Perhaps the most engaging event I’ve had the opportunity to attend while at OU was a speech, given by the ambassador from the European Union (EU) to the US, Stavros Lambrimidis, at OU on April 29. His speech, as one would imagine, focused on the EU’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The underlying thread throughout his talk was the “why” behind the EU’s existence – preventing atrocities like the holocaust from recurring and fostering peace, cooperation, and economic wellbeing. At the core of this why, at least for Ambassador Lambrimidis, is democracy, a system that protects rights and offers self-determination.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is fundamentally undemocratic – Putin believes that “might makes right.” Ambassador Lambrimidis sees the EU combatting this threat on four fronts – economic sanctions, energy policy, security investments, and democratic support. These four factors are key aspects of the EU’s identity and ability to influence the world; and their response to the Russian invasion demonstrates that the EU can, indeed, have real effects.
On the economic front, Ambassador Lambrimidis notes that the EU instituted massive sanctions unanimously, demonstrating the potential strength of the union in the face of severe anti-democratic threats. On the energy front, he noted that the invasion has both encouraged Europe to begin cutting off the supply of Russian gas and increased interest and investment in green energy. On the security front, Ambassador Lambrimidis sees the EU investing more heavily in military and cyber security, directing defense funds in more productive ways. Finally, the EU is striving to protect democracy by ensuring the privacy of citizens of member nations and facilitating the process of incorporating Ukraine into the EU.
Democracy is the reason behind Ambassador Lambrimidis’ efforts throughout his political career. While the threat posed by Russia is significant, he sees cause for hope in the response, not only from the EU, but from the US in support of Ukraine. The West is invested in protecting democracy – in ensuring individual freedoms, rights, and self-determination. The democratic dream is still alive.