Editor’s note: MWI is proud to partner with West Point’s Department of Social Sciences to bring listeners the second season of the Social Science of War podcast. Each episode this season will bring together guests from both academia and the practitioner and policy worlds to apply cutting-edge scholarship to real-world challenges. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast app so you don’t miss an episode!

Episode 2, Season 2 of the Social Science of War podcast examines the big picture of the war in Ukraine: the sources of Ukrainian will to fight and how the West can help maintain them. Dr. Alexandra Chinchilla is joined by guests with deep expertise on Ukraine and a range of important governance issues.

Our guests make the case that defense reform—often a secondary consideration compared to artillery shells and F-16s—is critical to keep Ukraine’s military fighting and to foster a healthy relationship between society, the government, and the military. Defense reform is needed to ensure Ukraine can properly train and equip its military as it continues to mobilize forces for the ongoing war—but it is also crucial to its long-term defense. Issues like corruption in defense procurement and military recruitment have persisted despite the efforts of Ukrainian reformers, and Western help is needed now more than ever to empower reformers at this critical juncture. But to help, the West needs more embassy staff on the ground and high-level attention on defense reform. Ukraine’s future—and the future of European security—depends on it.

Dr. Polina Beliakova is a postdoctoral fellow at the MIT Security Studies program. She has a PhD in political science from Tufts University. Polina has published her research on civil-military relations and the use of force across a range of academic and policy spaces. She is a native Ukrainian and Russian speaker with regional expertise including Russia, Ukraine, and Israel.

Donald Bowser is a law enforcement and security expert with over twenty-five years of experience in governance issues, mainly in transition and conflict countries. He has three decades of experience in the post-Soviet space with the bulk of it in Ukraine including most of the last ten years. Since mid-2022, Don has been engaged as founder of the Support to Ukraine Recovery Initiative, an organization that delivers nonlethal military assistance to the military forces in Ukraine. He is currently working on several projects in Ukraine including evaluating foreign assistance.

The Social Science of War podcast is produced by the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. Visit our website if you would like to be a student or teach in the department, or if you would like to connect with any of our instructors based on their expertise.

Kyle Atwell created the Social Science of War. Hosts on Season 2 of the podcast are Dr. Nakissa JahanbaniDr. Alexandra ChinchillaLieutenant Colonel Sean McKnight, and Major Gabriel Royal. Please reach out to the podcast team with any questions about this episode or the Social Science of War podcast in general.

Image credit: Chad J. McNeeley, DoD