The West should take a leadership role globally against Russia and China: Ambassador Lambrinidis

By Vishal Manve, MALD 2023 Candidate, The Fletcher School

On April 2, 2022, The Fletcher European and Transatlantic Affairs Society organized a luncheon with Stavros Lambrinidis, Ambassador of the European Union to the United States. The event was moderated by  Diana Chigas, Professor of Practice of International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. Ambassador Lambrinidis has previously served as the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights from 2012 to 2019 and as the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Addressing the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Lambrinidis stated how Putin’s agenda was to kill Ukrainians and wipe out the existence of Ukraine as a country. In Lambrinidis’ assessment, Putin succeeded with the former but failed in the latter.

“People in cities like Mariupol are resisting, hence why Russia and Putin are leveling them by bombing them. Putin is losing dramatically, despite claiming obligations to protect Russian-speaking people worldwide. Russian President Vladimir Putin, instead, has killed them,” Lambrinidis said.

After World War II, the West, including the United States and European Union, created multiple institutions and frameworks including the international legal framework, which Putin does not like, Lambrinidis added.

“The fact that countries have the right to decide their future and their alliances is flawed according to Putin and he wants to revert the world to the rule of might instead. But it was might that created the world wars,” Lambrinidis said.

After World War II, the West decided never to ‘desire or inflict upon others mass atrocities, and the focus shifted to a rule-based world with a focus on human dignity and development’.

On Putin’s lack of acquiescence to this international order,  Lambrinidis added that the West has to prevent the collapse of Western unity.

“U.S.-EU has to protect every international order since World War II. To go back to a place where every bully feels entitled to use power to wreak havoc guarantees the world will go into a black hole of conflict,” he added.

Ambassador Lambrinidis further explained how Russia and China are convinced the West as an entity was weak and was banking on energy reliance by Europe to mitigate any economic sanctions after attacking Ukraine.

“Putin was hoping to divide Europeans and Americans and there was hope among authoritarians around the world that the western alliances were breaking up due to trade wars and hence splitting the West as almost a guarantee,” Ambassador Lambrinidis added.

But the unified sanctions by Europe and the U.S. were completely beyond Russia’s expectations.

On NATO and Europe’s military deployments in Eastern Europe, Ambassador Lambrinidis added how the Western alliance is figuring out how to handle polarization and social media and privacy laws in a highly globalized world.

“We are not soft but have done a great injustice to our democracies in the last few years. We are now thinking hard about privacy rights and what it means in a democracy,” he outlined.

On the concept of salami-slicing of rights, he further added how the West has to fight hard against Putin to retain democracy.

“Democracy is in danger and we are Salami slicing it. This is a value battle against Russia and China and the West needs to be cognizant and take leadership roles globally by influencing good countries rather than focusing solely on the bad ones,” Ambassador Lambrinidis added.

On the durability of the European Union, the ambassador added how, despite the financial crisis of 2008, Brexit, and Covid-19, support for the EU within the member nations is close to 80 percent, echoing broader support.

On the energy front, Ambassador Lambrinidis added how massive investments are being instituted into renewable energy using public-private financing and decoupling from Russian gas, which is set to be completed by 2027.

“Putin’s economy is going to be in deep trouble as green transformation occurs in Europe and elsewhere in the next twenty years,” Ambassador Lambrinidis concluded.

The session concluded with the Ambassador taking a group picture with students, faculty, and staff of The Fletcher School.

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