Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky launched a scathing criticism of the West’s inaction against Russian aggression on Saturday, arguing that Ukraine has served as a “shield” for the past eight years and that Europe’s security architecture has completely failed.
why does it matter: Zelensky’s closely watched speech at the Munich Security Conference came just a day later President Biden warned That Russian President Vladimir Putin made the decision to invade Ukraine, and that he plans to target Kiev.
- US officials had urged Zelensky not to leave the country, but after his speech he said it was important not to show “panic” or allow decisions to be made without Ukraine.
- “Just putting ourselves in coffins and waiting for Russian soldiers to arrive is not something we would do,” Zelensky said in a Q&A after the speech.
- a dangerous escalation In the pro-Russian separatist region of eastern Ukraine, this has led to fears that the Kremlin is making up a pretext for invasion in the coming days.
The Big Picture: Zelensky began his speech by remembering Putin’s address to the Munich Security Conference in 2007, where the Russian president attacked the US-led global order and NATO’s eastward expansion as “extremely dangerous”.
- A year later, Putin invaded Georgia using many of the same tactics US officials say he is now trying.
- Then, in 2014, Putin annexed Crimea and sparked a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine that continues to this day.
what are they saying: “How did we end up in the biggest security crisis since the end of the Cold War? For me, as the head of a country that has lost part of its territory, thousands of people, a country surrounded by 150,000 soldiers on our borders, that answer is obvious.”
- He continued, “It has almost destroyed the security architecture of Europe and beyond. It is now too late to talk about reforming it. It is time for a new approach.”
- “15 years ago, it was the Russian Federation that made a statement here challenging the global security system. How did the world respond? Appeasement.”
Zelensky went to criticize NATO Claiming to have an “open door” policy while refusing to let Ukraine in, it called on the alliance to provide a time frame for its country’s eventual membership.
- “Be honest about it,” Zelensky said. “Open doors are good, but we need open answers. Not years and years of closed questions.” He added that Ukraine would not be a “buffer zone” between Russia and the West.
- Zelensky also criticized the West for claiming that Putin made the decision to invade, but did not impose sanctions until the attack began: “What are you waiting for? We don’t need sanctions after the bombing happens, after we have no borders, neither does the economy, so why do we need those then?”
Bottom line: Zelensky said before getting a standing ovation.