ukrainian drone strike attempts near Putin’s Moscow residence last week.

Who is responsible for the drone attack near Putin’s residence?

Quote from Professor William Reno
“My take is that it's a higher probability it was a staged attack (firecrackers over the Kremlin) as a pretext for a Russian decision to escalate the conflict. That likely would take the form of attacks on Ukraine's political leadership. Putin has threatened such action. These developments are unfolding against a backdrop of what are most certainly Ukrainian aerial attacks on energy infrastructure inside Russia and in Russian-held parts of Ukraine.

“My concern is a change in the patterns of Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian targets. This could take the form of targeting Ukraine’s leadership. Or it could mean targeting the shipment of western weapons after they have crossed the border into Ukraine. Either would mark a significant escalation of the conflict, the latter perhaps more so because it would be a step closer to direct contact with NATO forces.” 

Willliam Reno is professor of political science and department chair. He is an expert in the politics of violent conflict and the effects of foreign military assistance. He can be reached at or by contacting Stephanie Kulke at 847-491-4819.

What should the U.S. response be?

Quote from Professor Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern
“Whoever is responsible for the drone strike on Putin’s office in Moscow, be it the Russian resistance movement or the Federal Security Service (FSB), the explosion over the Kremlin would help the failing Putin’s regime to tighten the control in the country but would not prevent other attacks. As the adage goes, ‘the one who planted the wind would harvest the tempest,’ and the attacks on Russian military installations, oil reservoirs, war-centered industrial factories and military airports would only intensify.

“Russian authorities are stultified by the imminent Ukrainian offensive hence they focus on continuous terror against Ukrainian civilians. This is a path toward a failure on the battlefront, yet even if Russia is already losing the battle, it does not mean that Ukraine is winning. Tripling and quadrupling the supply of armament, discussing the post-war armistice with China, and radically blocking and confiscating the Russian and its undercover cronies' assets throughout the world should be the main triple task the U.S. should pursue.” 

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern is the Crown Family Professor of Jewish Studies in the history department at Northwestern. He can be reached at or by contacting Stephanie Kulke at 847-491-4819.