YES and Victor Pinchuk Foundation Hold the 6th Ukrainian Lunch on the Margins of the Munich Security Conference “Don’t wait until it’s too late”

18 February 2023

On 18 February 2023, on the margins of the Munich Security Conference, Yalta European Strategy (YES) and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation held the 6th Munich Ukrainian Lunch, titled “One Year Later: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom and What’s Next”. Panelists discussed how support for Ukraine's allies has manifested itself and how the war is progressing on the military, economic, political, and information fronts; they assessed ways to end the war, focusing on key aspects of President Zelensky's peace formula and its implementation.

Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, moderated the discussion with Anne Applebaum, historian and staff writer at The Atlantic; Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia; Ulf Kristersson, Prime Minister of Sweden; Dmytro Kuleba, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine; Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland; Petr Pavel, President-Elect of the Czech Republic; David H. Petraeus, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America (2011-2012), Chairman, KKR Global Institute and others. 

Opening the event, Victor Pinchuk, businessman and founder of Yalta European Strategy, said: “Ukrainians and the West did something that some thought they were incapable of doing. It’s possible, and it’s incredibly important since we are fighting for freedom and not only for the future of Ukraine, but for the future of the entire civilization. What happened in Ukraine will indeed determine the future of all of us.”

Addressing some of the state leaders in the audience, he called for strengthening support to Ukraine: “Do enough now, while you can. This will be beneficial for the entire Europe and for the rest of the world that wants to live free. So, please, do what must be done, while you can. This is a unique moment in your lives that you can use to save the lives of Ukrainians.”

Zanny Minton Beddoes, said: “I think some of you may have imagined or seen what happened a few days after last year’s meeting - Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. I don't think that anyone could have imagined what happened in the subsequent year - the courage, the determination and the success of the Ukrainian people in defending their freedom, as well as the unity of the Western alliance. But it is not over yet.”

She invited the panelists to discuss the answers to the following questions: Does Ukraine have what it needs to be victorious? What does this victory look like? and How has this awful year changed Europe?

Recollecting the developments of the past year, in Ukraine, David H. Petraeus said: “This was not only the soldiers who fought, but the entire country. I think, we also have to recognize that President Zelensky’s leadership has been positively Churchillian as well.”

He called for providing more heavy weapons to Ukraine, including F-16 fighter jets and long-range missiles that could reach Crimea: “I think that will allow to crack Russian forces in the south and to maneuver around the obstacles, and to break the Russian ground line of communication that enables them to support Crimea along that way.”

However, he noted that the reconstruction of Ukraine would not be solid without security guarantees provided by the West: “When victory comes, that is when the Marshall western plan for Ukraine needs to be ready with the involvement of the G7 and the EU. But it requires one element that the economists might not think of, and that is an ironclad security guarantee. That will be the foundation, without which reconstruction will not be possible. And that ideally should be NATO membership.”

Petr Pavel continued stressing the importance of providing Ukraine with air defence assets as soon as possible: “Air defence, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, whatever we can deliver, is needed now in a short term. Apparently, the Russian military is losing their capability on the ground, and it’s most probable that they will move forward towards air operations. So the more air defence assets we deliver to Ukraine right now, the better.”

He admitted feeling pessimistic about Ukraine’s capability to win the war in 2023: “We may end up in a situation when the liberation of some parts of the Ukrainian territory can result in more life losses than society can bear. This is why there might be a point when Ukrainians can start thinking about another outcome. And we should be also ready for this eventuality, because it’s not about expecting the best, but about being ready for the worst.”

Kaja Kallas, in turn, raised the issue of the need to boost the capacity of the European defence industry: “Russia is producing in three shifts. Why isn’t the European defence industry doing the same? And they say that this is because of the lack of orders. ‘If we don’t have orders, we cannot make investments’, they say.”

“Even if the war ends or when the war ends, we will not stop procuring the ammunition, because the threat is still there, and everybody if losing their defence,” she added.

Taking the floor, Sanna Marin announced the preparation of the 13th arms package to Ukraine: “We need to make sure that the message that we are sending now to Russia is that this help is not ending. It doesn’t end. As long as it takes, as long as Ukraine needs our help, we will help. And very soon, Finland will decide on our 13th arms package to Ukraine.”

She also addressed the issue of Russia’s frozen assets in Europe: “I think that Russia should pay a really high price for the attack on Ukraine. There are 400bn euros or US dollars in Russia’s frozen assets - all of these should be spent on Ukraine, on rebuilding Ukraine, helping Ukraine to rebuild all the demolition that Russia has created.”

Ulf Kristersson said: “We need much more coordination between countries. Now we do what we think we can spare from our own defence and from our stock, but that’s too little coordination. I think that the matter of Leopard tanks is a good starting point in this regard.”  

“Don’t wait until it’s too late”, he added, calling on other states to give more weapons to Ukraine. 

Commenting on the ways to end this way, he noted: “This must not end in a frozen conflict. Even though there are many people who support the idea of a ceasefire, this might not end there, because it is so obvious that there is a risk of Russia going back, rebuilding and then coming back. This will not solve anything at all.”

Taking the floor, Dmytro Kuleba said: “Last year the keyword for me was “weapons”, and this year there are two keywords for me - “delivery speed” and “sustainability”. This is crucial - everything that has been pledged to us, has to arrive on time to be relevant. This is what we need to focus on.”

Commenting on the prospects of victory for Ukraine, he said: “The short-time end game is the full liberation of the Ukrainian territory. There will be no other contact lines, no territorial concessions - we have been there, and we have seen that this doesn’t work. The long-term end game will cover accountability and compensations. But most importantly is that there will be a question of how we can make sure that Russia is not capable of doing this again.”

Anne Applebaum continued: “The realistic truth is that the war will end when the Russians understand that it was a mistake.” “The question is what do we have to do to create that change,” she wondered.

Ukrainian parliament speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk said: “Speed is the main word that we are voicing here. Speed is the foundation of our existence, because it is very important to understand that we need to shorten the time that passes between a decision on the delivery of weapons and the actual delivery.” 

US Congressman Neal Dunn picked up that point, saying: “I guess that all European leaders get a sense of what this is going to take. Yes, we should be faster, and we all wish that we could be better partners to Ukraine, but let’s resolve to be better than we were in the past and keep doing what we are doing.” 

Among the participants of the event also were: Bogdan Aurescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania; Richard N.Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relation; Wolfgang Ischinger, Ambassador (ret.), President, MSC Foundation Council; Senior Fellow, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin; Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia (2016-2021), United Nations Secretary-General's Global Advocate for Every Woman Every Child, Member, YES Board; Helga Schmid, Secretary General, OSCE; Vitaliy Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv; Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of Poland (1995–2005), Chairman of the Board of YES; Hadja Lahbib, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium; Helga Maria Schmid, Secretary General, Deputy President of the Foundation Council. 

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

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Kyrylo Budanov
Kyrylo Budanov
Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, YES Annual Meeting, 2023
«Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, Ministry of Defence of Ukraine»