On November 18, 2014, the Lehigh University United Nations Partnership had the honor of welcoming Dr. Yuriy Sergeyev, the Ambassador of Ukraine to the United Nations, as the latest guest to join Lehigh’s Ambassadorial Speaker Series. In the midst of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the Ambassador’s presentation triggered a lively discussion among the members of the Lehigh community.
Ambassador Sergeyev provided a comprehensive overview of major political and social events that lead to the current crisis in the country: from the start of the Ukrainian revolution in Kiev’s Maidan Square on November 21, 2014 and the annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation, to the most recent instances of Russia’s “breach of the international law.”
Importantly, the Ambassador emphasized a “troubling consequence of the Russian aggression,” namely “the transformation of the Russian doctrine of international law into a mechanism of official propaganda aimed at the support of the actions of the Russian leadership.” Ambassador Sergeyev stated that media’s justification of the reforms undertaken by the Russian President was unacceptable.
Ukraine’s representative to the UN paid particular attention to the significance of Ukraine for the re-establishment of the Soviet Empire by the Russian Federation. According to the Ambassador, it is “the desire to completely consolidate the territory of the former Soviet Union as Russia’s exclusive zone of influence,” as well as “an attempt to challenge the United States as the world leader in the field of politics and economics” that were reflected by the decisions of the Russian leaders.
Such ambitions have posed a threat to global peace and security. The Ambassador stated that the only international solution to the Ukrainian crisis was “deterrence and not appeasement.” “The West tried appeasement in the past with Hitler and Stalin,” he said, noting that “the Soviet Union did not fall until the West employed a strategy of deterrence.” Considering the gravity of the situation, the Ambassador urged the international community to provide the tools necessary for Ukraine to deescalate the conflict.
Ambassador Sergeyev concluded his presentation by pointing out the importance of Russia joining the negotiating table with a different mindset and in good faith, necessary for diplomacy to prevail. Following the Ambassador’s speech, students and faculty addressed the diplomat with informed questions related to the role of the West and the European Union in the conflict, as well as the means of educating active members of democracies. Finally, the Ambassador expressed his surprise with the extensive background knowledge of the audience, as well as his willingness to visit the Lehigh campus again in the future.
By Kelsey Leck