As Russia invades Ukraine and the crisis continues to escalate, the following Virginia Tech experts are available for media interviews to offer perspective on a variety topic areas.

Russian Politics and International Affairs

“The tragedy that is unfolding is immense and will be catastrophe for all,” says Virginia Tech international affairs expert Gerard Toal. “This war is fueled by resentments accumulated over decades, of long experience with Western diplomacy, war-making, and hypocrisy, and of cold anger at organized conspiracy against Russia, its neighbors, and his own government. This is a war of choice by a President who decided some time ago that Russia’s best defense was, once again, to invade a neighboring state, destroy its military, and bomb its people.”

Gerard Toal is a professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech’s campus in the Washington D.C. metro region. A native of Ireland, he is the author of more than a hundred peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on critical geopolitics, territorial conflicts (mostly in post-communist contexts), U.S. foreign policy, de facto states, media and discourse analysis. His latest book Near Abroad: Putin, the West and the Contest for Ukraine and the Caucasus (Oxford University Press) won the International Studies Association’s ENMIA Distinguished Book Award in 2019.

Cybersecurity Risks

“The outbreak of conflict in Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions imposed by Western allies has the potential to spill over into cyber activities directed against U.S. and allied interests,” explains Virginia Tech cyber security expert Aaron Brantly, who has lived in Ukraine.

Brantly says that we are likely to see an increase in cyber incidents in the coming weeks, ranging from system degradations and associated behaviors meant to undermine Western resolve and/or signal displeasure, or simply distract the populations of Western nations.

“Cyberattacks might be directed at a range of entities including critical infrastructure providers,” says Brantly. “Companies large and small and governments at all levels should work with their chief information security officers to ensure they have fostered robust information security and cybersecurity to prevent and mitigate attacks where possible and have developed resilience plans such that they can recover from possible attacks in a timely manner.”

Aaron Brantly, an associate professor of political science at Virginia Tech and Director of the Tech4Humanity Lab, has worked on issues related to cybersecurity from multiple angles, including human rights and development, intelligence and national security, and military cybersecurity. His interests span the political science and computer science divide.

Economic Impact

"Clearly, the thing that financial markets abhor the most is uncertainty," says Besnik Pula, an expert in post-Communist transformations and global and comparative political economics. "War is uncertainty at the grandest scale because of the multiplicity of factors involved, the many outcomes possible, as well as the sheer destruction it causes."

"A conflict in Europe of this kind and of this scale has not been experienced in the continent since the Cold War, when Soviet troops marched into Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968," Besnik says. "The longer the war in Ukraine drags on, the more uncertainty it creates and the more volatility it creates in financial markets.

Besnik notes that the timing is also very unfavorable, given inflationary pressures in the U.S. and Europe and the efforts of the Federal Reserve and other central banks to reign it in.

"A conflict in Europe makes their jobs much more difficult."

Besnik Pula is an associate professor of political science. His expertise includes the post-Communist era as well as global and comparative political economics.  

Schedule an interview

To schedule an interview with any of our experts, please contact Shannon Andrea at or (703) 399-9494; or Jordan Fifer at or (540) 231-6997.

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