YES and Victor Pinchuk Foundation Host the 7th Munich Ukrainian Lunch on the Margins of the Munich Security Conference

18 February 2024

On 17 February 2024, on the margins of the Munich Security Conference, Yalta European Strategy (YES) and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation hosted the 7th Munich Ukrainian Lunch, titled 2024 - It's In Our Hands. The focus of the event was Ukraine’s current needs to secure victory in the war against Russia’s brutal and unprovoked aggression. The participants of the discussion talked about the ways to provide Ukraine with the much-needed support amidst global challenges.

Among the participants of the discussion were Petr Pavel, President of the Czech Republic; Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia; Alexander De Croo, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Belgium; Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Denmark;  Anne Applebaum, Staff Writer, The Atlantic; Senior Fellow, Agora Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; Pulitzer Prize Winner 2004; Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States (2009-2013), Professor of International and Public Affairs, School of International and Public Affairs; Nikolay Denkov, The Prime Minister of Bulgaria; Radosław Sikorski, the Foreign Minister of Poland; Andriy Yermak, Head of Office of the President of Ukraine; David H. Petraeus, General, US Army (Ret.), Chairman, KKR Global Institute; former Director of the CIA; former Commander of the Surge in Iraq and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan; Timothy Snyder, Richard C. Levin Professor of History and Global Affairs at Yale University. Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, moderated the panel. 

Opening the event, Victor Pinchuk, Founder of the Yalta European Strategy (YES),  the Victor Pinchuk Foundation and EastOne, stressed that Russia’s spending on waging its brutal war in Ukraine accounted for up to 8% of the country’s GDP, while US and European military spending on Ukraine’s support accounted for less than 1% of GDP.

“Russian leaders claim that this war is existential. The West doesn’t see it this way yet. This is wrong,” Victor Pinchuk said.

“Ukraine cannot hold the frontline much longer without enough weapons and ammunition. There is no time to wait until the USA and Europe figure out who is ready to give certain types of weapons and when,” he added. 

“2022 was the year when everybody underestimated Ukraine. 2023 was the year when everybody underestimated our enemy. 2024 will be the moment of truth. And this moment of truth is in your hands for the most part,” Victor Pinchuk concluded. 

Zanny Minton Beddoes kicked off the discussion acknowledging that this time around the participants of the Ukrainian Lunch “meet at a much more sober moment”: “This morning the retreat from Avdiivka was announced. We are witnessing an excruciating shortage of weapons in Ukraine. The US aid package has not been passed.” 

She invited the participants to discuss the needs of Ukraine on the battlefield in the short-term perspective and to look into the longer-term prospects of the future of Europe in terms of security.

Petr Pavel acknowledged that Russia managed to transit to the war economy and produced more weapons and ammunition than the West was capable of collectively providing to Ukraine: “What we can do with this situation is to support Ukraine with the deliveries  of weapons and ammunition from all the sources available. And I think that we should be as innovative and flexible as our Ukrainian soldiers on the ground.”

“This war is as much about real fighting on the battlefield, as it is about psychological warfare. President Putin desperately needs to interpret the activities of Russia in Ukraine as a success. We shouldn't leave the space for it. First, allowing Ukraine to hold the territory and second to go on with our efforts to integrate Ukraine into both EU and NATO. Stressing clearly that temporarily occupation of part of Ukrainian territory is not a stopping for us on the way towards EU and NATO. That would not only give Ukraine clear indication that we mean it seriously. But it would also give a clear indication to President Putin that he will not succeed,” he said.

Mette Frederiksen called for sending more artillery and ammunition to Ukraine straight away: “There is still ammunition in stock in Europe. This is not a question of production. We have weapons, we have ammunition, we have air defence, that we don’t have to use at the moment and we need to send it to Ukraine.”

Hillary Clinton echoed this view saying: “There has to be a recognition that whatever reasons there were initially to withhold longer range artillery and more air support is no longer in any way relevant to the battlefield and to the future of this conflict and what it means to all of us.”

“I think that it’s absolutely important to be realistic. We have to do a much better job convincing ourselves, our countries and our governments that we have to stand with Ukraine and make sure that they do win,” Hillary Clinton added.

Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President’s Chief of Staff, elaborated on Ukraine’s need of weapons and ammunition: “Timing is a critical issue. You can see what happened in Avdiivka, you see what is happening along the entire frontline. Our heroes are standing ground but it’s impossible to do it without enough ammunition, enough weapons, enough air defence. This is why it’s really important for everything to be on time.”

David H. Petraeus, in turn, stressed Ukrainian military success in the Black Sea: “We should not overlook the enormous success of the past six or eight months that has been taking place in the Black Sea. Who achieved that? The Ukrainians did. These were their maritime drones that achieved that.”

Alexander De Croo said: “Ukraine is fighting for much more than just Ukraine. It’s fighting for our Western way of life. And it’s quite clear that we as Europeans will have Russia confronting us within the next decades. It is Russia that is not friendly and has only bad intentions towards all its neighbors.”

“There is only one country that will pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine - that is Russia and only Russia. Russia is going to pay for this,” De Croo commented on the prospect of the usage of Russia’s frozen assets for the benefit of Ukraine.

Kaja Kallas said: “It is important that we think about out-of-the-box solutions and we have to focus our efforts. One of the out-of-the-box solutions that Russians are afraid of is frozen assets. Russians are afraid of that.”

Commenting on the question if Europeans’ own sense of security is changing, Kaja Kallas stated: “We increased the ammunition production by 10 times. And there are signals incoming from various European countries about factories being built. So we could deliver what we promised to Ukraine and do it faster.” 

Radosław Sikorski warned: “Deterring Putin after he conquered Ukraine will be much more expensive than helping Ukraine now. It’s a no brainer. Because Putin will do to all of Ukraine what he did to Donbas. He will exploit human and industrial resources to go further. He will draft Ukrainians into his army to attack us. That’s a terrible prospect.”

 “We are on a knife edge. Europe at the moment is not capable of producing all the equipment and ammunition that is necessary. We cannot do this without the USA. And If the US doesn’t pass this package, Ukraine will be in a real predicament. And the USA will be seen as an unreliable partner and ally,” he added.

Nikolay Denkov said: “The danger is there. We have to keep our eyes open. Each citizen of Europe has to understand that the life that we enjoy, the life that we want to be safe, can disappear as it happened many times in history.”

Anne Applebaum said: “This war is over when Russia leaves. And it doesn’t really matter how Russia leaves or why they leave. We are not sufficiently creative about fighting them in all the different ways that they are fighting against us.”

Timothy Snyder said: “You don’t always win wars. But you never win them unless you set victory as the goal. We have to set victory as the goal. In 2024, the Europeans have to help the Ukrainians to hold the line with or without the Americans.”

Ukrainian volunteers, paramedics and veterans contributed to the discussion: 

Yuliya Payevska, Tayra, Ukrainian volunteer and paramedic, said: “I realised only at war what is the highest value. It is to dedicate your life to what you love the most. I love my country the most. I pray that none of you, none of your children would have to defend their own land because Russians decided they had the right to it.”

“We must stop this. Give us these weapons. And let it die finally. We will make it happen. Just help us a little bit,” she added. 

Oleksandr Batalov, combat medic, Armed Forces of Ukraine, said: “We want to get back the spirit of freedom, when no one has to be afraid of the sound of air raid alert, and look for shelter in a basement. We will be able to achieve this faster with the help of your weapons and support.”

Hlib Stryzhko, Defender of Mariupol, Head of Veteran Hub in Kyiv, said: “I have a dream that the war is finally over and I can get a dog, have a girlfriend that will be my wife, and sooner or later I’ll have kids. We will have our own house and we can live peacefully. Please, help me make my dream come true.”

The video of the Ukrainian Lunch is available on the Youtube channel of the Victor Pinchuk Foundation.

Photos are available here

For the seventh time, the Munich Ukrainian Lunch served as a platform for global and Ukrainian decision-makers to discuss Ukraine’s security and its implications for Europe and the international order. Among speakers in previous years have been Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of the Czech Republic Petr Pavel, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Sweden Ulf Kristersson, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada Chrystia Freeland, Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of the Republic of Finland (2019-2023) Sanna Marin, as well as experts like David Petraeus, Robert Gates, Zanny Minton Beddoes, Anne Applebaum, James Mattis and others.

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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David Rubenstein
David Rubenstein
Co-Founder and Co-Executive Chairman, The Carlyle Group, 16th YES Annual Meeting, 2019
«If you do things that can make the country a better place, you’re more likely to achieve personal happiness than through anything else you’re likely to do in the short term.»