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Keynote speech during the Forum of Civil Society «Outlines of the Future: Victory, Recovery, and Modernization Of Ukraine»

«World on the Brink: The Meaning of Ukrainian Victory»

Orysia Lutsevych, head of the Ukraine Forum in  Chatham House

  It is difficult to find any words after Serhiy Zhadan's poem "Soldier's Shoes". Poetry is the essence of our times. All of us here - are the infantry of the Ukrainian rear, the infantry of the reforms and recovery.

. The full-scale Russian aggression against Ukraine was the beginning of the new countdown. It started the new century, just as the First World War did, opening the world for national states and making impossible the post-empire project in Europe.

 Today, the ruins of Bakhmut, missiles' wreckage in Podil, and destroyed Mariupol – are the victims of the debris of law and order ruined by Russia. The first mighty blow to the world currently crumbling before our eyes was the annexation of Crimea.

 This law and order was created after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the USSR. It made the foundation for rules and institutions that ended the buffer zones of the subjugated nations of Eastern Europe. The countries, including Russia, agreed that independent states could choose political and defence alliances. This was written down in Istanbul Document in 1999. After this, a time of illusion came that there is a shared space in Europe between Russia and the EU and that Putin's Kremlin is a strategic partner. Europe did not understand the nature of the regime in Russia when the security services (KGB and FSB) came to power, in conjunction with the criminal world, and together they started the revenge for their loss in the Cold War.

 Today we are standing on the edge of the abyss. And it remains unknown if this aggression, this global shock, and this disruption of international cooperation (at times when precisely this international cooperation is of existential importance) will successfully reform the world order in favour of humankind.

 Will we establish a new framework for cooperation in the face of the revanchist decaying Russia and developing China, which is increasingly demanding more place under the sun? The USA and the EU are status quo players in this game. They do not have any new answers, and they want to preserve the past. Can we find solutions to the difficult contemporary challenges in the following spheres?

1. Democratic – with the threat caused by populism and corrosion of the institutions, a deficit of trust, and differentiation in the worldview of the inhabitants of the cities/megapolises and remote regions and towns.

2. Technological – with the stagnation of productivity in the old economies and the release of large labour resources because of AI and new technologies.

3. Climate – with its food crisis and large waves of migration caused by climate changes.

4. Energy – because of the refusal of the fossil fuel and breakthrough in new technologies in the sphere of renewable energy

5. Economic – this sphere is based on the rule of law, and if the latter collapses, the price of transactions will increase exponentially. Russia has violated over 400 treaties by attacking Ukraine.

6. Security – where a state with nuclear weapons is at war against the state that gave away its nuclear arms, where Western partners constantly express the prohibitions against the attacks on the aggressor's territory. This war, to a large extent, became a digital war, a war of drones in the densely populated cities of Ukraine.

Philosophers say that we have to live life looking forward, but we can understand life only when looking back. Now that we are in the eye of the tornado, it is not easy to know where we are moving. Only in 2022 did the majority in the West start to see the barbarian actions of Russia over the last two dozen years as a single theatre of hostilities: Chechnya, Transnistria, Georgia, Crimea, East of Ukraine, the battle for Kyiv, a battle for Ukraine.

Ukraine is a frontier where a new balance may be established. New answers and approaches to common challenges. This is possible only if Ukraine and its partners, free democratic states, will arrive at the joint understanding that this is a common cause. It is not a challenge for Ukraine; it is a challenge for the free world.

This is a chance to reformat the world and to prepare it for the new century. We have yet to actually pass the turning point. What makes this situation unique is that for the first time in the history of Ukraine, we are not alone against Russia. We have powerful allies.

How are we coping with this challenge?

So far - quite a mediocre way. Yes, we are finally receiving funds and weapons from our partners. EU has provided 2.5 mln euros from the fund of the European Peace Facility. But these costs are smaller compared to the enemy we have to gain victory over. 

West's unity is quite impressive, but more is needed. We are still using the prewar instruments and do not create new ones. UN's Security Council is blocked. OSCE is on the brink of dissolution. The process of accepting new members in the EU has deteriorated.

Ukraine shook the whole world because we started to fight. We are provided help because we are helping ourselves! It is impressive and inspiring.

After the first explosions in Kyiv on the 24th of February, one BBC journalist told me, «This is the end of Ukraine». My reply was: «This is the beginning of the end of Putin». This fundamentally different framework of understanding still influences the Western policies of support of Ukraine. What has changed is the understanding that Ukraine can actually preserve. There is some faith here. Mainly because Ukrainians started fighting like lions, like David against Goliath, like Kotygoroshko against the dragon!

The leadership and bravery of President Zelensky played an important role here. Both ordinary citizens and politicians respect him. He managed to mobilize this towards our victory.

Unity inside the country and the shared vision of victory are also essential.

And the main thing is the strength of civil society, which has started to take the initiative, like adults. THANK YOU! To each and every one of you!

The second part of our formula for victory, namely the vision regarding Russia, is a more difficult one. The West does not believe that it is possible and necessary to achieve the defeat of the Russian imperial project through joint actions. Fear of Russia remains. Ukraine has overcome this fear to a large extent, but it still has a hold over the West.

How will this terrible war end? I do not know for sure. I am answering using the wise words that belong to Vaclav Havel. I am not an optimist. The difference between optimism and hope is significant. An optimist believes that everything will end well, while a person who hopes believes that regardless of how everything will end, there are things that are justified, and we need to do them.

On my list of such things that need to be done is the supply of weapons to Ukraine, the supply of the whole range of armaments. Membership in EU and NATO. Sanctions that will choke the military-industrial complex of the aggressor. Provision of rapid financial aid that will support our rear – first of all, economic aid and support to SMEs that provide dignity and employment. Provision of justice and punishment for crimes against the peace and war crimes.

 Finally, establishing the system of financing and managing the recovery of Ukraine. It has to become a project of modernization. So that it, first of all:

1.    strengthened the institutions

2.    could even out the regional development

3.    considerably improved the quality of human development via the improvement of education and the medical sphere.

Our joint task is: to win the war - get victory over Russia and pull Ukraine out of the trap of inefficient management, monopolized economy, and weak institutions. We need to separate ourselves from the space of the brutal violence that is encroaching upon us from the East.

A lot depends on how you, civil society, prepare yourself for the recovery. Currently, there is impressive energy and dedication in the sector. Many of you are already rebuilding Ukraine, and 40% of citizens want to participate in this process but lack the opportunity.

But we will not be able to work just on the pure enthusiasm. We need systemic solutions. We will discuss this during the conference on recovery in London on the 20th of June, 2023.

Your opinion regarding the creation of the architecture of recovery should sound louder. Your tasks are:

1.    Expand the vision of recovery. To add to reconstruction (construction and infrastructure) an important component of the recovery of human capital. People are the most important – their skills, reintegration to peaceful life after the frontline, psychological healing, and development of entrepreneurship.

2.    Understanding and communication of the new challenges – understanding the situation of how the war has influenced society. Currently, we do not have an understanding of this. We need to analyze the different needs of various groups in the society.

3.    And most importantly – we need to create an internal process of planning, priorities and implementation of recovery. What is the algorithm for the selection of projects of recovery for donors? We need bottom-up and top-down planning systems for different types of territories which donors will trust. A new State Strategy of Regional Development can help here, and you need to join the process of its creation. EU Cohesion policy is the key investment policy of the EU that provides the balanced development of territories and regions within the EU. Organization and implementation of recovery have to take place within this EU policy; this will allow Ukraine to learn how to turn the costs of the donors (EU, G7) into outputs, results and impacts that solve the fundamental problems and realize potentials.

We already have six State Funds for the Recovery of Ukraine, including the Economic Recovery and Transformation Fund, and the Humanitarian Fund. How will these institutions work?

Ukraine is famous for the proverb – never miss a chance to miss a chance! But this has to remain in the past. We paid a steep price for the opportunity to establish ourselves as a  prospering nation on the European continent. I wish us all to use  100% of this chance. For the sake of Ukraine and so that we can drag the world away from the abyss that it is already staring into so attentively. We have shown that we can act in the name of the future.

 Life is a range of confrontations with the future; it is not the sum of what we used to be but what we want to become. These words belong to the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset.

Ukraine knows what it wants to look like in the future. Free, democratic, strong, and modern. Realizing this vision is essential for us and the future world system. We strongly wish to see Ukraine's victory and not the Russian aggression as a new beginning of the new timeline!

Currently, our experience of time differs starkly from the experience of our international allies:

●      2 minutes – time needed to run towards the bomb shelter.

●      2 hours – the time that surgery of the wounded lasts.

●      2 days of waiting to hear from the relative fighting on the frontline.

This experienced time has little to do with the time measured by the watch. It is essential to make sure that our perception of time in bomb shelters, trenches, hospitals, and temporary housing – which is so strikingly different compared to the perception of time of inhabitants of Paris or Tokyo – does not preclude us from synchronizing our watches with our allies so that we can move forward in one direction and with the same speed.

You create a chance for synchronization of this time with your actions, resilience, creativity and bravery. This is extremely important for making Ukrainian victory closer! This inspires me – and that is why I believe in our victory. This should also inspire you!

Glory to Ukraine!