Amid varying and multiple reports for many weeks that Ukraine faced an “imminent” and “immediate” invasion by Russian, including a predicted invasion date of February 16th, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a passionate speech at the Munich Security Conference with thanks and gratitude but also jabs and appeals to NATO and the European Union to help it secure its borders.

“You’re telling me that it’s 100% that the war will start in a couple of days. Then what [are you] waiting for?” he told the Western leaders present at the Munich Security Conference speech and interview portions.

“We don’t need your sanctions after the bombardment will happen, and after our country will be fired at or after we will have no borders or after we will have no economy or parts of our country will be occupied. Why would we need those sanctions then? What is this about? So when you’re asking what can be done, well, lots of different things can be done. We can even provide you with a list.”

One of the items on that list would be forcing the end of work on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.  This pipeline runs under the Baltic Sea bypassing NATO countries like Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to supply natural gas to Germany. By running it under the sea, rather than overland, it gives Russia complete control of its operations. Currently, Russia provides 40% of Europe’s natural gas.  In 2019 President Trump signed legislation into law over the objections of the EU that sanctioned countries working on Nord Stream 2.  In May of 2021, President Biden defied Congress and lifted the sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and the companies building it, clearing it for completion.

President Biden and the State Department have used the threat of “crippling sanctions” against Russia should it invade in the attempt to deter Putin.

These statements from the Ukrainian President come after President Biden claimed that Russia has finally decided to invade Ukraine in the coming days after the February 16 prediction passed without Russia armored formations rolling into Ukraine. “We have reason to believe that Russian forces are planning and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week, in the coming days,” said US President Biden after February 16th in making a new prediction about when Russia will invade.  There has been public speculation by media pundits that Russia would delay his invasion until after China finished hosting the Winter Olympic Games which ended on Sunday, February 20th.

With Zelensky hearing these predictions again after he pleaded not to spread further panic, he questioned the US’ decision not to impose said economic sanctions as a preemptive measure while it was publishing potential dates of invasion. He said that constantly talking about the possible dates of the invasion is not the only action that can be done against the crisis while waiting for an invasion the White House is certain will occur. He further pointed out that he needed other dates, possibly referring to Ukraine’s admission into NATO.

Ukrainian President Zelensky speaking to world leaders at the Munich Security Conference receiving a standing ovation (President Volodymyr Zelensky Official Website). Source: https://www.president.gov.ua/photos/thumbs/robochij-vizit-prezidenta-ukrayini-do-nimechchini-dlya-uchas-4449
Ukrainian President Zelensky speaking to world leaders at the Munich Security Conference, receiving a standing ovation (President Volodymyr Zelensky Official Website)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the US’ decision not to place sanctions ahead of the invasion due to a ‘deterrent effect’ amid Zelensky’s statements at the Munich Security Conference. “The purpose of the sanctions in the first instance is to try to deter Russia from going to war. As soon as you trigger them, that deterrent is gone. And until the last minute, as long as we can try to bring a deterrent effect to this, we’re going to try to do that,” Blinken said in an interview with CNN.

In fact, just yesterday, SOFREP pointed out that if an invasion was likely just days away, the United States and  NATO should be sending large amounts of weapons to Ukraine, and NATO would go over to an Amber alert status for its forces as a routine precaution. If the threat of crippling sanctions was to deter Putin from invading, and Putin in fact does intend to invade anyway, it clearly means he has no fear of the sanctions as a deterrence. The logical next step would be to impose the sanctions immediately to cripple the Russian economy and compel Putin to withdraw his forces.  Defenders of President Biden’s strategy like Secteary Blinken have said that imposing sanctions in advance of a Russian invasion expected any day, would also give Putin an excuse to invade Ukraine.   Critics would rightly point to the contradiction this presents.  Sanctions against Russia, cannot be both a deterrent to invasion and a provocation for Russia to invade at the same time.

Zelensky Asks: Appeasement? Where Has It Gotten Us?

Zelensky first opened his speech at the Munich Security Conference, describing the recent shelling of a Ukrainian preschool in the outskirts of Stanytsia Luhanska, a village 12 miles north of Luhansk. It is a heavily contested region where fighting has always been a threat to civilians. He said that these shellings were one of many pieces of evidence that world security was ‘fragile’ and that the United Nations cannot defend peace and security in the region as they have not kept up with new threats.

“It was here 15 years ago that Russia announced its intention to challenge global security. What did the world say? Appeasement. Result? At least – the annexation of Crimea and aggression against my state,” said the President, adding that UN Security Council members ignored the annexation of Crimea where Russia is a permanent sitting member along with China, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Criticizing the system of global security, he had said that a new system has to be built as the current system is flawed and almost destroyed, according to the Ukrainian leader. More so, he expressed that he has repeatedly stated that the problem of the annexation of Crimea was a vital point of security in the entirety of Europe, but he was not listened to in previous forums from 2019 to the present.

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He proposed to convene a meeting with the United Nations Security Council’s permanent members in the coming weeks to address further challenges and security issues in Europe. Along with this, he also proposed that a lend-lease program and a stability and reconstruction fund be established, and a supply of the latest weapons and equipment be provided for Ukraine to support European security. Lastly, he also said that a clear timeframe to join the NATO Alliance was needed for their country.

Ukraine Has Been A Reliable Shield

In a fiery portion of the speech, he stated that Ukraine could defend itself with or without the support of its allies, no matter if it had 50,000 to as many as 1 million Ukrainian soldiers on the border. He also said that their country has been acting as a reliable shield for more than eight years, successfully defending its position against Russia, which has the world’s largest army.

“We will defend our land with or without the support of partners whether they give us hundreds of modern weapons or five thousand helmets. We appreciate any help, but everyone should understand that these are not charitable contributions that Ukraine should ask for or remind of,” said Zelensky referring to Germany’s donation of 5,000 helmets to Ukraine.

It can be remembered that Kyiv’s Mayor, former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Vitali Klitschko, reacted to Germany’s donation, “The behavior of the German government leaves me speechless. The defense ministry apparently hasn’t realized that we are confronted with perfectly equipped Russian forces that can start another invasion of Ukraine at any time. What kind of support will Germany send next? Pillows?” said the mayor.

Zelensky also criticized NATO for allegedly dancing around their admission of Ukraine into the organization in an apparent attempt to appease Russian demands that Ukraine be forever barred from membership. After being told that NATO had opened the door to Ukraine, he criticized that the group and its leaders should be honest whether it really had intentions of admitting Ukraine into the Alliance. This intent by Ukraine to join the membership has been a political football in Europe since 2008 during the NATO Summit held in Budapest, Hungary. After years of trying, Zelensky is once again directly asking its leaders about what has happened to their repeated appeals to join NATO.

Amidst all the critiques he provided, he also thanked all the countries that have supported Ukraine throughout their campaign against Russia. However, he also said that Ukraine shouldn’t beg for their support. Zelensky, along with Ukraine, stated that they are always looking for a diplomatic and peaceful solution to end the conflict. He is committed to negotiating anywhere in the world just to do this.

“We are ready to look for the key to the end of the war in all possible formats and platforms: Paris, Berlin, Minsk, Istanbul, Geneva, Brussels, New York, Beijing – I don’t care where in the world to negotiate peace in Ukraine.”

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