The political crisis in Ukraine has increased transatlantic solidarity and awareness of the Eastern European region, says Tom Malinowski, US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. In a meeting with students on EHU’s campus, Malinowski discussed the West’s response to events in Ukraine, prospects for change in Belarus, and the power of education in advancing the process of democratic transformation.
Asked by students whether the West’s reaction to events in Ukraine was not too slow and too late, Malinowski responded that democracies usually take more time to act than dictatorships. However, history shows that, in the long run, democracy is the more sustainable form of government.
“The Western response to everything important is always slow. We are democracies, we are in a complicated alliance of equal countries. Liberal values create systems that move slowly; authoritarian values create systems that move fast. As a result, whenever there is a clash, people think that authoritarian systems are more effective because they act more quickly,” said the Assistant Secretary.
However, according to Malinowski, once measures are in place, they have a long-lasting effect and a higher degree of support than those that are implemented by authoritarian means.
The Assistant Secretary of State discussed with students whether change in Belarus might come through a revolutionary moment, as in Ukraine or the Arab world, or gradually through efforts at the local level that build the foundations for change. Participants agreed that more needs to be done to expand opportunities for Belarusians to experience the contemporary European way of life.
Malinowski also voiced his strong support for EHU. According to him, it represents a unique model of a university that is located outside Belarus, but comprises a Belarusian community.
EHU’s Founding Rector Professor Anatoli Mikhailov reiterated the importance of education in the process of transformation, emphasizing that, in addition to education, life in different cultures has a notable effect on one’s mentality.