On February 19, 2022, on the margins of the Munich Security Conference, Yalta European Strategy (YES) and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation held the 5th Munich Ukrainian Lunch, titled “Europe's Security is Decided in Ukraine”. The discussion explored the threats to Ukraine’s security and what they mean for Europe and the West. What can the way forward be?
Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, moderated the discussion with Anne Applebaum, historian and staff writer at The Atlantic; Mircea Geoană, Deputy Secretary General, NATO; Dmytro Kuleba, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine; Ann Linde, Foreign Minister of Sweden; General James Mattis, former US Secretary of Defense and General David Petraeus, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States.
Opening the event, Victor Pinchuk, businessman and founder of Yalta European Strategy, addressed the participants with a message that he received from Ukrainians in the east of the country who he spoke to earlier this week: “We will fight. We are tense, but we don’t panic. We don’t really believe it will happen, but if it happens, we are ready. And we do count on Europe and the West’s full support. We hope you feel your responsibility.”
“We have been hosting our Ukrainian lunch for five years already. But this time the entire security conference is mainly about Ukraine. That’s why I call this conference the Munich Ukrainian Security Conference,” he stressed.
Zanny Minton Beddoes opened a discussion with the results of a poll among the participants in the Munich Ukrainian Lunch, which suggested that the West is not united enough to deter Russian aggression - 55.6% answered No and 44.6% answered Yes to the question ”Is the West today strong and united enough to contain Russian aggression?”
Answering a second question about the prospect of a war, 62.7% of respondents answered negatively and 37.3% answered positively.
Commenting on the results of the poll, Mircea Geoană said: “If Russia takes the unfortunate decision, a massive strategic mistake from Russia, from our perspective, to still invade, I can guarantee that the west is more united than ever. NATO and EU, we are working closer than ever. All Allies are working closely together.”
“The consequence for Russia - long-term, political, economical, technological and reputation-wise will be exceptional severe,” he added.
Commenting on the open-source intelligence about the situation on the Ukrainian-Russian border, General David Petraeus said: “What really has been striking and most worrisome in recent weeks has been the deployment not of the tanks and the inventory and all the rest of that, it’s the deployment of so-called enablers - it’s the combat support for artillery and the rest, the refueling, hospitals. When you see field hospitals set up, you don’t need field hospitals for an exercise, you need those for invasion. That is what is particularly concerning.”
James Mattis agreed with General Petraeus’s description of Russia’s activity on the Ukrainian border and added: “What you have to look at here is how long he (Vladimir Putin - Ed.) can keep those troops in the field in that position. He can keep them there as long as he wishes, as long as he is willing to pay the price.”
“Right now, he does whatever he wants to do. And I think while none of us knows what he has in mind, he is a creature straight out of Dostoevsky. He sees Russia surrounded by nightmares. And there’s only two types of stakes he wants on the periphery - the ones that do exactly what he says and the enemies. Unless Ukraine is willing to violate its own sovereignty, I would be very pessimistic about the next couple of days and weeks,” he said.
Anne Applebaum criticized the Western stance in the crisis: “What continues to worry me is whether Putin has been convinced that he would pay a price that is high enough. This is not really about the negotiation, this is not about the expansion of NATO - these are secondary concerns - for Putin the existence of a sovereign independent Ukraine is a fundamental challenge to his form of government, his autocracy and his kleptocracy.”
Ann Linde said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “is a risk for the whole European security order.” “We have to fight for the freedom of Ukraine and to stop the attacks on Ukraine.”
The participants in the discussion expressed concerns about the unity in the West in delivering a joint response to Russian aggression against Ukraine.
James Mattis said: “What is going to be unleashed with this earthquake if Putin invades is unpredictable, we are going to have to be prepared for what comes next. One day, 100,000 troops can invade Ukraine, yes, but 100,000 troops cannot hold Ukraine. So there’s going to be a problem there. When you put sanctions in place and people start messing around, and now Putin is facing a dilemma, he is going to act. So what we have to do is to recognize - it’s not what we do right now, it’s what we can sustain and that includes wargaming it, keeping the EU tightly linked to NATO, so that when they make a mistake in one area, we don't simply address that one issue, but we broaden the competitive space and say - the 1st day of sanctions was bad, the 3rd day would be 10 times worse. In other words, you misbehave here, more things will go wrong.”
He called on the international community for a “very firm unity, for anticipation, for no compromise on basic principles.”
Minister of Defense of Sweden Peter Hultqvist said: “Now we have a big challenge. I think we have a platform to develop unity step by step because of what’s happening around us. When Russians make their moves, we must also make our moves. And if we do it in unity, I think, we can be strong. And that is the key point - to be strong together. That is the only way we can handle this.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Denmark Jeppe Kofod echoed the view of Hultqvist and assured the audience that “the most devastating sanctions” will be imposed against Russia if Moscow decided to invade Ukraine. “If we react with too few sanctions, then the price will be much, much higher. What’s at stake now is not only European security and Ukraine’s security. That is in itself very important. But it is also about the brutal reality of the world that we are in.”
Chairman of the Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger said: “I worry most about a surprise, which I think the Russian government might be capable of. I think we were taken by surprise in 2014.”
Commenting on the lack of unity in Europe, he raised an issue of divisions in German domestic politics, especially in terms of energy supplies from Russia and sanctions. “I’m not here to discuss the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. But I want to make a very modest point: This is not a small problem in German domestic politics - it is a significant issue that our government somehow needs to navigate,” he noted.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who joined the discussion, said that the “the situation deteriorates every hour” and noted that the West has a “toolkit” in their hands to stop the escalation. “This is the moment, when neutrality or inability to act, or willingness to wait and see how things evolve, favors Russia and leads to further escalation. This is not the time for a sit-and-wait strategy. This is the time to act, because if President Putin sees the slightest hesitation or the slightest disunity or inability of the West to act in a resolute way, it’ll motivate him to push further.”
He called on Ukraine’s allies in the West to impose sanctions against Russia and grant Ukraine a status of the European perspective. “There is one thing that the West can easily do, and it will cost nothing, but it would be a game changer and would send a strong message - it’s granting Ukraine the status of the European perspective and even the status of the candidate country right now.”
Among participants of the event also were: Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada; Peter Hultqvist, Minister for Defense of Sweden; Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman, Munich Security Conference, member of YES Board; Jeppe Kofod, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Denmark; Alexander Schallenberg, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Austria; Sophie Wilmès, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Belgium; Bogdan Aurescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Romania; Sabine Thillaye, President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Assemblée National, France; Ben Hodges, Pershing Chair, Center for European Policy Analysis, former Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe; Alina Mikhailova, SOS Army volunteer, Russian-Ukrainian war veteran; and Kurt Volker, Distinguished Fellow, CEPA. There was also a strong show of support by a US congressional delegation, including Dan Sullivan, Senator and Member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services; Joni Ernst, Senator and Member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services; Tomasz Malinowski, Representative and Vice Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Darrell Issa, Representative. The British Parliament was represented by Tobias Ellwood, Chair of the Select Committee on Defence of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.German parliamentarians included Jens Spahn, Member of the German Bundestag and former Federal Minister of Health, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, Chairwoman of the Defence Committee, German Bundestag, and Michael Gahler, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, European Parliament.
For the fifth time, the Munich Ukrainian Lunch serves as a platform for global and Ukrainian decision makers to discuss Ukraine’s security and its implications for Europe and the international order. Previous speakers have included Chrystia Freeland, Robert Gates, Richard Haass, Kersti Kaljulaid, Miroslav Lajčák, Edi Rama, and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Over the past five decades, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) has become the major global forum for the discussion of security policy. Each February, it brings together more than 500 senior decision-makers from around the world, including heads-of-state, ministers, leading personalities of international and non-governmental organizations, as well as high-ranking representatives of industry, media, academia, and civil society, to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges.
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