The results of the well-known Ukrainian and international politicians and public figures online conference at the Kyiv Security Forum, which was devoted to the “Russian problem” – Ukraine’s relations with the West and Putin’s authoritarian Russia.
Today, Vladimir Putin expects world leaders to recognise his “greatness” and calls for an agreement with him on new rules of coexistence. However, the Kremlin’s ambitions to restore its global influence cannot hide the opposite reality: Russia’s economic vulnerability, its large-scale national and social crisis, fear of the outside world and uncertainty in the future.
Russia’s biggest defeat
Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine proved to be its greatest defeat. It resulted in Russian foreign policy failure and jeopardising national interests.
This was stated by Duncan Allan, a British diplomat and strategist and researcher at the Royal Institute of International Affairs “Chatham House.” He shared that Russia’s plan to involve Ukraine in the Eurasian Economic Union failed.
“Russia did not manage to prevent Ukraine from signing an Association Agreement with the European Union, the document has come into force. Russia’s ambitious plan to involve Ukraine in the Eurasian Economic Union failed in 2013-2014. The unleashing of war in Donbas by Russia also proved to be a failure,” he stated.
According to the diplomat, Russia failed to transform the political system at the beginning of the aggression. On the contrary, it mobilized Ukrainians and they repelled the aggressor.
“Russia has failed in its efforts to transform the Ukrainian political system as it wished. On the contrary, it mobilized Ukrainians to repulse, to defend their state and their territorial integrity. It also contributed to the further consolidation of Ukrainian society in the national consciousness,” Duncan Allan explained.
He also noted that the unleashed war against Ukraine made a devastating blow to Russia’s reputation. Besides, it has negatively affected Russia’s relations with the West.
“The Kremlin‘s plans for Ukraine remain unchanged and, unfortunately, President Zelensky failed to achieve peace so quickly. Therefore, it is clear that we will live in a state of this cataclysm and under the constant Kremlin’s pressure for a long time,” said Orysia Lutsevych, Head of the Ukrainian Forum of the Royal Institute of International Relations “Chatham House.”
Lutsevich noted that the events in Ukraine are often perceived through the prism of Russia.
“Over extremely toxic Russian disinformation that Ukraine is a lost country that will never succeed Russia wants to shut Ukraine out of hope on the West,” said a Chatham House spokeswoman.
According to Lutsevich, Ukraine should focus on several tasks today.
“The first is, of course, the internal front. And this is a question of strengthening the stability and endurance of Ukraine. And the resource of hope is crucial for such stability, ” Orysia Lutsevych emphasised.
“The second, of course, social cohesion is very important for Ukraine. This is such a fairly new definition. But if we talk about the possible reintegration, the safe reintegration of Donbas and Crimea, we have to consolidate Ukraine as much as possible. And this is a question of infrastructure, of exchanges, of decentralized communities,” she said.
“And the third is education that develops critical thinking. In a democratic system, citizens cannot help understanding the information,” Lutsevych summed up.
Financing the “fifth column”
Russia uses pro-Russian citizens of Ukraine to hinder the movement of our country towards the EU and NATO, Mykola Kniazhytskyi, a People’s Deputy, stated during an online discussion.
He noted that many people in Ukraine still miss the Soviet Union.
“They want the restoration of the Russian Empire. And we have a lot of such people, about a third of all citizens of Ukraine. They are citizens of Ukraine, but these are not the people who would like to build a Ukrainian state,” Kniazhytskyi suggested.
“This is exactly Russia’s benefit to use these people at first. And these people are very actively funded as the “fifth column,” but also use the inhabitants of the occupied territories. Many Russians, people with two passports, have lived there for a long time. And the struggle against Ukrainian identification has been going on for a long time, as well. They want to use them to incorporate into Ukraine, and thus destroy the country inside and prevent the movement to the European Union and NATO, ” the deputy said.
According to Mykola Kniazhytskyi, the only way to win under hybrid aggression is to consolidate pro-Ukrainian forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds military parades not to honour the millions of victims of World War II, but to pretend to be a power, former Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Danylo Lubkivsky suggested. The Russian president implements his revanchist plan and tries to restore the Soviet Union. He will do his best to prevent Ukraine from succeeding.
A well-known American diplomat, former Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, declared that Putin was a great adventurer in foreign policy, while inside the country he fails to raise the living standards of his people. She stressed that Putin must fulfil his obligations under the Minsk agreements and withdraw Russian troops from eastern Ukraine.
“I know no other way to get Russia out of Ukraine than the document that Putin himself signed while in the office. The question is how to ensure his commitments fulfilment to leave Eastern Ukraine if these Donbas territories get their autonomous status,” she said.
Nuland stressed that Ukraine and the international community must resume control over Ukraine’s eastern border “so that Russia cannot continue to undermine and fuel the conflict.”
“We have to start serious negotiations on the Minsk agreements implementation. And if this is not possible, then our sanctions against Russia must be gradually strengthened. It is necessary to set a period, e.g. half of a year, to make Russia sit down at the negotiating table. After that, the sanctions should be intensified,” she stressed.
The former US Secretary of state also added that the United States should be a direct counterpart of these talks, “taking into account our strong position in relations with Russia and our ability to consolidate the free world if we are to play such a leading role.”
Unity against Russian aggression
Omid Nouripour, the German Bundestag member and the “Soyuz 90/Greens’ party” representative, said that Vladimir Putin sought to divide Germany and France, shifting the focus toward a more loyal Paris. He also added that Russia is more afraid of Poland’s GDP than nuclear weaposn.
“We must preserve the European Union and invite friends to talk about how to ensure European integration. And Ukraine is an essential partner here, and it seems to me that this is what Moscow is most afraid of,” Omid Nouripour stated.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Ukraine’s representative to the EU in 2010-2015 Konstantin Yeliseyev announced that Vladimir Putin has his revanchist plan and will use every opportunity to implement it. Konstantin Yeliseyev also announced a plan to resolve the situation in Donbas:
The first point. There is no better strategy in relations with Russia than to show one’s strength and solidarity. We must stand firm in our positions and report it clearly to the Kremlin.
Second, the political and economic sanctions against Russia need to be intensified. They will prevent Russia from continuing to conquer Ukraine and will force Putin to sit down at the negotiating table.
The third point Konstantin Yeliseyev called a return to the idea of deploying a UN peacekeeping operation in Donbas.
“Fourth is to continue Ukraine’s defence military capabilities development, including the lethal weapons supply, naval and air security systems, and helicopters,” he said.
Yeliseyev’s summary: The most painful sanctions against Putin and the cheapest for Western allies are to provide Ukraine with an action plan for NATO membership and the prospect of EU membership. It is an enormous incentive for the reforms implementation and Ukraine development. At the same time, it will become a huge blow to Putin’s aggressive and revanchist policies aimed at bringing Ukraine back to the Soviet Union.