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Another nuclear arms race inevitable: former US ambassador to Soviet Union

24 June 2015

The former US ambassador to the Soviet Union has warned that if the situation in Ukraine and Western relations with Russia worsen, "We are almost inevitably going to be in another nuclear arms race."

In a lecture at King's College London, Jack Matlock said that the crisis in Ukraine is increasingly comparable to what he saw during his time as ambassador during the turbulent end of the Cold War. "We see increasingly implicit military confrontations and I'm beginning to wonder, could this result in something which is almost the functional equivalent of the Cold War," he said. 

According to Matlock, an explanation for the crisis in Ukraine and worsening relationship between Russia and the West does not simply lie with the actions of Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

Calling on his experience to reflect on the current situation in the region, Matlock explained that in the past 'conflicting interpretations' were often the cause of such conflicts, and that "to understand the current issue, we have to go very closely and think, what is this all about?" 

"Is it just a matter of Russia violating international norms and law, is there more to this story? There is no question that Russia has violated international law, that the way they conducted the referendum of the Crimea and then annexed it, was a violation of a number of agreements.

"However, all of us should recognise that as brutal and aggressive as Russian policy is, ultimately it is prompted by…feeling…that US and West in general…are trying to encircle and strangle them," he said. 

Following a decision made at the recent G7 summit to continue imposing sanctions on Russia, and the steadily increasing popularity within Russia of its President, Matlock argues that the West needs to reconsider its own policies to "bring the results that we want."

Matlock delivered his lecture at King's College, London, as part of the Fifth Annual Fulbright Lecture series, held in association with the US-UK Fulbright Commission and the Lois Roth Endowment.

Speaking of the lecture series, Matlock said he was 'greatly honoured to be at King's and to deliver a lecture to honour Senator William Fulbright, one of our great political leaders, and one who left a heritage of talking sense.'

President & Principal of King's, Professor Ed Byrne AC said, "We would like to thank Ambassador Matlock for a very discerning lecture on an incredibly complex topic. He has called on his long experience as a diplomat and his deep academic knowledge of Russia and Eastern Europe. We would also like to thank the Fulbright commission. King's has had a long association with Fulbright, including accepting scholars from the US, and we look forward to hosting the Fulbright summer institute in July.'

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