Petro Poroshenko discusses Ukraine's relationship with Russia, democratic reforms in Ukraine, and U.S. and European Union policy toward the region.
KUPCHAN: Thank you very much. And let me welcome everyone to this conversation with President Petro Poroshenko, former president of Ukraine. My name is Charles Kupchan. I’m a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. President Poroshenko began his career as a successful businessman and then moved into Ukrainian politics, served as president from 2014 to 2019, and is currently a leading figure in the opposition as a member of the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament.
President Poroshenko, it is a real pleasure and an honor to have you with us today. I have to say, we have pretty good timing, as things go, given that President Biden and President Putin spoke yesterday on the phone, as we all know. Let me get our conversation going by asking you an issue that’s very much about where we are today. What is your understanding of why President Putin seems to be putting more troops on the border with Ukraine? What is motivating him at this point in time? And what do you believe his objectives are given the number of troops he’s bringing and their position, which is not just alongside the border with Donbas, but more broadly spread across the border of eastern Ukraine? Give us your insight as to—as to where you think Putin wants to take the issue today? And again, thank you so much for joining us.
POROSHENKO: Dear Charles, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I really would like to thank the Council on Foreign Relations, and particularly you, Charles, for this absolutely brilliant initiative of holding these events. There is possibly no better time to talk on why Ukraine matters. We are here in the midst of many important developments. Yesterday President Biden and Putin talking in the online format. Two hours that helped the world step back off dangerous break but did not provide many stability and many predictability. It looks like a strategic pause, a time for Kremlin to think, to assess their option, and the price to pay for each of them.
Days before yesterday, Putin actively massed his military troops along Ukraine’s border. He changed no plan even today. Why? Because Russia has nothing to sell except fear and war. And today, Kremlin is mourning over the thirtieth anniversary of their—collapse of the Soviet Union. This is exactly today thirty years ago when it happened—the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century, if I may quote the essence of the mental trauma of President Putin. No doubt he’s dreaming of recreating the Russian empire in the borders and the Soviet Union in the geopolitical weight of the superpower. And let me remind you that in the December 2022 it will be the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the USSR. And no doubt Putin’s idea is to celebrate this day with Ukraine as his main dish.
Tomorrow, President Biden hosts the Summit of Democracies. This will be a remarkable event. This already as Russia is not invited. And how could you invite the one who does everything to ruin democracies? In Ukraine, we feel it every single day. As from the day after tomorrow in Liverpool, the G-7 foreign development ministers will dwell upon the fate of the world. And intellectual marathon that will be continued next week in Brussels when EU foreign ministers will meet for their gathering before EU leaders to sit on the table of the summit of European Council. Ukraine definitely will be among the key issues.
And this is my first answer to the question why my country matters. My second answer would be as follows: If there is a place on the Earth where the most furious and violent competition between democracy and autocracy is, this place is Ukraine. Should Ukraine withstand, democracy will outline the future of our region for long. And vice versa, unfortunately. Should democracy withstand in our region, it will be a strong message to others, and vice versa, unfortunately. It is not by coincidence that Putin masses his troops along Ukraine’s border.
They are not without purpose. They are to stop Ukraine progress. They are there to halt Ukraine’s rapprochement for collective West, and to display the limits of Western soft power, weakness of democracy. And Putin’s regime is so outdated that it wants to drag the whole world into medieval. Russia feels so uncomfortable to live up to rules, good neighbor relations, no changes of border by force, no recourse to brutal force. And when Kremlin cannot catch up with something like progress, it tends to bring it all down and to destroy it, thus get equal.
To put even more fuel in the fire of our discussion, let me draw your attention to the fact that many ignore or disregard. Putin needs Ukraine. He dreams of Ukraine as nobody else on the Earth, as if there were no life for Russia without Ukraine. And to sum up, I cannot but agree with the State Secretary Blinken that today we are talking not only about Ukraine. It is much bigger. It is about basic principle of the rule-based order. Nobody has the right to change the borders by force. Nobody has the right to dictate others their sovereign choices and with whom to associate. If there is impunity for their aggression, it will be undermining the international order. Fight for Ukraine is a fight for democracy and a fight for the free world, the values we love.
And I want to, again, thank you, Charles, thank all of you for your attention. And I am ready for your question.
KUPCHAN: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Let me stay on the near-term for a moment and ask you to comment a little bit on the nature of the response from the United States and its EU partners. We know that very serious economic sanctions are being readied. One hears talk potentially removing Russia from SWIFT should Russia intervene in Ukraine. We hear talk also of taking Nord Stream 2 off the table. In other words, some very serious economic pushback against a possible Russian intervention.
Two questions for you: One, are there additional steps that you believe should be on the table and should be taking place right now? And, number two, Putin seems to be quite concerned about the whole question of NATO membership. On the one hand, he’s asking for guarantees that Ukraine won’t be in NATO. President Biden and his colleagues in Europe, of course, are not giving those guarantees. On the other hand, there isn’t a prospect of near-term membership. Where do you think there might be some common ground, some language that NATO, Ukraine, and Russia can find agreement on? Does such common ground exist or are we going to simply learn to agree to disagree on this front?
POROSHENKO: Thank you very much, indeed, Charles. And I want to ask—I want to thank you and, please, United States, Great Britain, France, other members of European Union, for the quick and reliable response on the Putin aggression. And if you ask me what Ukraine needs now in this situation, my answer would be that definitely we need five main points. Point number one—and I united the answer on both of your question, because the answer is similar.
Point number one, most urgent, sanctions. And sanctions I need not after but before worst happen. It is important to present a potential set of the sanction from the hell against Russia before the invasion. The cost of further aggression must be unbearable.
And strategic decision on Ukraine in the EU, that would be point number two, the membership action plan to—which should be presented to Ukraine as a powerful stimulus for the Euro-Atlantic integration for Ukraine and a decisive answer to Putin.
So number one is sanctions, and sanctions should be not under the table. Sanctions should be on the table. And with this situation, Putin should have no any illusion that it would be very next moment after the second stage of the aggression, the sanction should be implemented in the same day. Definitely SWIFT. Definitely financial sanction. Definitely stop buying Russian gas. Definitely in the oil and gas section. Definitely the sectoral sanction. Definitely individual sanction. And definitely security sanction. This is just to deliver the very high price Putin pay for his crazy step. He make a further step after this step of the illegal annexation of the Crimea and the aggression against my nation on the year 2014, when I have an honor to be—was the president of Ukraine.
So membership action plan. That would be the answer on Putin initiative to—which we called as instead of the fact that no Ukraine in NATO. When Putin fight for Ukraine in future NATO membership. Now he change the tape and said no NATO in Ukraine, that even our effective cooperation with the NATO member states to rise up not only Ukraine, but the European and global security—Putin tried to stop us. So sanctions. Membership action plan.
Point number three, Nord Stream 2. Not after, but now. Because if anybody will introduce the sanction on Nord Stream 2 when Nord Stream 2 would be certified, when Nord Stream 2 would be already in use, that is definitely impossible. This is the stimulation of launching Nord Stream 2 will invite Russia for even more aggression. Everybody should understand that. Because definitely will Putin attack the existing gas transportation system in the case when Nord Stream 2 would be enforced. So Nord Stream 2, we should not allow Putin to erode the European solidarity, to undermine the European unity, and not allow Putin to win this battle.
And point number four, this is the immediate supply to Ukraine, their defensive lethal weapons. Yesterday I published my article and said that it can be similar, like a land lease to program from the times of the World War II. And I definitely think that it is absolutely necessary to provide us with the Afghan-designated weapons and system, preventing us for giving Putin any hopes to attack Ukraine. Definitely we need anti-aircraft missiles. Definitely we need the radio warfare system, confidential communications system, strike drones, and many, many other things, just to increase the price for Putin for this crazy decision.
And point number five, this is the powerful stimulus for the Ukrainian reform for Ukrainian European integration, for Ukrainian Euro-Atlantic integration, and for not—for the resilience of Ukraine in the security matter. And with this situation, strengthening resilience for the democratic reforms, the implementation of association agreement, respect, rule of law, human rights, efficient democratic institution, judicial anti-corruption reform—these are the key areas of reform. And definitely, believe me, this is Putin’s greatest nightmare, is a democratic prosperous and successful Ukraine, as an example for all people of former Soviet Union. A European Ukraine is a key to defuse Russian near-imperialism, and to prove the success of EU transformation power.
KUPCHAN: Thank you for that comprehensive answer. One issue that hasn’t come up yet in our conversation is Minsk, and the Minsk process. Partly because we’re in the midst of a military crisis and we’re not in diplomacy mode at this point. But could you share with us your thoughts on whether Minsk is still alive? Let’s say that Putin does agree to deescalate, we see troops go away from the border in the coming months, do you think that Minsk remains a viable framework for dealing with the Donbas? And what steps do you think are important next steps to try to push the conflict in the direction of de-escalation and diplomatic resolution, either through Minsk or through some kind of alternative?
POROSHENKO: My answer would be the following: So mainly Minsk is not the best things. But unfortunately, there is not existing anything better. On the way ahead, the peace process, the implementation of Minsk agreement based on the principle that everybody should learn and understand and remember. Principle is security first. The key focus on the reactivation of the Normandy format is Minsk. Engagement of the U.S., including through the special envoy which should be representing the U.S. president and appointed by the State Department. Deployment—and this is extremely important—deployment of the United Nation peacekeepers in their controlled part of the Donbas, including the state border.
This is the next—would be the points of the Minsk agreement. Point number—point number one, a comprehensive ceasefire. Point number two, the release of the whole hostages. Point number three, disarmed of all illegal armed formation. Point number four, withdrawal of all the foreign troops. Point number five, withdraw the heavy artillery and weapons, and tanks, and all personnel carriers. Everything is clear. And all of this is responsibility of Russia. And I am absolutely clear that additional supplements, which would be very efficient, would be security guarantee for Ukraine, including—definitely including the future NATO membership.
And all these things is that Ukraine has fully implemented every tiny thing we promise. And now the whole responsibility on that is on Russian side. And the sanction policy is based on the fact that Russia do not implement Minsk agreement. And with this situation, definitely, I think this is of crucial importance, that President Biden, Undersecretary Nuland, and Secretary Blinken especially mentioned the importance of Minsk agreement, and the message that this is Russia who is not implementing them, to have full responsibility for the rising of the temperature. And with these things we should remember, no political part of the Minsk would be implemented until we should implement the principle, security first.
And I have absolutely confident and very much happy that our approach is absolutely the same with the very important friend of Ukraine, President Biden, who know exactly—who is one of the best specialists on the Ukrainian security situation. Toria Nuland, who is—know exactly what’s happening in Ukraine. And Secretary Blinken, who were our guests, I had a very productive meeting with him. And this is vital that this powerful team is sending yesterday the message during the phone conversation to Putin. Putin was not successful in playing the bad cards among these powerful team, definitely.
KUPCHAN: Let me follow up on the issue of Minsk and ask for your personal insights into the sincerity of the Russian side. In the sense that, you know you started off with a good relationship, or a working relationship with Mr. Putin, as did Mr. Zelensky when he took office. Then the conversation became more difficult. Now it looks like Putin seems to be raising the temperature, possibly considering a major invasion of Ukraine. Which would be very costly not just for Ukraine, but for Russia.
Is it your assessment of Mr. Putin that there is a—there is a way out? That is to say that he, in the end of the day, could be willing to deescalate, to try to avoid military confrontation? And if so, what do you think his bottom line is? Let’s say that we can implement a security first strategy, that is Ukraine gets the pull back, Ukraine gets some peace—some peacekeepers. If that were to happen, do you think autonomy, some local elections in Donbas, is this enough for Putin? What’s he looking for? What’s his bottom line?
POROSHENKO: Thank you very much for this absolutely great question. And I know Putin for many, many years. Our first meeting was in year 2003 or—and 2004. In 2005, I was with a visit in Kremlin. And I can assure you that Putin in year 2000 and Putin in year 2014, this is completely two different person. I just want to remind you that I was elected to the president when the all Crimea and all Donbas was occupied. And I start with the ceasefire—unilateral ceasefire. When giving Putin the opportunity to withdraw his troops from my territory. And we waited seven long days. When Ukrainian soldiers went under the fire of Russian troops and keeping the promises that demanding for the Russians to withdraw the troops.
And only after ten days I give an order to organize the counterattack and release two-third of the occupied Donbas. And then Putin simply increased their volume of Russian presence since the middle of August, and we take as prisoners of war many, many dozens—hundreds of Russian paratroopers on Ukrainian land. And definitely that was not a good relationship with that seize because we have absolutely clear experience. Point number one, don’t trust Putin. Don’t underestimate Putin. Don’t try to reach an agreement, because Putin consider your readiness for compromise as a weakness and go as far as anybody allows them to go.
But at the same time, please don’t be afraid of Putin. Don’t be afraid of Putin, because with this situation only unity, solidarity, and strength can stop Putin the same way like we stop Putin aggression in the year 2014-2015, with the great assistance of the whole free world, creating the global coalition to support Ukraine. And Putin’s greatest weakness is about him thinking in terms of sphere of interest. No openness. No fair competition. He wants a space of influence. This is his dream. He hate an idea just to have the Crimea only or just the Donbas only. He need even now the whole Ukraine. He want to renew the Yalta and the sphere of Russian influence on Yalta borders.
And I think that this is the Putin redlines. Putin sees the red lines in the logic of the Cold War. You remember, at that time the size of the Putin dream, the territory of his influence, territory he control. He doesn’t see the redlines in human rights, in democracy, in the rule or law, or in the good neighbor relation. Landgrabs from neighboring countries, this is the Putin logic. All these easily violate at home, and in international relation. And, by the way, as to the Black Sea, this—and Azov Sea, this is definitely not the internal lakes of Russia. So other countries are welcome to navigate based on the law of the sea. But however Putin wish to have the Black Sea be a Russian-exclusive lake, as he tries doing now, closing by the Kerch Strait with the Azov Sea. And I want to assure you, we Ukrainian shall not allow him doing that. We, the people of the world, should not allow Putin to do that. This is extremely important.
KUPCHAN: Let me raise two final issues, and then I’m going to open it up to our participants. And so I would invite those of you on the call to use the “raise hand” function to get in the queue.
Mr. President, could you comment on the following two issues? One is, bringing China into the conversation. Do you think that Putin’s partnership with China has emboldened him? It’s clear that his economic linkages to China, to some extent, have enabled him to withstand the pressure of sanctions. Is China playing any role in the diplomacy, in the conversation? Are you having contacts with Chinese officials on this issue? And then, could you say a quick word about domestic reform? Ukraine seems to take two steps forward, one step back on this front. Where are we? And what do you think the one or two most important initiatives would be to push Ukraine further down the path of political reform?
POROSHENKO: Thank you very much indeed, Charles, for these two—(laughs)—very important questions. And I want to tell you that during my presidency we were in the constant contact with the—our Chinese partners. And I absolutely confident that—I have several personal tete-a-tete meeting with President Xi. And we—what was our purposes? That taking into account the Chinese permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, we definitely need their acceptance of our demand for the peacekeepers, with the mandate of the Security Council United Nation in Ukraine.
And I was very much happy that at that time—that was happening in the year 2015 and 2016—we have support of all the permanent members, I mean, U.S., China, France, and U.K. And we tried, on the summit of the Normandy format, tried to organize the initiative on Putin. Let Putin explain to the world why he can be against the peacekeepers with the mandate of the Security Council on the occupied territory of Donbas, with the—including the international border between Ukraine and Russia. And Putin understanding that, saying that he was ready at that time to discuss the question for the peacekeepers.
I think now is absolutely right time, as an initiative for the stabilization of the situation, to renew the dialogue for necessity for peacekeepers on the occupied territory of Ukraine. And definitely we should speak with China for not using the veto right on this important decision. And I think, switching back to the reforms, I am absolutely convinced that the critical attention should be paid to supporting reform in Ukraine. Not allowed to—now to do a backslide of the reform which was introduced and implemented and huge reform implemented by my team, because I was proud that the whole international partners, all the international organizations—starting from the World Bank and finishing with the IMF, starting with NATO and finishing with the OECD—saying that during the five years of my mandate we do more reform than the thirty years of Ukrainian existence.
And definitely great achievement is created of the Ukrainian anticorruption institution, including the National Anticorruption Bureau, the Anticorruption Court, Anticorruption Agency. We was very proud to introduce the energy independence, including the independence of gas, electricity, and coal from Russia. We’re talking about corporate governance. We’re talking about reform of the public service. Talking about reform of the decentralization. And many, many other things will help us to rise from 153rd to the 65th place in the rating of doing business at that time.
And the progress in the reform in Ukraine would stand as an example for others in the region. And this is the reason why Russia hates Ukrainian progress in democracy and the rule of law over the period from the year 2014 through now. Russia’s ambition is to display Ukraine as a failed state. And we don’t—we shouldn’t allow them to do that. And by doing so, to undermine reforms, to prove that the transformation are worthless, and they lead only to poverty and decay. Stakes on reform in Ukraine are, thus, very high. And our partnership in the collective West shall not lower the ambition.
And significant stimulus of this reform should be membership action plan, should be carrot for all Ukrainian, for going decisively in the short period of time to change our nation, to change our country. And the significant part of the membership action plan reform would be that Ukraine reach the Copenhagen criteria. Copenhagen criteria for membership in the European Union. This is the democracy. This is the rule of law. This is the human rights. This is the freedom of press. This is the—all the basic values which keep Western world together.
And believe me, I want to thank Mr. Putin that in the year 2013, before my presidency, the number of Ukrainian who support the membership of Ukraine in NATO was 16 percent. Today, it’s 68 percent. And this is the biggest transformation any nation had. And the same situation is the European Union membership. And another important issue which now is vital for us, to stay democratic and not to go to the dictatorship. Not allow Ukrainian authority for politically motivated prosecution, which we unfortunately have now. And not allow us to track to the autocracy, to the absolute power. There is some temptation as regards this trend. And we should keep resilience about the construction of the strong vertical power for President Zelensky in Ukraine to prevent the temptation of dictatorship.
And this is another important reason to grant us the membership action plan and to be our partners, from European Union, from the United States, to be more actively involved in the reform agenda. We must do in the nearest future. And we must avert recent trend for pressure against free media in Ukraine. And, again, the political opponents should not be under the pressure of Zelensky. No déjà vu for Yanukovych time, because everybody remember what would be the end of Yanukovych. And if that’s happened, Russia will applaud that Ukraine turned on the sleepy road of authoritarianism. And I am proud being the leader of Ukrainian opposition, and being the fifth president of Ukraine, that we have a strong support of the people for our reform agenda and for our political program.
KUPCHAN: Let me just offer one comment, and then I’m going to open it up to our—to our audience. I think you’re right to point out that to some extent we have Putin to thank for unifying the Ukrainian public and giving it the strong Western orientation, in addition to your leadership. And what puzzles me so much about what he’s doing today is that how can he think he can bring Ukraine back by using more military force? Given that the first time he tried that all he did was create more—a more unified Ukrainian populace? So I have a hard time figuring out what he’s up to. And I hear the same thing coming from you.
In any case, Kayla, I’m going to ask you to jump in here and could you please bring questions in from our guests on the call? Over to you, Kayla.
OPERATOR: Thank you.
(Gives queuing instructions.)
We’ll take the first question from Victoria Hui. Victoria, can you hear us?
Q: So I’m—hello?
KUPCHAN: Yes. We can hear you.
Q: Yeah. So I’m actually sorry that it’s actually the button got pushed by mistake. But then it is great because I think—I just want to ask about, you know, very often people will say that sanctions don’t matter. For example, all these sanctions imposed on China and Hong Kong officials have not really amounted to anything. So in the case of Ukraine, the one you said apparently then you’re advocating for sanctions across all sectors, not just on Putin and the Kremlin, but even using SWIFT code. But isn’t the SWIFT code kind of, like, a nuclear option, that people talk about doing the same to China and Hong Kong, but then they said don’t do that because, essentially, you’re just going to encourage a—kind of, like, a movement away from the U.S. dollar-dominated global order. What would you say to that? Thank you.
POROSHENKO: Thank you very much, Victoria, for this question. My answer would be the following: Please don’t believe anybody who said that the sanction policy is inefficient. You should just check the figures of Russia. The average salary, the GDP growth for the eight since Russian aggression against Ukraine launched, Russia do not have an economic growth. For the eight years, Russian spending a huge amount of money for nothing, just for keeping the military power and occupational power in the Crimea and the Donbas. Russia has stopped the technological progress. Russia industrial output has fallen. And Putin paid a huge price. And this is very painful for Russia. And that’s why the main purpose of Putin, why he make—why he’s doing this rising up temperature and movement of his troops alongside of our—of our border? Because he think that with this model of behavior he would be successful in stopping sanctions.
In April, when it happened, what Putin considers his own achievement, point number one, he think that he renew the dialogue with the leadership of United States. He hope that position of United States would be softer. And this is not happening. Point number two, he expecting the green light on the Nord Stream 2. And we shouldn’t allow them to reach this—his purpose. Point number three, that was the green light he expected for making annexation of Belorussia, when it would be Belorussia failed the test on the free and fair election in August last year. And now, unfortunately, we do not have a sovereign and independent Belorussia. They are under Russian occupation. And this is extremely important for Ukraine because we simply have a 1,100-kilometers-long Ukraine and Russian border, which is increasing the danger for the potential place wherefrom where can have a Russian attack.
Europe is also paying a very high price, since the Putin illegal annexation of the Belorussia, because the migration crisis in year 2015, which Putin hopes to disintegrate Europe, to ruin the unity if Europe, was because of the Russian intervention to Syria. But the migration crisis in year 2021 on the border with Estonia, Lithuania, Poland—this was initiated not by Belorussia. Belorussia was just an instrument. Lukashenko was just an instrument. The full responsibility for that is the one single person. And the name of this person is Putin. With this situation, the only things Putin wants is just a discussion, a blah, blah, blah. OK, sanction is not efficient. Let’s stop it. Please do not believe Putin. Do not trust Putin. And we should stop Putin.
The only way how we should act is just to have a hell sanction against Russia on the table. And I just want to assure you, Putin afraid of sanction. And sanction is an efficient instrument of that. And the more agreed position of the whole world would be on sanction. The more efficient would be the policy for stopping Russian aggression, no matter if you’re talking about aggression in Ukraine, because this is the part of the hybrid war. Nobody knows what’s happened tomorrow on the Russian-Lithuanian, on the Belorussian-Estonian border, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Who knows where next day Putin switch and make a decision to attack? The only thing that can stop Putin, this is the policy of strength of the whole world. Believe me, this is efficient.
OPERATOR: We’ll take our next question from Jeff Pryce.
Q: Thanks. I had two questions, one about the Budapest Memorandum and the other about President Putin’s recent article.
First, in 1994 Boris Yeltsin, on connection with the giving up—Ukraine giving up basically the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal, promised to respect the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine and not to engage in the use of force. That was made in writing. And I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that.
And second, President Putin recently published an interesting article about the unity of Ukrainian and Russian people. And I was wondering your thoughts on that one as well.
POROSHENKO: Thank you very much, Jeff, for this question. My answer would be very simple: If Putin now demand from the free world, from NATO, from the American President Biden the written guarantee for not expanding the NATO on the east, mentioning some miracle from the West which is not existing, I just want to remind Putin that Ukraine, not Russia, has a written guarantee in form of the Budapest Memorandum for our sovereignty, for our territorial integrity, for our independence, and for the military assistance if we will have aggression against our nation. And this military guarantee is unfortunately live on paper in the year 2014. And the only way how we can provide the security guarantee for Ukraine is membership action plan to NATO.
Because Ukraine are fighting, again, not only for our independence within territorial integrity and sovereignty. We’re fighting for the democracy. We’re fighting for freedom. And we’re fighting on the eastern flank of NATO. And Ukrainian Army, which—and I’m proud that it was reborn, renewed by my team—and today is one of the most efficient and one of the most strongest army on the continent, having a unique experience for how to protect and defend our territory from Russian troops. And we’re having a very positive experience with—to exchange this knowledge with our NATO partners.
That definitely—the membership action plan would be definitely win-win form of cooperation. And the arguments for the international law, why Ukraine has a right to pretend to be a NATO membership member states, would be the Budapest Memorandum, which you, Jeff, mentioned. Because at that time Ukraine was one of the only few nation who was voluntarily rejected from the nuclear weapons, hoping to make world safer. Unfortunately, Putin used the absence or non-nuclear status of Ukraine for their aggression. And we need now the assistance. And, again, we don’t need NATO soldiers on the front line. Ukraine are capable to protect our land by ourselves.
And the day after tomorrow I plan to visit the front line. And I plan to deliver on the—one of the brigade the state of the art video surveillance for saving the life of Ukrainian soldiers. And this—but what we definitely need? We need the defensive weapons, including defensive lethal weapons, which are not a danger for anybody outside of the border of Ukraine, but definitely increase the price for the aggressor if they make a decision to continue the aggression against our nation. So Budapest Memorandum, let’s consider them not only the paper but as an international documents, international guarantee for the security and peace in Europe.
OPERATOR: (Gives queuing instructions.)
We’ll take our next question from Hani Findakly.
Q: Thank you very much. And thank you for this very good discussion.
Following up on your comments about Russia’s economy and its dependence on the oil sector. And the last numbers I saw is that Russia depends about 60 percent of its oil export for its entire export sector, and almost a third of its economy is driven by oil. And I’m just wondering whether you believe the last few months increase in oil prices, roughly about 40 percent increase, which was not driven by any economic factors such as increased demand but by sheer speculation. And I’m wondering whether you think that speculation has helped strengthen Russia’s economy and Putin’s hands. And to what extent do you think the United States and Western countries could do to make such speculation against the national interests?
POROSHENKO: Hani, this is absolutely great question. And you are absolutely right that from 20 to 30 percent, this is the oil price growing. And we should analyze the fact that who driving this trend. But I want to give you even more dramatic example. This is the spot natural gas prices in Europe. Can you imagine that only this spring the price for the gas was just about $200-250 per one thousand cubic meters and today this is six time—600 percent—higher. And all profit received, received by Russia and by Putin. Why it’s happened? Because this was started, a very dangerous game playing by Putin with the Nord Stream 2. This is the Putin—how Putin blackmailing the whole European nation. And I consider that as one of the most efficient elements of the hybrid war with Russia. This is just to demonstrate how fragile is the energy security of Europe.
And I am absolutely confident that the Putin, the weaponizing the energy matter make impression that Europe paying for gas unfair and un-market price. Can you imagine that in Serbia, for example, they pay 250, and in many European nations they pay more than one thousand. And with this situation definitely, how we can protect energy security in Europe? Only unity and solidarity. And this is the call from Ukraine. We propose our gas transportation system under international management to guarantee that Ukraine is open, Ukraine is transparent. Ukraine is ready to be the part of the energy community in Europe. And this is definitely make much more difficult for Russia to blackmail European energy sector.
And on contrary, if Russia will win the battle for the Nord Stream 2, if Russia will have an opportunity to blackmail Europe, this make Europe weaker. We do not—we should not allow Putin to play in this dangerous game. And, Hani, you are absolutely right that the hybrid war with Russia has a different sector, sector of migrant war, sector of the Russian influence on the election process, sector of Russia attack on democracy, sector of the cyber security, sector of the hot war.
Because I want to say to you, the situation in Ukraine, war in Ukraine, Russian aggression in Ukraine definitely is not the freezing conflict. We have a hot war. We have losses of our soldiers every single day. And killed soldiers and killed civilians every single week or several during the months. And with that situation, we should be united. We should be efficient. We should win this battle. And I am absolutely confident that since yesterday phone conversation on the President Biden, most probably we make one step out from the war and one step out from Putin’s success. And I am very much happy with that.
KUPCHAN: Before you leave this subject, Mr. President, could you say one more word about Europe, given the high levels of dependence on Russian energy? Now you have a new transition, a new government in Germany. Are you getting the support, the solidity that you hoped for from the EU? As you said, you’ve got it here. You have, in Mr. Biden, somebody who’s deeply committed to Ukraine. Have you felt that same level of attention coming from your partners in the EU?
POROSHENKO: Look, I have an absolutely—first of all, I am an optimist because this is impossible, to be the president of the country in a state of war pretending to win the battle to protect your nation and not to be the optimist, because pessimists all the time lose the battle—lose the battle, lost the war. So my main demand to the whole world—to the Europe, to the United States, please, be the optimist.
Point number two, years and years corrupt previous Ukrainian presidents and governments was on hook with Russia because of their Russian gas. I’m proud that I was the first Ukrainian president, together with the governments which represent also my political faction, we introduce in November year 2015 full gas and energy independence from Russia. And since year 2015, our European partner don’t hear one single time the blah, blah, blah that Ukraine steal Russian gas. No. We are—we are a reliable transiter, and we are not buying Russian gas.
And even now I instruct government and I instruct our gas monopolies, Naftogaz, to go with a court claim in the Stockholm arbitrage against Russian Gazprom. And can you imagine, we win the case. And we were one of the first nation who received $4.5 billion, which is illegally stolen by Russian from the Ukrainian state budget. At the end of the day, every single penny from the $4 ½ billion we receive. And this is an example who demonstrate we can win the battle in different sphere, from the energy security in Stockholm arbitrage to the sea security with the Hamburg Tribunal, when Russia attack our navy vessel in the Kerch Strait. From our church independence, when Ukrainian Orthodox Church received the tomes for autocephaly from the—his Bartholomew, the patriarch, and finishing with the independence culture war.
And with this situation, definitely we should fight for our independence. I want to just remind you, in other cases when during the Russian terroristic attack on the MH-17, we was one of the first nations to demonstrate the transparency and to invite the nation who suffered the most in this terroristic attack organized by Russian troops, and maybe approved by Putin, that they would be in the Hague, in the tribunal, and that it would be their responsibility. And another important thing, we were the first nation who used the international court of justice of United Nation, where Russia is a state, be responsible for the response of terrorism and for the abusing the human rights in the occupied Crimea. This is the very wide front for protecting the free world values. And I am proud that for every single step of these things, this is my team, this is—definitely we already win some of this battle. And definitely we are on the right way together with our partners.
And thank you for this support. I want to support every single participant of our conversation. It was almost 200. And I’m really proud that for all over the world we have such a great organizing events. Charles, once again, you’re making great, great, great things.
KUPCHAN: President Poroshenko, thank you so much for taking the time. It’s a pleasure to see you. Stay safe. Best wishes for your country. We’re with you.
POROSHENKO: Great. Thanks all of you. And good luck.
KUPCHAN: Thank you very much, everybody. Bye-bye.