On Tuesday, March 7th, IE was hosted by the Spanish Artillery Academy in Segovia to partake in a splendid annual tradition: the Artillery Academy Debate.
This sixth edition of this symbolic rite promotes the development of relationships between Segovia’s locals and IE students. As Miguel Larranaga, Vice-Rector of Student Affairs at IE insightfully said, IE University should celebrate the establishment of bonds between these institutions. The tradition dates back to pre-pandemic times, when it was first held. Its success anchored this event as a staple and made it hold a special place in our community. As a result, each year, the two institutions trade off the honor and responsibility of being the host.
The 2023 Edition
This year’s tradition centered around the thematic prompt “Different Outcomes for the Ukrainian-Russian Conflict.” The Artillery Academy was represented by Ignacio Revaliente Alfaro, Diego Alcolea Otero, Daniel Fernández Serrano, and Luis Luna Ramírez. IE University’s delegates were Ismael Picazo, Mario Sans Majuelo, Dhruvi Khandelwal, and Amy Ngeno.
The debate was split into various parts. First, an introduction by both teams was made in which they stated their positions and argumentative thesis. This was followed by four 12-minute sections in which each side provided arguments supporting their position. Finally, the audience was given the opportunity to raise questions regarding either side’s assigned stances.
The debate was started off after the remarks by the IE student moderator, Olga Vázquez de Pablos, who started the event procedure by thanking both communities for the trust and honour given to her to moderate and aid in keeping the tradition alive.
The first section regarded economic sanctions to be placed on Russia to deter further attacks and continuing of the war. The Artillery team claimed that further sanctions are needed in order to incentivize Russia to stop the conflict. Economic sanctions such as trade barriers and penalizations will eventually lead to Russia’s withdrawal from the conflict. The reason is that these sanctions will negatively impact business oligarchs in the country. This group of men rapidly accumulated wealth in the 1990s via the privatization that followed the Soviet Union’s collapse. They hold great political influence in the country, and many claim that it can be enough to force Putin to retreat.
As of now, the imposed economic sanctions have caused exports to decrease and growth to decrease. Moreover, Russian oligarchs and financial institutions have been forced to divest from long-held assets outside their country. This is because banks around the world have cut ties with Russian financial institutions. Nevertheless, more sanctions and pressure need to be established to actually stop the war.
On the other hand, the IE Debate team argued for the use of soft power mechanisms instead of hard ones. The need for a peaceful solution in order to improve international diplomacy is a priority. They argued that the ineffective sanctions affect citizens more than they do the government. Therefore, they will not result in a Putin retreat but in more people suffering from high food prices and inflation all over the globe. Economic sanctions create more tension in society, thus perpetuating a cycle of retaliation that could lead to further conflict.
“War is our reality”
The second round was the time of discussion about battlefield leverage and the morality of it. The IE team started with a simple fact, “war is our reality.” Their argument focused on the premise that, as of now, war crimes have been committed by both sides and the longer the conflict lasts, the higher the death count will be. Because of this, both sides are better off finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict sooner rather than later. However, the loss of diplomacy increases the possibility of further conflict, making a peaceful outcome also attractive to indirect parties.
Consequently, a diplomatic end is necessary, and negotiations are our duty;. Realistically, Russia would not step down without achieving any of its objectives for starting the war in the first place. Allowing Putin to keep the four zones that were illegally seized may be a minor price to pay if contrasted with peace.
The Artillery team argued back that, realistically, Ukraine cannot negotiate or make peace with Putin because of his ambition. It will not be surprising for him to add more demands and take advantage of Ukraine’s good will to counterattack. Furthermore, it will not be fair to ask Ukraine to stop fighting for its independence. There is a clear victim and aggressor: Ukraine, a western country with democratic values, is simply defending itself.
The role of the West
The last sections flew by discussing the supply of western aid and the new borders that each country will hold. The Artillery team adamantly defended the need of the West to continue sending military and economic aid to Ukraine since it allowed the opportunity for Ukraine to overcome its resource imbalance with Russia. They also affirmed that Russia must withdraw to the original February 2022 territorial boundaries because this crisis cannot continue.
Contrarily, IE commented on the West playing a risky game of when they will actually become parties in this conflict. According to the IE team, war is proportional and there is an eagerness to end it. The Artillery Academy finished with a strong call for action, where we must look past simply defending a narrative given by our home nation.
Overall, both sides of the debate exceeded expectations from all in attendance. It is rewarding to see how two different institutions encourage unity and relationship-building with the other while discussing pressing issues.
As we IE students go through our time here in Segovia, we should not only focus on our studies on campus and on Irish Thursdays, but also strive to create a positive relationship with Segovia’s community. We are fortunate enough to call this fairytale-like town our home away from home. It is up to us to create lasting positive impacts and impressions on our new community.
Images used taken by Pablo Cuestas