2023: Lessons from Ukraine: Armed Conflict, Dictatorship, and Responses from Liberal Democracies

Should we give a passing grade to the responses from liberal democracies to the invasion of Ukraine? And to the international organizations through which they have tried to intervene in a concerted manner, e.g., UN, NATO, and the EU?

Have these responses had to depart from the assumptions of international politics at the end of the Cold War in dealing with dictatorships?

Join us to explore these questions with our distinguished experts.


The Economics, Philosophy and Political Science Department in UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences presents the next Roger W. Gale Symposium in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

Lessons from Ukraine: Armed Conflict, Dictatorship, and Responses from Liberal Democracies 

March 1-2, 2023 | Hybrid Event

In early March, the annual Roger Gale Symposium will convene on another urgent topic of our times: the war in Ukraine, the authoritarianism which motivated it, and its implications for the future of democracy and peace in the world.

Since last February, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has created a new and shocking global reality: the potential that the regional conflict between Ukraine and Russia could escalate into a wider war, perhaps including attacks with nuclear weapons. To keep the conflict from spiralling out of control, and to support Ukraine in its struggle, the Western world has taken rapid and consequential decisions, involving both national states and international-military actors.

How should we assess the responses by liberal democracies to the invasion of Ukraine? What roles have key international organizations, such as the United Nations, NATO, and the EU, played in the unfolding crisis?

How do these events challenge assumptions about international politics after the Cold War, particularly when dealing with authoritarian regimes and dictatorships? What are the political and economic implications as the boundaries of the old international order are redrawn?

The Department of Economics, Philosophy and Political Science has brought together a roster of distinguished speakers to address these questions, and to provide the wider historical context for current events: Norman Naimark (historian, Stanford University), Barbara Falk (political scientist, Royal Military College of Canada), Adam Jones (political scientist, UBC), Marco Sassoli, (international human rights lawyer, Geneva University), Stephen Turner (philosopher, USF), Serhy Yekelchyk (Ukraine area studies – University of Victoria) and Seva Gunitsky (Associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto).

The event will be organized in thematic panels hosted on campus at UBCO, UNC 200, on topics such as the following:

  • Perspectives on the invasion of Ukraine: lessons from wider regional history
  • Navigating political systems and expectations about foreign policy
  • Responses to the invasion of Ukraine

The event will also feature Professor Naimark’s keynote address, at 3 pm on March 1st, also in UNC 200, and a public event at the Innovation Centre starting at 6:30 pm that same evening.

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Norman M. Naimark, Keynote speaker

Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of East European Studies, Stanford University


Barbara J. Falk

Professor, Department of Defence Studies at the Canadian Forces College/Royal Military College of Canada.

Stephen Turner

Distinguished University Professor, University of South Florida

Seva Gunitsky

Associate Professor, University of Toronto


Marco Sassòli

Professor of international law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

Serhy Yekelchyk

Professor, Germanic and Slavic Studies, University of Victoria

Adam jones

Professor, Political Science, University of British Columbia Okanagan

Speaker Bios

Norman M. Naimark is Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of East European Studies at Stanford and Senior Fellow (by courtesy) of the Freeman-Spogli Institute and the Hoover Institution. He was educated (B.A., M.A., Ph.D.) at Stanford. He taught at Boston University and was a fellow at the Russian Research Center at Harvard before returning to Stanford as a faculty member in 1988. His recent books include: Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in 20th Century Europe (Harvard 2001); Stalin’s Genocides (Princeton 2010); Genocide: A World History (Oxford 2017);Fate of Europe (Harvard 2019).

Barbara J. Falk, Professor, Department of Defence Studies at the Canadian Forces College/Royal Military College of Canada, teaches and publishes in an interdisciplinary capacity, with expertise in politics, law and history. Her primary research focus is on political trials, particularly in the persecution and prosecution of domestic dissent at times of international conflict. She has also written and published in the areas of comparative dissent (particularly the life and work of Václav Havel) and national security law and policy. She is the author of The Dilemmas of Dissidence: Citizen Intellectuals and Philosopher Kings (2003) and Political Trials: Causes and Categories (2008). She is currently writing a book on comparative political trials across the East-West divide during the early Cold War, examining the Rajk, Slánský, Dennis and Rosenberg trials. Prior to her academic career, she worked in the both the private and public sectors in human resources, labour relations and women’s issues, as Director of Human Resources at Sony Music Canada; Director, Compensation and Labour Relations, Management Board and Senior Policy Advisor at the Pay Equity Commission of Ontario respectively.

Stephen Turner (1951) is Distinguished University Professor. His degrees, in Philosophy and Sociology, are from the University of Missouri. He is appointed in the Department of Philosophy, University of South Florida, where he is also director of the Center for Social and Political Thought. He was visiting professor at Boston University, the University of Notre Dame and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Honorary Simon Visiting Professor at the University of Manchester, and has held fellowships from the US National Endowment for the Humanities and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies.

His current research interests are in cognitive science and aspects of democratic theory, especially relating to issues of knowledge and expertise. His writings in this area include Liberal Democracy 3.0: Civil Society in an Age of Experts (2003) and essays collected in The Politics of Expertise (2013). He has also written extensively on Max Weber, especially on politics, in Max Weber and the Dispute Over Reason and Value: A Study in Philosophy, Ethics, and Politics (1984), and Max Weber: The Lawyer as Social Thinker (1994), with the late Regis Factor. He edited the Cambridge Companion to Max Weber (2000) He has also written extensively on Hans Morgenthau and international relations theory. His Making Democratic Theory Democratic: Democracy, Law, and Administration after Weber and Kelsen, with George Mazur, will appear in March 2023.

Marco Sassòli, is professor of international law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Geneva, Switzerland. From 2001-2003, he has been professor of international law at the Université du Québec à Montreal, Canada, where he remains associate professor. He is commissioner and member of the Executive Committee of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). In March/April 2022, he has been member of a mission of experts under the Moscow Mechanism of the OSCE enquiring into violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in Ukraine between 24 February 2022 and 1 April 2022.

Marco Sassòli has worked from 1985-1997 for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the headquarters, inter alia as deputy head of its legal division, and in the field, inter alia as head of the ICRC delegations in Jordan and Syria and as protection coordinator for the former Yugoslavia. He also chaired from 2004-2013 the board of Geneva Call. From 2018-2020 he has been director of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

Marco Sassòli has published widely on international humanitarian law, human rights law, international criminal law, the sources of international law, and the responsibility of states and non-state actors.”

Dr. Adam Jones’ research is focused in the fields of comparative genocide studies and gender and international relations. I am the author of the most widely-used textbook in genocide studies, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, and will be preparing a new (fourth) edition during a sabbatical in the calendar year 2021. Jones recently published a major new article, “Chomsky and Genocide,” in Genocide Studies and Prevention (14: 1).

Born and educated in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union, Serhy Yekelchyk received a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta. He is the author of eight books on modern Ukrainian history, Stalinism, and Russo-Ukrainian relations. His monograph Stalin’s Citizens: Everyday Politics in the Wake of Total War (Oxford University Press, 2014) was the recipient of the Best Book Award from the American Association for Ukrainian Studies, and its Ukrainian translation in 2019 received a special diploma of the Lviv Book Forum. His survey of Ukrainian history, Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation (Oxford University Press, 2007), was Choice Magazine’s Book of the Year and went on to be translated into five languages. Yekelchyk is currently working on the third, considerably expanded, edition of his popular book about the Euromaidan Revolution and Russian aggression in Ukraine, Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2020). Yekelchyk has written op-eds for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Politico. His interview credits include the BBC History Magazine, CNN, the New York Times, and numerous other international media outlets. A professor of History and Slavic Studies at the University of Victoria, Yekelchyk is current president of the Canadian Association for Ukrainian Studies.

Seva Gunitsky is an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto. His work examines how international forces like war and globalization shape democracy and domestic reforms. He is the author of Aftershocks: Great Powers and Domestic Reforms in the Twentieth Century (Princeton University Press), selected by Foreign Affairs as one of the best books of 2017. Some of his work has appeared in International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, International Theory, and Perspectives on Politics, as well as popular outlets like Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, The New Republic, and others.

Event Schedule

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

 Noon – 12:45 pm 
UNC 200

Introductory Remarks for Minds and Music
Time:  12:45 pm – 1 pm
UNC 200

Minds and Music Concert 
1 pm – 2:15 pm (refreshments provided at 2:30 pm) 
UNC 200
Musicians: Gabrielle Després, Patricia Tao


Introductory Comments
3 pm – 3:15 pm
Location: UNC 200
Manuela Ungureanu

Keynote Presentation
The 90th Anniversary of the Holodomor and a Year of Russian Atrocities in Ukraine
This lecture will touch on several subjects linking the Holodomor (death famine) of 1932-33 to the attacks on unarmed Ukrainian civilians that have constituted an essential characteristic of the year-long Russian invasion of Ukraine. This includes examining the political, social, and psychological effects of Russian violence against Ukrainians, as well as the effect of the war on Russia and the Russians. The use of terror in both cases will be examined, as well as the processes of de-humanization. Sexual violence is part of the story, and, like most genocides, “denial” has been present from the very beginning. The final aspect of the lecture will look at responses to the Holodomor and the present atrocities in the U.S. and Europe, focusing on changing concepts of human rights and international law.
3:15 pm – 5 pm
UNC 200
Speaker: Norman Naimark
Moderator: Halina Sapeha

Panel Discussion
Topic: Perspectives on the invasion of Ukraine: context, motivations, and histories
In this session attendees will hear two historians’ perspectives on Ukraine’s struggle for sovereignty, and the conflicting narratives provided by both sides of the conflict.  Panelists will also highlight NATO’s responses to the crisis in Europe to provide a context for understanding Canada’s military response to the war in Ukraine.
Time: 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm (refreshments and snacks will be provided from 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm) 
Innovation Centre

    • Norman M. Naimark, Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of East European Studies, Stanford University
      “The War in Ukraine and its struggle for sovereignty”
    • Barbara J. Falk, Professor, Department of Defence Studies at the Canadian Forces College/Royal Military College of Canada
      “International Institutions, Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces: Collective Learning to Assist Ukraine and Support the Rules-Based International Order “
    • Serhy Yekelchyk, Professor, Germanic and Slavic Studies, University of Victoria
      “A War over History”

Moderator: Adam Jones, Professor, Political Science, University of British Columbia Okanagan

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Panel Discussion
Political, Legal and Humanitarian Responses to the Ukraine Crisis
The presentations in this panel address questions such as: how best to understand the geopolitical motivations behind Russia’s war in Ukraine? On the other hand, what is the political philosophy guiding liberal democracies’ political responses to such crises? And what remedies can international organizations provide to Russia’s violations of international law, and last, how can humanitarian organizations remain neutral in this war?
Time:  9:00 am – 11:30 am (refreshments provided at 9 am, panel discussion begins at 9:30 am) 
UNC 200

    • Stephen Turner, Distinguished University Professor, University of South Florida
      “Making Foreign Policy Safe for Democracy?”
    • Marco Sassòli, Professor of international law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Geneva, Switzerland
      “Western States respect for International Humanitarian Law”
    • Seva Gunitsky, Associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto
      “In the Shadow of Empire: Recuring Patterns of Foreign Policy”

Moderator: Wendy Wong, Professor, Political Science, Principal’s Research Chair, University of British Columbia Okanagan

Closing Remarks
11:30 am – noon
UNC 200
Speaker: Adam Jones, Professor, Political Science, University of British Columbia Okanagan


About the Series

The Roger W. Gale Symposium in Philosophy, Politics and Economics is a regular event that focuses on a current issue overlapping with the multiple disciplines within our department. It is meant to bring various parts of the academy and the public together into fruitful dialogue with a range of experts.

What: Should we limit individual freedoms to stabilize the climate? Can we stabilize the climate without such restrictions?
Who: Diverse expert panel discuss if individual choice should be restricted to preserve the climate.

There is no reasonable doubt that the collectivity of individual human decisions has substantially changed the global climate, and on its current trajectory, the rate of change is accelerating. The impacts of this change are being seen around the world as wildfires, heat waves, torrential rains and powerful storms. The more heat-trapping gasses are added to the atmosphere, the further the climate will change and the greater the risk that the climate system tips into a new and substantially different state. A state that will seriously disrupt all ecological systems – within which human systems are embedded – on the planet.

Each of us has a range of choices available that have differing impacts on other people and the global environment. 

The goal of this symposium was to explore if individual choices should be constrained for some so that the global climate system can be stabilized.

Guest speakers included:

  • Michael Ignatieff, Professor in the History Department at Central European University, former politician. 
  • Andrew Weaver, Professor in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria.

Learn More

The Misinformation Age

What: Is there a vaccine for the infodemic?
Who: Diverse expert panel on how we can combat misinformation while preserving free speech

Sometimes it seems as though the world is spiralling out of control as unreflective thinking, mistrust, fake news, and conspiracy theories wreak havoc. In the last year, the impact of misinformation reached epic proportions during the pandemic and the American election. Authoritarian regimes engaged in information warfare with ever more sophisticated tools and greater reach. Meanwhile, social media platforms came under fire by many for not doing enough to counter misinformation, and by others for undermining free expression with a heavy-handed overreaction.

To stave off the negative impacts of misinformation, we first need to understand it. The good news is that researchers from across the disciplines have begun to make real progress. The goal of this symposium was to bring together eight leading voices from this effort to help us understand and counter the threat.

Guest speakers included:

  • Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, a Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health, and Research Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta.
  • Renée DiResta, Research Manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, a Staff Associate at the Columbia University Data Science Institute, and is a Founding Advisor to the Center for Humane Technology.
  • Dan Gillmor, co-founder of the News Co/Lab at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
  • Heidi Tworek (PhD Harvard University), associate professor of international history and public policy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Learn More

Future of Work

What: Humans, machines and the future of work
Who: Experts in public policy, higher education and international business

Technological progress is significantly changing the world of work. A new wave of disruption is impacting traditional jobs, industries and business models. Canadians are increasingly employed in non-traditional industries, working flexible hours and using technology to change the way they work.

The goal of this symposium was to explore what influence the continuing march of technology, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will have on where we work and how we work, and where we fit in an automated world.

Guest speakers included:

  • Paulina Cameron, author of bestselling Canada 150 Women
  • Taylor Owen, professor of digital media and global affairs at UBC’s Vancouver campus
  • Sunil Johal, policy director at the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre
  • Alexandra Matesscu, ethnographer and researcher at the Data and Society Research Institute

What: Symposium on Nuclear North Korea: Implications for Canada and the Region
Who: Canada’s former ambassadors to Korea and China, and several experts on the region

On the margins of the international community for decades, North Korea has been pursuing and ramping up a nuclear program and has made direct threats toward the United States. The most recent threat came in November when the country claimed to have successfully tested a new type of international ballistic missile that could reach North America, a claim that US-based experts confirm is supported by their data.

Heightened rhetoric from Leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump have made frequent headlines around the world, leaving many people concerned about what appears to be an increasing threat, and unsure what is hype and what is reality.

The daylong symposium brought together six experts to discuss the nature of the threat, the historical context, the competing geopolitical interests in the region and what role Canada should play.

Speakers at this event included: Sven Jurschewsky, former Senior Counselor, Canadian Foreign Service in China; David Chatterson, Canada’s Ambassador to Korea (2011-2014); Gunn Kim, Consul General of the Republic of Korea; Scott Snyder, Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C.; Jenny Town, US-Korea Institute, Johns Hopkins University; and Donald Baker, Professor of Korean History, UBC Vancouver.

The discussion examined how people can better assess what they see in the media on international politics and diplomacy.

The day included three sessions:

  • Historical context: How did we get to where we are today? Analyzing previous negotiations and engagement with the regime and their outcomes.
  • Geopolitical interests and responses: What are the core interests of the main players in the region and the international community and how are they pursuing those interests?
  • What should we learn from this situation? What are the implications for Canada?


This symposium series is made possible through the generous support of Roger W. Gale.

Roger Gale

Now living in West Kelowna, Roger holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the School of International Service, American University. Roger has had a diverse career, ranging from teaching at the university level to strategic consulting with global electric power companies. Roger remains active on the boards of two equity funds in the US and he continues his interest in post-secondary education.