GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Dozens filed into The Spectrum Theater at Grand Rapids Community College on Monday to learn more about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Fiona Hill, who served as the national intelligence officer under several presidents, spoke about the conflict as a part of a series put on by the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. From 2017 to 2019, Hill was the deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council. She also testified in President Trump’s impeachment trial in 2019.
Hill says U.S. intelligence was spot on regarding Russia invading Ukraine.
“Sadly this has all been predictable,” Hill said. “I know we all hold out hope that something like this won’t happen. I, myself did. There’s always that chance that someone like Vladimir Putin would make another decision because there’s so many options on the table but he’s been premeditating this.”
Hill spent years studying Russian President Vladimir Putin. She says he is calculated and those around him have proven to be ruthless.
“If you look at people who have been in power for a very long time, they start to get deluded about their own role in history, their own role in society. They kind of think of themselves as indispensable and they also start to think of themselves as infallible,” Hill said of Putin.
She says Russia’s invasion into Ukraine stands to have a global impact, adding that it put other nations who have gained independence following the world wars in jeopardy.
“It’s actually fairly shocking and easy to see the much larger precedent that this could set. So, it’s important for the rest of the world to speak out on this because Putin is really saying that none of the rules after WWII matter at all, and if a country is stronger than its neighbor and has a territorial claim over it, then you have a right to act,” Hill said.
She says while the economic sanctions the Biden administration is rolling out are important, a united international mission is necessary as well.
“There was an awful lot of people in the U.S. and Europe and more broadly who looked to Putin when he wasn’t doing anything. They thought he was just flexing muscles and kind of intimidating people, but he was asserting that basically ‘might makes right’ and now we see what the consequences of this are,” Hill said. “I would hope that when the political figures who have been basically praising Putin and many of our political commentators look at this and they say ok that actually could be one of the consequences.”
She also warned about what she called a “propaganda war.”
Hill says misinformation is spreading quickly and causing division in other countries including the U.S. She urges people to be careful where they’re getting their information from as incorrect info could be harmful and make ending the conflict more difficult.