Camden Conference in the World-April 2022
The war in Ukraine, not surprisingly, has been a subject of wide – and widely varying – comment by past Camden Conference speakers. “Energy efficiency guru” Amory Lovins, a 2012 speaker in Camden, told The Guardian that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has managed to bring about all the outcomes that he most feared.” In a profile piece, this descendant of Ukrainians, founder of Rocky Mountain Institute, and professor of engineering at Stanford University says Putin “may inadvertently have put the energy transition and climate solutions into a higher gear… [and his war] may prove to be a great thing for climate economics.”
Likewise, former US Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, a speaker at the recent 2022 conference, told Newsweek the invasion of Ukraine had been an “unmitigated disaster” for Putin that failed to achieve any of the Russian leader’s primary goals.
In contrast, while labelling Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine “impetuous” and a serious “blunder,” retired senior US diplomat and repeat Camden Conference keynoter and speaker Chas Freeman, in an interview with Antiwar.Com, charged the US with being happy to fight Russia “to the last Ukrainian.” Freeman added, “The war is a fog of lies on all sides.”
Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs and a 2015 Camden Conference speaker, wrote soon after Russia’s move into Ukraine: “The Russian leadership, which decided on extremely drastic steps, probably understood the consequences, or even consciously aspired to them… The new Cold War will not end quickly… ‘Fort Russia’ has decided to put its strength to the test and, at the same time, has become an agent of cardinal change for the whole world.”
Around the same time, Lukyanov told the Christian Science Monitor, “We underestimated the commitment of the Russian leadership to change the geopolitical and security environment.” Fellow 2015 participant Nikolai Petrov, of Chatham House in London, was quoted in the same article describing how the multiple power centers that existed within the Russian government when Putin came to power have gradually compressed into a “single power pyramid,” and under Covid, Putin’s “isolation has become extreme.”
Gerald Knaus, founder of the European Policy Initiative, migration expert, and a 2017 speaker in Camden, proposed former US President Barack Obama to head up efforts in Europe to deal with the millions of refugees flooding out of Ukraine.
French political science professor and writer on Islamic movements Olivier Roy, a 2005 Camden Conference speaker, told weekly news magazine Nouvel Observateur that Putin had badly miscalculated with the Ukraine war, not because of the sanctions and other economic losses, but because he lost what had been a strong base of support within the European and US political right. “Putin sacrificed all the soft power he had acquired over the last 20 years, which allowed him to be a global player, for a purely territorial vision of Russian power,” Roy said.
Founder of the Rappler newsite in the Philippines, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and 2020 Camden Conference speaker Maria Ressa paid tribute to former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Albright’s death last month: “I will remember how outspoken she was, and while many stayed silent, she helped shine the light on what was happening to us in the Philippines.” Ressa described Albright as a personal acquaintance of “more than two decades.”