Saturday, December 3, 2022

Zelensky at Harvard University: ‘Prevention key to lasting peace’

by Lucy Minicozzi-WheelandOctober 3, 2022 6:17 pm
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Zelensky at Harvard University: ‘Prevention key to lasting peace’President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses an audience at Harvard University via video-conference on Sept. 27. (President's Office)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Amid mounting fears of Russia using nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to an audience at Harvard University on Sept. 27 of the importance of preventing further Russian escalation before any devastating consequences occur. 

“To react after the strikes happen, (means) you are already finding yourself amid a new round of escalation,” Zelensky said, speaking from Kyiv via video-conference.  

Since declaring partial mobilization on Sept. 21 and the illegitimate annexation of four of Ukraine’s oblasts on Sept. 30, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has twice said Russia will use “all means available” to defend the “annexed” territories against the Ukrainian forces seeking to liberate them, insinuating that nuclear arms remain an option for the Kremlin. 

U.S. officials believe the chance of Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine remains unlikely. Nevertheless, U.S. President Joe Biden's administration has been sending private messages to Moscow about "grave consequences" that would follow Russia's use of nuclear weapons, the Washington Post reported on Sept. 22, citing unnamed U.S. officials. 

While it is unclear what any response on the part of the U.S. or any other ally to Ukraine would look like in the event Russia used nuclear weapons against Ukraine, Zelensky asserted that prevention is the key to ensuring Russia does not follow through with its threats. 

“Prevention is the basis for lasting peace, a measure to cut short any aggression, a measure to save many more lives, instead of reacting to something that has already happened…no leadership is fully workable without prevention,” Zelensky said. 

President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses an audience at Harvard University via video-conference on Sept. 27. (President's Office)

Zelensky thanked the U.S. and President Biden, and all of Ukraine’s partners for their support, while also criticizing the inaction of other world leaders, although he did not name any in particular.

“(Some leaders) are so afraid of deadly consequences that they pretend they don’t hear anything until the catastrophic news,” he said. 

Zelensky’s comments to Harvard on leadership also included those about Ukrainians who “are demonstrating their newly discovered leadership skills every day on the front line.”

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in late February, 30,000 Ukrainians have received top national awards for their “bravery and leadership,” according to Zelensky.  

“This is a sign of our overall, general leadership in this war, and our coming victory. And we have to learn how to remain leaders in peacetime,” he said.  

“We are very happy that President Zelensky could find time in his extremely busy schedule to meet with us and the Harvard community and share his vision about the importance of leadership in the world today,” Serhii Plokhii, the director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, said. 

“It was an important and timely message from the president, who has shown his ability to lead in the most difficult circumstances.” 

Lucy Minicozzi-Wheeland
Lucy Minicozzi-Wheeland

Lucy Minicozzi-Wheeland is a contributor and news intern at the Kyiv Independent, working with the support of an Association for Slavic, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies Graduate Internship Grant. She is also earning her master’s degree in Regional Studies: Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia at Harvard University. She is writing her master’s thesis about the war in Ukraine and she specializes in Ukrainian and Georgian studies. Lucy spent the 2019-2020 academic year serving as a Fulbright Student Researcher in Odesa, Ukraine, where she worked with prominent Ukrainian NGOs and universities such as the Odesa Center for Nonproliferation and Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

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