Ukraine’s Zelensky accuses the West of appeasing

MUNICH – The Munich Security Conference was convened this weekend with the banner “Alarm of impotence.” The phrase had ominous resonance when Russia threatened Ukraine, and Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, sent them home by accusing the West of plagiarism.

“It was here 15 years ago that Russia announced its intention to challenge global security,” Zelensky said Saturday at the annual meeting of international policymakers. “What did the world say? Concessions. Result? At least the annexation of Crimea and aggression against my state.”

The mood at the conference – Davos on foreign affairs, a frequent site of conflict – had softened, almost worn out, marked by dizzying anxiety about the possibility of a war. European competition, alleviated by the harsh restrictions of Covid-19 and the lack of Russian involvement. has often stirred up heated debate.

The absence of the Russians feels ominous, a symbol of a newly divided Europe. Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, made the choice facing the continent unequivocally clear: it was “the system of shared responsibility for security and peace” or the “spheres of influence”, which she compared it to bringing Europe into the realms of the Allies and the Soviet Union. at Yalta in 1945.

With Russian separatists escalating their shelling in eastern Ukraine and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson accusing Moscow of planning “the biggest war in Europe since 1945”, Ms. Baerbock’s mention of Yalta seems like in the wrong place.

Mr. Zelensky’s comments about the risk of appeasement were a reference to a threatening speech in Munich in 2007 by Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, which revealed the extent of his opposition to the United States. As NATO expanded eastward, Putin said: “It represents a serious provocation that lowers the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: Who is this expansion against? ”

A year later in Bucharest, Romania, NATO leaders issued a summit statement saying that Ukraine and Georgia, once part of the Soviet order, “will become members of NATO.” They don’t say how or when because they don’t know; and they cannot agree on such details.

Death has been cast. The clocks have ticked since then, with Mr Putin taking enough military action in Georgia and Ukraine to freeze the countries in strategic limbo, as he awaits his moment to avenge his loss. the Western humiliation of Russia after the end of the Cold War.

That moment, he appeared to judge, has come. Russia today is underpinned by its close relationship with China; Germany under new leadership and the United States weakened by internal rifts. Thus, 190,000 Russian troops, according to US estimates, are at the border of Ukraine.

At the Munich Conference in 2015, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov delivered an unusual speech against the West. Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, he said, was in fact an uprising of “self-determination” people. The United States was driven by an insatiable desire for global domination and staged a “coup” in Ukraine in 2014 that led to the overthrow of President Viktor F. Yanukovych, a Russian proxie . The post-1989 Europe has moved away from building a “common European home” from Lisbon to Vladivostok in favor of NATO’s eastward expansion on Russia’s doorstep, Lavrov said.

Everyone listened. The anger of the Russians was very prominent. But in the end most Western officials shrugged. Surely these were theatrical expressions of Moscow’s fading grievances, not the first drumming of war.

Seven years later, no one in Munich this weekend denied Mr. Putin’s apparent war preparations, as Vice President Kamala Harris put it, that “the very foundation of European security is under direct threat. “.

What will Putin’s next move be? One of them is China. It opposes NATO’s expansion and “attempts by external forces to undermine security and stability in their common neighborhoods,” as a joint Russian-Chinese communique issued this month. . But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the conference that the “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of any country should be respected and protected.”

It is like a pivotal moment in the 21st century: China arbitrating a conflict between the United States and Russia.

Whether Putin listens or not is another matter. He can feel confident, under the guise of a friendship described in this month’s joint statement by the two nations as “without limits”, that any objections by China to the an invasion of Ukraine will be muted.

The United States has concluded that the President of Russia has approved an invasion of Ukraine, with the capital Kyiv as the target, and that the likelihood that he will reverse course is very low. Indeed, President Biden has frequently warned of war to the point of infuriating Mr. Zelensky, who has seen his economy collapse without Russian troops crossing the border.

The inevitability of war was not a view shared by everyone at the conference. Robin Niblett, UK director of Chatham House, noted that Mr Putin is often “brutally measured” and that a large-scale invasion would be out of character because of the high risk.

France, after another phone call on Sunday between Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Mr Putin, said in a statement that the two leaders had agreed on the need to “prioritize a diplomatic solution” and ” do everything possible to achieve it”. The president’s joint statement spoke of the final summit aimed at “defining a new peace and security order in Europe”.

What that might mean, and whether it will be adopted in any way by the United States and many of its allies, remains unclear.

A core issue facing US officials is whether they are dealing with specific, practical, and negotiable requests from Russia. Or has Putin adopted an already rigid “theology” and now holds that Ukraine must be part of the restored Russian empire, or at least part of its sphere of influence, and never again? may be oriented or loyal to the West?

Positions of forces and weapons systems could be discussed, even eventually agreed upon. But a mysterious Putin theology about Ukraine’s essential Russianness, and the need to bring it under Russian control, will not be accepted, as Vice President Harris has made clear. She suggests a lesson from the ruins of 1945 that “the rule of law must be respected” and that “national borders must not be changed by force”.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Russia’s military build-up unifies NATO in its resolve because it threatens “the entire international order” based on principles “just like you can’t use scope influence to subjugate neighboring countries to your will” and you cannot command another country “with which it will affiliated.”

As for Mr. Zelensky, he expressed deep concern that Ukraine would become a pawn in the great power game. “I hope no one sees Ukraine as a convenient and eternal buffer zone between the West and Russia. That will never happen,” he said.

To resist the temptation of appeasement, Zelensky called on the West to “provide effective support for Ukraine and its defense capabilities.” He said Ukraine should be provided with “a clear European perspective” and that it needs “a clear and comprehensive time frame to join the union.”

Of course, such a timeframe would never be acceptable to Mr. Putin, who has escalated militarily to prevent it. “The way Russia escalates is always militarily,” Mr. Niblett said.

That is one difference between it and Western democracies, which have explicitly stated that no Allied troops will be sent to die for Ukraine and have sought other means to contain Russia. , especially through the threat of “major sanctions”.

Of course, appeasement was a word that resonated especially in Munich, where in 1938 Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, agreed to allow Hitler to annex parts of Czechoslovakia in order to “protect” those ethnic Germans there, in exchange for a promise of peace. . Mr Chamberlain proclaimed “peace in our time” upon his return to London.

But no one mentioned that at a conference tasked with ensuring that the lessons of the 20th century, and its two world wars, were learned. Ukraine’s Zelensky accuses the West of appeasing

Fry Electronics Team

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