The only path to peace is victory on the battlefield, says former Ukrainian PM Tymoshenko

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By Méabh Mc Mahon
The only path to peace is victory on the battlefield, says former Ukrainian PM Tymoshenko
Copyright  euronews

There can be no peace in Ukraine without victory on the battlefield, former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko has told the Estoril Conference in Portugal.

Tymoshenko said hopes for a diplomatic solution were illusory, because the conditions sought by Russia were unacceptable.

"We have to leave with them the territories they conquered and accept this fact: concede to them and thank them for taking away part of our territory," she told a conference hosted by Euronews's Meabh Mc Mahon, adding that other demands - that Ukraine be barred from joining NATO, reduce its own armed forces and submit to cultural Russification - would also never be accepted.

"No one in Ukraine from the president to an ordinary child would ever agree to these conditions," she said.

The former President of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski warned the conflict would be long because it represented a deeply held Russian perspective, and was not simply "Putin's war".

The former President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said the international community held a collective responsibility for failing to react more firmly to Russia's seizure of Crimea

Meabh Mc Mahon, Euronews: My first question today is for Yulia Tymoshenko. That idea of a peaceful Ukraine where millions of Ukrainian families can go back to it still looks very far away. So my question to you is, when will this be a reality, do you think?

Yulia Tymoshenko, former Prime Minister of Ukraine:  Now the most difficult question is: when will the war end and where is the path to peace? Today in the world, it is considered that there are two paths to peace. One path is the path of winning on the battlefield.

And the second path is to appease the Kremlin and Putin, and agree on some deal.

In many European countries they begin to make little hints that because of the war - they have high inflation, social, economic and political difficulties - so, let's finish this war with a peace treaty.

But now I want to be very clear: unfortunately, there are not two paths. Only one exists, and it is victory on the battlefield. And I'll explain why.

Why so? Because the peace deal offered by the aggressor against Ukraine consists of four main points.

We have to leave with them the territories they conquered and accept this fact: concede to them and thank them for taking away part of our territory.

But bear in mind that what is temporarily occupied in Ukraine today is essentially an area the size of Portugal.

So, it's unacceptable for Ukraine and for the whole free world to be deprived of territories by means of war.

The Kremlin is not going to give up these conditions and therefore this is not a peace deal. This is in fact a capitulation which they want to fix, with Ukrainian participation.
Yulia Tymoshenko
Former Prime Minister of Ukraine

Their second requirement is that Ukraine should never become a member of NATO and remain defenceless forever.

The third requirement is to reduce the Ukrainian army to such numbers that it would be unable to defend Ukraine. This is essentially unilateral disarmament. This would mean a surrender by Ukraine in the future and this is what the Kremlin insists on.

And the fourth requirement is humanitarian. We must give up our language in favour of Russian, we must give up our history and culture, and go the Russification way. The Kremlin is not going to give up these conditions and therefore this is not a peace deal. This is in fact a capitulation which they want to fix, with Ukrainian participation.

No-one in Ukraine from the president to an ordinary child would ever agree to these conditions. It's impossible. And I want to tell you that this is not a path to peace, it is a path to continuing the war. And therefore, together with 50 countries united in the Ramstein coalition to help Ukraine, we'll definitely secure victory. And right now, at this moment, the Ukrainian army is conducting a counter-offensive.

Meabh Mc Mahon, Euronews: Mr. Nemyria, you're not just an interpreter here, you're also here because we want to hear from you as well. So the same question to you regarding the fact that are we now, do you think, in long war mode?

Hryhoriy Nemyria, First Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Ukraine: Many people thought in a similar way in 2008 when the Russian Federation attacked Georgia and occupied, is still occupying 25% of Georgian territory. Many people thought the same way in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied a significant part of my homeland, Donbas. They thought that would be enough for Putin, because the only thing he really cares about is Crimea. And if Crimea is negotiable, then he won't move further. It's not the case. He is moving further. So therefore, answering your question is not about distance, not about time. It's about the right conclusions and the right lessons to be learnt. And there are two lessons I believe that's very valuable. The first conclusion, the first lesson, the 24th of February brought a phenomenal event: the grey zones have gone. There are no more grey zones in Europe. What are the grey zones? Those countries in between. The diplomats at the time of the Cold War were playing "Which role is better for these countries in between: bridges, buffer zones or something else?"

But the very fact that Finland and Sweden, when the war started, decided to join NATO and are not willing anymore to be in the security vacuum in between, is a very powerful lesson to be learnt by others and not just for Europe, but also in such regions like in the Pacific.

And the second conclusion and the lesson to be learnt, what is the value of something called "security guarantees"? For Ukraine, it matters a lot because in 1994, Ukraine gave up the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world, larger than UK, France and China combined, in exchange for joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The third-largest nuclear arsenal consisted of 2000 strategic warheads; 176 ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles; 44 strategic bombers and 2500 tactical nukes. All those were transferred to Russia and destroyed. And in exchange, Ukraine received "security guarantees" in the former Budapest Memorandum signed by the President of the Russian Federation, Yeltsin at that time, the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, John Major.

So, but when the war started and Ukraine said we have security guarantees of territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, and one of the guarantors attacked Ukraine. So, then the international institutions, who are the guarantors, were not able actually to deliver on the promise. So this precedent is not just about Ukraine. How can you dare to negotiate or to ensure something serious with countries like Iran, North Korea or others, when something given to countries that denuclearized voluntarily, that promise has been broken and the security guarantees proved to be woolly guarantees? So these are the lessons. Unless we learn these lessons, not just Ukraine but all the others, I think we are doomed to repeat the same, but in a more horrible, ugly way, sometime in the future.

Meabh Mc Mahon, Euronews: Quite a wake-up call there. And just regarding lessons being learnt, looking back perhaps at 2014, could Europe have done more then, do you think?

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, former President of Croatia: Oh, absolutely. I think that we bear collective responsibility for what's going on in Ukraine today for this open invasion that started on February 24th. I think that our collective reaction back in 2014 was slow. It wasn't strong enough. And in contrast to that, I think that the reaction that we saw after the February 24 open invasion, open war of Russia against Ukraine, one of the elements that Putin, President Putin, had miscalculated was the speed and the depth of reaction of the European Union, of NATO and of the global community collectively. Now, of course, the issue is whether that is going to stand, as looking at the situation currently in Ukraine, of course, short of an outright military victory, the only way to end a war is a diplomatic solution, for which right now I don't see incentives on either side and especially not on the part of President Putin, as I think that time is on his side. He has the means to wage a long war.

The sanctions have hit the Russian economy. They have to be looked at in combination with military, diplomatic and other means. And he is preparing for a long war of attrition, attrition in Ukraine, this grinding war of incremental gains at a very high price, but also of attrition of our unity and purpose and resolve in the Western and other parts of the world. Because with soaring energy prices, with inflation, with the weaponization of food and energy, without any doubt there will be dissatisfaction in our own societies with what we are going to be facing this winter. So I think it's of utmost importance for governments to assuage the effects of the crisis in our respective societies, especially for the most vulnerable people in the population.

We have taken peace for granted, especially the young generations who have not seen war and destruction.
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović
Former President of Croatia

But when I think back of my own experience, I was 23 years when the war broke out, and at the time when I would go to bed at night and I would listen to detonations about 20 kilometres away from Zagreb, I was grateful for the warm bed that I could sleep in that night. However, we soon forget that experience, and for way too long in Europe, we have been lulled into this feeling that peace will be there, that security will be there. We have taken peace for granted, especially the young generations who have not seen war and destruction.

So I think that the main message that we should be sending today is for everyone to think of the situation, that Ukrainians are actually losing lives and losing blood and we should be able to lose some of the comfort that we have in our own lives to appreciate and to protect values. Even if you don't believe in liberal democracy, nevertheless, we do have to protect international law, state sovereignty, territorial integrity and the right of every nation and individual to choose their own future. And my message to the young generation and to the purpose generation is we must not let bullies run the world.

Meabh Mc Mahon, Euronews: Aleksander Kwaśniewski, I'd like to get your view now. And just on that issue of unity, we've seen unprecedented unity back in March by European member states and capitals all coming together, taking decisions at a speed we hadn't seen for years. But is the momentum still there?

Aleksander Kwaśniewski, former President of Poland: Well, this is the next, let's say, so-called "success" of Putin. We were never so united before. And because of this unprecedented aggression against Ukraine we are united and this is a first very important new value and we have to continue this unity. And we have here a lot of young people, so please remember that Europe united is not only stronger, but it's better. If Europe were to be disintegrated, we'll have no chance in the 21st century in these global processes which we can observe. We have strong competitors, sometimes enemies. Russia is an enemy, China is a strong competitor, probably in the coming months we will see China as an enemy as well, because of quite likely aggression against Taiwan. So the first message is a united Europe is stronger, is better, and that is a good space for all of us and for you, the young generation as well.

I'm afraid, of course, because, you know, life is life. And we know that people have very limited patience. So I am very much afraid about everything that will happen during the wintertime. Because the energy crisis is coming, we have no chance of avoiding it. We will probably have some blackouts of energy in some places. We will have inflation, high prices, etc., etc. And it is very important to understand in this difficult period that we are fighting together with Ukraine for the most important values like democracy, sovereignty, respect, human rights, dignity, etc.

So, of course, Western Europe, but also Poland, my country, after 30 years of very positive, successful transformation, is a more and more pro-consumption-oriented society. So for us, it's not easy to accept that the conditions of life will be worse or can be worse. But it is necessary to understand that it is such a time, that it is such a period in history, where we have to suffer because we are fighting for much more important values, for much more important things. And our generation, my generation, your generation, they were never confronted with such a challenge. The generation of my parents, of my grandparents… they were confronted every 10 or 20 years with wars, with conflicts, with poverty, famine, etc., etc. So that is for us, and all of us, a really difficult but very important challenge. And we have to pass this exam successfully because it's important for our future.

And a last remark, Russia. I tell you… I participated in some discussions and one of the elements that caused much controversy was: "Is it Putin's war against Ukraine or is it Russia's war against Ukraine?" Because it would be easier, probably, for all of us to say, "Well, this is Putin's war. Because his obsession is to rebuild Great Russia, to rebuild the empire. And, of course, to rebuild the empire, he needs such a big, great country as Ukraine, like Belarus and some Central Asian countries." It would be probably easier to understand that if we change or someday Putin will be changed in the Kremlin, we will have a better situation. We can open a new chapter in relations with Russia.

This idea of Russian greatness, of Russian territories, it's something that's unfortunately very deep in the Russian mentality.
Aleksander Kwaśniewski
Former President of Poland

But I tell you, knowing Russia quite well and I have read a lot of books… Today, you had a few hours earlier Anne Applebaum, and she thought, she told us that the liberal history of Russia, that such a period may be of a zero period: it never existed. Of course, we had some liberal ideas or leaders, but they were never successful. So unfortunately, in my opinion, that is a problem. Because this is Russia's war. This is very much connected with the Russian understanding of the world, the Russian understanding of the position of Russia in this world. That is a lot of imperialistic sentiments. And Russia never decided to discuss openly inside this country the problem of the past, of the Tsarist time, of Soviet Union, etc. This idea of Russian greatness, of Russian territories, it's something that's unfortunately very deep in the Russian mentality. Why am I speaking about it? Because we have to be prepared that even when one day Putin's presidency finishes and we have a next generation of leaders, the situation, especially concerning Ukraine, can be the same. Because for this Great Russian idea of their own country, of the role in the world, Ukraine is a crucial, crucial part. And because they want, Russia wants, with Putin or without Putin, or with some Putin successor, Russia wants to have full control over Ukraine, this conflict is for a very, very long time. But we can win, we can win and

And Yulia told you very important things. If we support Ukraine, if we deliver supplies of weaponry, if we will give strong financial support for Ukraine, seeing the determination of Ukrainians, seeing how they are courageous, how they are skilful, how they use all these new weapons, it's a chance that in this fight between democracy and authorities, Ukraine will help all of us to win and democracy will have a chance for the next decades. And that is one element to support fully support Ukraine. And the second is, of course, our unity. Without the unity of the West, I think about European Union and the United States, we have no chance to win in this global, global confrontation between democracy and authoritarian ideas.