The Holberg Debate on The War in Ukraine

John Mearsheimer and Carl Bildt. Ukraine, Russia, China and the West. A dangerous time in a dangerous multipolar world.

The Holberg Debate is an annual event organised by the Holberg Prize. The debate is inspired by Ludvig Holberg’s Enlightenment ideas and aims to explore pressing issues of our time.

The Ukraine War Debate

The Holberg Debate was organised for the first time in 2016 and has since been held annually, on the first Saturday in December. Ludvig Holberg’s birthday was 3 December, and the event is inspired by his Enlightenment ideas. The aim is both to see important voices debate pressing issues of our time and to highlight the relevance of the academic fields covered by the Holberg Prize: the humanities, social sciences, law and theology.

  • What measures are conducive to achieving a lasting resolution to the war in Ukraine? Does the conflict tell us anything new about rationality in international politics?
  • To what extent will imperialism in both its most brutal and its softer forms define the next decades of international relations?
  • How can we secure stability between major powers and deter military aggression in a world where conflict is escalating, predictability is diminishing, and even the premise of rational actors is called into question?
  • What forms of military, economic and political power may prevent tragedies like the war in Ukraine, military confrontation with China, and the risk of wider conflicts?
  • Is the traditional rationale behind nuclear deterrence still valid?
  • John J. Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1982. He graduated from West Point (1970), has a PhD in political science from Cornell University (1981), and has written extensively about security issues and international politics
  • Carl Bildt is Co-Chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations and contributing columnist to The Washington Post, as well as columnist for Project Syndicate. He serves as Senior Advisor to the Wallenberg Foundations in Sweden and is on the Board of Trustees of the RAND Corporation in the US. Bildt has served as both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden. In March 2021, Bildt was appointed WHO Special Envoy for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator). He has for many years served in international functions with the EU and UN, primarily related to the conflicts in the Balkans.

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