In the 2023 Distinguished Leon C. & June W. Holt Lecture in International Law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Ukrainian politician and elected member of the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) Oleksiy Goncharenko discussed the current war in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of the Free World working together to “defeat evil … and build a better world for the next generation.” Goncharenko characterized the defeat of Russia together as the first step to living free.
In his impassioned lecture, “Live Free or Die: Lessons for the Free World from the War in Ukraine,” Goncharenko cautioned that with the outcome of this war, “either the Free World will expand, or dictatorships will expand,” advocating a global effort to stop tyrants or “geopolitical maniacs.”
“We can’t tolerate evil,” said Goncharenko. “Sooner or later, it will come to you.”
Goncharenko, who has been included on the sanctioned persons lists of the Russian Federation, is a member of the Ukrainian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Vice President of the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees, and Internally Displaced Persons. After the start of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, he joined territorial defense for the first month. He has been an ardent advocate in the fight against Russian propaganda, cooperating with international media to bring the truth to the world about Ukraine.
Jill E. Fisch, Saul A. Fox Distinguished Professor of Business Law, delivered opening remarks and welcomed Goncharenko to the Law School. Fisch is Co-Director of the Institute for Law & Economics, which jointly co-hosted the event with the Holt Program in International Trade Law.
After being introduced by George Casey, Adjunct Professor of Law and Global Co-Managing Partner of Shearman & Sterling LLP, Goncharenko began his lecture by playing an evocative, blaring air-raid siren – the sound his wife and children wake to in Odessa. He outlined the many strengths of Ukraine and why it has become Vladmir Putin’s target, including that it is the largest agro-industrial country in the world, is the most developed IT country in Europe, has the strongest army on the European continent, and has control of the Black Sea.
He offered a broader understanding of the “imperial cycle of Russia,” tracing the recent history of Russian invasions of Chechnya, Georgia, North Caucasus, and Crimea and noting that young men from those territories are now fighting for Russia against Ukraine. The values of democracy, freedom, rule of law, human rights, and market economy, said Goncharenko, are the values that “are also the most pragmatic things that help win the war.”
Moreover, he decried energy dependence on dictatorial regimes as “dangerous” as well as more expensive.
“Clean energy is energy from clean countries,” read one of Goncharenko’s slides. “The best markets are free markets.”
On the subject of military force, he praised Ukraine’s advances that have enabled their forces to stop “the unstoppable Russian army, which everyone feared.” Goncharenko openly questioned what would have happened if the United States had provided planes and other weapons to Ukraine, and he identified an urgent need for F-16s and ATACMS.
He closed his lecture by sharing successes of Goncharenko centers, the largest in the Ukraine network of educational/cultural and volunteer centers, and concluded with a final, inspirational call to action.
“Let’s defeat evil together, and let’s build a better world for the next generation, starting from yours,” said Goncharenko.
Following the lecture, Professor of Law Bill Burke-White moderated a Q&A session featuring questions from audience members for Goncharenko and Casey. The discussion delved deeply into issues such as Russia’s weaponization of energy, disinformation campaigns, the risk of nuclear escalation, reparations, negotiations, and genocide.
Goncharenko and Casey both expressed deep gratitude for the interest of those who attended, and Casey added that he hopes the “world won’t get tired of this topic and that we won’t be abandoned.” Goncharenko noted that all assistance from abroad helps Ukrainians retain the hope “that they’re not alone,” including liking and sharing social media posts – notably from Goncharenko’s Twitter account @GoncharenkoUa – and reaching out to elected officials to encourage continued support for Ukraine.
Burke-White concluded the event, affirming, “We do stand with Ukraine.”
The Holt Lecture
The Holt Lecture is part of the annual Distinguished Lecture Series at Penn Carey Law, which provides a forum for global thought leaders to present new scholarship, evidence-based research, and innovative ideas and engage with faculty and students, enhancing the Law School’s goal of fostering cross-disciplinary legal education. The Holt Program in International Trade Law was created in 2007 to develop and endow a program of conferences, workshops, and lectures. These events focus on international issues of trade and law in the global economy, including social, cultural, and environmental challenges, with a goal of preparing generations of Penn Carey Law students for global leadership. The program is made possible through a generous gift of Leon C. Holt L’51 and June W. Holt.
Past Holt Lecturers include Sandie Okoro, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the World Bank Group; Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico; the Honorable Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; and Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch of the Supreme Court of Israel.
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Learn more about international law programs and opportunities at Penn Carey Law.