March 15, 2022

Live debate: Ukraine in the crosshairs of history

This meeting was held live at the Royal National Hotel on the 14 March 2022:

A famous old Russian once said: ‘There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.’ The past week feels exactly like that since Russia’s appalling decision to invade Ukraine. Not only will there be enormous bloodshed, but a nation’s independence and sovereignty is under threat. It feels like an earthquake has taken place in international relations, with old certainties undermined and gathering trends suddenly coming to fruition. We need to ask how we got to this point, what we need to do now and what the wider ramifications are.

How did we get here? In all the confusion, the ‘Vladimir Putin is a mad dictator’ explanation really isn’t a good enough answer. We need a much better historical perspective than we’ve been getting so far, at the very least on events since the fall of the Soviet Union, but also how the current world order is, in many respects, an anomaly from the far longer experience of great-power politics. And we need to examine the chain of events in an open and honest way; it’s not ‘treason’, as some have claimed, to question NATO or the West’s approach to Russia in recent decades. Such questions, and a commitment to open inquiry, should not be demonised. Solidarity with Ukraine should not imply that we must suspend critical thinking.


Professor Frank Furedi, sociologist and social commentator; author, First World War: Still No End in Sight

Joan Hoey, regional director for Europe, Economist Intelligence Unit (sister organisation of The Economist newspaper)

Tim Stanley, columnist and leader writer, Daily Telegraph; author, Whatever Happened to Tradition? History, Belonging and the Future of the West

CHAIR: Claire Fox, director, Academy of Ideas; member, House of Lords

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