Coglate alumnus Arnoldas Pranckevicius ’02 returned to campus on Monday, March 24 to speak about the current Ukrainian crisis and its implications not only for Ukraine and Russia, but also for the European Union (EU) and the global community. The lecture was well attended by both students and professors, many of whom Pranckevicius was acquainted with from his time at the university.
Pranckevicius is greatly involved in European affairs. He is originally from Lithuania and now works as a external policies advisor to the President of the European Parliament Martin Shulz. Pranckevicius has been to Ukraine many times within the past two years, where he assisted Shulz in improving relations between Ukraine and the EU in what Pranckevicius called a “mediation mission.”
As a result of Pranckevicius’ experience working with Ukraine, he was able to share his knowledge and provide background information about what was going on in Ukraine before Russia overtook Crimea.
“The media looks at what is happening today without looking at the causes,” Pranckevicius said.
He argued that the global community is only knowledgeable about what is going on now and doesn’t have the history of the conflict in Ukraine that lead up to the revolution.
Pranckevicius addressed these problems in his lecture, discussing the political instability in Ukraine under President Victor Yanukovych and the desire of many Ukrainians to move toward more European ideals and rights through the Maidan Movement. He discussed how the tension in Ukraine resulted in President of Russia Vladimir Putin asserting his power, which ultimately lead to Russia’s current position
Not only did Pranckevicius cover these issues, but he also addressed several reasons why Putin wanted to overtake Crimea and what this means for the rest of the world.
“Today, the international community has little leverage to tell other countries that they can not break these rules,” Pranckevicius said.
He suggested Russia’s ability to overtake Ukraine was indicative of a weak international community that is no longer able to defend internationally-recognized rules.
While Pranckevicius acknowledged that Russia is in a very powerful position that should not be taken lightly, he said that this was really just a way of masking the country’s weakness.
“This assertive and aggressive policy, in my mind, is not an example of strength, but of weakness,” Pranckevicius said.
Still, he argued that much of Russia has been showing a great deal of nationalistic sentiment and unification under Putin, supporting him in his decision to take over Crimea.
“If he gets away with it, I’m afraid that there will be little to stop him,” Pranckevicius said. “That makes us all very worried.”
Although this is the case, Pranckevicius points out that there are some positives that have resulted from this crisis, including a lack of support for Russia by the Ukrainian people and a peaceful reaction from the Ukraine.
Also, Pranckevicius pointed out that there seems to be a strengthening of relations between the Ukraine and the EU. Other eastern European countries seem to be doing this as well.
“Despite the efforts of Putin, both Moldova and Georgia are accelerating their relationship with the EU,” Pranckevicius said.
Many students attended Pranckevicius’s lecture, including first-year Adam Buys. Buys attended the lecture because he was curious about the topic for both academic reasons and in order to be more knowledgeable on the topic as a member of the debate team.
“I really enjoyed the lecture; it was great to hear about the crisis from someone who advises one of the policy makers who will actually influence how the crisis plays out,” Buys said.
Pranckevicius ended his talk with a hopeful tone, commenting that, despite powerful leaders and regimes, people can be quite resilient.
“We should never underestimate peoples’ power,” Pranckevicius said.
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