Former US Ambassador Gary Locke speaks at UWL about the war in Ukraine


Photo taken by Liberti Jonas-Jongebloed.

Liberti Jonas-Jongebloed, General Assignment Reporter

On March 10, 2022, the Thompson Center held a fireside discussion with Ambassador to China Gary Locke and Chancellor Joe Gow. Gary Locke was born in and raised in Seattle Washington, Locke attended Yale University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1972. He also went on to receive his Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law in 1975.  

The Thompson Center was established in 2017 to follow in the footsteps of Governor Thompson. The Thompson Center provides funding to the UW system for various speakers. Though these speakers provide discussion regarding leadership, they also help to support leadership education on campus and throughout the UW system. 

The Thompson center is going about creating change is through showcasing examples of leadership by supporting leadership education on UW campuses. According to the Thompson Center site, “These conferences bring people together to tackle substantively important policy issues and bring effective leadership practices to bear to resolve them.” 

Additionally, the Thompson center funds research throughout the UW system. According to the Thompson Center, they offer scholarships throughout the UW system. The site also claims that they, “are also currently soliciting proposals for speaker and research grant.” The site states that all students are welcome to create proposals for speakers or grants.  

As for Locke, in his experience prior to serving as ambassador to China he worked for several years as a deputy prosecutor in King County, Washington. Later “he was elected to the Washington house representative in 1982, where he served until, he was elected king county executive in 1993.” In 1996, he was elected governor of the state of Washington, and he was reelected in 2000.  

Eventually in 2009, Locke, “was nominated by President Obama to be secretary of commerce.” Later in 2011, Locke was nominated to be US ambassador to China, where he was again, confirmed by voice vote. He served in that role until 2014 as ambassador. Currently, Locke serves as the president of Bellevue College in Washington.   

In Locke and Gow’s discussion, they first discussed international relations between the United States and China as well as ties to Russia and Ukraine. “Commentators have suggested that increasing economic and military competition from China is the beginning of a new cold war. Others have suggested that high levels of trade and integration with China and today’s global economy means a more cooperative dynamic exists,” he said. “The current conflict in Ukraine though has added new complexities to ours, foreign relations as Western nations implement unprecedented sanctions against Russia and provide support to Ukraine while avoiding a direct role in the conflict.”  

Locke also talked about parallels between how the Russian government views Ukraine and how the Chinese government views Taiwan. Locke said, “The current conflict in Ukraine may hold insights into how and whether and military conflict over Taiwan status can be avoided as well as providing insight to the Chinese regime into the cost and benefits of an invasion.”  

Locke also discussed statehood and said, “The situation in Ukraine is obviously very complicated and the reality is that Ukraine is a separate country, though it used to be part of the Soviet Union, it is a separate country recognized by even China and, the international community as a separate country.”  

Locke also discussed Putin’s goal of invading Ukraine. Locke said, “[Putin] wants to somehow re-establish the old Soviet Union.” Locke claims that this is due to former members of the Soviet Union who are once again trying to join NATO and be a part of the EU.

Locke further discussed sanctions imposed by the United States and the rest of the world. Locke ended his discussion with a few questions, he asked: “Will sanctions be enough?” Additionally, Locke questioned: “Will the people of Russia be more heavily impacted than the government?”  

Though we may never know the direct impacts of war on Ukraine from the United States, the near future holds many answers. If you are looking to support Ukraine or stay up to date, there are many sites that provide insight into what is currently happening in Kyiv and around Ukraine. This link provides access to the Washington Post live updates regarding the war in Ukraine. Further resources can be found at: