Speech of professor Nazli Choucri at the Conference “Remaking Ukraine – Toward an Age of Global Enlightenment”

May 11, 2022AIWS City and Rebuilding Ukraine, News

Loeb House, Harvard University, April 29, 2022


Good morning, and I will be brief. Okay, straight to the point, and allow me to start with the obvious. These are difficult times, very difficult times, and they are very dangerous times. This is not the first time that a major power has invaded a neighbor that is smaller and weaker, as we are reminded by a statement made by the head of the WHO, but it is the first time, and this adds to the complexity of the current situation, that the world’s second largest nuclear power invades the world’s third nuclear power. So far we have seen, or we have heard of, we have assumed that the nuclear domain is in the background. It will never be touched, may that be the case. So far, the present aggression has been undertaken by traditional means, not pleasant means, but traditional ones we may see, and we may see the deployment of cyber capabilities, which are now still in the background. We may also see the deployment of cyber capabilities by Russia in other directions, directions that are intended to depress, reduce the support for Ukraine. Unfortunately, I do have to remind you that a number of states of countries have selected not to condemn Russia. Now that is a fact that has to be taken into account as we proceed, and that does not help. So what must be done, what are some essentials have already been mentioned, and I will just highlight a couple of them. They are all in one of your written papers, that have been circulated. And as a previous speaker noted, we have a short run, and we have a longer run. We can envisage what is needed in the short run, and there is very little disagreement among analysts, and there will probably be little disagreement among ourselves here as to what is needed to support Ukraine in the very very short run, meaning today, tomorrow, as needed. We know that humanitarian assistance is essential. In fact we keep repeating that, but we also know that regretfully the delivery accelerated, the delivery of advanced weapons, is also essential. We know that the current sanctions on the Russian system, Russian leadership, etc. must be continued. And we also know that there are movements for trying to organize a high level conference to bring the parties together.

To articulate conditions for maintaining the security and integrity of Ukraine, some of these issues will come back again today. There cannot be much disagreement, and other than what is required is certainly much a longer list than what I’ve just mentioned. Let me turn to the longer term, which is highly complex and may carry its own dynamics.

We would like to make sure that the message has becomes clear that compromising with excessive behaviors on dictators or authoritarian regimes creates backlashes and will not be tolerated. We have previously talked about the formation of an analogous type of program for the reconstruction of Ukraine, analogous to the martial plan that’s already has been mentioned, and we also know that for the long run we have to revisit what we consider our ethics, and our humanitarian perspectives, and the legal foundations for the robustness of the international system. And in that context, allow me to draw your attention or to publicize the book that the group has put together on remaking the world. It tries to be both ethical and pragmatic, and may have good ideas. Now I will conclude with some questions or issues for us all to think about, and that is we are in a transition. We are unfortunately in a transition, and we don’t see clearly what the past might be. We have a bifurcated world, which makes a cold war look really very pleasant in comparison with what we have now. There is some talk about encouraging the formation of mechanisms for a more robust alliance to support an easy transition, but as far as I can tell, so far they’re really just concepts and words. But what is very important is the evidence we have that Sweden and Finland may actually make an effort to apply for membership in NATO. Now in the broader context, this is quite an extraordinary set of moves, for it to happen. In the narrower context, short run, it signals how critical the present situation is, and how ways of dealing with the unpleasantness that we had in the past. At least these two countries recognize fully that they cannot walk the line in the middle, that they may have to take some kind of a position.

And to conclude, let me just say or ask you to think about what this might mean at the global level in the context of the fact that some countries, i don’t really know what their number is, or I don’t want to know what the number is, have not condemned the Russian move. So with this, I thank you for your attention.