On Saturday 18th March 2023, we were thrilled to welcome you back for our annual Spring Meeting of the Somerville Association, which this year featured a series of discussions and reflections on the war in Ukraine and its far-reaching implications for Europe and the world.
Our first special guest was Somerville’s Honorary Fellow Catherine Royle (1982, PPE), a former UK ambassador and current adviser to the Commander at NATO’s Joint Force Command Brunssum, whose postings have included Chile, Argentina, Venezuela and Afghanistan. Alongside Catherine, we also welcomed Somerville alumnus Dr Sergiy Maslichenko (2002, Post-Doc Researcher, Transitional Economies), a former energy minister to Ukraine and current Kosovo Head of the EBRD. The discussion was chaired by our Fellow in Economics, the Ukrainian academic Dr Margaryta Klymak.
Catherine Royle spoke first, calling on 28 years of service as a front-line diplomat and NATO adviser to deliver a thrillingly forensic account of the situation in Europe and Ukraine. She started by summarising NATO’s position in 2014, and the rapid response that was required following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the war in the Donbas region. She then gave a summary of Russia’s current position before reviewing how NATO has evolved its strategic concept to confront the rising geopolitical instability triggered by Russia and other factors. Finally, she pulled right back to consider how the next great challenge faced by all of today’s democratic nations is the imperative to confront climate change and prevent Russia and China from positioning themselves as natural allies of the Global South.
“It’s not all about tanks or defence spending: NATO and the developed world in general really needs to up its political game,” she said.
“We need to think about how to end the war without selling out Ukraine or starting a nuclear war. Then we need to think about how to live alongside Russia. We need to avoid ceding the Global South to Russia and China. Above all, we need to be open to a change to the post-1945 Settlement and envisage an international order which brings all nations to the table.”
Next, Dr Maslichenko laid bare the destruction of the war in personal terms through moving pictures and footage of the devastation of his home city, Bakhmut. From the music school where he learned clarinet as a teenager to the block of flats where his mother lived until the war, no corner of Bakhmut has escaped the russian bombardment. As a former Deputy Minister for Energy and Environment of Ukraine (2019-20) and a Green Energy Consultant, he stated clearly the despearate national picture after more than 250 strikes on infrastructure have extinguished the lights across the country. And, drawing on his experience as the current Head of the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) in Kosovo, he shared his blueprint for Ukraine to “build back greener” through collaboration between the public and private sectors.
After the speeches and Q&A session, the attendees enjoyed animated discussions of the event’s contents over tea and cakes to bring a memorable and moving Spring Meeting to a close. Until next year!