Professor Lieven stresses the importance of empire in the beginning of the 20th century. This was a time, he stresses, when you couldn’t really survive if you did not have an empire, and empire-building schemes were undoubtedly part of the reason WWI broke out when it did. The existence of other factors was also important, he adds, mentioning the industrial revolution, which started in Britain but quickly spread to other European countries and Russia. By the time WWI broke out, the Russian economy was already growing quickly, and it is possible that Germany, France and Britain realised that if a war had to be fought, it would have to be started around about then, before Russia would have become too powerful.
Ukraine was important at the beginning of WWI. As professor Lieven points out; 75% of Ukraine was part of Russia at the time, and the territory was vital for Russia as it contained valuable industrial facilities and resources. The country has long lost its importance, Lieven states, as the Ukrainian economy is in a bad shape and the kind of industry and resources available in that country are no longer highly valued. Ukraine’s real value was to act as a buffer state between Russia and what is know as ‘the West’. A role which unfortunately for all concerned – particularly Ukraine and its economy – has been jettisoned. Lieven is fairly optimistic that Germany may take on a ‘bridge’ role between the East and the West.
Lieven interestingly considers another world war as possible, but not highly likely. If such a war does break out, Lieven considers, it will not be because of Europe, which he says is simply not that important anymore. The really important area, he mentions, is Asia; that is where a major conflict could break out, which would drag us all into a new war of global proportions.
Professor Lieven is an excellent speaker and his points of view are highly interesting. Please do listen to this programme.