Igor Zhovkova, deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said cast-iron security guarantees from the world’s most powerful forces are the only way to ensure that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the final act of a Russian offensive on the west.
In an online event organized by the French Institute of International Relations and the Ukrainian New Europe Center, Zhovkava said any deal that would end the war with Russia should ensure long-term security for Kyiv and its European partners.
“We will definitely win, and we will definitely outshine the attacker this time,” Zhovkova said. “But if the invasion happens again, we must be prepared. That’s why my president is asking for security guarantees as part of a possible deal with Russia.”
Ukrainians are well aware of how security assurances can turn under pressure. The 1994 Budapest Memorandum—an agreement in which the US, Britain and Russia pledged security in exchange for Kyiv’s abandonment of Soviet-era nuclear weapons—has proved toothless in the face of Russia’s aggression since 2014.
But in the memorandum no guarantee, only assurance was given. The document included no legal obligation to support military, and its only mechanism to respond to aggression was the ability to conduct consultations. According to the memorandum, Ukraine repeatedly called for consultations, but was unsuccessful.
“We don’t want a memorandum like this,” Zhovkawa said on Friday. “It was not a legally binding document …
“This time, we want the countries to not only sign this document, but to ratify and implement it in their parliaments. And we want this document to be as effective a working mechanism as possible.
“You can’t let a country in the center of Europe be unsafe. Or you can, but you’ll feel the impact.”
He added: “If the world is not prepared to give these security guarantees, well, that’s the state of the world. But the implications could still be much worse.”
Zelensky has abandoned Ukraine’s ambition to join NATO, although its commitment to pursue membership is still stipulated in the country’s constitution. In exchange for NATO status, Zelensky wants Ukrainian security guaranteed by major nations that could include the US, UK, France, Germany, Turkey, and others.
asked by newsweek What Ukrainians want included in the deal, Zhovkova said, needs commitments on military aid and concrete measures to Kyiv that will meet any new Russian aggression.
“Now, when Ukraine is at war, we have to beg for weapons, or to close the skies, or to provide additional weapons to defend our skies,” said Zhovkova, in Kyiv with a guarantee. Will be able to pre-empt problems.
“We have to understand a chain of events, the chain of command – if you will – how Ukraine will be defended if an invasion begins.
“How will the skies be closed, what weapons will Ukraine already have to defend itself. We don’t need shoes on the ground.
“Russia must understand that Ukraine is not left alone. They will think, ‘Well, today they haven’t helped defend Ukraine. Tomorrow it could be with the Baltic states, the day after tomorrow with Poland’.
“It is very important for all of us to establish a strict mechanism, a strict mechanism, a legally binding treaty, to establish – if you will – a new security system in Europe.”
It is not clear whether Ukraine’s ongoing talks with Russia are real or a bleak veil behind which Moscow is still hoping for a decisive victory. The initial phase of the invasion of Moscow failed to capture Kyiv and destroy the Ukrainian leadership.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces are now preparing a new offensive in the eastern Donbass region, the scale and style of which Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba has said will be reminiscent of World War II.
Meanwhile, most of Ukraine’s coastline is in Russian hands. Ukrainian forces have captured significant territory in recent counterattacks, but Russia has established a land bridge between the Crimean peninsula and the Donbass.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said they will not make any territorial concessions, but Moscow still has an advantage if Ukrainian forces cannot retake the region. The Kremlin could also settle for a return to a frozen conflict by creating puppet states in the occupied territories, as it did in the Donbass.
Security guarantees and EU membership, Zhovkova said, would strengthen Ukraine as a European nation. Kyiv has repeatedly called for fast-tracking its EU bid, something European leaders have said is not possible. The process of joining the block can take many years.
Zhovkova acknowledged that the EU is acting fast enough by its standards, but not fast enough. “It’s a cosmic pace for the EU, but it’s a real snail’s pace for my country,” he said.
“Show a little more courage, show a little more political will,” Zhovkova said in an address to Ukraine’s Western allies. He added that so far EU sanctions are “too few, too slow and far from being sufficient.”
Oil and gas sanctions, he said, must come forward.
“It’s far from the end,” said Zhokova. As for Russia, he said, “it is a problem that the Ukrainian nation is this independent nation, it is a problem that Ukrainians want to be part of the European family rather than the Russian world.”
“It doesn’t even depend on who is in power,” Zhovkova said. “The only thing that can change this is to bring Ukraine closer to Europe, if they understand once and for all that they will not be able to separate Ukraine from the European family.”