Perspectives on the war in Ukraine with Fiona Hill

Since the start of the war, the John Smith Trust has been bringing together its network of change-makers and leaders in the former Soviet Union, to discuss how best to support Ukraine.

On 12 July, our Fellows met with Fiona Hill, an eminent Russian foreign policy expert, to discuss developments of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Fiona is a former advisor to US Presidents George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, and her knowledge of the inner workings of Putin’s Russia is unrivalled.

This was an informal conversation for John Smith Fellows, facilitated by our trustee Craig Oliphant OBE. In the conversation, Fiona tackles the following questions:

  • What are the motivations for Putin’s actions in Ukraine?
  • How would you characterise the international response to the war?
  • How will Russia’s place in the world be impacted?
  • Is there need for reform of the UN system?
  • How will this war end?

The value of networks

At the end of the conversation, Fiona articulated the value of networks to support Ukraine, she said: “It’s networks like this, that have built up over time that become essential. This is exactly why the John Smith fellowship was created – to help move things forward.

“Part of the battle in Ukraine and for Ukraine and for the future is in hearts and minds internationally. Getting out why Ukraine’s fight matters to everybody, not just everybody who understands it here in these networks but more broadly and figuring out how to articulate that, is critical.

“I’ve self-appointed myself to talk to as many people as possible. I found ways of reaching literally millions of people by talking on podcasts like Ezra Klein from the New York Times – it is kind of amazing what reach that has. I would urge all of you to find ways to get your points amplified.  Ukraine will only get security guarantees when everybody realises just exactly what they should already know, as Artem [Shaipov] said, that Ukraine should have an internationally recognised right for self-defence and for others to come to its defence.

We should all speak out for Ukraine

“We should all be able to fight directly for Ukraine. Indonesians should be doing that, Malaysians should be doing that, Venezuelans should be doing that, not just Europeans because it’s not a proxy war, this is a direct war between Russia and Ukraine. The regular armies are engaged, and Ukraine has been invaded, it’s a war of conquest. And China should understand that as well.

“We have to grapple with the politics of it all, we shouldn’t be naive but I think we have to be getting those messages out. If you’re concerned in Kazakhstan, Georgia or Kyrgyzstan about what’s happening, then get the message out. Everybody should be taking a stand here and trying to do something. I think you’ve all got an amazing opportunity by being part of the John Smith Trust network to be able to take some of that forward as well.”

You can read more about how our Fellows are making a difference in Ukraine in our news and insights articles.