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Monday, 23 May 2022

The future of European security after the war in Ukraine

On 17 May, Lord Robertson, former NATO Secretary General, gave the annual SEESOX/ESC lecture in St Antony’s college. The Directors of the ESC and SEESOX, Hartmut Mayer and Othon Anastasakis, chaired jointly.

Lord Robertson began by describing Russia as an immensely complicated entity. It was important to distinguish fact from fiction. The 9 May Victory Day parade in Moscow was impressive, but had nothing to do with the facts on the ground in Ukraine. The Ukrainians - part of anti-Nazi fighters in the Second World War- were now fighting Russia. And the Russian Army was apparently no longer capable of fighting against people who didn’t want them.

The parade prompted three observations: victory in the war was not Russia’s alone, but equally we should recognise Soviet losses; there was a danger of conflating Russia and Putin – the Putin clique was not representative of his people; Russia was given insufficient credit for allowing a peaceful transfer of power in Poland and a peaceful conclusion of communism. The contrast with China and Tienanmen Square was stark.

Putin gave a totally dishonest characterisation of Ukraine: because of his emotionalism and messianic obsession with Russia. But the West should avoid provoking the thin-skinned Putin into even more reckless behaviour. He appeared convinced that NATO was a threat; but if so, why had he moved all troops away from the NATO frontier?