The Ukraine Crisis: Withstand and Deter Russian Aggression
The Ukraine Crisis: Withstand and Deter Russian Aggression
Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center,
Distinguished Fellow and Former President,
Welcome and Moderator:
President and CEO,
Location: West Tower, The Executive Building, Washington, D.C.
Time: 2:00 p.m. EDT
Date: Monday, February 2, 2015
Superior Transcriptions LLC
FREDERICK KEMPE: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. It's a great pleasure to welcome you all for this event. And for me, it's a particular pleasure. There are people on this podium who've been great friends and people whose advice I've listened to on issues for a long period of time.
You know Strobe Talbott from Brookings, former senior official, former – author. I guess you're always an author when you've been an author. But I've been reading Strobe on things Soviet and things Russian forever and had great respect for his leadership at Brookings, and great to have you here. Steve Pifer, who also has got a wonderful career in U.S. government and over at Brookings as well, terrific to have you here as well.
Jan Lodal, my predecessor in my job here as president at the Atlantic Council, my mentor on many issues to do with the running of the Atlantic Council, so great to have you here. And then – and then John Herbst, who we were able to lure to the Atlantic Council once we saw that Ukraine as going in the sad direction it was going, and who has really led our Ukraine and Europe initiative and our Patriciu Eurasia Center.
So it's just a pleasure, not only to have this strong of a group of people here, but when issues get tough and when moments become of historic importance, I think it's almost required of organizations in Washington to work and collaborate more closely with each other, to make clear the importance of the situation and the fact that we're in general agreement that something more serious has to be done about it.
A year ago, the Atlantic Council recognized the gravity of the situation in Ukraine and first, under the leadership of our Executive Vice President Damon Wilson, organized our Ukraine and Europe initiative. This initiative is aimed at defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine as it moves toward and open society at home and European-oriented policy abroad.
Today, as Kremlin aggression in Ukraine is further undermining peace and security in Europe, we could not be more proud of this latest initiative and its vital mission. Ukraine faces two main challenges – many challenges, but two primary ones: Withstanding Mr. Putin's increasingly open and aggressive intervention and battling corruption and enacting meaningful reform. We're gathered to discuss how the international community can help the people of Ukraine address these challenges.
This report that you see before you is a product of collaboration of our three institutions, but then other individuals as well. I've already introduced John Herbst, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; Jan Lodal, the former first deputy undersecretary of defense; Strobe, the former deputy secretary of state; and another former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Steve Pifer.
Some of the co-authors were not able to join us today. Former Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Jim Stavridis, General Chuck Wald, the former deputy commander European Command, and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder. It's an impressive and a varied group. And you can imagine that this group does not necessarily agree on all things at all times. So I think the fact that they've come together around this paper says quite a bit.
So just to get us started, I wondered if Strobe could say a few words, make – give his comments of why he's decided to be involved in this initiative and how he's viewing the situation in general, having watched the Soviet Union and Russia for so many years, and then Jan Lodal. And then after that, I'll have John and Steve brief the report. And then we'll have an open discussion. I'll pose a few questions. I know Strobe may have to leave a little bit early in this event – which, please feel free to do when you need to leave – but we'll have a good discussion of the report and its importance.
STROBE TALBOTT: Thanks, Fred. And thank you for your leadership and the council's leadership on this initiative and many other things.
I would just underscore one point. There is a common expression in the Russian language: Call things by their own name. And in the context of what is happening in Ukraine today, the right way to characterize it is an act of war on the part of the Russian Federation. This means that there is going on in Ukraine today a literal invasion, not by – it's not a proxy war.
It's a literal invasion by the Russian armed forces. It's a literal occupation of large parts, well beyond Crimea, of eastern Ukraine. And it is a virtual annexation of a lot of territory other than just Crimea. And in that respect, this is a major threat to the peace of Europe, to the peace of Eurasia. And, therefore, a threat to the interests of the United States and, I would say, a threat to the chances of a peaceful 21st century.
JAN LODAL: I agree completely with what Strobe said. I like to think of it as a threat to world order. My former mentor and boss, Henry Kissinger, just wrote a book on the subject. And he talks about the difficulty of finding a way to structure a world order in this epoch. We tried to do that after World War II, based on some very old principles. And we added some tough new principles, one of which was the inviolability of borders.
This was demanded more than any one – by more than anyone else the Soviet Union, the predecessor to Russia. They had moved the border somewhat. Americans weren't so happy about that at the end of the war, but we went along with it in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. And this is the first violation of this. Russia's not only violated this rule of their national law, but many others as well.
So that then leads to the question of what kind of approach can you talk in these circumstances? Our view was that an approach of purely non-lethal military assistance, along with sanctions, wasn't quite adequate. After Putin had continued his thrusts and invasions, it became clear that we needed to up our military deterrence. And it were those considerations that formed the backdrop for our effort.
MR. KEMPE: Strobe, while we have you here let me ask you a follow up. And I – forgive, the briefers of the report for me to do that – but I think that since we have the benefit of your wisdom here I'd like to have you take a look. You've been following the foreign policy of Moscow, the Kremlin, for many years.
What lies behind this? You know, what is – how would you assess the Kremlin's foreign policy path? What is the endgame? And then, what is your answer to what will be the dominant criticism of this report, and the reason why defensive weapons haven't gone so far – or any weapons have gone so far from the West – and that is up the escalatory ladder, Putin will always be willing to go a little bit further than we are?
MR. TALBOTT: Well, on the first point, what is in the thinking of the president of the Russian Federation, he's told us. If you parse what he has said, particularly over the last year but with hints of it before that, he regards the dissolution of the Soviet Union as the great strategic geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. And he is, to the extent possible, going to try to reverse that.
Now, he's not going to reverse it necessarily by recreating something called the USSR, but he is implementing what has, I think, always been a kind of fatal flaw, including for Russia's own interests over the centuries, and that is to define its own security in a way that makes all of its neighbors – and I believe there are now 14 of its neighbors – feel insecure. That, I think, is what is – he is – what he is up to.
He is also – and this is a kind of biologic – biographical – it may be biological too – biographical irony, in that he is reversing the legacy of Bois Yeltsin. Had it not been for Boris Yeltsin picking Vladimir Putin out of obscurity and making him his successor, we would not have had ever heard of Vladimir Putin, but we would also very likely still have something that deserves the name – speaking of calling things by their own name – a commonwealth of independent states. Ukraine is being treated by Russia certainly not as a member of a commonwealth, not as an independent country and not as a sovereign state.
I think the answer to the criticism or the caveat that you alluded to, Fred, is, yes, there is, and we all have to recognize it, a danger of some degree of escalation here. But Putin seems to be bent on escalation. His overall strategy is essentially a double game – talk across the table, and kill on the ground in Ukraine. And by the way, as a result, a lot of Russians are being killed.
So the counter to that legitimate caveat is that for the West, led by the United States, not to up the ante in the deadly game that Putin is playing is to invite Putin to continue to believe – which I think he does believe – that the West is soft, that the West is not going to stand up to him, and he'll just keep rolling – and not just in Ukraine.
MR. KEMPE: You know, I don't mean to escalate, myself, but – (laughter) – troops on the ground at some point? I mean, do the defensive weapons really – if this is an active war, if this is not a proxy war, I think your statement is a very strong one, and I thank you for that, of calling things what they are. If there is a major threat to peace in Europe and beyond, doesn't it call for perhaps even more than this?
MR. TALBOTT: Well, what more means is, of course – ought to be an open question that is constantly looked at. I am not advocating, and I don't – and the report certainly doesn't advocate U.S. troops or NATO troops on the ground in Ukraine. I do think, however – to just take advantage of an opportunity to call into everybody's attention the importance of the Baltic States in particular.
The Baltic States are members – are our allies in NATO. I'm not sure that Vladimir Putin totally accepts that as an operating principle. He is unquestionably probing, particularly in Estonia and Latvia, little green men and more. And I think it is important to have real boots – including American boots and our European allies' boots – on the ground in the Baltic States.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you for that clear answer.
So, John, Steve, maybe you can brief us on the report.
JOHN HERBST: All right. Well, I think Fred asked a good question at the beginning when he said, you know, what prompted eight people of very different views to get together so quickly on one issue? And it was quick. Jan proposed this idea just six and a half weeks ago. And within three weeks of his proposing the idea, we were in Brussels. And within six weeks we had a finished report, which you have in front of you.
And the answer to that question is very simple: The revisionism of the Russian president is the greatest national security danger facing the planet today. And this revisionism he's made clear both in words and in deeds. He claims the right to protect ethnic Russians, wherever they may be. He claims the right to have a sphere of influence, 19th century style, in the space of the former Soviet Union. He claims that if the rules of the post-Cold War world are not rewritten there will be no rules. And to demonstrate that he means it, he partly dismantled Georgia and he's now gone to work on Ukraine.
And to make it clear that his ambitions go beyond Ukraine, as Strobe said, Mr. Putin on the day that the NATO summit ended kidnapped an Estonian official from Estonia. And a few weeks later, just in case the Balts did not get the message that they are not secure, he seized a ship in international waters, in the Baltic Sea, a Lithuanian ship. Those measures more than made up for the decisions taken at Wales meant to reassure our Baltic allies that we've got their backs.
So it was this that drove the eight of us together and sent us to Brussels and then to – and then to Ukraine. In Brussels, as you can – if you look at the reports, you'll see the annex. We met with the Secretary General Stoltenberg, his deputy Sandy Vershbow, General Breedlove and all of his senior staff, as well as Doug Lute, our ambassador to NATO, and a host of other perm reps. So we had an extensive set of briefings.
And we learned some things there that, again, are in the report, but just to put them out there for you: According to our information, anywhere from 250 to 1,000 Russian military officers are in Ukraine, were there engaged in making sure that the quote-unquote, "separatists," are well-prepared to continue their offensive in the country. To make this easier, over – since early December, hundreds of pieces of heavy equipment have rolled from Russia into Ukraine – tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles. And the Russian advisors have been working on strengthening command and control.
This is not a matter of quote-unquote, "Ukrainians rebelling against their government." This is an effort that's been – that was organized, financed, led and, in many cases, staffed by citizens of the Russian Federation. And there should be no confusion about that. And I'll turn it over to Steve at this point.
STEVEN PIFER: OK. Well, after Brussels, we went on to Ukraine, where we had meetings both in Kiev and also in Kramatorsk, the front headquarters in northwest Donetsk. And we probably had about 20 meetings with senior Ukrainian military and civilian officials. I guess the one difference we did hear between Brussels and Ukraine is the number of Russian troops that the Ukrainians say are in eastern Ukraine is significantly higher than the NATO estimate.
But we came – we did have the opportunity to get a very full picture of the situation in eastern Ukraine and a very clear picture of what the Ukrainian military needs. And we concluded that it's time for the U.S. government to provide serious resources to assist the Ukrainian military. The specific recommendation is for $1 billion in FY 2015, followed by $1 billion each in FY 2016 and fiscal year 2017.
And we think it's important to get this money going and this assistance going as soon as possible. We also recommend that the U.S. government consider drawing stocks out of U.S. defense stocks to get it on the ground, in particular because there is a concern that when spring arrives in Ukraine – April and May – you may see a significant uptick in the fighting, and therefore time is of the essence.
Now, we had extensive conversations both in Kiev and also in Kramatorsk at the headquarters on what the Ukrainian military needs. And most of the assistance funds that we're talking about would go to non-lethal assistance. Perhaps the biggest requirement that we heard from the Ukrainians was for a counter-battery radar that would allow them to pinpoint the origin of artillery and multiple launch rocket strikes out to 30 to 40 kilometers. One Ukrainian colonel told us that about 70 percent of their casualties are caused by rocket and artillery attacks.
A second requirement is for a medium-altitude, median-range unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, which the Ukrainians could use to increase their tactical awareness and also designed to fix where artillery and enemy rocket sites are. A third requirement is for electronic countermeasures to disrupt opposition drones, which are being used extensively by the Russians and the separatists. And then, the other non-lethal requirements were for secure communications, armored Humvees and medical support equipment.
We did make a recommendation also that the U.S. government change its policy, which currently provides only for non-lethal assistance, to provide for defensive lethal assistance. And the – and the biggest Ukrainian requirement in that area is for light anti-armor weapons. The Ukrainian stockpile of such weapons is at least 20 years old. We were told about three-quarters of those weapons simply do not work.
And both in NATO and in Ukraine, we heard that they've seen a strong flow of Russian armored tanks and armored personnel carriers from Russia into eastern Ukraine. I think one comment we heard at NATO was: And they're not even really bothering to do much to try to hide it anymore.
Finally, we proposed that the U.S. government engage with other NATO allies to see if they would be prepared to provide both lethal and non-lethal assistance. And of particular use to Ukraine would be equipment from Central European allies who have former Soviet hardware that's compatible with what the Ukrainians now use.
Now, I think some fear – and I think we've – I think, Fred, you asked that question: Is this going to lead the Russians to escalate? And our view is actually, as you've heard, you know, the Russians have already escalated a lot over the last 10 months. And the goal here is to give the Ukrainians military assistance so that they can raise the cost of escalation, the cost of aggression to Russia.
And it's not about giving the Ukrainian army enough to beat the Russian army. That's not going to happen. But if the Ukrainian army can raise the costs of aggression, it may be able to change that calculation in Moscow. It may be able to deter the Russians from further action. So the object here is to remove the military option, or at least remove the inexpensive military option from Moscow's toolkit.
If the Ukrainians can do that with Western assistance, and then you have Western sanctions continue on Russia, we think that there's a very good chance that Moscow will then look for another way. And that would be the path of negotiating a genuine settlement, which the Russians so far have not really pursued.
And I would just close by coming back to point that Strobe made. This is a question not only of responding to Ukraine's needs, but it's also a question of pushing back against Russia's challenge to the broader European security order. And if we don't take action now, there is a serious risk of further Russian incursions, further Russian attempts to redraw borders. And they may take place in places that we can't ignore. And the cost then to the United States of pushing back would be much more expensive than what we're advocating today.
MR. KEMPE: Steve, thanks very much for that clear description of the most important points of the report and what's behind your arguments.
Jan, as the person who was really pushing for this group to come together, maybe you can brief us a little bit on what you hope the outcome of this sort of report could be. We read in The New York Times this morning from Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt, commenting in part on this report, that though President Obama has made no decisions on lethal assistance, that after a series of striking reversals that Ukraine's forces have suffered, the Obama administration is taking a fresh look at the question of military aid, Secretary of State Kerry planning to visit Kiev on Thursday.
There's a report here in The New York Times that he's open to discussions of providing lethal assistance. And also The New York Times, Michael Gordon reporting, that General Dempsey is also in that position, and that – as is outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. So, A, I don't know whether you want to comment at all on the fact that there's some movement in the administration, but maybe what you can speak on is what impact you hope this report will have.
MR. LODAL: Well, I think we all hope that the recommendations will be accepted – that's the first, straightforward thing – and that quick movement takes place in that regard. Obviously, experts will have to look at the details of how to put together these packages of assistance. We suggested capabilities. We tried not to get into specific kinds of packages and weapons systems and exactly how to get them. We suggested a path that we thought was feasible, and we'd like to see that accepted.
I think that a lot of people inside the government and outside the government have seen this coming. We did not see this recent offensive coming. We got back and had our report pretty much finished before this latest offensive took place. And it's a pretty significant offensive. They're likely to be able to cut off a salient that the Ukrainian army has maintained and perhaps trap some significant numbers of Ukrainian forces. And they have opened up another rail yard.
And so there's a lot of military action happening right now that's not good. Obviously this kind of aid isn't going to get there soon enough to handle this battle, but we would like to see, number one, an acceptance of the view that old fashioned Clausewitzian deterrence has to be put in place here, that nothing short of actual deterrence in the form of a military capability that, as my colleagues have said, raises the cost to the point where it's not worth it for the other side to undertake an attack, and to implement something along the lines of what we suggested.
And I'll emphasize that everything we suggested is defensive. We haven't suggested any offensive arms here. We don't think the Ukrainians particularly want them. They don't need them. They don't have any offensive objectives here. But they do want to be able to defend their – defend their territory. In terms of the broader political goals we have, I'd turn to my colleagues. I don't know, Strobe, do you want to add something to that?
MR. TALBOTT: Well, the political goals and the economic goals are, of course, very much connected with each other. And we have two former ambassadors to Kiev here who should follow up on this. But it is essential, I think, that while Ukraine is indisputably, nakedly a victim of a villainous act on the part of its large neighbor, Ukraine has lots that it has to do internally in order to finally get on the road to a modern economy, so something about corruption, and have in place the political culture and the economic culture of a modern state, if Russia will allow it to be one.
MR. KEMPE: The – let me open up to all of you on that, because the – having just returned from the World Economic Forum, I think that a lot of business leaders there were quite impressed by the economic team that Ukraine has put together. And in fact, many who'd been dealing with Ukraine for many years thought it was the best economic team they've ever had together.
How do these issues work together? You're in the middle of a crisis and – in the middle of an aggression, you've got economic reformers at work in the same you have to – you have to protect your country. So as you're thinking through this set of recommendations, how does it fit together with the economic side and the other elements of sort of a comprehensive strategy?
MR. PIFER: Well, let me take a crack at it. I mean, actually, I think there are kind of four pieces here to that strategy that fit together quite well and complement one another. One part of this is financial assistance to Ukraine, provided that Ukraine is really moving on reform, to help Ukraine do those reforms and get its economy to a better place. That's part number one.
Part number two has been put in place by the United States and the European Union now, going back eight, nine months. These are financial and economic sanctions on Russia that are designed to encourage the Russians to change course. The third piece, I think, is this kind of military assistance where you want to get the Ukrainians the point where they can basically close off that military option, where the Russians understand that continued attacks around Albitsevo (ph) or the places that have been going on in the last couple weeks have real costs.
And if you can get the Russians to conclude that those costs are too much, then that points to the fourth piece, which is the actually getting them to a negotiation where the Russians are prepared to deal in a way that takes serious account of Ukrainians concerns. So I think these pieces all fit together in that way. And the sanctions and the military assistance are designed to steer Moscow away from its current course towards the diplomatic off-ramp that the administration has talked about for some time but the Russians have not yet been prepared to take.
MR. KEMPE: Can we conclude – quick follow up – can we conclude that because of what we're seeing happening on the ground that the economic sanctions have failed as a military deterrent?
MR. PIFER: I think that that would be a mistake. I mean, I think it was predicable that when the economic sanctions first were applied that President Putin would say, we've got to pull together, we've got to show the West we're not going to let them interfere with our sovereignty. And that can work in the short term. The question in my mind is if the West can maintain the discipline on the sanctions, maintain sanctions, increase them has appropriate, how is the Russian population going to be thinking about this six or eight months down the road?
So I think we're basically – we're playing a mid- to long-term game here in terms of the impact of the sanctions. And if the Kremlin begins to see public support erode, that may be the key to getting them to adopt a different course.
MR. KEMPE: And at the same time, fall of oil prices, same time fall of the ruble, et cetera, et cetera. But, please, yeah.
MR. HERBST: There are two points that you need to add to Steve's wonderful list, the first regarding sanctions policy.
First of all, during the first seven or eight months of this crisis, Putin was trying to calibrate his aggression to avoid sanctions. Ultimately, he decided his objectives in Ukraine were worth taking sanctions. So he did that. But he's now hoping – and not just hoping, working to persuade Europe to lift the sanctions, when the sectoral sanctions, which are the most punishing sanctions, are up for renewal in September.
And so if he could achieve his aggressive designs now and then let things quiet down, he would hope that the sanctions will come off in September. So a critical objective for us is to maintain the sanctions, to help the EU decide to renew them in September, because then with the maintenance of low oil prices, the effects on his economy multiply. So that's point one.
Point two, and this comes back to your original question, it's extremely important for both withstanding additional Russian aggression and for Ukraine coming out in the right place for the government of President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk to implement now serious reform. If they do that now – and it can be done despite the war – and the war even helps in a sense that most citizens in Ukraine understand that they have to sacrifice at this point in time.
So if they can implement serious reform now, they consolidate their control, the Western-leaning agenda, the democratic open society agenda in the vast majority of Ukraine that they in fact control, it would make it harder, even if the red army were to push forward into Ukraine, for the Russians to hold onto that. So these are things that have to happen together.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. So, Strobe and Jan, and you can comment on anything you've heard but let me add another question to this and then I'll go to the – to the audience.
If the United States – and both of you have been in senior positions at State Department and the Pentagon, so you've dealt with alliance relations. Whenever you take a step like this you have to think about impact on alliance. So if the U.S. adopts these recommendations about military aid, what do you think would be the reaction in the – in NATO? Will this be a test of unity of some sort? We've already seen response today from Chancellor Merkel, not saying this shouldn't be done but saying that Germany won't be the one to do it, if I read her comment correctly.
But, Strobe, first you and then Jan.
MR. TALBOTT: I would not have expected Chancellor Merkel to have either endorsed the recommendations of this report or to have indicated that Germany would be prepared also to provide lethal defensive aid. I think it is important that what she has basically said stops exactly where you said. I would hope and I would expect, particularly in Chancellor Merkel's case, that she would, as it were, say, we're standing back, but leave unsaid what I would hope would be a recognition that somebody has got to help the Ukrainians.
And by the way, in general while there's been an awful lot of bad luck visited on the world of late, and particularly that part of the world, it is extremely good luck that Angela Merkel is where she is today. There's an expression in Germany, and pardon my German, Putin Versteher, or something like that. It means somebody who understands Putin, and it usually means in a – being an apologist for Putin. She is a real Putin understander. (Laughter.) And I think that's why she has been solid throughout.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you that. Jan.
MR. LODAL: I will say that we talked a lot about whether what we're recommending should be a recommendation for NATO to do something. Some of us, myself included, has written earlier that NATO should take some action to help Ukraine as an alliance. And we did not say that.
We said the United States should take the initial action. We think that some of the allies will come along very quickly. We've heard a lot from the Poles about things that they think they could do. They even have some equipment from the old Soviet Union days that could be immediately useful to Ukraine – ammunition and things like that. And others will probably provide some help as well.
But it – perhaps it's fortunate that we don't have to go through the process of trying to get a unanimous vote out of NATO to do anything that we recommended. We have a new government in Greece. That's uncertain. They could slow things down. There's others in the alliance who might try to slow it down. But I don't think we'll see any significant overall objections to what we're doing.
And I'll make one other little brief comment about the interaction between economic aid to Ukraine and what we're talking about. We're not talking about much money here. We're talking about a billion. You may have heard in the press that everybody's kind of agreed that they need at least 15 billion (dollars) right away in economic aid to proceed ahead. And George Soros has proposed a package runs up to 50 billion (dollars) in economic aid.
They're going to have to buy some stuff themselves, so they're going to have to have some money to spend to operate – just to operate their forces as they are now, and also to continue to improve their situation. So the economic aid is closely tied to what we're suggesting. And if their economy collapses and they can't do anything at all, that's going to have a direct impact on their military ability, on top of the impact on their economy.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you very much. Let me take some questions. Please, and then – behind Harlan and then Harlan. Let's – one after the other. Please. Identify yourself and to whom you'd like to address the question.
Q: Thank you. And thank you for this effort. It's – to all friends of Ukraine, it's wonderful to be here today.
My question is from the Russian perspective. When you – when we sift out the propaganda and we sift out all the noise, they've made three conclusions from August, the airport and today's operations. Number one, the Russians were stunned at the rate of ammunition expenditures. They didn't anticipate the logistical burdens of August, the airport and today, which is why the trainloads are coming in, et cetera.
Second, they've noted that even controlling the separatists, they're able to iterate two and three times within the decision cycle of the Ukrainian military. And they have said that that, more than any specific weapon system, has given them the advantage in dictating events on the ground.
So my question to the panel today is, if I think all of us here have a goal of either sending cargo 200 back or raising the risk of cargo 200 going back, shouldn't we be looking at general staff reform? Shouldn't we be looking at simplifying the chain of command between the volunteers, the National Guard and the Ukrainian military? Shouldn't we be looking at, as I think Steve mentioned – excuse me, ambassador had mentioned – command and control issues and equalizing the operational advantage of the Russians?
Some javelins on the tarmac of an airport would look great on YouTube and may change a tactical advantage. But if we can stand up the Ukrainian ability to even come close to the Russian operational cycle, won't that have the single greatest, excuse my French, force multiplier in equalizing circumstances on the ground? Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. And who wants to deal with that question? I also wouldn't mind, Strobe, if you could deal with a question that's connected to this that we really haven't talked about, and that is this is ultimately about Russia, not necessarily Ukraine – although it's also about Ukraine.
And at the Atlantic Council we have just been saying ad nauseam that we want a Europe whole and free, in which Russia finds its peaceful place. The administration is going through a policy review right now. How does one tweak this? How does one create a policy toward Russia?
So first of all, maybe – I don't know which of you wants to answer the question, but perhaps we can also then segue to a – to a larger question about how one guides one's overall policy toward Russia at the moment.
MR. PIFER: Do you want to start and I'll –
MR. HERBST: Yeah.
MR. PIFER: Yeah.
MR. HERBST: We understand the importance of training for the Ukrainian military as part of this effort. And in fact, there's a – there's a good program underway with Major General Kee out of SACEUR and we endorse that in our report. I would add to that, though, that part of the Ukrainian problem relates to both the intelligence they have as well as to their communications equipment, because that's – those are in the one case very poor, in the other case not very efficient. And they need help in those – with – between the training, the intel, and commo equipment, they can reduce this Russian advantage very quickly.
MR. PIFER: Could I just – two points, very briefly. Unfortunately, General Wald couldn't be with us. I mean, he's the one who's actually worn the uniform. And my impression was – and I mean, I think we all were – we were pretty impressed by what we saw at Kramatorsk. I mean, there may be some broad problems, but at Kramatorsk I think we felt we were meeting, you know, the commander and a staff that was very professional, very understanding of the problems they had and the sorts of things they needed to deal with those problems.
The other point I would make, just in regards to the volunteer brigades, is we do actually have a – we do address that in the report – a strong recommendation that the U.S. government urge the Ukrainians to integrate those battalions into the regular military and the national guard so they come under military discipline. Now, I don't think we think it's a particularly good idea for these sorts of private armies – and certainly from the military perspective, you know, the coordination is not what it could be.
MR. KEMPE: But your answer to the argument that these weapons, as in previous situations where the U.S. has sent weapons, will not – will land in the wrong hands is –
MR. PIFER: I think our impression, you know, given Kramatorsk, is that they would be taken care of in the appropriate way and that they would be used in an effective way.
MR. KEMPE: Strobe.
MR. TALBOTT: Well, with regard to the review of U.S. policy, which we hope will also be the Western community's and the international community's policy toward Russia, I would hope that it would be, and I would expect that it would be, sophisticated and subtle, in the following sense. This is not a time to try to drive Russia into isolation or to isolate Russia.
There – this is not Joseph Stalin's Russia, even though Putin may be the most powerful leader in the Kremlin since Joseph Stalin, the country that he rules has come a long way. There are many sectors in Russian society and the Russian economy, and I would guess even in the – in the political elite, who I am certain – in some cases certain because of things that I have heard in sotto voce I might say – there is unease about where Putin is taking that country, in two respects.
One, what it will mean ultimately for Russia itself. This is an atavistic, backward-looking policy. It calls to mind a musty word from the 19th century, irredentism. It's based on ethnicity. It's based on religious, ethnic and cultural affinity. And that is not the basis for a multinational state, like the Russian Federation. There are a lot of citizens of the Russian Federation who are not Slavs. And I doubt they resonate to the Russian ethnic chauvinism of their leader right now.
But the other thing is, there are a lot of Russians who have seen a great deal of the world. They have been globalized. And they will not suffer, I think, for terribly long under a leadership that is trying to wall off Russia and pretend that it can – it has a Eurasian option as opposed to a joining the modern world.
MR. KEMPE: I think that's such an important point, just a very different – a very different Russia.
So, Harlan Ullman – I also want to say to all of you, Ivo Daalder very much part of this group, was planning to be on his way from Chicago, but weather elements intervened. So we forgive him and we hope you're watching online. Please.
Q: Can I just yell? Thank you. I'm Harlan Ullman with the Atlantic Council.
Fred, your timing is not only immaculate, it's brilliant. It seems to me that sometime this week the administration is going to adopt some of your policies. So you can say you guys took the lead and well done. (Laughter.)
Having said that, and I agree entirely with your assessment of the tragedy in Ukraine, I'm far more agnostic and, indeed, skeptical about arming, not because Ukraine needs to be on equal footing but I hear from your briefing very distant glimmerings to briefings 50 years ago about Vietnam. Now, I realize that Saigon is not Kiev and Hanoi is not Moscow, but the consequences of what we might do or might not do, it seems to me, need to be much more furtherly – further examined.
If I were Putin – and I think Putin ultimately is on the way out. I think he's got maybe three or four years. But if I were Putin, I would actually welcome rearmament and armament as something to my best interests. First of all, I can use that for domestic propaganda. Second, I can use that to rally what I would want to do, which would be to form an independent duchy of east Ukraine.
The one area militarily that I have a huge order of magnitude advantage is in theater and short-range nuclear weapons. I would like to do a little bit of nuclear muscle flexing. And you see that's what he's doing with his Bear aircraft. And I'd like to intimidate the Baltics and the southern region more. So what prevents Putin from taking advantage of this and, as Fred I think quite rightly asked, escalating even more than he might not have had we not decided to go ahead and provide even minimal arms to Ukraine, who desperately needs them?
MR. KEMPE: Yeah, I think this is the – this is the fair question. And we'll try to go through as many questions as possible. So maybe Jan take this. Anyone else here wants to do a quick answer to it, but this is really the question that comes up also among my Polish friends, which is – which is you have to do – when you go on this path, then you have to deter and make sure that you don't just provoke without deterring. So what is your – Jan, maybe you pick it up first and then others on the panel as well.
MR. LODAL: Well, one can't predict the future. Obviously there's some risk. We see a tremendous risk at doing nothing because what we see happens if we do nothing is that he pushes ahead, he probably opens this corridor perhaps even from Mariupol to Crimea. Crimea is very difficult for him to maintain without a corridor there. He's pushing toward Novorossiya goal that he says. Once he does that, all bets are off for a Europe whole and free, for our whole strategy, for everything that we've tried to do.
We may or may not be in a full-scale cold war, but we're in a very different world. Steve Hadley sat in this chair just a few days ago and argued that he thought we already were in a very different world. And it could be that that's – that that's the case. So – and I think the Vietnam analogy is very, very weak. It just isn't the same situation really quite at all. And I won't elaborate that here except to just assert that.
So I think when you think carefully about what the alternatives are here, that to leave the Ukrainians completely unsupported here in a military sense – although we're trying to support very strongly through the sanctions and the other things which are very important. The other thing is if Putin does these things, there will be worse sanctions, there will be more problems for Ukraine, there will be more problems for his government. And these are not – these are not things that we had as tools available to use in the Vietnam era. So we have a lot more tools now than we used to have.
MR. HERBST: I think that we need to understand the problem. And the problem is not Putin's Ukraine policy. The problem is Putin's broader vision of revision throughout Eurasia. Now, we can decide right now that it is not in our strategic interest to let Putin have his way in Ukraine, in Georgia, in Kazakhstan, which he also threatened back in August, and for that matter in the Baltic States – which means we'd have to be willing to give up Article 5 as a serious deterrent, because Putin's objectives appear to include the Baltic States.
So here's what we need to do: We need to give Ukraine arms so we raise the price of Putin's aggression in Ukraine. At the same time, and Strobe mentioned this, we need to have a very serious deterrent policy in the Baltic States and in Poland. What we did in Wales was completely inadequate. The alliance labeled ISIS a strategic threat, an existential threat, and said nothing comparable about the world's greatest nuclear – or one of the two great nuclear powers in the world. We need to put serious force into the Baltic States as a deterrent there as we give Ukraine the ability to fight Russians on the ground.
In that case, if you do that, you keep the sanctions on, the economic problems in Russia grow greater, Russian casualties going back home grow greater, and Putin cannot explain to the Russian people why Russian soldiers are fighting in Ukraine, which is why he's lying to them. Decisive action across these (specters ?) makes sure that we can stop him before we have a problem in the Baltic States.
MR. PIFER: I might just add very – just briefly that polls have consistently shown that although a large number of Russians support Putin's policy in general towards Ukraine, those polls also show that only a very small number favor actually having the Russian army fighting in Ukraine. And that's why I think the Russian government has gone through extraordinary lengths, and I think disgraceful lengths, over the last five months to hide from the Russian people that the Russian army is in the Donbass.
MR. : And those who respond to those polls are not exactly getting a broad spectrum of information. (Laughter.)
MR. PIFER: Probably true, yes.
MR. KEMPE: Please, yeah.
Q: I'm Basil Scarlis. I used to work at the State Department on economic issues.
And one issue that you seem to have raised is the problem posed by countries like Greece, who seem to line up with the Russians. And I'd like to ask your opinion, will that be an obstacle on extension of the sanctions or additional sanctions later on in the European Union and perhaps even to some sort of NATO action in the Baltics?
MR. KEMPE: Which of you would like to address that? Strobe, maybe? And we have a situation – I wouldn't say just Greece, but issue of potential divisions in Europe, where the Obama administration, I think rightly, says one of its – one of its achievements thus far is actually keeping Europe and the U.S. together.
MR. TALBOTT: I think Greece is sufficiently burdened with its own problems that it's not going to become an obstacle on something that doesn't bear directly on those problems.
MR. KEMPE: Ambassador.
Q: Temuri Yakobashvili. Thank you for a great report. I have one question.
You already elaborated that, you know, if it comes to Ukraine you have to give them weapon and training. If it comes to Baltic countries, then it's Article 5. What about Georgia? What about Azerbaijan? What about Kazakhstan? What should be U.S. policy in those areas, where Russia may decide to act, besides Ukraine? Because I can hardly imagine Putin getting quiet if Ukrainians will show him a bloody nose.
MR. KEMPE: Yeah, that's one of the things that's really come home to us at the Atlantic Council is that there really isn't a NATO policy for what one would call the gray zone, non-NATO members and – non-NATO members and Russian neighbors.
MR. TALBOTT: Temuri, let me take a crack at it. I think the broad answer is that the United States should support the citizens and the leaders of those states peripheral to the Russian Federation who are determined to maintain their sovereignty – President Nazarbayev being one.
And as for Georgia, it's of course – as you know so well having, among other things, negotiated with the Russians and with the breakaway enclaves in Georgia – Russia is deliberately salting the earth around its borders with so-called frozen conflicts. I wouldn't describe what's going on in Ukraine as exactly frozen, nor would I describe Nagorno-Karabakh as a frozen conflict. People are dying.
But it's a classic case of what good old Uncle Joe Stalin did in his first job in the Bolshevik government, which was people's commissar of nationalities. And that was to make sure, even though each of these republics of the USSR had an ethnically based name, that they also had conflict within them so Moscow could play that game. And here they are doing it again.
And it's going to backfire because the kinds of conflicts that can arise from diverse ethnic communities within a state exist in Russia itself. The world Islam has not come up in this conversation. A significant portion of the Russian Federation's population is at least culturally, historically and in terms of their names have Muslim pasts.
And the increase in chauvinism – Russian chauvinism out of Moscow is creating an opportunity for wild and crazy guys in turbans in – you know, in Afghanistan and places like that to be already escalating the – not just the threat but the actuality of extremist Islam inside of Russia. So that's yet another way in which this great – supposed great strategist Vladimir Putin is doing something that is strategically very, very dangerous to his own country.
MR. KEMPE: The one thing also – in answer to question – is Steve Hadley on this stage a couple of days ago – former national security adviser – was talking about how one can – one cannot allow – continue to allow frozen conflicts to stop forward movement in relations with the European Union or NATO with give countries, because that just incentivizes those who create the frozen conflicts.
But, please. Identify yourself and to whom you'd like to address the question.
Q: Thank you. My name is Igor Donesk (ph). I am a reporter for a Russian newspaper. I would like to follow up on the question. My question is to Ambassador Pifer.
You're referring to polls showing that Russians don't support the Russian forces fighting in Ukraine. So my question is, don't you think that sending defensive – lethal assistance to Ukraine can change that and kind of create a sense of threat in Russia from which to mobilize Russian society, and the West to – assumes those higher costs? And in this case, if that happens and if a conflict escalates, which I don't think is entirely impossible, would you at some point be ready to recommend U.S. government to have boots on the ground in Ukraine? Or, asking bluntly, do you think the West should be ready to go to war over Ukraine if Russia is ready and rebels are ready to accept those costs? Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you for your question.
MR. PIFER: A couple – I guess I'd make three points. First of all, I'm not sure that the arrival of American military assistance is a tool that the Russian government can use in its propaganda campaign aimed at the Russian public. I mean, they've already so vilified the United States now. When you watch what's going on in the Russian media, it's hard to believe they could do much more.
Second, again, there may be an escalation risk, but as I think we've all said, over the last 10 months Russia has escalated and escalated and escalated. And the question now is, can we give the Ukrainians the tools to deter further escalation? And the third point, again, would be looking at defense arms, that sort of capability.
At some point I think the Russian government – is that going to cause the Russians to put more troops there? Well, by NATO count there's already now at least 200 troops there. The Ukrainians' number is more like 8,000. There is no dispute between NATO and Ukraine that in August and September you had organized units – Russian airborne and Russian mechanized infantry units – fighting in eastern Ukraine. You know, it's hard to see how, you know, Russia can do that much more.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. Please.
Q: Thank you, gentlemen, for your work for Ukraine, for my country. I'm Nikolai Varbul (ph). I'm Ukrainian journalist. I've spent total of two months in battle zone in fall and in June. So it were – it was in Debaltseve near Donetsk Airport and all around. So thank you again.
And I have – my question's not for me, but for my friends in the battle zone right now. So they're asking you about a time. I mean, they needed – they needed the weapon even in summer when it was there. So most of the weapon – and I can show you on my cell – they used it from captured Russians or from Russian separatists. So it was Russian weapon – machine guns, Kalashnikov and everything. And there are a lot of clear evidences. So they needed it, like, even a year ago. So the question is about the time.
And the next question is about, like, what are your sources of information? Because to – according to my – according to my experience, usually the prospects from Kiev and from battle zone, it's something different. So Kiev may ask you for something, like command or control, but people on the ground, they don't need some long-term equipment. They need something right now, and just give it for us, like, today and we can use it tomorrow, or something like this. So are you aware that this is, like, different prospects, like, from – in Kiev and in battle zone?
And the third question is about the refugees. Do you have any strategies? Because we have around 1 million displaced people in Ukraine and who are, like, left the country.
So three short questions about the prospects from Kiev and battle zone; the second about the time, just simple when; and the third about refugees. Thank you very much.
MR. KEMPE: Who would like to handle it?
MR. PIFER: I can talk on the second question. I mean, I think one thing that our team noticed was that in terms of the Ukrainian military needs, there was no difference between what we heard in Kiev and what we heard at the front headquarters in Kramatorsk. The recommendations that we've made there for both non-lethal assistance and also for light anti-tank weapons were very much articulated in very clear terms, in almost identical terms, both in Kiev and Kramatorsk.
MR. HERBST: Regarding timing, I mean, Steve and I have been arguing for defensive weapons for Ukraine since last May. We agree with you, the weapons should have been delivered a long time ago. Unfortunately, things in Washington sometimes work slowly. And we hope our report will energize the debate within the administration, as well as energize Congress to further action. I am optimistic, but my optimism says it'll probably take months for the decision to be made and any weapons to arrive. But we will have to see.
And on refugees, this is a very difficult problem. I know that USAID has been in Ukraine, done some good work, at least surveying the extent of the problem. But I know more work needs to be done. And I'm afraid I don't have much more to add to that.
MR. LODAL: If I could just add, briefly, that, you know, the United States actually does have an assistance program to Ukraine underway with non-lethal equipment and support of various kinds. I think it adds up to about $70 million, in fact. And there's a study underway on how to implement the hundred and so – $100-plus million that were authorized. So there's some thinking that's been done there.
So probably some of these things, particularly the non-lethal parts, can move fairly quickly. We recommended some kind of light anti-armor capabilities and so forth. That might take longer. As we've said, we have strongly suggested that they be provided out of existing stocks, which means they could move fairly quickly. But you're not going to impact this present battle with that. We understand that and there's no easy way around that.
If, in fact, United States announcing that it's prepared to offer this kind of assistance opens up the opportunity for some of the other NATO allies to provide assistance from their stocks, some of that could come very quickly. And a lot of that is compatible with their present equipment and could be useful to them almost within a matter of days or weeks.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Jan.
MR. PIFER: Can I just –
MR. KEMPE: Yes, please.
MR. PIFER: And that is that we hope this sense of urgency's felt not just in the administration but also in Congress. And I would say that the Ukraine Freedom Support Act that was voted by a very large majority in December of last year, that was a very positive step. But I think we would agree that the amount of money that it suggested for Ukraine was too little. And it only authorized – (chuckles) – it didn't appropriate any money. So I think Congress has to get engaged here in a very urgent way, and not just authorize money, but also appropriate it.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you very much. Here and then I think we'll start going toward the back – maybe even way in the back and then here. But, please.
Q: Stephen Blank, American Foreign Policy Council.
I'm struck by the fact that although you mentioned military assistance to Ukraine, economic assistance and, obviously, alliance cohesion in defense of the Baltics, nobody's said anything about the need to counter the information warfare that Russia is carrying out not only here in the United States but in Europe and at home, in order to bring home to the Russian population what's going on. And until we do that, we really have not undermined what is critical to Putin, and that is domestic support, because we've not broken his information barrier.
MR. KEMPE: That's a very good point. We haven't mentioned it yet, so maybe one of your or a couple of you can answer that – also, whether you've been surprised by how sophisticated the information warfare has been – well, seemingly.
MR. PIFER: Yeah, no certainly. I – well, first of all, I mean, the information war aspect was a little bit beyond the scope. We were going there specifically to look at the military situation in eastern Ukraine and also what are the Ukrainians immediate defense needs. But, no, I would completely agree, Steve. I think we need to be more effective in terms of the information war.
I think – I'd just – Fred, to your point, I mean, I think the Russians are doing a lot, a lot of those not horribly sophisticated. I mean, it's actually sort of stunning how little they seem to care about this. Now, I'll bring out an example. About two months ago, Russian television said, aha, we have solved the mystery of who shot down Malaysian Air 17. Surprise, surprise, the Russians said it was a Ukrainian fighter. And they based it on this satellite picture they said where it showed the Malaysian airliner and it showed this jet about three miles away, or whatever.
And it took the social media guys about 15 minutes to pick this thing apart saying, well, yeah, if you look at the Boeing jet, in fact the logo's in the wrong place. It's not a Malaysian airliner. If you look at the fighter, the fighter – first of all, it's coming from the wrong direction given where the jet was hit. And it's not the SU-25 that the Russians have been saying since last July that shot it down. It's a totally different type of airplane. And then somebody a lot smarter about these mathematical calculations than I said, well, if you take this – if you assume that this was taken from a satellite about 200 kilometers up, and you do the math, that airplane's actually about three kilometers long. (Laughter.)
So there's a lot of stuff out there, but a lot of it's pretty bad. And I think it's – it's not designed so much to portray an alternative narrative as it is just to throw so much dust and smoke up there as to cause confusion. And there's got to be an information war that calculates precisely that.
MR. HERBST: I'd like to add two points to that. The first is, Fred, I agree with you that the packaging has been sophisticated, slick. But Steve's right that the message has often been rather weak. But as long as they keep pumping out quantity and they can maintain a monopoly on their own information space, it's reasonably effective.
But there's a second point, which comes back to Steve's question. I also agree with the premise of that question. We're devoting very little in the way of resources to the information war. And that's something the administration should be taking a very serious look at.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. Way in the back, please. And I'm sorry, I'm trying to get to you as I see you. And I'm sorry if I don't have an exact order.
Q: Thank you. Leandra Bernstein, Sputnik International News.
A question for the panel: I'd like to really split hairs on this boots on the ground concept. We – the United States is providing some military training to the Ukrainian military. And from my understanding, the report calls for additional training, or is that just the Ukraine Freedom Support Act calling for additional training? So where will that training be taking place? And will it be in Ukraine? Will it be in the United States? And if it is in Ukraine, will there be American, NATO boots on the ground training Ukrainians?
And just secondly, I would appreciate a little bit of a forecast, if you could, about Kerry's upcoming visit.
MR. KEMPE: Don't all jump up at once.
MR. LODAL: I will be happy to say I think that what we envisioned was – most of the training we're calling for is training that's directly related to the additional items that we are suggesting be supplied. And we didn't go back and look at that – the training that is already underway.
But we did hear a short briefing on that while we were at SHAPE headquarters and did meet the senior officer who's responsible for all of those programs. There's quite a bit of American effort underway, some of it from NATO and some of it from the embassy in Ukraine to do some things like that. So there's an infrastructure there that ought to allow the kind of training that we're talking about, which would be additional, to be stepped up.
And there are Americans in Ukraine today doing that. And, yes, Americans would have to be in Ukraine to do this additional training. I don't know in detail whether it would be possible to bring some Ukrainians officers, officials to the United States. I think we sort of – at least I sort of presumed that it would probably mostly happen there.
MR. HERBST: I would add one caveat as well. Often the phrase "boots on the ground" means soldiers who are in the fighting zone, if not actually fighting. And that's not what's being contemplated, as far as we know. And for that matter, we're not – we're not necessarily recommending that either.
As for what Secretary Kerry's going to do, although I'm no longer a diplomat, you have to be careful about what you predict. I suspect he'll go with a lot of sympathy. I'm not certain he'll go with a lot of packages. But normally when a secretary of state travels, he brings at least something – or she brings at least something.
MR. PIFER: I would just add that they're – that the plans, as I understand it for training of the I think it's four battalions of the Ukrainian National Guard, that training will take place at Yavoriv, which is far western Ukraine, almost on the Polish border, well-away from the conflict zone. And moreover, I think we did recognize – this point is that in the report we did way that the equipment that should be provided to the Ukrainians they should be capable of operating it and maintaining the field without having American personnel there. So we did draw a line there.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you very much. Up here. I'm – thank you for being so patient. Please.
Q: Stefano Stefanini, Atlantic Council.
A very quick question. On the short term, in visiting Brussels, in my current life more on the EU side than on the NATO side. And in the EU environment, all the debate is about sanctions and about, as you said, a renewal of the sectoral sanctions that are due in July. So you see Putin going for more offensive, and with that he will foreclose any chance of having an easing or not renewing sanctions, or some apparently conciliatory gesture and trying to influence the debate on sanctions? Because in the short term – say between now and June – it is either one or the other. There aren't many way to finesse a way in between, I think. Thank you.
MR. PIFER: Well, I think we heard probably three scenarios for separatists and Russian military actions. The first scenario, which I would argue is in play now, and that is basically consolidating the line of contact so that the – there was the attacks on the Donetsk Airport two weeks ago. There is now this very active attack that's going on on the salient around Debaltseve.
And I mean, one of the things that – if you look at a map starting September 5 where the line of contact was, and then look at how that line has moved, the separatists and the Russians have occupied in excess of 500 square kilometers beyond what they had in September. So basically that kind of consolidation would be scenario one. But there were other scenarios, you know, maybe less likely, but I think still the Ukrainians are thinking about them.
Scenario two would be to take Mr. Zakharchenko, the so-called leader of the so-called People's Republic of Donetsk, who says he wants to take all of Donetsk and all of Luhansk. So that's a second scenario. And then the third scenario which has been out there, but I think was probably – in terms of what we heard in Ukraine, you know, would rank third in terms of the scenarios, what that there might be a Russian push all the way to create the land bridge to Crimea.
And again, I mean, I don't think there is any doubt in that the Russian military could do that. The question would be, then, you know, how would they garrison it because we did hear from several points that there are active plans for partisan conflict if there is a major Russian advance to the West.
MR. HERBST: Regarding sanctions, again, the most important sanctions come up in September, for Europe. And I think Mr. Putin is hoping he'd be able to persuade the Europeans not to renew them because when you renew sanctions you – everyone has to vote for them again, and you need unanimity. On the other hand, and I heard this in Brussels on my last trip, that in EU practice, there's a condition given for laying down sanctions. And if that condition is not satisfied, the sanctions have always been renewed.
And I think that precedent, plus the fact that Mr. Putin continues to escalate in Ukraine, increases the odds that the sanctions will in fact be renewed. And that's why, for me, next September may be the critical date this year in the crisis. If the sanctions are renewed, Russian aggression in Ukraine is under serious threat, which is a good thing.
Q: I think it's July. I may be wrong, but I think it's July.
MR. HERBST: Some sanctions came in July, others were in September.
MR. KEMPE: Please –
MR. HERBST: But you're right. July is also important.
MR. KEMPE: Here and then across. Yeah.
Q: OK. Andrei Illarionov, Cato Institute.
Two questions. First, there is a serious debate going on, maybe in slightly indirect way, about the military versus non-military solution to this war. There is a line goes on that there is no military solution. But your report seems to suggest that there should be military assistance to Ukraine. And certainly a lot of the debate goes about the fight. So what would be your stance, whether there is no military solution to this war, or there is no non-military solution?
MR. KEMPE: I'm going to – I'm going to hand to Jan Lodal, but if you read the last paragraph in the executive summary – I want to make something very clear. The Atlantic Council in general – any one of our reports doesn't speak for the entirety of the Atlantic Council. The Atlantic Council has many points of view. This is – this is a report from this very, very important group that has gone out and gathered this information and come to these conclusions.
We – no one is celebrating the situation that we're in with Russia. We know that a stable and secure Europe requires Russia's being a peaceful part of it. The – but the paragraph reads: assisting Ukraine to deter attack and defend itself is not inconsistent with the search for a peaceful political solution. It is essential to achieving it. Only if the Kremlin knows that the risks and costs of further military action are high will it seek to find an acceptable political solution.
So I think that answers your question but, Jan, you may want to –
MR. LODAL: I was going to do essentially the same thing, read that paragraph. I think we believe there is no military solution. The only military outcome that could – if you just keep fighting forever and you put everything into it, the Russians win. We've said that. Ukraine cannot withstand the entire Russian army, no question about that. Now, if Russia wants to conquer all of Ukraine and put itself in that geopolitical position of having done that, with all of the consequences that will mean for Russia, you know, that's a very, very tough thing for them to do.
They do seem to want to do the things that we have described here that stop short of that, but nonetheless, like they did in Georgia, split the country up into pieces, allow them to occupy parts of it. They have annexed part of it – a significant part of it, in terms of Crimea, violated all of these rules and so forth. And so what we're trying to do is to deter that further action because it's clear that without some kind of military response, the Russians don't stop. Look at what happened here in the last few weeks – couple of weeks. There was no provocation to Russia to undertake this latest action. It's a strictly offensive action to add to the territory that the separatists and the Russians on the ground are controlling.
Q: Is it – the last question is a small one. What is the – your recommendation to the U.S. administration for the final long-term goal in this war? End of hostilities? Withdrawal of Russian troops from the continental Ukraine? Or restoring of territorial integrity of Ukraine on the full territory, including Crimea?
MR. LODAL: I think our – I think our goal with what we have recommended here is the end of hostilities and the withdrawal of Russian troops. We have not really addressed the question of Crimea, except to say that it must be restored to Ukraine's sovereignty. But we haven't addressed that in terms of mechanisms to get that done. We think it will be in Russia's interest to do that, to reverse that decision on their part over time. And we believe that if the rest of Ukraine proceeds in a path of development and a path of reform that we think is quite possible, that those political circumstances can occur.
I think I can pretty much speak for all of us that, you know, we look to a strategy in Europe which really is what the United States has stood for since the end of the Cold War, a Europe whole and free with Russia finding its own place in that Europe, and being an integral part of this Europe whole and free. And that's what we want to have happen. All of us want Russia to be inside this wonderful developing and vibrant community, not outside it.
MR. KEMPE: The – yes, please.
MR. PIFER: If I could just second that – Jan's part. And say, I probably spent about half of my career working on better relations between Washington and Moscow. But I think – I think in order to fit there, Russia has to play by the rules that the rest of Europe is playing by. They can't write their own rules and they can't define for Russia this right to take territory from neighbors when they see fit.
Just one last point on the question of eastern Ukraine versus Crimea, this report focuses on eastern Ukraine, but in that case I think we really took the lead from the Ukrainian government which I think has made the correct decision to say now the immediate focus, the most urgent issue is eastern Ukraine. And Crimea has to be addressed, but that's a longer-term problem.
MR. HERBST: And let me just add that a month from now the Atlantic Council's going to have an event on presenting a report on the human rights situation in Crimea. So stay tuned.
MR. KEMPE: Yeah, I – the – anyway, just sort of cascading down, you have an international law issue, you have a European border issue, you have a Russia issue, you have a Ukraine issue. So as we look at this as the – as the Atlantic Council, we have concerns at all those levels.
Q: Thank you. Jeff Mankoff with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
I know the focus of the report is on the military side, but since you mentioned that the goal of providing military assistance is to move closer to a diplomatic solution, I was wondering if you'd given thought in the report or if you had thoughts more generally about what that solution would ultimately look like? Because, of course, if defensive weaponry is what's being provided to the Ukrainian military, then presumably that can stop additional – or raise the cost, at least, of additional Russian aggression.
But it's not going to change the facts on the ground in terms of the areas of eastern Ukraine that are already under Russian or separatist control. So when you're thinking about what a negotiated end to the conflict would look like, what would you propose doing about those areas that are essentially under military occupation, and that no amount of defensive military assistance is going to allow the Ukrainian military to take back?
MR. LODAL: I apologize if I wasn't quite so clear on that. I think I said in answer to the previous question that our, I think, objective here for a resolution is withdrawal of all Russian troops from that area and returning that area to Ukrainian sovereignty. The Ukrainians themselves – the government has made clear that they're prepared to countenance a variety of special arrangements for that area to ensure that there is some reasonable degree of autonomy there. But the border needs to be back where it was before it was overtaken by Russian forces invading.
And by the way, we haven't talked about, but they continue this invasion through this unbelievable outrage of these white supposedly humanitarian convoys coming in. So this invasion continues in many ways, even violating normal – Judy Miller could tell me – but normal rules of – laws of warfare, of marking things as humanitarian when in fact they've got tanks and armored personnel carriers and weapons galore inside them. And also, they're refusing to let the OSCE look at them.
So all of that has to stop. The borders have to be where they are. Ukraine has to have control of that border. Russia has to close that border. And their troops have to be taken out of there, is where we would see that – where we would see a reasonable solution.
MR. PIFER: Those are all, by the way, points that Russia agreed to in the September 5 cease-fire agreement in Minsk.
MR. LODAL: Exactly.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you.
The ambassador of Ukraine in the United States. Good to have you with us, sir.
Q: First of all, thank you very much for the report, which is very professional and which reflects accurately the situation in Ukraine in general and the situation on the ground.
We really highly appreciate in Ukraine the assistance provided by United States and strong support in the European Union for Ukraine. And we also highly appreciate the leading role of the United States in international efforts to help to my country in this very difficult time of Ukrainian history.
But, yes, we need additional assistance. This war is not only against Ukraine. This war is against Europe and international order and international law, I would say. And that's why we hope that, as Ambassador Herbst said, that this report will energize administration and Congress for more actions.
We consider in Ukraine that Russian aggression should be stopped today, now, because every day makes the situation much more difficult. As I said, this is not only against Ukraine. And, yes, that's true that Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Baltic States feel today not very comfortable, as well as some other states which are neighbors of Russia.
And what we need – we need as well to strengthen the efforts in sanctions regime, as well. And we stand for further sanctions. Minsk agreements – Minsk accords, as you know very well, are ignored by Moscow. They are ignored also by those separatists. And the main demand of the Minsk accords, mainly to withdraw all Russian military troops from Ukraine, weaponry from Ukraine, and to seal the border for those mercenaries and, well, militants. Also, these provisions are ignored.
So we consider that it's not the time to talk about the possibility of removing sanctions, but on the contrary on increasing sanction regime. And, yes, the territorial integrity of Ukraine should be restored. And otherwise, it will send a very wrong signal to the world that bigger countries can change borders by force and this can be accepted by international community. This is not the case.
And once again, I would like to mention Budapest Memorandum that – the Russian aggression and undermines the nonproliferation regime. And this is, again, the task for international community to restore this trust in nonproliferation regime. Thank you very much.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you for that important statement. This – as you said, quote: This war is not only against Ukraine. This is also about Europe and about international law. We – and I think – I'll close there, but go back to the panel. I'm sorry, we have more than a dozen other questions. I just couldn't get to everyone.
At the end of the executive summary, it says two sentences. And maybe for each of you, perhaps, I could close with this and then ask you your response very briefly. So, Russia's actions in and against Ukraine pose the gravest threat to European security in more than 30 years. The West has the capacity to stop Russia. The question is whether it has the will. That's a pretty big question, because ultimately that's what deterrence – deterrence isn't just about what you have in terms of resources, it's what your will is.
I wonder if each of you could address that, both looking at the United States and looking at our European allies. And – because that is really what's going to be needed for the successful implementation of what you're – what you're asking for. And maybe we'll go from Steve to John to Jan.
MR. PIFER: OK. Well, no, I think that is a very big question. We briefed the report at senior levels of the U.S. government last week. I think we heard a couple of things. One, we were told the report was very timely. Second, we heard that this is very much a live issue within the U.S. government now – perhaps more so than it was in the fall. And so I think our hope is that in fact the U.S. government is now going to begin to show the world, begin to take these steps and move forward on greater military assistance to Ukraine.
MR. HERBST: I think another question is whether the West understands the problem. Steve and I have been working this for a long time. And I would say back in the spring, very few people even in Washington understood it. I think today a much larger number of people understand this is a problem of Kremlin revisionism, not of communal problems within Ukraine.
And I think gradually, gradually the West is waking up – with the exception of the Eastern Europe – our Eastern European allies – the United States in the lead. And I think Congress is quick coming along. And I think the administration not as quick, but it is also moving in the right direction. And once we understand the problem correctly, the will will be there. But it may take a few more months.
MR. KEMPE: Jan.
MR. LODAL: Well, I associate myself with my colleagues. I would add that I have some sympathy for the difficulty the United States faces here, because the United States is taking the lead in the crucial fight against ISIL. The United States is taking the lead in a variety of other places around the world. And it's difficult. We have our own challenges here. We have our own politics here. So we need the help of all of our allies. We're getting the strong support of our allies.
The sanctions regime is really quite amazing when you think about, that this has come about as quickly and as strongly as it has. We don't believe that what we're suggesting here is a major increase in exercise of will. It's a change in kind to say defensive lethal weapons as opposed to the other kinds of support that we're providing. We think that it could have a big multiplier effect. It could help tremendously in deterrence. But I'm encouraged, given what happened on sanctions, given how unified NATO and much of the rest of the world have been in this regard.
And I think the major powers all see that a Russia behaving this way and left unchecked leads to a very unstable world. They still have 15(,000) or 20,000 active nuclear weapons. They don't seem to be interested at all in reducing their huge stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons. That was promised when President George H.W. Bush agreed to eliminate American tactical nuclear weapons, and did so unilaterally, but without the reciprocity that was – (audio break).
So there's been a very, very difficult situation there. And that has to make one concerned about Russia's policy to begin with, all apart from Ukraine. And when you add these kind of things onto it, I think it shows the rest of the world that we all have a mutual policy, and – I mean, a mutual challenge. And I think that taken together, that will generate the will.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you so much, Jan. Let me just close by saying that the authors of this report are serious individuals and they are not saber rattlers. These are people who have served the United States is very important capacities and have done that as very moderate individuals, who only come together around this kind of a report when they see something of historic significance where by not answering it we could turn out worse.
We knew this would be a controversial report. We hope that it will excite the kind of debate that it should excite of whether we have other good alternatives. I would only say that Vladimir Putin could change the sanctions regime and de-escalate, you know, tomorrow. So it's really – it's really in his hands more than anyone else's hands.
I think I – I think we were all moved by Strobe Talbott's opening comments saying that we shouldn't mix words any longer – that this is an active war not a proxy war, a literal invasion not a virtual one and a virtual annexation, and that it is a threat to the peace of Europe and beyond. It's hard to argue with any of that. Those are the facts. How one handles it and how one comes to terms with this, I think – I think serious people will disagree.
But I thank you all for coming here. I hope that we're on the path to a peaceful resolution of the situation in Ukraine. Certainly, as we call in this report – as the authors call in this report for defensive weapons it isn't in order to cause military escalation, but it's really to encourage a diplomatic solution more quickly than might otherwise be the case. Thank you all for coming. (Applause.)