17th YES Annual Meeting: the headlines from day two

12 September 2022

The panel discussions of the second day of the 17th YES Annual meeting "Ukraine: Defending All Our Freedom" organized by YES in partnership with the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, focused on outlooks and perspectives of the war, effectiveness of sanctions against Russia, war crimes and tribunals, the information war, overcoming Ukraine fatigue and recovery of Ukraine. Speakers included heads of states, politicians, economists, thinkers, and business leaders. 

The First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska spoke on the importance of Ukrainian youth, mental health and rebuilding the nation for a future generation. 

“This is my third year at the YES Conference and I always asked the Young Leaders – what is the future of Ukraine? Today more than ever it is important to discuss this. They are our future, and we need to ensure that ‘home’ is Ukraine. We thought that in the 20th Century the experiments of hate had gone away, but when you see what happened in Bucha it is clear that the darkness has not gone away. Our main focus now is to protect our people.”

Following the session, Annalena Baerbock, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany clarified her country’s position on the war: “From February 24th 2022, we (Germany) said we would send weapons to Ukraine. Ukraine is fighting for their freedom and democracy, and for ours. It has taken a moment, but we are now delivering weapons, air defense is coming.

We have changed our policy 180 degrees on Russia, as well as on our energy. We were paying billions of euros on energy, while Ukraine is paying with lives. This isn’t what we want. And the answer is renewables within 20 years.”

Oleksii Reznikov, Minister of Defense of Ukraine, stated that we can only speak about a complete restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within the internationally recognized borders as of 1991. This means Crimea is Ukraine and Donbas is Ukraine.

Western military experts were impressed by how the Armed Forces of Ukraine fight a defensive war against the aggressor, and admire Ukrainian warfighters’ heroism.

“Everyone was impressed with the adaptive Ukrainian defense, in particular, the operation to defend Kyiv and ability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to hold the frontline in Donbas. Obviously, Russia has a huge advantage in terms of forces and weapons but what Ukraine can rely on is international support”, said Wesley Clark, Chairman and CEO; former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO.

The last words were given by Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of the Republic of Poland (1995-2005); Chairman of the Board of YES: “Sometimes the unbelievable can be true. When we spoke last year, we didn’t expect a full scale war. When the war started, we didn’t believe Ukraine would be that strong and that effective. Today, we are more optimistic. The mood of the conference is optimistic and promising. I would like us to focus on the four key takeaways ahead of next year’s YES Annual Meeting:

  1. 1. Ukraine needs serious, strong and unconditional international support - military, financial & humanitarian. In our hands they can be as effective as in NATO hands. In Vladmir Zelenskyy’s hands we can win the war. 
  2. The value of our unity. We can show how important a tool unity can be to other nations especially the EU. We can promote unity to the democratic world.
  3. Fatigue is our enemy. As President Zelenskyy said in his speech yesterday, the next 90 days will be decisive. It is impossible to win without keeping up the heat. 
  4. We need to have a plan in place for the future. We can organize financials to build infrastructure in safer places so that more Ukrainians can come home. 

If we consider these four points, it will be good preparation for the next YALTA conference.

“Thank you to everyone, this was a very special conference for all of us in very special circumstances. It was one of the best conferences of YES. Slava Ukraini!”


Some of the other important points coming out of the day’s debates were:


 “I support the idea of ​​establishing a special internationally agreed tribunal that would prosecute for Russian aggression against Ukraine. We have to start there. I believe there are enough states that could get involved and we should start there. This is my practical proposal.” 

Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia


“Sanctions are important and fruitful, but they do take time. Especially for a country the size of Russia. Russian economy will weaken and will not be able to recover quickly. Thousands of international companies have left Russia, its economy prospects are catastrophic” 

Michael McFaul, Director, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University


“Any war ends up in diplomatic negotiations, but when it is time to come to this negotiation table - it is up to the Ukrainian population to decide. The US will always provide the most decisive support to Ukraine’s position but it is ultimately up to them.”

Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, U.S. Department of State


“We were shocked with the western elites’ expectations that Ukraine would lose in three days. It was only when we started to fight back within the week that we saw a different Europe. It began with an understanding that Ukraine could win this war and that changed mindsets.” 

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Head of the Ukraine President Office


“Ukraine has won strategically. This does not mean the victory is coming in a day or in a week, but we have won in defending our freedom and democracy. Russia has lost strategically, it remains in its archaic Soviet model of existence, including its propaganda and its empire ambitions which we apparently will not let them implement.”

Denys Shmyhal, Prime Minister of Ukraine 


“Whilst Russia keeps killing Ukrainians, the existing sanctions are not sufficient. The sanctions must be enhanced regularly for Russia to understand exactly what the war will cost. More Russian nationals have to feel the sanctions.”

Andrii Yermak, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine

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Aleksander Kwasniewski
Aleksander Kwasniewski
President of Poland (1995-2005), Chairman of the Board of YES, 8th YES Annual Meeting, 2011
«To remain the global leader, the European Union should enlarge»