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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

‘Democracy against autocracy’: Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at A&M on state of current affairs

By Kyle McClenagan

Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron speaking with NPR National Political Correspondent Mara Liaison. 

The war in Ukraine and Euro-American relations were among a number of topics discussed by the former Prime Minister to the U.K. David Cameron Friday evening.
On Friday, April 1 at 7 p.m., the MSC Wiley Lecture Series hosted Cameron at Texas A&M in a conversation moderated by NPR national correspondent and FOX News political analyst Mara Liasson. Following a private question-and-answer session with student leaders earlier in the afternoon, Cameron, who served as prime minister from 2010-16, spoke to a large audience of students and faculty about his time in office, Brexit, COVID-19 and the West’s relationship with China, though a majority of his speech was dedicated to the Russia-Ukraine war.
Cameron said the world is entering a “new Cold War” era in which several world leaders, like Russian President Vladmir Putin, are ignoring international rules.
“Some of them have been elected, but they disregard the essential building blocks of democracy. They suppress the freedom of speech. They ignore the rule of law,” Cameron said. “Back then [during the Cold War] it was free societies, the free markets against communism, strict control. This time, it is democracy against autocracy.”
Cameron also recalled his interactions with Putin during his time in office.
“I met Putin many times [and] got to know him relatively well … this is someone who lies the entire time,” Cameron said. “[The atrocities in Ukraine] belong in another century, and Vladimir Putin belongs in a war crimes trial.”
Cameron also said that China is taking note of what is happening in Ukraine, but that the West should continue to foster an open dialogue with the country.
“China will be looking at what has happened … this is not the right path for the people of Ukraine,” Cameron said. “But we should also be saying there is a relationship to be had between China and the West, where there will be many areas we can’t agree, but it can be a working relationship.”
When Liasson asked what Cameron’s biggest regret from his time in office was, he cited his and former President Barack Obama’s collective failure in Syria.
“We should have agreed between ourselves there and then exactly the step that we would take,” Cameron said. “It would have showed that the world did count the use of chemical weapons as a red line. I think that was a mistake.”
Cameron said that the world is at a turning point following COVID-19 and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
“We should start by recalling that national security is the first duty of any government. And national security doesn’t start and end with our Army, Navy and efforts. It includes the security of the energy that heats our homes and powers our factories,” Cameron said. “Europe’s reliance on Russian oil and gas is a chronic strategic weakness.”
Divisive politics was another topic Liasson asked Cameron about, which he said has been exacerbated by social media.
“People say the internet is lawless — it doesn’t have to be,” Cameron said. “I think the idea that you can go on Twitter, anonymusually, and just spouting racist or homophobic or divisive nonsense is wrong.”
Cameron wrapped up the conversation by emphasizing the importance of a strong relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, who need to stand behind Ukraine without direct interference in conflict.
“Yes, we [the U.S. and U.K.] have had some dogs and some difficulties, but what we stand for is incredibly attractive and powerful,” Cameron said. “We’ve got to have more belief.”

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