Meeting

A Conversation With Petro Poroshenko

Monday, November 21, 2022
Speaker

Chairman, European Solidarity Party; Former President, Ukraine (2014–2019)

Presider

George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Petro Poroshenko discusses the war in Ukraine, what’s at stake, and prospects for Russia-Ukraine diplomacy. 

TRANSCRIPT:

SESTANOVICH: All right. Good afternoon to everyone. Let’s get started.

I should say by way of introduction that I’m not Angela Stent—(laughter)—who was supposed to be chairing this session, and I think Angela won’t mind if I say she has COVID. So we’re all rooting for her, and I’m trying to do the best I can to fill in for her.

I’m a fellow at the Council, and glad to have all of you here for this discussion, which is a hybrid. We have people in the room and we have a large number of people online as well.

We’re fortunate today to have Petro Poroshenko as our speaker. He is known to all of you as the former president of Ukraine and now the—a prominent politician, a member of parliament, and a—the kind of lead speaker at the Halifax Security Forum, which he’s just joined us from after having all of his flights from Canada to Washington canceled last night.

So we’re going to be giving President Poroshenko special consideration for having had one hour of sleep last night.

I should say that our discussion today is on the record. We are going to begin with a conversation here among the two of us—between the two of us—and then open the discussion to members present and online.

Mr. President, I wonder whether we could begin just by trying to capture the state of the war. Russia seems to have a new strategy, which is to punish Ukraine with as much destruction to civilian infrastructure as possible—make the winter cold and dark—while also talking about negotiations. I would say it seems as though the goal is to divide Ukraine—divide Ukrainians amongst themselves, divide Ukraine from its allies.

So far this year, the unity of Ukrainians has impressed the world and we have to acknowledge that it is, I think—probably admit that it has astonished the Russians. But they have a strategy now to break that unity.

Can you give us your assessment of how you think this strategy will work?

POROSHENKO: First of all, I want to thank Steve, all the Foreign Relation Council, distinguished audience, for the invitation, for being shoulder to shoulder with us in our war for freedom, for democracy, against mad maniac Putin.

And I want to start to call you to pay tribute to Ukrainian soldiers, Ukrainian armed forces, Ukrainian officers, generals, leading by the iron General Zaluzhnyi, who surprised the world, who stop and threw Russian away from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, a few weeks ago from Kharkiv, a few days ago from Kherson. They are all hero. And the whole world should know, despite of the all price we pay, that they are one of the most efficient, the—one of the most strong army in the world.

I want to pay tribute also to the United States, the great leadership of the President Biden. I feel his shoulder of vice president for five years of my presidency, decisive, patient, and they ruined scenario of Putin because I don’t know why Putin think that after withdrawal from Afghanistan we can think that only dictatorship can control the world. That’s why this is another message why we fighting for freedom and democracy. But together, through the U.S. Congress, for the right bipartisan—you need bipartisan overwhelming support Ukraine feel for the nine years. It’s extremely important and for the American people. Definitely that the cooperation between Ukraine and U.S., Ukraine and NATO, is bringing the very important results.

Now, is it possible to avoid the war? What Steve said one year ago on Halifax Security Forum, I send a message. We need sanction and weapons, and that definitely help to avoid. Today, I can repeat that better to listening one year ago, but today we need minimum three things. This is the weapons, sanction and embargo, and NATO membership for Ukraine.

I think we should withdraw from Putin two important thing. No any nation in the world has a right to define the future of other sovereign nation and it is unacceptable to change the border by force—border of other sovereign nation. And with that situation, what was the plan of Putin, not only now, in the year 2014?

You remember the great project of Putin, which named Novorossiya. What was Novorossiya? To divide Ukraine by two, to present it that two eastern region of Ukraine would be part of Russia and the rest he give to Poland.

What was the real purpose? Why it is so difficult to imagine the—Putin’s constructive approach? Why it’s so difficult to find out the compromise? Where is it?

Putin want to kill us. Putin, personally, want to kill me. Putin want to kill all Ukrainians—ladies, children, elderly people. That’s why he doing a genocide against Ukrainian. And we just want to live.

How to find out a compromise in this situation? Putin want to wipe Ukraine from the world map, and we want to live in our one-thousand-year-history country, returning—and I’m proud that me as the president launching this process—returning it back to the European families. And that’s why he want to divide us then and that’s why he has a plan to divide us now.

But we give him surprise, and in the first moment of the war, first day after two hours when the first missiles come two kilometers from my house and destroy a significant number of the object, we met with Zelensky and I said, I’m not anymore the leader of the opposition. Both of us are soldiers who need to protect Ukraine.

This is not giving the Putin even tiny chance to realize this scenario for undermine the stability from inside and this is the unity which surprised the world. And now, what Steve said, why—what is the position for the negotiation? This is quite a popular word. For the compromise, I said.

But for negotiation please imagine how Ukrainian understand negotiation. Use it in your own house. The killer come to your house and kill your wife, rape your daughter, take the second floor. Then open the door from the second floor and said, OK, come here. Let’s have a negotiation how to live further.

What would be your reaction? What is your reaction when we have proposed why don’t we give Crimea to Putin for peace? If American would be asked why don’t you give Alaska? Because Putin consider Alaska as a Russian territory, which never existed.

Therefore, in my position several recommendation from my personal experience to communicate with Putin. Point number one, please don’t trust Putin. When anybody can imagine that this is the—we can create the new agreement which can save the world, I just want to remind you the Ukrainian past—1994 Budapest memorandum when Ukraine voluntarily gave up nuclear weapons in return for security guarantee. 1997, so-called big treaty when Ukraine signed and ratified agreement, receiving in exchange security guarantee from Putin. Even ’19 or even 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreement.

I just want to remind you very shortly what is Minsk. Minsk was guarantee for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, withdrawal all the Russian troops from Ukrainian—this is the phrase with the signature of Putin. Release all the hostages. Withdraw heavy artillery and weapons, everything.

Why was so important to sign at that time the Minsk agreement? Two reason. Again, to demonstrate for the whole world that Putin is a liar and the second position helped me to create armed forces. Because when I was elected as the president we don’t have armed forces at all.

SESTANOVICH: Mr. President, can I pick up on this point? Because what you suggested is that the Minsk agreements were actually useful to Ukraine. They gave you some advantages. And the question now is would any diplomatic forum produce some advantages.

I mention this because, in some ways, Ukraine’s resistance to negotiations is seen by many as putting you on the defensive. You have to explain why you’re against talking. And the Russians are saying, well, we’re only for unconditional talks. That gives them a kind of—you know, at least a public relations advantage.

Is there a way that Ukraine can do better at seizing the advantage on this diplomatic question?

POROSHENKO: First of all, this is misunderstanding. I’m absolutely not against the negotiation. Even more, I am for negotiation. But this negotiation should be providing by the very professional, very efficient, best negotiator, probably, in the world. And we have this negotiator. You know his name? Armed forces of Ukraine. (Laughter.)

They have a brilliant negotiation about the releasing of Kyiv, and Putin said that that was a gesture of the goodwill to withdraw Russian troops from Kyiv. Then brilliant negotiation in Chernihiv, brilliant negotiation in Sumy, in Kherson and Kharkiv. Fifty percent of the occupied territory was released by this negotiator in a short period of time because this is second recommendation, I just want to remind you.

First, don’t trust Putin. Second, don’t be afraid of Putin, please, because if you are afraid Putin go as far as we together allow him to go. And then contrary, if we’d be strong, Ukrainian armed forces, Ukrainian people, American people, because you fully share this success, demonstrate. If we are strong, this is the best form for negotiation.

We are not attacking Putin, by the way. We’re protecting Ukrainian sovereignty, Ukrainian soil. We are not planning to go to Moscow to cross Russian border, or anything like that. Putin will pay already this price because after mobilization, after sanction, all the war come to every Russian family, and please notice how changes the mood in Russia inside.

SESTANOVICH: Let’s talk about what you’re doing here this week. It’s not just to stop on the way back home from Halifax, right. You have a message for the U.S. government, and there have been different signals from different officials within the government that have made some people think that the—it isn’t just journalists and Putin who are talking about negotiations. It’s actually members—senior members of the Biden administration.

And you had General Milley saying things along these lines. You had even the president himself saying them—you know, the Russians and the Ukrainians have to decide whether they want to compromise.

What’s your message? When you’re coming to Washington in this moment, after the midterm elections, with people saying that Republicans are less committed to the defense of Ukraine, whom are you seeing? What’s your message to them?

POROSHENKO: I just commend the last your phrase that either Republican or some radical Democrats are not happy with Ukraine, maybe have Ukrainian fatigue, maybe something like that with that situation.

First of all, I very much respect the choice of American people. We do not have any tiny comments about this choice. But I think this is extremely illustrative that the most radical person who call for stop supporting Ukraine mostly are not in the Congress. And with that situation, I think, this is a very positive result of the

midterm, not because they are in the Congress or not—this is the will of American people—but because the American people support Ukraine, and that—this is the key choice.

If anybody—first of all, my very great respect to the General Milley and they have an extremely good contact with the commander in chief of Ukrainian armed forces, General Zaluzhnyi, and the role for the assistance of U.S. is enormous. And with that situation, my idea you cannot for negotiation which definitely discuss for some American official, I just want to deliver this messages from Ukraine because I’m—every single week I’m on the frontline. This is—I do only three or four for nine months a short foreign trip, but most of the day because of my charity organization trying to supply as much as possible for the armed forces of Ukraine.

But the position of the soldiers on the front they thank American because that was a game changer. The supply of the weapons, supply of the information, the new tactics, which we are presenting since year 2014, because that was a clash between Russian army, who based on the Soviet standard, and Ukrainian army, who was created by me and based on the NATO standard. Not by me. By me and you and Ukrainian people.

Now, with that situation, I think that the answer for negotiation or something would be the following. You cannot find any other nation in the world who want a peace more than we Ukrainian. Simply cannot. But how we can stop the war because negotiation is not for negotiation himself. This is his sense only at the end of the day they have stop the war.

I can propose my plan how to do that.

First, weapons. Please do not think that Ukraine has enough weapons. First of all, weapons is never enough. But now vital is not only tank. Vital is air defense, and we should deliver it to the—and if you’re asking me purpose of my visit, I want to meet with the congressmen, with the Senate, and deliver this information. Meet with the person from the White House, meet with—please, weapons. Top priority. Air defense, because this is the new type of the war, which never happened in the people’s history. This is the war of drone, the war of the long-range and high-accuracy artillery. This is the war of the radio electronic warfare system. This is the war which definitely need the jet fighter.

By the way, I want to remind you tank is the weapons of offensive operation. Jet fighter is weapons for defensive operation. We’re simply trying to stop Russian dominance in the air and we pay for that enormous price. I hope that for the energy we speak later.

So, first from plan, weapons. Second from plan, sanction and embargo. They’re working. Together with the mobilization they definitely make a huge effect inside the Russia and sanctions should be exterritorial. Sanctions should be cap price on oil and gas. Sanctions should be—we ready to present a long list of the new idea for the sanction.

But please do not stop. Weapons, sanction, justice. We should provide the steps. I know, maybe using the mechanism of the United Nation, maybe to create a special tribunal. They should make a decision and moving forward and that—but that should be a responsibility for the war crimes which happened in Bucha, in Chernihiv, in Gove (ph), Gestomalin (ph), Borzil (ph), in Mariupol. Disasters.

The battalion which I was with the weapons in the hands was first who come to Bucha and I see with my own eyes. And, believe me, no TV can give you the impression. Streets full of dead people, legs. Smell. Absolutely irreality how can it happen.

We shouldn’t live like this. We shouldn’t make you the business in Europe and we Ukrainian never accept that. So it should be responsibility for the military crimes, point number three.

Point number four, financial support, support for the critical energy infrastructure, and only then we will speak about how to build new Ukraine. Please, now we need to save Ukraine and then speak about how to build new Ukraine after the victory.

And the fifth—or might be first—NATO membership. Again, there is not existing in the world any other form of the security guarantee except of NATO.

After the war we create Security Council United Nation. When aggressor is a permanent member of the United Nation Security Council with a veto right, it completely destroy the—not only Security Council but all post-war security mechanism which create it and how we can save it? Throw Russian away from Security Council. And with that situation we, Ukrainian, don’t see that, OK, we should speak about the mechanism. Maybe some other. Forget about that.

SESTANOVICH: Mr. President, can I break in on this question of NATO membership?

Because I’ve heard, you’ve heard, how Western officials, including President Biden himself, react when the issue of Ukraine’s membership in NATO comes up. They always have this escape clause. They say, you know, there’s so much corruption in Ukraine, and this gets to the question of the new Ukraine that you talk about building in the future.

But how do you think you can answer that particular concern? You have a lot of experience yourself trying to address that concern among Western governments.

Do you feel that the war puts you in a different position to answer it and how do you think, going forward, Ukrainian leaders will be able to address it?

POROSHENKO: Great question and very important answer.

The war is not the reason to stop the reform, and I’m proud during the most difficult period in the history of my country me and my government was the team who provide more reforming during my term than for the whole history of Ukraine.

What I launched, National Anti-Corruption Bureau, absolutely independent. Members of them were appointed by their—our reputable foreign experts, guaranteed their independence, and they launched cases against ministers, members of parliament, the workers for the presidential administration.

It is not enough because now is a competition for the new director of the—this bureau. But we create a structure which was efficient and which is efficient. Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office, the national anti-corruption agency who first time and first in the world analyzing the declaration.

That’s why, please, stop talking about the narrative everything is corrupt. Corruption is a problem, undoubtedly. We should speak any particular cases. If it is the cases of Kolomoisky, who steal from the state, can you imagine that’s a billion dollar for Ukraine. Why he’s still not in a prison? Right question. And that should be continuously monitoring on that.

So let’s transform from the Putin narrative to the absolutely practical cases demonstrating corruptionists should be in prison but blah, blah, blah should be stopped.

SESTANOVICH: OK. I’m going to recognize people for questions and we’re going to take questions virtually if we have them.

But let’s start right here with the—let me ask people to identify yourselves, name and affiliation. Make your questions brief—

Q: Yes. Right.

SESTANOVICH: —not a speech. And then we’re going to get brief answers, too.

Q: Rob Quartel with NTELX, a technology company.

It would be very hard not to notice that in the list of people you thank you didn’t mention President Zelensky. I think every American looks at Zelensky—

POROSHENKO: Excuse me. Could you be so kind? A little bit louder.

Q: Oh. I said I think—I suspect everyone in here could not miss the fact that you didn’t mention President Zelensky in the people you praised at the beginning. Yet, I would argue that most Americans look at him as having, whatever his past, risen to the occasion.

And I would be very interested in how you grade him and if you have any praise for him.

POROSHENKO: I think, on the contrary, I mentioned that we completely changed the relationship with Zelensky with the first minutes or hours of the war because the key factor for the—for our victory, and you do not find out for the last nine months that I attack Zelensky after victory.

This is extremely important, by the way, that the opposition has a right and opportunity to telling the truth to the people. Otherwise, it would be Putin regime but in Ukraine. No TV, no TV freedom, no rule of law.

No, I don’t like to build up this type of country. This has nothing to do with the democracy, nothing to do with the freedom.

But they want to remind you that Ukrainians fighting for freedom and for democracy—because this is the war, not against Ukraine, please. When you’re listening to Putin, Putin said why we are not successful? Because we are not fighting with Ukraine. We are fighting with the U.S., with the Anglo Sax. I don’t know what he mean. With NATO, and Ukraine just a mechanism in the hands of the—no, we’re fighting for our freedom and for democracy, and we have a very strong motivation of people.

But I promise you after the victory I do my best to protect democracy, to protect the right of the journalists to telling the truth—their version of the truth but keeping the standard. And the politicians should learn how to live in this condition and at the same time not allow Putin to use democratic mechanism to ruin democracy.

This is extremely important, by the way, and that’s why I said that the—our victory would not be only on the battlefield. Our victory would be in the process of de-Putinization of the world. This not means remove Putin. This means that no Russian finance to the political parties throughout the world, to the public activist, to the journalist, to the—many, many others. Because this is not a democracy. This is the step to undermine global democracy. That’s why now top priority learn this word. Unity inside Ukraine and global unity in the world.

SESTANOVICH: Melinda?

Q: Melinda Hearing, Atlantic Council. Glad that you’re here with us.

I’m going to resist the urge. President Poroshenko has been very good since the war started and has not criticized Zelensky. I watch him very carefully and I will tell you, he has been extremely good.

But I hope that you will call out the lack of media freedom. I’m getting really worried about what’s happening in—

POROSHENKO: A little bit louder, please.

Q: I’m so sorry. Is that better?

POROSHENKO: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Q: I hope that even as the war continues that you will use your office to call out the lack of press freedom in Ukraine. It’s getting worse and worse.

But, today, I want to ask you a question. You’re going to see—probably see Mr. Sullivan at the National Security Council, and Mr. Biden. And they keep saying—we keep asking over and over again, please send Ukraine long-range missiles. Over and over again. We’re pushing very hard.

And Mr. Sullivan says over and over again, oh, my God, escalation, escalation, escalation. World War III.

What’s your response to him?

POROSHENKO: I hate the idea to give a response to the National Security Adviser Sullivan but I will happily give it to you—(laughter)—and my answer would be following.

Everybody should understand Ukrainian armed forces, which I created, is extremely responsible armed forces, and with that situation we need long-range missiles just for very one reason—not missile but multi-rocket launch system, long-range artillery, super high accuracy, ammunition, and everything else. Because we use the NATO tactic of the war. We are not killing our soldiers in a(n) assault operation. Why our operation in Kyiv was successful? Because we cut the logistics, and Russian soldiers stay without fuel, without ammunition, and having two choice, either clear out or rise the hands.

Why it’s happened? Because we have the HIMARS, because we have a high-accuracy artillery, and for the distance up to seventy kilometers we destroy Russian ammunition. So storage, oil, and anything else.

And why we need three hundred kilometers range? Not to attack Russia. Forget about that. This is not possible under present condition, no doubt. We need to destroy Russian infrastructure for the longer distance, which make Russian army weaker and that brings to the result that it would be less Ukrainian soldiers giving their lives for our victory. I think very simple explanation to you.

SESTANOVICH: Do we have a virtual question?

Let’s take that one now.

OPERATOR: We’ll take our next question from Ambassador Vershbow.

Q: Thanks very much, Mr. President. It’s great to see you again and—

POROSHENKO: Great to see you, Ambassador.

Q: And good luck in that meeting with Mr. Sullivan. (Laughter.)

But my question relates to your call for Ukrainian NATO membership. I, certainly, am sympathetic to that on a personal basis. But I’m still doubtful that consensus inside NATO is likely, at least in the short term.

But what’s your thought about the idea of a package of guarantees to Ukraine that the allies of Ukraine will supply the necessary arms, training, and equipment for the indefinite future as a way of enabling Ukraine to defend itself?

I’m referring, of course to the Yermak-Rasmussen proposal for a Kyiv security compact. Do you think that’s a viable second best until NATO membership becomes possible?

POROSHENKO: Alexander, this is the very easy question. Could you tell me is it possible security guarantee without the United States? Imagine. Answer is clear. No.

Frankly speaking, that the security guarantee of the United States and security guarantee of NATO is different. Answer. No.

What is the problem now? Position of all 30 member states. I just want to remind you that when we start our work for the candidacy status for the European Union, I have the same type of the discussion. Half of the member states of European Union is against.

One month before that they said at least five countries is completely against. Please work with these countries because this is not a gesture, not a gift to Ukraine. Please learn that.

This is the investment in your own security to those nations, to those member states who given us the permission. Why? Because let me explain you that today from Russia Eastern Europe is protected not by Article 5 of NATO.

Today, Eastern Europe is protected by blue and yellow flag of Ukrainian armed forces and we’re doing your job.

We are not against. Please help us doing your job, and consider the—not permission but invitation Ukraine in NATO is investment in your security.

Could you explain me why, if Sweden, democratic nation on the north, consider that they cannot guarantee their own security without NATO and this is accepted?

If Finland said that without NATO having such a neighbor like Russia not possible to cede—to protect the nation. If you see the opinion poll in Finland or in Sweden, one year ago 60 percent was against. Now all have a majority.

When I was elected as president, do you now how many percent of Ukrainians support NATO integration? Sixteen—one-six.

When I finished my term, when I changed the constitution, do you know how many percent of Ukrainians support the NATO integration? Sixty-eight and a half. And this is not because of me, which I am a supporter, promoter, propagandist NATO.

The best supporter propagandist of NATO, you know, his name is Mr. Vladimir Putin. He find out and arguments for Sweden, find out the arguments for Finland, find out and arguments for Ukraine. That’s why. Please, don’t try to find out any different (front of ?) mechanism.

We have one problem need to be solved. This is the unity of NATO, and we have more than enough arguments to reach this result. The only thing is let’s start work on that. Let’s start on work with the Congress, with the Senate.

Explain in there because they are definitely for our—they are definitely for democracy. They are definitely for freedom. We just understand that after Putin ruined every other mechanism simply not existing in the world, mechanism can protect the security of the world.

SESTANOVICH: OK. Here. Let me see your—the hands of other people who—

Q: Jim Slattery. Mr. President, good to see you.

POROSHENKO: Good to see you, too.

Q: I’m curious—several quick things.

What can we expect from Belarus in the months ahead, and can you give us an update on the energy situation and the grain shipment situation? Just an update.

POROSHENKO: From Belarus—Belarus now—no, Lukashenko now is military criminal and he is a dictator, move Belarus to very dangerous alliance because now we have fighting with three nations—with Russia, with Belarus, and with Iran—all of them attacking us, not only because Russian missiles killing Ukrainians from Belarusian territory but Belarus promised me many times—Lukashenko—that not possible that the Russian soldiers from Belarusian territory come to Ukraine.

Within a very short period of time, a little bit more than one day, Russian soldiers was on the street of my Kyiv.

With that situation, I think, now, when the Belarusian people see the results of Russian mobilization, how many fresh mobilized Russian boys were killed on this war, nobody has any illusion about what will be the result of participation of Belorussia. We are not afraid of Belorussia. We have a strong army and we know what to do.

Yesterday, I met with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Halifax and my idea is the following. We should do our best that Belarusian people do not accept any order of the Belarusian dictator. I think this is possible. I’m not sure about Russia but in Belorussia this is possible with the—but if anything happened we know how to act together with our partners.

For the energy, this is just a symbol, not only the result that Putin defeated on the battlefield. He don’t know what to do with Ukrainian armed forces because Iranian drone Shahed is not efficient against army.

They have only one purpose, attack of the civilian object, object of the critical energy infrastructure. And he think that the attack of Ukrainian energy infrastructure will bring him the victory.

But Ukraine is different from Russia. If Russia under the pressure, under mobilization, they flee the country and we go to enlist in the army.

If they attack on the critical infrastructure, Russia afraid we start to be even more united, and with that situation, I think, answer is the following s

not trade freedom and democracy for electricity, oil, and gas, and for us, better to live in the cold and in the dark than to be a slave.

That’s why Putin has not any tiny chance to win this blackmail because this is the Putin policy. Please recognize that. That he’s blackmailing European Union with the refugee crisis who was organized by him and by Lukashenko. We remember that. Plus, he’s blackmailing Europe and the world with the oil crisis, with the gas crisis, with the electricity crisis, with starvation crisis by blocking Ukrainian Black Sea port and others. The reaction of the world should be: Mr. Putin, this, your instrument, are not efficient anymore.

Why? Because we learned the lesson. Please don’t be afraid of Putin. And we simply take Putin instruments when he tried to weaponize oil, gas, grain, refugee, and war, including Iranian Shahed.

Q: Grain situation?

POROSHENKO: The grain situation, I think, that as a transition period that’s acceptable. And, by the way, I want to respect position of the Antόnio Guterres, my friend, and the efficiency of the—(inaudible).

But this is temporary. We cannot accept that. We do great results with the naval artillery of Ukraine, and I’m proud that I was one of the person who stand when we start to develop the Neptune cruise missiles who attack Russian flagship of the Black Sea Fleet and he goes following the Russky Carabara (ph). Now, even equipped with the Kalibr missile, Russian ships afraid to leave Sevastopol.

What would be the next step? If Russia do not stop blocking ports, not just the grain, why? If Russia do not stop blocking ports, the world should block any vessels who deliver Russian export product, no matter if it is wood, coal, or something. That would be the step when Putin understand. This is the position of strength.

Does it be capable to do that? Definitely yes.

But this is just an idea because sanctions should be developed.

SESTANOVICH: Liana?

Q: Thank you, Mr. Poroshenko. Liana Fix of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Let me come back to the question of the end game because there seems to be a lot of unity among Western allies on the idea of pushing Russia back and probably pushing Russia back to the pre-February 24 lines.

But there might be less unity on Ukraine regaining Crimea territory. There might be some feeling of not be—of seeing the risk of that and not feeling comfortable with a Ukrainian military takeover of Crimea and a liberation of Crimea.

How would you respond to these voices who fear that Ukraine might at some point advance on Crimea and fear the escalation risks with Russia, which are there in the Western alliance?

POROSHENKO: Again, this is not my answer. This is the answer of the armed forces of Ukraine.

If you’re listening, the chief of—I don’t know his position—chief of the secretariat of the Putin Yedinaya Rossiya Party when he come to Kupyansk and to Balokayaev (ph) and said Russia here forever. Answer of the armed forces was give a gesture of the goodwill and get out of here.

Then they think, OK, we use a different scenario. We provide fake referendum with our people Crimean style and said this is the territory of Russia. Big huge celebration with Putin participation. Bravo. The only regional center of Ukraine after 24th of February, Kherson, was captured. This is the Russian territory and if anybody even tried to think about to liberate the Kherson we destroy them.

What was the reaction of the armed forces of Ukraine? We go and liberate Kherson—as Putin said, Russian Kherson. What Putin can do? Nothing. That situation—please, weapons, embargo, sanction, money, and the justice for Putin, and NATO.

Believe me, this is not because I want to promote NATO. This is the important mechanism who then secure the global security. If you want to—the precondition for launching this negotiation with Putin should be withdraw his objection on Ukrainian membership in NATO.

That will be significantly softening the position of some member states who now, again, say, now, let’s not irritate Putin. This is dangerous.

Completely wrong position. It’s impossible to irritate Putin more that was done by Ukrainian armed forces.

As a compromise—I hate the word compromise but I’m former minister of foreign affairs and being here in the Council on Foreign Relation—compromise can be. This is not my position but I think that this can be. When the security guarantee of the Article 5 would be on the controlled territory of Ukraine—of Ukrainian government now.

That will be because, otherwise, that would be not a peace. That would be a ceasefire who give to Putin possibility to do exactly the same what he do after year 2008 in Georgia, to do exactly the same what to do after year 2015—’14 and ’15.

Then it will be Syria. Then it would—who knows where tomorrow appeared mad maniac Putin giving the order to Russian troops.

SESTANOVICH: OK. We have another question online.

OPERATOR: We’ll take our next question from Lawrence Silverman.

Please accept the unmute.

(No response.)

Go ahead, Ambassador Silverman.

(No response.)

I’m sorry about that. We’ll take our next question from Susan Schultz.

(No response.)

SESTANOVICH: The three most common words in the pandemic, Susan, are you’re on mute. (Laughter.)

OK.

OPERATOR: We’ll move on.

SESTANOVICH: All right. Questions from our audience then. (Laughs.)

Ariel? You’re not on mute, Ariel. Go ahead.

Q: I’m not on mute. Wonderful to see you here, sir.

As someone who was born in the currently occupied territory of Ukraine, I am extremely proud of the Ukrainian people and the armed forces. It’s amazing what people are doing.

My question is that of timelines. Ukraine is, population wise, more than three times smaller than Russia, industry wise, somewhat smaller—considerably smaller. But, of course, Ukraine gets more Western assistance.

Do you think that Ukraine can sustain this effort with the successes we’ve seen now through the winter, through the next spring, and possibly through next summer? And if so, can Ukraine increase its military production?

You talked about long-range missiles. Ukraine has an amazing military industrial complex.

Could Ukraine get, for example, components that are necessary to build this missile—these missiles in Ukraine and possibly—sorry—other anti-aircraft and other systems?

So it’s a matter of stamina, resilience, and sustaining this war effort. How do you think that will—(goes off mic)—oops, sorry. (Comes on mic.) How do you think this is going to develop? And when do you think the endgame will begin? Thank you.

POROSHENKO: Well, thank you for your words about Ukrainians because we should imagine this is a disastrous condition with Ukrainians now. During the last twenty-four hours, seventeen hours there was not electricity in Kyiv. No heating with a quite cold temperature, minus five. No heating. No water.

And this is also should unite us how to solve also this problem which is impossible to solve without air defense because we can supply new converter, new generator very next day for the Russian missile. We should start with air defense.

How we can solve all problems which Ukraine has now? I think Ukraine not first time surprised the world, and this is not the promise—you’re absolutely right. Question does Ukraine are capable to produce new missiles, new anti-tank, anti-aircraft, new artillery, a modern system.

We already do that during my presidency. I’m proud that we produced new special Bohdana howitzer or—which help us to liberate Snake Island in the Black Sea. Very famous story. We, Ukrainian, produce Neptune, who attack several flagships of Russian fleet. Very famous story.

The most popular, together with the Javelin, anti-tank complex is Stinger and their combination with the Javelin because different range. Javelin is a little bit shorter and we put in the position there all together—unique position—and we do that for four or five years.

And definitely, after we finish this war, after we have a peace through victory, I have no doubt that the world will be significantly more secured with a great Ukrainian influence or with—(inaudible).

OK. With a great Ukrainian role in this peace process. And I’m strongly believe in the future of Ukraine but I would speak about that after victory.

And am I optimistic or not? My strong advice you cannot win the war if you are not an optimist. You cannot win the war if you do not believe strongly and frankly in the—your armed forces, in your people, in your country. And that’s why, please, we give you more than enough arguments. Strongly believe in our joint victory, no doubt.

SESTANOVICH: Yeah. Bill?

Q: Thank you, sir. Bill Courtney with the RAND Corporation.

Measured in today’s dollars the Marshall Plan was valued about $160 billion and that was for sixteen countries. Estimates about reconstruction in Ukraine have ranged from 350 billion (dollars) to 750 billion (dollars).

What’s your thought about what is realistic for Ukrainian reconstruction?

POROSHENKO: First of all, I hate the word reconstruction. We will build new Ukraine. I hate the word. OK, could be up to $1 trillion. This is not the right approach because nobody under these type of things will finance the process.

We have enough money for building new Ukraine and for rebuild and renew what was done by Russia. And do you know this source of money? With a great step the Western world introduced the sanction when they frozen Russian assets, and this is the source.

We have a legal mechanism to confiscate, to create a fund, and to finance the building up new Ukraine, and from my point of view, this is legal and this is fair, no doubt.

SESTANOVICH: Do you think the U.S. government accepts your view? Are you going to be talking—

POROSHENKO: I’m not in U.S. government—(laughter)—and but it seems to me that when I was the president most of the time we were finding out joint solution. This is not dreaming. This is absolutely clear program, program for victory, problem for—program for building up new Ukraine, program for the justice about Putin. And for every step I do my choice.

For example, nobody believed that it would be possible to sue Russia for the terroristic attack against May 17. A few days ago, you have a first court decision where not only three person has a life sentence but there definitely would be continuation. It would be organizer of this criminal, and they mentioned directly that this is connected with the Kremlin.

That’s why if we take something we most of the time deliver the—deliver the results.

SESTANOVICH: We are past time so we’re going to have to call our discussion to a close.

But I want to thank Mr. Poroshenko for joining us today, for enlightening us on his view of the situation and of what he’s going to be trying to accomplish this week in Washington and after victory.

Thank you very much.

POROSHENKO: Thank you. And thank you for the—(applause).

(END)

This is an uncorrected transcript.

Top Stories on CFR

Pharmaceuticals and Vaccines

The swift development of effective vaccines against COVID-19 was an unprecedented scientific achievement. But production challenges, vaccine nationalism, and new variants have all presented hurdles.

United States

Spurred on by worsening economic and political crises across Latin America, migration to the United States reached record levels in 2022. Here’s a look at the year’s major immigration stories.

Russia

The Balkans have long been a source of tension between Russia and the West, with Moscow cultivating allies there as the EU and NATO expand into the region. The war in Ukraine might be shifting the calculus.