MUNICH (BLOOMBERG) – Amid a United States warning that Russia has decided to potentially invade his country and attack the capital, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky flew to Munich to deliver a tough message to his allies.
The former TV comedian cracked few jokes on Saturday (Feb 19) as he accused the US and Europe of allowing the continent’s security infrastructure to collapse.
He noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin used the same platform – the Munich Security Conference of 2007 – to deliver a speech in which he openly challenged the post-Cold War order.
“How did the world respond?” Mr Zelensky asked. “With appeasement.”
While Russia has repeatedly denied any plans to invade Ukraine, Mr Zelensky sought to portray his country as holding the front line of security for European countries to the west.
Ukraine, Mr Zelensky said, should not have to beg for arms to defend European security against one of the largest militaries in the world.
“Those are not noble gestures for which Ukraine must bow low,” he said. “It is your contribution to European and the world’s security.”
Mr Zelensky said he was grateful for the diplomatic, financial and military aid Ukraine’s Western allies have offered since Russia seized Crimea and stoked an armed insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
The US says it has delivered US$2.7 billion (S$3.6 billion) worth of military aid since 2014, including modern anti-tank weapons. In recent months, other Nato allies have sent shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and specialised anti-tank missiles for use in urban warfare.
Still, if allies really want to help, they should “set up a fund for stability and reconstruction for Ukraine, and a lend-lease programme, supply new weapons, machinery, equipment for our army – an army that protects all of Europe,” Mr Zelensky said.
Recalling that Ukraine gave up its nuclear deterrent in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, Britain and the US in a 1994 memorandum, Mr Zelensky said: “We have the right to ask for a move from the appeasement policy to action.”
He called for clear road maps for Ukraine’s membership in Nato and the European Union, and criticised allies for being unwilling to sanction Russia now or even name sanctions measures in advance to better deter Mr Putin, while loudly predicting an imminent Russian invasion.
European leaders are concerned that the deterrent effect of sanctions would be lost if they were imposed before the action they are designed to stop.
“We don’t need your sanctions after the war starts and we have no borders,” Mr Zelensky said.