Today marks one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and experts from across the Midwest are gathering in Iowa City tonight for a panel discussion about the war and what may be next for that region — and for the world.

Marina Zaloznaya, a sociologist and political science professor at the University of Iowa, says she’s surprised the conflict has lasted this long, and it’s an ill omen that we’re now entering a second year. “Wars tend to be either short or long. What I mean is that when wars don’t end within the first month or two, they tend to last for years,” Zaloznaya says, “so I probably fall more on the pessimistic side of the continuum in terms of the length of hostilities.”

Zaloznaya, director of the U-I’s European Studies Group, says there’s “no clear offramp” for Russia, while the Russian people support the war because they don’t know the full story, being cut off from Western media. “The kind of messaging that we hear coming from President Putin and the Kremlin and the Russian propaganda machine sounds almost delusional, beyond inaccurate to us here in the United States,” Zaloznaya says, “so how is it that so many people stand behind this narrative that is so clearly wrong?”

Marina Zaloznaya.

Russia has the resources to continue the war for years, while Ukraine is being backed by the United States and numerous other countries, setting up the potential genesis of another much larger war. While the future of the conflict may have a profound impact on millions of people around the world, she says there are also resurrected fears of nuclear escalation.

“This is really about regime change in a lot of ways, in terms of the stability of the Russian state,” she says. “They’re going to fight until the end, and if there is going to be any kind of threat to Russian territory, I do not think that tactical nuclear weapons threat is a bluff on behalf of Putin. I think that he doesn’t have any other choice.”

Various sources show the U.S. has spent between 25 and 75 billion dollars on weapons, training and supplies for Ukraine since the war began a year ago. Zaloznaya says Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has shaken Europe to its core and set off a global humanitarian crisis. “It’s a very, very thin balancing act right now for the Western Allies to support Ukraine, to help them end the war with overwhelming Russian forces without triggering this potentially catastrophic outcome.”

Tonight’s panel discussion will include experts from the U-I, the University of Chicago, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. It starts at 5:15 at the Iowa Memorial Union on the U-I campus and is free and open to all.

Radio Iowa