Oxford Research Group (ORG) brought together some of the top names in foreign policy and journalism in a special fundraising event on June 26th at the Tricycle Theatre, London. Discussing the question ‘Should we be scared of Putin?’ were Mary Dejevsky, a leading journalist and commentator on Russia, and former British Foreign and Defence Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Chaired thoughtfully by veteran diplomat and policy advisor Tim Livesey, the discussion proved to be an enthralling back and forth on Vladimir Putin’s increasingly assertive foreign policy and its implications for Britain, Europe and the West.
Contextualising their comments in the wake of the British referendum vote to Leave the European Union, the discussants presented measured, thought-provoking insights on some of the most hotly disputed international episodes of Putin’s presidency – including Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, Russia’s increasing engagement in Middle Eastern politics, not least the Syrian civil war and its precarious relationship with Turkey.
The discussion complemented the important work of ORG, which, since 2014, has sustained a flow of thoughtful analysis on what has driven the greatest tensions between Russia and the West for a generation. Through analysing the role of both Russia and NATO, ORG has sought to encourage a more nuanced and sustainable response to the European security crisis.
The exchange on Putin was followed by an equally engrossing conversation on preventive diplomacy between Gabrielle Rifkind, Director of ORG’s new Oxford Process, and Richard Barrett, former leader of the UN's Al-Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Team. They discussed how this pioneering approach to conflict resolution could be crucial in avoiding a new Cold War and resolving some of the world’s most seemingly intractable conflicts.
Harnessing lessons from her success with ORG in mediating and facilitating dialogue between various regional actors in the Middle East, Rifkind commented on the importance of understanding the psychological drivers of international conflict. She went on to discuss the transformative power of early interventions and behind-the-scenes diplomacy to build relationships between adversaries and generate peaceful resolutions. As a former diplomat and intelligence official, Barrett reflected on how this dynamic approach could be invaluable when dealing with some of the most pressing international security issues, including the Islamic State.
The event also showcased the importance and impact of ORG’s work through a compelling new film. The short film highlighted how, for over three decades, ORG has been dedicated to not only offering in-depth analyses of pressing global security issues, but also pioneering practical, sustainable solutions to insecurity. Through reference to ORG’s seminal work mediating dialogue between Iran, Russia and western states and building the capacities of Israeli and Palestinian groups to work towards peaceful coexistence, the film illuminated the unique ability of ORG to develop creative visions of peace and sustainable security.
Finally, the event also launched ORG’s online auction of art, events and opportunities. Please bid generously to support our very important work.
All funds raised from the event and auction will go towards ORG’s ongoing research, analysis, and dialogue projects. The event was generously supported by Roger Ross of Lots Road Auction House. To add your own contribution please support our work with a donation. Regular donations by standing order, and including gift aid if possible, are particularly valuable for the sustainable planning of our vital work. Thank you.