France’s ambassador to the United States, Philippe Etienne, stressed on Wednesday at the University of Virginia that France, its European partners and the United States will back Ukraine for as long as it takes.
“We are committed to unity and solidarity that has prevailed between us since the outbreak of the war in response to Russia’s illegal, unjustified and brutal military aggression in Ukraine,” he said during remarks in the Rotunda’s Dome Room.
In his lecture, titled “The Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for Transatlantic Relations,” the ambassador said that the European Union has provided more than 22 billion euros ($22.3 billion) in humanitarian, economic and military aid to Ukraine in addition to 17 billion euros to resettle Ukrainian refugees.
“We are also working hard to address the pressing issues Ukraine is facing by stepping up our efforts to help Ukraine face winter when Russia is massively bombing the energy infrastructure,” he said.
Etienne said that France and Ukraine will host a conference in Paris next month that will bring together a cross-section of stakeholders wishing to act together to support Ukraine’s civilian resilience. Its aim will be to identify practical responses to address the winter emergency.
The ambassador highlighted the more global dimensions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in particular in contributing to food insecurity among the most vulnerable countries around the world. He said the upcoming G20 summit in Bali would also be an important occasion to work with the U.S. and other partners to address this issue.
Etienne said that in the end the conflict in Ukraine would have to be resolved diplomatically. While France would endeavor to keep diplomatic channels open to Russia to facilitate that process, he said, it is clear that Russia so far has not shown any inclination to cease its invasion even as the risk of escalation remains large.
Underscoring France’s status as the United States’ oldest ally, he said that French President Emanuel Macron’s state visit to the United States on Dec. 1 will advance the historic relationship to even greater heights in meeting such challenges as the war in Ukraine, global economic issues and climate change.
Before the ambassador’s lecture, Vincent Michelot, higher education attaché in the embassy and a UVA alumnus, made two announcements. The first was to award professor Janet Horne of UVA’s French Department with one of France’s highest civil honors, the title of Chevalier des Palmes Académiques. The second announcement was the inclusion of UVA in the French Embassy’s Center of Excellence network, becoming one of 28 American universities to have the honor. A Center of Excellence receives fixed financial support on a yearly basis from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States.
This inclusion will mark an enhanced partnership for the University’s French Department and Karsh Institute of Democracy in advancing interdisciplinary research and teaching about the francophone world, specifically seeking to explore the connections between the francophone world and the history, philosophy and future of democracy.
“UVA has always been a home away from home for the French historians of United States and American historians of France,” Michelot said, pointing to the example of French Minister of Education Pap Ndiaye who came for his master’s degree in American history to UVA in 1991.
Awarding the medal to Horne, Etienne noted that she had encouraged her students to study French social and political history, beyond just the language. “This afternoon we recognize an educator, a scholar and a passionate advocate of international education who in her last 30 years has carried the thought of the sister republics as they debate, disagree, quarrel and reconcile in a democratic cross pollination of ideals of 1776 and 1789,” Etienne said.
Horne, whose research includes the history of modern cultural institutions in France, said she is grateful to UVA.
“I am honored to receive this award and am grateful for being at an institution that, since its inception, has upheld the study of world languages as a core value of its mission to educate future leaders and citizens of the world,” she said.
This fall, 71 French students are on Grounds studying in a broad range of fields, from the undergraduate to the Ph.D. candidate level. France is also a key study-abroad partner, where UVA sends about 135 UVA students abroad each year to France through its UVA in Lyon and UVA in Paris programs. The University also boasts an active French department, including a French language house.
“Ambassador Etienne’s visit to Grounds was just the latest evidence of the special relationship that has existed between UVA and France, going back many years,” said Steve Mull, UVA’s vice provost for global affairs, who moderated the Q&A session with the ambassador. Events like Wednesday’s lecture, which Mull’s office hosted, give students an opportunity to be a part of global conversations on Grounds, he noted.
Before the lecture, Etienne met with several leaders at UVA including Provost Ian Baucom, Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato, and Laurent Dubois, co-director of Karsh Institute of Democracy to learn about UVA initiatives.