SIAS Past Events

Winter Quarter Events
Speaker Series

SIAS Winter Quarter Past Events

Norman Naimark
April 16 @ Old Union
Professor Norman Naimark spoke to SIAS about events in Ukraine.

Movie Screening
March 4 @ History Corner
SIAS screened the movie Casablanca.

Professor Hau Lee
March 4 @ Crothers Memorial Conference Room
GSB Professor Hau Lee, the faculty director of the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, spoke to students about economic development.

SIAS/SAID Conference on International Development
March 1 @ Huang Engineering Center
SIAS co-sponsored a conference on informal and illicit trade in the developing world.

Board Game Night
February 28 @ History Corner
SIAS hosted board game night for students interested in honing their strategy skills.

February 27 @ Bechtel International Center
SIAS co-sponsored a speaker panel with UNICEF.

SIAS/STAND Event on DR Congo
February 26, 7pm – 8pm @ Kelillah Hal
The Executive Director of “Friends of Congo” spoke to students about the Congo.

Karl Eikenberry
February 25 @ OU 200
Professor Karl Eikenberry spoke to SIAS about the US invasion and the future of Afghanistan.

Coit Blacker
February 18 @ OU 201
Professor Coit Blacker spoke to SIAS about the ongoing protests in Ukraine and the future of the country.

February General Meeting
February 12 @ Arrillaga Dining Study Room SIAS’s monthly general meeting. This month former Stanford student and SIAS member Peter Davis spoke to students and there was a debate about the politics surrounding the Olympics.

Board Game Night
February 11 @ History Corner
SIAS hosted a board game night for students interested in honing their strategy skills.

Movie Night
February 7 @ History Corner
SIAS hosted a screening of the last King of Scotland.

Office Hours
February 5 @ CoHo
The SIAS board hosted office hours for students interested in getting more involved with international affairs on campus.

Movie Night
January 31 @ History Corner
SIAS hosted a screening of the movie Argo.

SIAS Mixer
January 29 @ Mukwema
SIAS hosted a mixer with various other political groups on campus.

John Prendergast
January 29 @ CISAC Conference Room
Co-founder of the Enough project spoke to students about ongoing violence in South Sudan.

Abbas Milani
January 21 @ Old Union
SIAS hosted Dr. Abbas Milani for a lunch discussion about the nuclear deal with Iran.

January General Meeting
January 14 @ Arrillaga Dining Study Room
SIAS hosted its monthly general meeting. The topic of January’s meeting was the violence in Fallujah, Iraq.

SIAS Speaker Series


Norman Naimark

Professor Norman Naimark, an expert on Eastern European history, joined SIAS for lunch on Wednesday, April 16 to discuss the evolving situation in Ukraine and how the West might respond to Russian intervention. Professor Naimark emphasized the complexity of the situation, in the present and historically, and also stressed that the United States and its allies must take action.

Ukraine and Russia have a complex history dating back over 1000 years. The greater Slavic civilization originated in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, and for much of history Russia and Ukraine were linked. Unlike Georgia, with whom Russia went to war in 2008, Ukraine shares a common culture, language, and religion with Russia. However , Ukraine has been subject to Russian abuse in the past. Notably,
Joseph Stalin induced a famine in Ukraine that killed millions
when Ukrainians resisted collectivization under the Soviet Union. After WWII, when the borders of Ukraine were shifted westward, the western half of the country adopted Polish cultural characteristics, including an affinity for the West. The eastern part of Ukraine, meanwhile, remains predominantly Russian and industrial. The cleavage between these regions has featured prominently in the ongoing conflict.

Pro-western protests began in late 2013 after Viktor Yanukovych, former pro-Russia president of Ukraine, suspend preparations for signing an Association Agreement with the European Union. The protests swelled and violence escalated until February 21, 2014, when protesters rejected a compromise which would have kept Yanokovich in power until new elections were held. The next morning, Yanukovych fled to Russia and the protesters took power.

Professor Naimark believes that, at this point, Russia violated a basic tenant of the international system. A fter Yanukovych’s flight, Russia took de facto control of Crimea, a strategically important region of Ukraine. Naimark emphasized that this violation of the integrity of borders sets a dangerous precedent for other countries with significant populations of Russian-speakers. Although Russian control of Crimean is likely irreversible, he suggested that Russia can be pressured into staying out of eastern Ukraine and tempering its propaganda campaign. Specifically, Naimark advocated for coordinated economic sanctions and boycotts to change Moscow’s calculus.

Karl Eikenberry

Karl Eikenberry, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, joined SIAS for lunch on Tuesday, February 25 to discuss the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ambassador Eikenberry covered a range of topics during his talk, including the impact the U.S. has had on Afghanistan, the challenges of developing a coherent strategy there, and Afghanistan’s prospects for the future.

The U.S. presence in Afghanistan has had mixed results, but Ambassador Eikenberry maintains that on the whole it has been a force for good. Since the U.S. intervention in 2001, the accessibility of healthcare in Afghanistan has improved markedly and the education system has been extended to include many more Afghans, including women who would not have had the opportunity otherwise. In addition, the presence of al-Qaeda in the region has been severely constrained and they are unlikely to resurge.

According to Ambassador Eikenberry, a major impediment to American success in Afghanistan is that the U.S. does not have a single unified objective. Some in Washington DC believe that the U.S. should focus on nation-building as its primary goal, others emphasize the tactical defeat of the Taliban and their allies, and still others argue that hunting down al-Qaeda and those who focus on international jihad should be the main priority. This disjointed approach means that the U.S. falls short on all three of these objectives.

The U.S. will dramatically draw down its forces in Afghanistan in the coming years, with some troops remaining to provide training to Afghan forces and to run a base for intelligence operations. Of course, the presence of even these troops is contingent on President Karzai agreeing to a new Status of Forces Agreement, which the U.S. and Afghanistan are currently trying to negotiate. There is also the question of foreign aid, which makes up almost 90% of Afghanistan’s GDP at the moment. The concern is that, as foreign forces and international aid leave the country, more Afghans may turn to the illicit economy and exacerbate the illegal drug trade (Afghanistan currently grows 90% of the world’s poppy crops). Finally, finding a peace agreement with the Taliban will be challenging. According to Ambassador Eikenberry, the Afghan Taliban are tolerated by elements of the Pakistani government and are also somewhat fragmented, complicating the negotiation process.

Coit Blacker

Professor Coit Blacker, a former Special Assistant to President Clinton and a current professor at Stanford , joined SIAS for lunch on Tuesday, February 18 to discuss the political crisis in Ukraine. Professor Blacker highlighted the historical centrality of Ukraine in Russian and Slavic culture as a driving force behind the current struggle. Russian culture began in what is now Ukraine and, for centuries prior to 1991, Ukraine had always been a part of Russia. Many Russians and Russo-Ukrainians see Ukraine as a part of Russia’s historic core, so they are not apt to give it up. Indeed, Professor Blacker compared how these pro-Russians feel to how many Americans would feel if the region of New England aimed to gain autonomy.

Although one half of the Ukrainian population is ideologically oriented toward the West, the other half is more ideologically Russian (with a quarter of the population being ethnically Russian). Part of the problem stems from Ukraine’s borders. Following WWII, the Soviet Union annexed a large chunk of land to Ukraine that was formerly a part of Poland and other Central European countries. The people in the Western half of Ukraine, consequently, often feel that hey have more in common with the rest of Western Europe.

Professor Blacker does not see the struggle in Ukraine ending anytime in the near future. The internal divisions are deep and they have deepened since the unrest began. With US and Russian intelligence services operating on either side, a swift resolution is unlikely. It is possible that, in the long-run, we could see Ukraine divided into two states. In the days since Professor Blacker’s talk, the situation in Ukraine has shifted from a prospective peace agreement to the President fleeing Kiev while protesters occupy his compound. The situation on the ground continues to evolve in unexpected ways.

John Prendergast

On Wednesday, January 29th, SIAS partnered with the Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law along with Crothers Global Citizenship Dorm to host renowned human rights activist John Prendergast, founder of the Enough Project, for a discussion of the current crisis in South Sudan. Prendergast engaged with assembled students and faculty in the CISAC conference room, highlighting the concerns – weak government institutions, oil revenue curse, and a restless military – which had worried international observers before the outbreak of the present conflict in December 2013.

Prendergast described the significant impact of the violence on the people of the world’s newest country, where the International Crisis Group (ICG) estimates that at least 10,000 have been killed and at least 50,000 have been displaced in the past few months. Prendergast also offered some reason for hope, highlighting the engagement of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the peace process and the supportive role played by international actors.

Prendergast’s talk was followed by a lively question and answer period with students and faculty alike. Karl Eikenberry, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, asked Prendergast about Security Sector Reform (SSR) in South Sudan. Ian Chan ’14, President of SIAS, asked Prendergast how students could become more involved in resolving the conflict when there is not widespread knowledge or obvious courses of action. Prendergast replied that while certain international issues are particularly suited to student intervention–he cited the situation in Darfur and Apartheid in the 1990s as particular examples–the current conflict in South Sudan is so fast-developing that it would be difficult for students to get directly involved. Nevertheless, Prendergast encouraged interested students to join relevant activist groups, get on such groups’ mailing lists, sign petitions, and otherwise stay informed, emphasizing that students have more influence in international affairs than they often believe they do.

Dr. Abbas Milani

On Tuesday, January 21, the Society for International Affairs at Stanford (SIAS) hosted an interactive lunch discussion with Dr. Abbas Milani, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and resident expert on Iran. Professor Milani highlighted Iran’s changing role in the modern world and answered student questions.
According to Professor Milani, Iran and its relationship with the West are undergoing a dramatic change. Despite a facade of conservative clerical rulers, Iran is home to a young, tech-savvy and secular population.  This new generation has brought about great social change in Iran, although this change has yet to manifest itself in the political sphere.  However, the new government of Hassan Rouhani is more representative of this younger generation than its predecessor.

The sanctions against Iran, according to Professor Milani, have been quite effective and have placed Iran in a tough economic position.  Iran is increasingly dependent on its oil exports, yet production has continued to decline. In addition, some believe that recent developments in natural gas and clean energy will grant the United States and China independence from Middle Eastern oil by 2020.  Iran is also experiencing intense monetary inflation, and the potential for economic turmoil is pushing Iran to the negotiating table.

Professor Milani believes that the Iran of the future will look like Turkey in years past.  He envisions a country with a more secular state and believes that the global Iranian diaspora may help to effect this kind of change.  However, in addition to overcoming its current regime, Iran will also have to rise above other widespread but less-publicized issues, including rampant corruption and drug abuse.