Dear Mr. Bremmer,
Excellencies, dear colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all I would like to thank Ambassador Ischinger for many years of opportunity to have a discussion about the most important question - question of global and European security. I would like to thank Chancellor Merkel and all leaders of the European Union for their personal involvement in the process to make Europe safer and to bring peace on the Ukrainian soil.
Let me start with a famous quotation from 1938.
“I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep”. End of quote.
These are the words by Neville Chamberlain, in defence of the Munich Pact.
Most likely, those ones were inspired by promise of Nazis, right after Munich, that they will not have any territorial claims in Europe.
As we all know now, appeasement was a wrong thing to do.
One should never believe in the good will of someone who proved that he has no good will.
But do we know what was the right thing to do back then?
Probably, staying strong in unity.
And probably, this is the historic appeal to all of us from 1938.
The appeal from all the people that had to die in the following years - because someone had "a nice quiet sleep" at a wrong time.
Thanks God, the appeasement policy as regards revanchist and aggressive Russia is not in the mainstream of the Western policy.
However, I hear increasingly obsessive calls for at least some degree of appeasement towards Russia’s appetites.
To move in that direction would be naive, wrong and dangerous.
Not only for Ukraine, but also for Europe and for the world.
It would not lead to peace, but to greater destabilization.
Allow me explaining why.
Putin hates Ukraine by deeply and sincerely.
He denies distinctiveness and unique identity of the Ukrainian people. I know that personally.
He publicly proclaims Ukrainian identity as a part of Russian dominant identity.
He sees no place for Ukraine at the political map of Europe, and he wants to draw a place for Ukraine in Russian colours.
But, it would be a mistake to think that the Russia’s appetites are limited to Ukraine only.
Let me remind you of one self-revealing story.
Last year, in November, President Putin took part in a ceremony of award winners by Russian geographical association.
“Where do the Russian borders end?” – he asked one student in the audience.
“Russian borders end at the Bering strait with the United States” – the student replied.
That was a right answer, but Putin still corrected the boy and said “Russian borders end nowhere!”
Although he said afterwards, that it was just a joke. It was not at all!
It is a doctrine, and many countries – be they in the European Union or beyond the Atlantics – have already felt this doctrine in action.
And there is only one time and one place to counter this doctrine down, and to stop emerging Russia’s revanchism.
The time is “now”. And the place is “Ukraine”.
This is an absolutely historic chance for all of us.
But, above all, this is a historic chance for the new U.S. administration and solid Trans-Atlantic unity.
And I have exact confirmation of that speaking a few minutes ago with new U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who confirmed me our unity, as President Duda and Senator McCain said, and our solidarity. This is exactly what we need now.
There is a unique window of opportunity for the soft power to show its strength.
But, this window is too small in time and opportunities available.
Ukraine’s only sin is that my country once decided to live independently, on our own soil, under the democratic values.
We want freedom – Russia wants us punished for that.
I have the honor to represent here 45-million European people.
On their behalf let me assure you that we never agree that someone or somewhere would determine our fate without us.
Any agreement behind our back will be immediately annulled decisively by millions of Ukrainians who have already proved its ability to fight for independence.
We have no intention to give up and are ready to defend our country.
My message is simple - Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine!
Any deal with Putin behind Ukraine would only aggravate the situation.
Supporting Ukraine is the only way to stop the ongoing aggression and bring Russia back to respecting the international law and the Global Order.
Allow me to remind you: Ukraine has contributed a lot greater to preserving peace and stability than we have received in return.
The notorious Budapest memorandum is an illustrative example in the matter.
Because Ukraine was the third biggest nuclear nation in the world. And we voluntarily gave up our third biggest nuclear arsenal.
Supporting Ukraine is the cheapest investment into security of Free World.
The tools are all there:
First - there is nothing more encouraging for us than the Trans-Atlantic community to keep promises before partners and stay strong in unity and solidarity.
Second - there is nothing more sobering for Moscow than resolve of the West to enforce its red lines with firm sanctions.
Sanctions are our asset, not liability.
They are the manifestation of our strength if they are in place.
But they are the manifestation of our weakness if they are rolled back.
Halting diplomatic pressure on Russia or softening the sanctions before Russia gets out of Donbas and Crimea – it all would encourage further aggression.
Why I have the right to speak like that. Because in the last 24 hours my nation lost 3 soldiers. 12 were wounded, most of them in Avdiivka. Russian artillery hits the civilian quarter. 1 civilian was killed by Russian artillery during the last 24 hours and 2 more were wounded. You should understand what price we pay now.
Third - there is nothing more inspiring for us than open and inclusive EU towards its Europe-oriented partners and allies.
The European project is much more resilient than the Kremlin imagines.
The values, which lie at the heart of this project, exceed by far the phobias used to intimidate Europeans.
Ukrainians’ belief in the European project and its values is stronger than it is in the Europe’s core.
I can tell you that Ukraine now is the most Euro-optimistic nation on the European continent. And I am proud to be the leader of such an optimistic nation under present conditions.
Let’s not repeat dramatic mistakes of the past.
Let’s show the aggressor the place it deserves.
Let’s consolidate our unity and solidarity.
This is how we could gain peace for our time and go home to get a nice quiet sleep.