"As someone who has experienced the challenge of communicating with locals about potential geopolitical threats, I understand how frustrating it can be to sound like a broken record. The historical memory of past generations has made it clear that the Russians will come, and we have seen it before. While it may be cool to watch a KGB officer become president, it took us some time to explain to the rest of the world that this is a logical development of things. People cannot be expected to believe you just because you look nice and try to sell them on an idea"Vadym Prystaiko
24 February 2023
Ukrainian and British diplomats visit King's to discuss Putin's tensions with the West
As part of the activities to mark the anniversary of the Ukraine invasion, King's screened the last episode of the BBC documentary 'Putin vs The West', bringing together its production team, academics and Ukrainian and British diplomats.
Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko, British diplomat Mark Sedwill, Professor Lawrence Freedman and documentary producers participated in a Q&A session after screening the BBC documentary 'Putin vs The West' in an event open to the public to reflect on the main impacts of war.
The BBC documentary 'Putin vs The West' takes a close look at Russia's leader revealing how Western leaders tried to stop him and how he became increasingly aggressive. It highlights the Salisbury poisonings, conflicts with former US President Donald Trump over nuclear missiles and rhetoric aimed at NATO.
The Ukraine Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko discussed the challenges of explaining the threat of Russian aggression to local populations, pointing out their understanding of what the Russians want, the need for people to adapt to systems and for politicians and security advisers to understand the situation.
Mark Sedwill, a British diplomat and former Cabinet Secretary, was one of the interviewees in the documentary. During the event, he highlighted the challenges of giving media interviews when no longer in a government position and praised the accuracy of the documentary series covering the Ukraine-Russia conflict while acknowledging past mistakes in dealing with autocrats like Putin.
"One of the lessons is that we should have been tougher earlier, particularly after 2014 and the failure to act in Syria. We need to take autocrats at their word when they say they're going to carry out military action. We got Saddam Hussein wrong, and we got Putin wrong. We need to arm countries vulnerable to aggression and provide them with the wherewithal to defend themselves. It's important to learn those lessons for other potential aggression around the world"Mark Sedwill
Norma Percy, documentary maker and producer, talked about some of the main challenges to producing the episodes. "Since 2012, Russia has become a very difficult place for journalists to work as relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated. The BBC persisted, saying we should focus on dealing with Russia rather than working inside the country. So, we started in the spring of 2021, but when February came, and the urgency increased, it became harder to make. It was quite hard to get leaders to tell their war stories and to see how decisions were made", she highlighted.
Tim Stirzaker, documentary director, pointed out some of the biases of the documentary format and mentioned the relationship between Ukraine, Russia, and the United States leading up to the war. "We're not pretending that a documentary is a book that tells you everything; we want to give you an insight into what it's like to live through these events. […] The episode tells how we got to the war and Trump's magnetic quality. The more we thought about the continental relationship, it told you a lot about Trump, much less about Putin's attitude to Ukraine, which is ultimately what this film was trying to do", he concluded.
To watch the documentary series ‘Putin vs The West’, visit bbc.co.uk/iplayer/putin-vs-the-west