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Ukraine and the Limits of Politics

Published 20 May 2014

On the 20th May 2014, AIIA Tasmania presented a panel of experts to discuss the current Ukrainian crisis.

Our first speaker, Dr Matt Sussex, head of the Politics and International Relations program at the University of Tasmania (UTAS), opened the evening with Realpolitik. Echoing the focus of his research interests in international security, Russian foreign policy, and strategic theory, he spoke of Russia’s designs to preserve its sphere of influence. Throughout the seminar, Dr Sussex noted Putin’s disdain for soft power and stressed the West’s need for pragmatism when dealing with the Bear.

Jan Pakulski, a professor of sociology and former Dean of Arts at UTAS, followed to elucidate Ukraine’s national identity and dismiss surrounding misconceptions. Polish born and educated, Professor Pakulski emphasised the historical experiences that have informed Ukrainian sentiments. From the past influence of converging empires, to the relatively recent victimisation of Stalin’s Great Terror, he described how Ukraine has forged a distinct, albeit eclectic, selfdom.

Dr Matthew Killingsworth, a UTAS lecturer in International Relations, concluded the presentation through a discussion on international orders and normative values. After detailing the variance of world systems throughout the 20th Century, he noted that contemporary Great Powers are in flux. Currently researching the Laws of War and International Criminal Justice, Dr Killingsworth highlighted how the discourse of International Law can be used cynically. The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine, for instance, has been appropriated by Russia in annexing Crimea. Dr Killingsworth delivered a poignant reminder that, sometimes, Great Powers can be belligerent and that politics has its limits.

Such a topical issue naturally garnered public attention. As featured on the recording, our audience were highly engaged and participated enthusiastically with their own questions and commentary.