In Case of Nuclear War West Has Options Putin Will Not Like at All - Sikorski

Tuesday, 13 September 2022 — , European Pravda

Radosław Sikorski is one of those Western diplomats who truly feels and understands Ukraine.

Former Minister of Defense and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland worked with Ukraine on behalf of the Polish government for many years in a row - during the presidencies of Yushchenko, Yanukovych, and Poroshenko.

Being a MEP nowadays, he stays an opposition politician in Poland and also an expert. Sikorski allows himself to say out loud what current EU officials say only behind closed doors. That is why he is not afraid of such statements "The negotiations will be long, difficult, and humiliating for Ukraine, but it will be worth it."

We spoke with Sikorski "on the sidelines" of the annual meeting of the Yalta European Strategy. His interview is worth watching, even to find out what the statement above is about.


"It will be your negotiation with Russia and your terms and compromises"

- I had heard Zelensky say at the Yalta European Conference that Ukraine will win because Ukraine does not have other options than to win. Is that sufficient?

- Ukraine's high morale from the president downwards is an element of Ukraine not only withstanding the onslaught but also going on the offensive. We are speaking on the day when Izium was taken back. So we don't know how this will pan out, but certainly, the president is more credible on this than he's ever been.

- The key question is whether the US and Europe will agree that Ukraine will also retake Crimea.

- Well, the US and Europe are doing more for Ukraine than I would have anticipated if we were talking in January. I would not have guessed that the US would pass legislation to back Ukraine with, what is it, $40 billion?

Even in February, it was hard to imagine that. European Union is doing its bit. For the first time in history we are buying weapons, we are giving macroeconomic assistance, and so on so. I don’t think it's helpful to decide the definition of Ukrainian victory that we want to adopt. This is hostage to events. We don't want to make it appear that somehow our help is conditional. We want you to achieve what you want to achieve. You have politics, too, and it will be your negotiation and your terms and compromises if needed.

- You have certainly heard there are some politicians on a very high level who say that Ukraine should start negotiating with Russia. How strong is the West’s desire to make Ukraine negotiate?

- When somebody is being raped, it's not the best time to encourage them to negotiate. There's never a shortage of chamberlains, willing to trade away other people's freedom. But the question is if they are supplying the money and the weapons. They are. It's the speed of your recovery, of your lands that will be crucial.

- What do you think about that we have to retake Crimea, as Minister Reznikov said, despite all these suggestions?

- The West doesn't want to have a Third World War over Ukraine. But the West wants you to win, to defend your sovereignty, and to recover as much of your land as possible. I think in between those two positions though there will be a solution. As we are speaking the Russians are on the run around Izium. I've raised my own internal probability of the Russians suffering a catastrophic defeat from 10 to 20%. Much depends on the circumstances. If you look back at Russia's defeats previously in the Crimean War, in the Russo-Japanese War, they ended with negotiations and actually subsequently reforms in Russia. In the end, it's fairly simple: whoever loses the war also loses its territory.

- Russia will not lose territories in this case because we will stop on our borders. What can pursue Putin stop when Ukraine retakes Crimea and Donbas?

- Putin's definition of victory is also moving. His first definition of victory was the final solution of the Ukraine problem. And I mean it. We all read that premature announcement in RIA Novosti when they thought they were conquering Kyiv and it was literally the annihilation of Ukraine and the extermination of Ukrainian elites, right? Now, he's talking about a mere capitulation: guarantees for the Russian language and this and that. So he's actually moved already.

My worry is that

such dictators never know fast enough how much in how much trouble they are.

They all have a tendency to agree to terms too late. Napoleon and many others did that. And then they lose everything. Look, war is politics by other means. You are already negotiating on the battlefield.

"The West has such options Putin won't like at all"

- Is nuclear weapons a real threat? Or can they just weaponize a nuclear power plant? Will Putin try to use nuclear energy against Ukraine?

- Well, I hope not. There are talks about chemical weapons. That's not a true weapon of mass destruction. You can kill a few 100, a few 1000 people, but not many. It's actually difficult to deliver. I think the fact that we now have international inspectors in Zaporizhzhia is helpful. Temporarily, but it's helpful.

Tactical nukes. First of all, they are in storage sites now and we would know in the West, we monitor them if they try to deliver them to units. I believe that the United States has already communicated to Putin that if he were to use it, there are options that the West has that he wouldn't like at all.

- Certainly, the US would not use nukes against Russia.

- No, but as I've said before and I don't think it's just theory since Russia has broken the Budapest Memorandum and this would be another flagrant breach of the Budapest Memorandum against a country that voluntarily gave up its nukes.

The United States might decide to go back to the status quo and make Ukraine a nuclear power again.

- Wow, that would be quite interesting. Well, let's imagine a situation when the US or the West, in general, would push Ukraine to give up some part of its territory to have peace. Do you understand that the Ukrainian people would not agree with it?

I completely understand, which is why I'm not going to get into this kind of speculation. You are fighting for your life. You're fighting for the millions of people who've been kidnapped or stolen children. You've been the victims of war crimes. Your leaders are motivating you to fight, and you fight to win. I don't think it's helpful for foreigners to be second-guessing your leaders on what the final settlement might be. You are fighting to win and we wish you victory.

"Hungary will feel the long-term consequences, and not only reputational"

- Let's return to the EU. Will it survive this winter in terms of its resilience, the unity around sanctions, and so on?

- I think so.  You have to look through the hype. We have enough gas to supply every household. The real issue is not even physical gas for our industry, but its price and the competitiveness of our fertilizer and chemical industry. I think Russia has already destroyed the reputation of its army, and it's in its defense industry. It's and it's in the process, quite advanced, of destroying the reputation of its oil and gas industry as a reliable supplier.

- Another, let's say problem, that also harms the EU is Hungary. We see that even Poland, which was a very close partner of Hungary, is trying to distance itself from Orban because of Ukraine. Do you see that this might lead to some decisions towards Hungary?

- Hungary backed the losing side in World War I. It backed the losing side in World War II. They went all the way to Stalingrad. I've told a lot of Hungarian friends that there are consequences for backing a dictator who loses.

(Read moreHungary Picked the Dark Side. Over Again, as in 1939)

- What do you see as possible consequences?

- Well, Hungary is trying to get its COVID recovery plan, which is a lot of money. In Poland, even under our populist government, we had a close relationship with Hungary. It is now more fraud. I was trying to explain to Viktor Orban, who came to prominence first in 1989 by making a speech at the reburial of Imre Nagy, who is a kind of Volodymyr Zelensky of 1956.

EuroPravda reference: Imre Nagy is a two-time prime minister of post-war Hungary, who was removed from office by the Soviet-dependent Hungarian Workers' Party because of the democratic reforms he initiated. This sparked the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which returned Nagy to the prime minister's chair. But within a week, the Soviet Union occupied Hungary again, Nadya was arrested, and in 1958 he was executed.

I was asking Orban, where is the Viktor of then? Why aren't you supporting the Imre Nagy of today, which is President Zelensky?

It's odd. Hungary, short term, is getting cheap gas. But I think there will be long-term consequences, not only reputational.

- Do you see that the EU membership is at stake for Hungary? Voting rights?

- Yes, but for other reasons. Hungary is in breach of rule of law criteria. I would have made a different connection. Namely, he's in trouble in the EU because of the Putin playbook that he is enforcing in Hungary. First, you take over the media, both state media, and private media. Then you subjugate the judiciary. Then you steal money from state-owned enterprises, etc. It has put him at loggerheads with the rest of the EU.

- Do you think it will cost Hungary EU membership?

- There is no procedure for expulsion, but there is a procedure for suspending the vote. I think there are elements of that already. We will have a general election in Poland in a year’s time. I believe we, the opposition, will win and then Hungary will be ideologically isolated in Europe.

- By the way, now Ukraine and Poland are in a perfect position in terms of our reconciliation, even history-wise. Can we be sure that this reconciliation is stable?

- I think so because we have no claims. I think both countries have resigned themselves to the borders where they are. We have no claims against each other as regards historical wrongs. You can argue who was worse to whom in the 17th century, in the 20th century, but you know both sides made mistakes. At least Poland recognizes that it was our mistake in the 17th century not to make the Polish Commonwealth a three-part Confederation - Poland, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and Ukraine (He means Treaty of Hadiach from 1658 with the Ukrainian Hetmanship, which did not enter into force due to comments from the Polish Sejm. - EP).

Actually, the Treaty was passed by the Polish Parliament, but a year too late. So this was never consummated. This is a great pity because the history of Europe would have been different had we done so. So we have our second chance for Ukraine, with Poland's help, to join another federation. This time the European Federation.

"If you do not adopt - you won't join"

- Have the EU Member States realized that Ukraine will join the EU?

- They have said so officially. There is no problem. I want to tell you a couple of things about it. First of all, you need to explain to your people, that this is not just some trade. This is a deep political union, which means the joining up of aspects of your sovereignty.

Secondly, the negotiation will be long, hard and humiliating, but is worth it in the end.

And thirdly, if you succeed, you are such a large nation, that will change the balance of power inside the European Union to the advantage of Central and Eastern Europe.

- You say it is official. I would not agree. Ukraine has a perspective.

Now you're a candidate. Yes, it is not guaranteed. My advice is you should not think of it as negotiation because the EU will not change its compromises worked out over half a century for you. Just adopt the European body of law.

The less you think you negotiate, the less time you'll waste and the sooner you'll be in.

- Even if we adopt all that…

- If you don’t, you won’t become a member. There's very little room for compromise.

- There is always a way to block it.

- Of course. It’s a unanimous vote in the parliaments of the Member States. Adopting the European acquis communautaire, the body of European law, is good for you even if you don’t become a member. It means you are leaving the Soviet and Russian legal civilization and you're entering the European legal civilization, which is exactly what Putin understood, and that's what he wanted to prevent.

- We have to cross some kind of red line to convince those skeptical countries that we should become a member once we adopt the acquis.

- Your brand could not be stronger right now. You seem to have fought out this right to become a member. Don't waste it. Don’t waste time. So accept the acquis, close all the negotiation chapters, and then together with Poland and others will do the politics.

- I believe we will join NATO even before the EU.

- Interestingly, I spoke to Henry Kissinger, who as you know, was warning quite recently. He said, well, I thought it was provocative before the war, but now that they've invaded, it's no longer provocative.

- I guess given the Ukrainian army’s success on the battlefield, it is even better for NATO to have such members.

- True, but the real question is if others are willing to go to war with Russia for Ukraine. And that's not quite the case yet.

- So let's defeat Russia first.

- That would be helpful.


Interviewed by Sergiy Sydorenko, 
"European Pravda" editor

Filmed by Volodymyr Oliinyk

Kyiv, 18 Yalta European Conference

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