Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to open the 14th Yalta European Strategy Meeting.
First, I would like to congratulate all of you with the International Day of Democracy, which is one of the fundamental values of the Free World.
A year ago we discussed the global “Storms of Changes” and their consequences for our civilization.
I remember the general mood in the room on that day.
There were deep concerns about the looming future. Some participants were assuming that the chances of the civilized world to survive were 50/50.
You may simply recall the scale of the risks.
Elections in France and the Netherlands, the US presidential elections, Brexit, on-going Russian aggression in Donbas and Crimea, burning conflict in the Middle East, escalation of terrorism, populism, which sometimes is the same danger as terrorism, and ultra-right extremism, large-scale information campaigns against the Free World, attempts to impose alternative values.
Visa-free regime and the Association Agreement were hanging by a thread.
Hundreds of incidents of shelling per day by the Russian troops and militants in Donbas.
We were balancing on a knife-edge over the cliff of chaos and uncertainty.
Somebody was already uncorking the Crimean sparkling wine and arranging the chairs in the occupied Yalta to divide the world once again.
But we resisted.
What does not kill you makes you stronger.
These words of Friedrich Nietzsche, to my mind, fully reflects the essence of the current events in geopolitics.
Are we already living in the new world?
I think we are not yet there.
Could we go back to calm and stable, as we assumed, world order?
No, we could not.
If anybody thinks that when the war finally comes to an end in Ukraine (God let it be so), everything will be as it used to be, then he is absolutely wrong.
You can’t bring tens of thousands of dead Ukrainians back to life.
You can’t stick together broken contracts.
Dozens of Budapest Memoranda provide less security than one nuclear charge.
We are facing a new political reality.
The future world order depends on us.
It depends on our firm, consistent and uncompromising response to those who want to send the world back into the Middle Ages.
I believe that the Revolution of Dignity has become “a wake-up call” for the democratic world.
The Kremlin intentionally tried to fool the western democracies – invisibly but consistently destroying from inside.
The hybrid war against the West was already there, when Putin was gladly welcomed in world capitals, at the G8 Summits, and contracts for billions were signed with him.
Everybody considered that “if you feed the beast, it will not eat you”.
Few took into account that purpose of that money was not well-being of the ordinary Russians or reclaiming endless but unpopulated Russian territories but were used to build up modern aggressive army.
It seemed that everything was going according to the mean plan of the Kremlin.
It was that plan when under the rule of bribed and intimidated Yanukovych Ukraine rejected the association with the EU and was turning back to the sphere of influence of Russia.
Dozens of populist parties brought up by the Kremlin were almost ready for triumphant marches throughout Europe. With the first bell from the Kremlin, they were ready to launch scenario of the EU and NATO break up.
Military machine built by Russia on the Western border is already capable, if tasked, to implement any barbaric aggressive plans of the Kremlin.
But the Revolution of Dignity spoiled these plans.
The Kremlin wasn’t yet ready for a full-scale hybrid offensive against Europe. It needed a few more years to prepare and then act decisively.
The Euro-Maidan pushed Russia to a false start. And that messed up its cards.
For Russia, Ukraine is not just a part of the past empire. It is a symbol. It is an integral part of the imperial grandeur that the Kremlin cannot imagine this empire without. It is “our Jerusalem” as Moscow Patriarch Kirill claims.
That is why Putin had to go all-in, “tear off masks” and show his true predatory face to the entire world.
Unfortunately, in this situation, neither neutrality, nor non-bloc status helped Ukraine. Now it is clear that these ideas were merely fairy-tales used by the aggressor to neutralize its potential victim.
The Budapest Memorandum security guarantees didn’t help either.
The occupation of the Crimea, the invasion of Donbass, downing of the Malaysian “Boeing”, endless cyber attacks against Ukraine and the West, attempts to influence the voting in a number of Western countries.
The Kremlin started its hybrid offensive on the democratic world, started its war for its own world order. The world order, which is based on the rule of strength and the will of the Tsar, not on the rule of law and the people’s will.
History teaches us that Russia cannot be trusted. Under any circumstances.
With Moscow, one should always be prepared for the worst. You can hear it from tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians who are persecuted in the Crimea and Donbas. Hundreds of them have perished at the hands of the killers and torturers only for the Ukrainian language, the Ukrainian flag or the Ukrainian passport.
Unfortunately, the Kremlin keeps on refusing to recognize its crimes.
Therefore, we must preserve unity and solidarity.
Sanctions against Russia must be in force until full implementation of Minsk Agreements and restoring the sovereignty of Ukraine over the Crimea and Donbas.
I would like to thank the United States for its leadership in strengthening the sanctions against the aggressor.
The price for aggression must keep rising. It must be unbearably hard to keep what was unlawfully taken, or, more bluntly, cynically stolen.
Regarding the Crimea, we are being advised to put it off, to freeze it, or simply to forget about it.
Only shortsighted politicians could give such advice. Those, who forget that today’s battle for the world order has started with occupation of the Crimea.
Almost two years ago I put forward the initiative to establish an international mechanism for restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty over the Crimea. We are talking about gradual – peaceful – pushing Russia out of the Crimea.
Our allies on this path are the instruments of international law, sanctions, international courts and arbitrage, international platforms and monitoring mechanisms – starting with the UN, and ending with UNESCO.
The fact that at the highest international level – UN General Assembly – Russia was recognized as an occupying power proves that we are on the right track.
We count on coordinated and targeted support of our international partners.
Today, I would like to suggest the idea of creating an international group of friends of de-occupation of Crimea to coordinate common steps and actions. I plan to discuss this initiative in detail in New York at the UN General Assembly.
Ladies and Gentlemen, representatives of the Free World,
The Free World has entered on a path of struggle for the new world order.
Our success or our failure will determine what this world will be, what Europe will be, and what Ukraine will be.
It can be a world of democracy, sustainable development and prosperity. A world, which will live by the accomplishments of our civilization, achievements of Elon Musk, capabilities of artificial intelligence, researches of hadron collider or prospects of secure encrypted currency.
Or it can be a world that lives by constant threat of nuclear war, arms race, hybrid aggressions and information sabotage.
The choice is clear. The path to our victory is unity and solidarity.
It is necessary to strengthen the transatlantic unity, putting aside any artificial and minor differences between Europe and the United States.
Disagreement - this is exactly what our opponents and enemies are waiting for, and we have no right to provide them with the trump cards.
The idea of European integration must get a second wind, a new dynamic.
I share the vision for further development of the European Union of my friend Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, which he outlined in his State of the Union 2017 address on 13 September.
The suggested Roadmap for a More United, Stronger and More Democratic Union opens opportunities for a qualitatively new Europe, which is capable of responding to the global challenges of the 21st century.
At the same time, I believe that the newly initiated debate on the Future of Europe should not be limited to the current EU Member States.
The candidate countries and EU-associated countries, which aspire to share responsibility with the European Union for a new Europe, should be invited to the discussion. This will be a symbolic demonstration of their place in new Europe.
The meeting of the EU leaders on the Future of Europe, to be held in Tallinn on September 28, could be the best opportunity to engage them to discussion.
It is dangerous to leave the European countries, which strive to become part of the united Europe, in strategic uncertainty, despite the situational challenges faced by the EU.
I support the statement of my Polish colleague Andrzej Duda that the rejection of an open-door policy would be a big mistake for the European project.
This would send a signal to Russia that the revenge is still possible. And the EU, by rejecting European aspirations of its neighbours will send a signal about accepting Russia’s so-called “special interests” in the region.
It would become a bad signal for European nations and a deep disappointment and would mean the loss of confidence in the future, the lack of guarantees that the path towards democracy, freedom and welfare is irreversible.
I urge the West to make an important strategic decision that will fundamentally affect further development of Ukraine in the new world.
Ukraine has become the de facto Eastern border of the united Europe.
Today, we are once again fulfilling our millennial mission of defending our common European home from threats from the East.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are raising their arms to protect not only the freedom and independence of their own state, but also security of the whole of Europe, our common values.
No one in the history of the European Union has paid in so much blood and iron for a European perspective and EU association.
Ukraine is rebuilding its economy and infrastructure, turning it into an integral part of the European continental economy.
The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area has allowed us to restructure our foreign trade and increase the share of the European market up to 40 per cent. Over the eight months of this year, our goods turnover has increased by a third comparing to the last year, amounting to 25-billion US dollars.
Over the first 90 days of the visa free regime, more than a quarter of a million Ukrainian citizens have taken advantage of the opportunity to travel freely to the countries of the Schengen Zone, experiencing all the benefits of free movement.
The Ukrainian society realized that integration with the EU is a powerful factor for preserving and strengthening sovereignty, security and wellbeing.
Our next common task should be to synchronize Ukrainian aspirations and European and Euro-Atlantic capabilities.
We are working to rebuild our security system according to NATO standards.
An urgent task is to receive the Alliance’s arms and military technologies. The aggressor must know that the road to Europe through Ukraine is closed.
The European Neighbourhood Policy is almost bursting at the seams.
We need to breathe a new life into the Eastern Partnership. After entry into force by the Association Agreements and visa-free regimes it has lost its gravity.
Ukraine will become more deeply integrated into the sectoral policies of the European Union and will fight for the full extension to it of the four freedoms: the free movement of goods, services, capitals, and people.
We are moving further towards the association with the Schengen Area, joining the EU Customs Union, the EU Energy Union, the EU Single Digital Market.
It would be very interesting for me to get the results of the study on the implications of Ukraine's integration into the EU Customs Union, which, as I know, will be presented tomorrow to the Forum participants.
I am convinced that the implementation of these projects is beneficial not only for Ukraine, but in its own turn also for the European Union.
Despite the ongoing Russian aggression, Ukraine has not only proved its ability to implement reforms over the three years, but demonstrated first results.
Our economy is growing, the banking system has been cleaned, budget spending has been cut, and successful cooperation with the IMF is under way.
Furthermore, the leading credit agencies have upgraded Ukraine’s ratings.
Europe needs a strong Ukraine: in political, social and economic terms.
We should create and implement the necessary preconditions for transition from economic stabilization to economic growth.
I welcome and fully support the initiative of our Lithuanian friends on establishing a Support Plan for Ukraine.
Ukraine has regained its own place and vocation in the new world.
Our historic place is in the united European family and the Trans-Atlantic, Western alliance.
Our vocation is to become the Eastern border of the European civilization, a contributor to European and international security, an engine of the continental economy.
We will be fulfilling this vocation together with you, dear friends of Ukraine.
We will move to a full-fledged membership in the EU and NATO.
As the events of the recent years have demonstrated, this is the genuine guarantee of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, welfare and prosperity.
I wish you fruitful discussions and thank you for your attention.
Glory to the European Ukraine!
And next year in Yalta!