KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — There was hardly an empty seat Tuesday inside the Toyota Auditorium at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy for the “What to Know About the Russia-Ukraine Crisis” lecture.

“People are a little skeptical how this conflict is going to turn out,” said Global Security Program Director Krista Wiegand. “There’s a lot of confusion of Russia’s capabilities.”

Experts from UT were hoping to clear up some of the confusion. The panel agreed America needs to take a firm stance on Russia.

“This is a pretty significant war,” Wiegand said. “This is not a war that’s in a faraway land that we don’t hear about very much, but it’s very much affecting America.”

“This will be a shock to the world economy clearly, in my opinion,” said lecture attendee Howard Capito.

During the gathering, Timothy Roberson, a post-doctoral researcher at the Howard Baker Center, said we’re already seeing the effects of the crisis in Ukraine here at home economically, especially in gas prices.

According to Catherine Luther, director of the UT School of Journalism and Electronic Media, one of the weapons Russia is using right now is disinformation.

“Misinformation is when you kind of mistakenly share information that’s false, but disinformation is when there’s malice behind it and that you’re sharing information to hurt or cause harm to individuals, to groups, or two nations,” she said.

Luther said Russia calling their invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” is evidence of disinformation. She believes the actions are insidious.

“Right now, (Ukrainians) don’t have access to what’s actually happening in Ukraine,” she said. “So, what they’re hearing all comes from the Kremlin because the media there is very much controlled by the Kremlin.”

Wiegand thinks the main reason why Russia invaded Ukraine is because of geopolitical competition.

“We know that Russia is lying in many different regards because of all this information coming from people’s smartphones,” she said. “We see videos of what’s really happening when the Russian government says something, it’s not happening.

“Vladimir Putin wants to be a superpower again and this is one of the ways he wants to show the world he’s capable of it.”

Wiegand encourages everybody to support the people of Ukraine in any way you can.

Former United States Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will be visiting UT in May.