This will force Russia to end the war

31 January, 04:15 PM
Red Square, Kremlin, March 31, 2020. (Photo:REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

Red Square, Kremlin, March 31, 2020. (Photo:REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

This question is complex in reality, but from our point of view, simple at the same time.

The material was recorded as part of the NV and The Economist’s World Ahead 2023 summit.

What can make the Russian leadership decide that it is better to end the war? This question is complex in reality, but from our point of view, simple at the same time. Because the only thing that can make them stop this war and withdraw their troops is maximally powerful support from the West. Our partners finally, after 11 months of this war, are beginning to understand that this aid cannot provided to us like salami slices, where they cut us off a bit and then wait. It must instead be aid with everything that is available.

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There are, of course, internal Russian factors, some of which we understand and see, some of which we don’t. Some even doubt that their president is there at all, with Zelenskyy openly questioning whether Putin is alive. Therefore, I think, under the conditions in which we live now, where we are seeing the Wagnerites gain additional weight after what in my opinion was a pyrrhic victory around Soledar, this will be the only answer.

The Chinese factor has been decisive, and its role will grow. This is obvious not only for us, but also for our allies and partners, and not only the United States. In Europe, as well, China's role for after this war is now being rethought. To be honest, I am less optimistic here, and I am not sure that the role of China or the position of its leadership is becoming more acceptable or beneficial for us. The fact is that it has not become worse. This is also not unimportant, because there were differing forecasts on this question.

I look forward to the day when all of Ukraine, including Crimea, will be liberated

In my opinion, the process of deciding how to position itself in relation to Russia is still ongoing in Beijing. We probably can't call it some kind of neutrality, either, because we understand and know what China's position is at the UN when voting on resolutions that are extremely important for us, namely about our territorial integrity and sovereignty. Here, of course, the position is what it is. Can our relations be strategic? I am not sure, but we definitely need to build a real new, military strategy for our relations with official Beijing, because these relations are currently not so much in limbo, but in a state of rethinking.

Here, the role of our main allies will be important. The Americans, as we know, have their own approach, but the role of Germany and the European Union will also be important. That is because until recently, and in the end, the Chinese factor has bee perceived only through an economic prism. China was and remains the largest trading partner, for both the United States of America and Europe. For many, this position has been and remains beneficial, as it has offered them cheaper goods, and thus suited everyone.

Now, at least from my personal experience from Germany, I feel that the Germans are starting to seriously wonder whether it is okay for nothing to have changed in relations, in particular at the political level. After all, before all this, you remember, Chancellor Merkel actually went on visits every year during her term of office, and politically, everything was presented to the German and European society as a completely peaceful process from which both sides would only benefit, where there are no risks. This war has called this truth into question.

Is there a long-term security formula for Ukraine outside of NATO? This is a very important issue, because, as you know, a whole group of experts, the so-called Yermak-McFaul group, has been working on it for a long time. Prominent leaders from many countries, including Germany, have been involved. This work has, in principle, borne fruit, and its results aim specifically at understanding whether there are any other, alternative guarantee mechanisms.

I have a feeling that the members of this group themselves have come to the conclusion that no one has yet come up with anything better than NATO’s Article V, asany unilateral guarantees that could be provided either by the United States, or by Germany, or by other nuclear powers, and would still de facto be what the NATO Treaty provides de jure. Personally, speaking frankly, I also do not see any real and effective alternative to Ukraine joining NATO.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this track remains. We have our difficulties here, even with our partners, with whom we are conducting very difficult dialogues, with the very Americans who are supporting us the most militarily, but for whom with regard to NATO membership, there is still work to be done. But I am convinced that it is possible, and I think that we will be able to prove to the current administration in the U.S. that there is no alternative to this step.

The tank coalition which we proposed back in October, is now, thank God, already taking shape, because the EU countries have more than two thousand Leopard 2 or 1 tanks in service. If each state gives at least a small share, then we would already be able to form a large combat unit. 200-300 tanks would be, even in the opinion of our military, a sufficient factor to really plan a spring counteroffensive.

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The political pressure that we managed to create on the current German government, if you like, on Mr. Scholz personally, is currently large and powerful. I had worked on such matters from the first day of the war until the middle of October, and these decisions were made, unfortunately, almost entirely only as a result of the pressure that we worked to create. And one way or another, the government made the decisions we hoped for. Why did Mr. Scholtz behave like this? No one has an explanation. The Germans themselves are coming up with various conspiracy theories, that Putin scared him somewhere not only with a nuclear war, but with some acts of revenge on German territory, with missile strikes, or whatever. They do not know there, but the Germans themselves are so shocked by Scholtz’s obstructionist position, and it is obvious that no one can find a logical, rational explanation for this.

How can people in the occupied parts of Donbas be reintegrated into Ukraine? They have been under the influence of Russian propaganda for more than eight years, and many of them have fought against Ukrainians. It will probably not be an easy task, because it is difficult to live under the pressure of Russian propaganda. In fact, almost a whole generation has already been growing up in these conditions, starting from 2014. But as to whether it will be a painful process or not, I am optimistic in this sense. Since we have the experience of other states, including Germany, which was divided. It was, of course, a different situation, but from 1945 to 1989, 44 years passed and there (believe me, I spent a little time in this country) this influence is still felt. Many people still have a romantic vision of what happened back then, but anything is possible.

In short, I look forward to the day when all of Ukraine, including Crimea, will be liberated. We saw the liberation of the territories that had been under occupation for more than half a year, and the pictures speak for themselves. Therefore, I think that it will happen very quickly, those who do not want to live there have either already left or will leave. And the vast majority of our compatriots will certainly stay.

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