President of Ukraine

Speech by Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak at the Atlantic Council think tank

20 May 2022 - 17:27

Speech by Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak at the Atlantic Council think tank

Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for having the time for this very important meeting for me.

I would like to start my speech today with a short video - a documentary footage of the prehistory of current events in Ukraine, what is happening now, and where we are going.

Recently, it has become very popular to look for analogies to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the events surrounding this war. Historical parallels are always inaccurate. This is rather "yes, but…" than "exactly so". But they allow us to imagine a possible future in the light of past experience.

Well, we are very pleased that the world has gone the path from the "second Munich" to the "second Lend-Lease" and the second frontline - this time the sanctions one - in a matter of months. However, today the attempts to turn today's Ukraine, which successfully opposes one of the world's largest armies, into the second Czechoslovakia look very strange. All this time we are emphasizing, and I will emphasize this again: it will not work. We will never give up.

More than anyone in the world, we seek peace. But fair peace is crucial for us. Peace at any cost is not an option for us. We did not start this war. We did not seize foreign territories. But we have to return and will return ours. Ukraine is Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Sevastopol. Our sovereignty and territorial integrity are not a compromise for us. This approach did not work in 1938, and now it will not work even more so. Russia's political culture does not provide for a regime of dialogue. Its basis, as we all see, is terror, blackmail and coercion. And the language of power. Therefore, there is only one way to prevent the war in Ukraine from escalating into a war in the region and even a world war: to help Ukraine win. And as soon as possible.

First of all, weapons. I would like to take this opportunity to thank President Biden, both parties and the people of the United States for their military assistance. For unprecedented historical support and an inspiring example for others. America has reaffirmed its leadership in the free world by uniting democracies to resist Russian aggression against Ukraine.

We truly thank you for the Lend-Lease. Your weaponry saves thousands of lives today, every minute, every second. Not just our soldiers, but also civilians. Because for Russian terrorists who call themselves military, civilians are also perfectly legitimate goals. Just as infrastructure facilities. This means that any weapon for Ukraine is a defensive weapon. Our allies in America, Europe and elsewhere are well aware of this. But I must also tell you that we still lack heavy weapons. We still need high-precision missiles, we need drones, air defense systems, ammunition and much more. And very importantly, we are still waiting for the MLRS. I learned this word, like many Ukrainians, for life. We are still waiting for them.

That should not be the case. In the first, critical stage of the war, we spent too much time negotiating supplies, searching for these weapons. Meanwhile, people stopped tanks with bare hands in our cities. Now that we have a chance to completely liberate Ukraine from the aggressor, it is inadmissible to delay. We have very different potentials with Russia. Therefore, the liberation war of Ukraine, the war for freedom, should not turn into a war until the last Ukrainian. After all, it will not end there.

If successful, the Kremlin's circle of historical reconstruction will continue to build its empire. Ukraine stands between it and the free world. It protects not only itself. Not only democratic values. It protects the way of life common to the West. Because, despite the hopes of short-sighted politicians, it will not be preserved. It will vanish if we do not win. Then voters will start asking them awkward questions. In particular, about betrayed heroes.

However, we do not care about their possible answers now. We need weapons. Without limits. Immediately. I would like to repeat once again: we are very, very grateful for the Lend-Lease. But I will allow myself a baseball term: this is the first base. We are not just set up for a home run. According to Wikipedia, our big goal is a grand slam. We need to move on. All bases must be reached.

So, the second thing I would like to talk about is the increase in sanctions pressure. To motivate Russia to stop the war, it is necessary to deprive it of resources - financial, technical, technological. More aggressive financial and energy sanctions are needed.

In March, the President initiated the creation of a special sanctions group. And after talking to our friend, friend of Ukraine Michael McFaul, we decided to create this group. I am happy that the Atlantic Council has joined this group as well. We have assembled a team of international and Ukrainian experts. Michael and I are co-chairs of this group, so it is often referred to as the Yermak-McFaul group. It is working on assessing and improving sanctions mechanisms. Today we can already talk about certain results of this group's work.

We have already published two detailed documents on what sanctions are needed and how to implement them. These documents are in fact guides to sanctions policy. Due to lack of time, I will list only the key areas. I must emphasize at once that the United States, the European Union and other democracies have done a lot here. But most of the work is still ahead.

The Kremlin will be influenced only by a total ban and embargo on Russian energy. As it is both a key source of power for Russia's imperial ambitions and a geopolitical weapon. We warned about this, by the way, at the beginning of the Nord Stream 2 project. Unfortunately, not everyone heard us then. The current situation provides a unique chance to overthrow Moscow's energy dictatorship in the short term. In other words, the restructuring of Europe's energy consumption today is what we believe is self-defense and investment in its development. In particular, green energy. Energy freedom and energy democracy seem to us to be the key to the future.

Full blocking sanctions are also needed against all Russian banks, starting with the largest. Payments for gas in rubles are categorically unacceptable. Sanctions should include disconnection from payment systems, freezing of assets and their subsequent confiscation.

All sanctions must be coordinated and synchronized. To achieve maximum effectiveness, secondary sanctions mechanisms against states, businesses and individuals that help Russia circumvent them are essential. This is where the United States can play a crucial role.

We move to the third base. Economic assistance to Ukraine. We are without exaggeration astonished by yesterday's Senate decision on an additional 40 billion for Ukraine and are infinitely grateful for the strong support provided earlier. We also hope for the facilitation in the post-war reconstruction of our country as soon as possible. Obviously, we will need comprehensive resuscitation tools like the Marshall Plan. The opening of the markets of our allies and partners for Ukrainian goods would give impetus to the further recovery of our economy.

Post-war Ukraine, and we do not just believe, we are sure, will be a huge construction site, a field for innovation and investment. This is a chance to build a global showcase for the success of the community of democracies. At the infrastructural, technological, and, of course, value levels. After all, the crisis always opens up opportunities. Ukraine enjoys an unprecedented credit of confidence. We paid very dearly for it - human life. Thousands of human lives. But thanks to this the world saw that the contradiction between the politics of values ​​and realpolitik can be overcome. Those who support Ukraine today are making a value-based choice, but that choice will pay dividends. Today, even Hollywood and Silicon Valley are familiar with such things. And they are with us - at the call of the heart and with a view to the future. It is an organic union of freedom and entrepreneurship. Because Ukraine today is a frontier. The land of brave and sincere people. President Zelenskyy, our fighters and the entire Ukrainian people prove it every day.

At the same time, justice is when the aggressor pays for the restoration. And pays as much as possible. Therefore, the issue of reparations and compensation is extremely important for us. We need a legitimate international mechanism that will compensate for the losses caused by Russia and operate despite its categorical refusal to cooperate. By the decree of President of Ukraine Zelenskyy, a profile working group has already been established, which I have the honor to chair. Ukrainian and international experts, including Markian Kluczkowski, Jeremy Sharp, Amal Clooney and many others, are working on a project of such a mechanism, and we will soon present it officially.

Home base. Restored must be preserved. Ukraine will remain an outpost of democracy in Europe. Literally. So we need security. We need security guarantees. This war must be Russia's last. And if Moscow is openly claiming that it is at war with the West in Ukraine, the West should make every effort to ensure the victory of Ukraine. So that Ukraine fully restores its territorial integrity and sovereignty, and Russia does not try to take revenge. It should be clearly understood that when we talk about security guarantees for ourselves, we are not asking. We offer to invest in our common future.

What do we see as these guarantees? The war taught us to believe only in facts. And here they are. We live among the wreckage of a world order. Russia's presence in the UN Security Council paralyzes the organization's activities. The OSCE has lost its meaning of existence. NATO is the only institution today capable of providing a reliable security umbrella to its members. However, its doors are open to everyone except Ukraine.

In such circumstances, we are forced to look for other options. After all, our goal is to deter Russia from new aggression. It can be a treaty or a system of treaties that will oblige the parties to prevent it. We intend to establish an international expert discussion to develop approaches to solving this problem. I think there are experts present who are ready to join this platform. So we will be glad if you come forward and let us know.

Unfortunately, the sad experience of the Budapest Memorandum has convinced us of one thing: any agreement between Ukraine and the guarantor states must be legally binding and duly ratified by the parliaments of these countries. Obviously, we do not see Russia among the guarantors, as it has based its policy on terror and systematic violations of basic norms of international law.

Ukraine has proven its resilience on the battlefield, so providing maximum opportunities for self-defense should be one of the cornerstones of this treaty. No security guarantees from third parties can completely replace Ukraine's strong defense potential. So we expect the guarantor states to help in this. In particular, with the removal of all politically motivated restrictions on the supply of conventional weapons to Ukraine, as well as the deepening of military-technical integration and defense cooperation.

Due to the long-standing decision of Europeans not to irritate the Kremlin, Ukraine is not a member of NATO. But it can strengthen the defense capabilities of the Alliance's Black Sea and Baltic fronts. This is a good offer, we think. In general, Ukraine's deep involvement in multilateral formats that improve its integration with the international community is a significant security factor. Therefore, we will not accept alternatives to EU accession, which have recently been put forward again.

A lasting and flexible sanctions policy as a safeguard against revanchism must also remain one of the key factors in the security guarantees system.

We consider this set of measures to be basic. It could become a testing ground, and the basis for the creation of a global coalition of responsible states that will be ready to respond effectively to any aggression within 24 hours. I would like to recall that President Zelenskyy proposed such a format of cooperation in March. We call it U24, United24.

At the global level, this security system can start building a new architecture of international relations, reforming institutions and restoring the Westphalian principles of equality and respect for sovereignty. Here, the United States could also play a leading role in the process, once again creating a new model of global leadership.

Finally, I will return to the not-so-precise historical parallels that are often made today. In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait under the slogans "one people" and "response to preparations for aggression." You all know well how it ended. Here it can be said without objections. This is not about history. It's about the future.

I thank you all very much. And availing myself of this opportunity, I would like to thank you on behalf of all Ukrainians for supporting us, for working and contributing, I am sure, to the Ukrainian victory that will take place soon. Victory not only of Ukraine, but our common victory.