To commemorate the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Association in Segovia and various IE members organized a panel to discuss the ongoing situation. The speaker list included Emily Chanell-Justice, Susana Torres Prieto, Oscar Martinez Tapia, and François Delerue. They all represented different organizations, including Harvard University’s Ukrainian Research Institute and various IE University groups. In the two-hour panel, the speakers discussed various perspectives on the invasion. Arguments brought up included the causes, both historic and recent, as well as the current situation and potential future.
Before these conversations began, the event was introduced with a first-hand perspective as captivating as it was heartbreaking. Heartbreaking. It was Maryana Radvanskaev’s grandmother’s harrowing experience as a Ukrainian living in Russia. Having lived through the USSR’s governance of Ukraine until 1991, the 2014 invasion of Crimea, and now the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, she gave a shocking account of just why exactly Ukraine has fought so vigorously against the occupation. After this opening, various arguments followed, of which the main points will be discussed in this article.
The Russian Empire – One of many
One of the most interesting points made was that of the Russian Empire. Like the UK, France, Spain, or countless other nations, Russia at one point was an empire. More recently even than the aforementioned examples. Just over 30 years ago, Russia reached one of its highest heights in the USSR. This point was brought up by Professor Martinez, who argued the importance of this empire as well as its hypocrisy of condemnation. He asked a single question: how can we, the West, condemn the Russian invasion from a moral view when the US, one of Ukraine’s biggest supporters, slowly pulls its forces from the Middle East? This while maintaining its non-state territories around the world to guarantee its influence sphere. It is not just the US but other countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain, France, and more.
The key fact is that numerous empires persisted throughout the globe. As a result, criticizing Russia is at best contradictory. It seems more like a bitter runner-up of the two-party Cold War in an attempt to hold their power in modernity. Yet, as the panelists made quite clear, this does not in any way justify the invasion. With this idea that “other world powers have done it” in mind, Profesor Martinez raises a key point. To achieve peace, a vendetta against Russia cannot be held. He emphasizes the importance, from an economic and international perspective, of a quick and vendetta-free ending to the war. Clearly, this is easier said than done. Many growing interests are sparking as the war develops, and taking a stand is inevitable, even for countries. However, China has volunteered to guide negotiations and achieve this vendetta-free, beneficial outcome.
Immigration, information, and legal consequences
Besides the possible outcomes to achieve conflict resolution, a second, equally relevant, argument was made regarding the consequences left by the war. The first of the three issues discussed addresses the influx of Ukrainian refugees to Europe. Not only in terms of economic impact, but also in terms of how aid becomes indispensable. The second is regarding the technological and digital side of the world, which revolves around information platforms. The massive flow of information regarding the invasion has been immense. From social media posts to the new paper every week, information that is not always truthful has played a key role in how the war is judged. Lastly, the debate shifts towards the field of law, questioning the legal consequences needed moving forward.
The former was definitely a hot topic among the panelists. From the perspective of legal consequences, potential consequences for the Russian leadership were a hot topic. In contrast to Martinez’s suggestion of a vendetta-free end to the war, the idea of war crime trials for Putin and his generals was discussed. After all, the invasion, which many considered unnecessary, has had disastrous consequences for the Ukrainian people. However, this was discussed from a hypothetical perspective, given the impossibility of Putin standing trial without a preceding world war. Despite this perceived impossibility of any Russian leadership standing trial in a criminal court, in the last few days (after the seminar took place), the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Putin as well as other Russian leaders. The warrants hold charges for war crimes relating to the unlawful relocation of populations in Ukraine. Despite all odds, this declaration pushes us further away from the war’s end that the seminar discussed, and it widens the gap between Russia and the West. Presumably more of a move of posture than force, it is unexpected even by the ICC that Putin will stand trial. Due to this, the warrant for arrest represents more than anything the dilemma the west currently faces: having a backbone or moving forward in the most progressive manner.
Overall, through a captivating two-hour session, the four panelists successfully expressed the historical context, current effects, and potential future of the war over Ukraine, as well as the degree of uncertainty and surprise for what is to come next.
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