Given the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East, Denys Kolesnyk discussed the challenges in the Middle East and beyond with a Ukrainian editor and journalist, Vitaliy Portnikov. This conversation follows the first discussion with Mr Portnikov, published in October 2023, a few days before the Hamas attack on Israel.
The security situation in the world has been deteriorating since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here, we can mention the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October 2023, the recent Houthi attacks on ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, as well as China’s rhetoric towards Taiwan. How do you explain these processes?
There are several aspects to this. The first is related to history. In principle, all this had to happen because the generation of people who survived the Second World War is passing away, if not already. There is no generation of “children of war” anymore. In other words, people born during or before the war and who are now between 80 and 90 years old. And this generation, all over the world, not just in Europe, had a first-hand experience of war, that war is a horror. Now this generation is gone.
By the way, this can be compared to what happened in Russia as well, when the idea of “not having a war”, which was the main narrative in my childhood during the USSR, changed to the narrative of “we can do it again”. And this happened in many regions of the world. Even in France, you can see one interesting thing: anti-Semitic demonstrations, not just anti-Israeli demonstrations, but anti-Semitic demonstrations. And this is also a continuation of the same trend. A generation of people is passing away who feel responsible for the Holocaust.
This sentiment is that we failed to protect our compatriots, we allowed everyone to be killed, and we are responsible for this as a nation and as a state. Now this is not the case, because today’s young people do not understand why they should be responsible for something that is connected with the memory of their great-grandparents, not even their grandparents. This is becoming history, as you and I are not responsible for the First World War. We don’t remember what happened there, and who committed what crimes. And in the so-called Global South, it’s even more complicated. So it doesn’t surprise me at all.
Another aspect is the reaction of the West. The reaction of the West is not even to Russia’s attack on Ukraine in 2022, but to Russia’s occupation of Crimea, which was a blatant violation of international law. By the way, Europe was a pilot region in the world where the inviolability of borders was a value. This has not happened anywhere else in the world. All other regions of the world have borders, but they can be revised at any time for reasons of historical continuity or because one state is stronger than another.
And we have already seen this happen. We have seen the separation of Ethiopia and Eritrea, and before that, the accession of Eritrea to Ethiopia. The disintegration of Sudan, and the separatist processes that took place relatively recently. We can also mention the separatist processes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, the quarrel between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, and China’s border claims to India in connection with the annexed Tibet.
But in Europe, there was an idea that borders are inviolable, and the most important principle is that one state cannot appropriate the territory of another. We can recognise Kosovo as an independent state, but not annex it to Albania. Another example is that we don’t like the fact that Russia has recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but we hope that this conflict will be resolved one day. Yes, we are gathering a whole group on Nagorno-Karabakh, but in the end, the conflict is resolved by force and no one is particularly lamenting about it, because it is obvious that this is an internationally recognised territory of Azerbaijan.
But what did we see in Crimea? Vladimir Putin violated these rules, annexed Crimea, and then there was an invasion in 2022, and several more regions of Ukraine fell under Russian occupation. And the West says, let Ukraine fight, let it restore its territorial integrity, and we will help, but we cannot enter into a direct armed conflict with the Russian Federation.
And, coming back to your question, of course, this is a factor for everyone watching. If they are not ready to act even in Europe, what will they do, let’s say in Africa or Asia? Nothing.
I will say an unpopular thing. There was a world that emerged after 9/11, a world of adequate reactions that nobody liked. The world of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. We thought it was wrong that Slobodan Milosevic was expelling Kosovars from Kosovo, and we would warn him, launch an operation to bomb military facilities in Serbia and Montenegro, and if they didn’t understand, we would launch a ground invasion. And everyone said, “What a horror! NATO is bombing Serbia!”
And the more terrifying world is the world in which the Americans and the British launched an operation against the regime of Saddam Hussein, a regime that was terrorising its population, that was killing Shiites and Kurds in Iraq so that they had to establish a no-fly zone, but with the completely unconfirmed accusation that Iraq might have weapons of mass destruction. And everyone said, what a horror!
George W. Bush, all these conservatives, all these Cheneys, who are like the devil, Hollywood even made films about him, how horrible, immoral and lying he is. And in the end, humanity, exhausted by this immoral world, by the lies of the White House, by Bush, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, voted joyfully for another world, the world of Barack Obama.
And now we live in the world of Barack Obama, who won the Nobel Prize simply for being elected President of the United States of America. This is a wonderful world in which the United States is not going to be the world’s gendarme, but is negotiating. Do you remember at one of the summits when President Obama and President Putin sat next to each other and negotiated on Syria? And as a result, there was no no-fly zone in Syria. There were very good red lines that Russia was violating.
At the same time, we need to understand that if there were no red lines in Iraq, if there was no no-fly zone, Saddam Hussein would simply destroy all Shiites and Kurds, simply bomb them out. And as a result, he would have had a perfect Sunni dictatorial state.
And now, as a result of all this, Bashar al-Assad has an ideal, I would say, non-Sunni Syria. Because he simply expelled and bombed the Sunnis, who were in the majority. And the red lines, for example, the use of chemical weapons, we remember Barack Obama saying that if Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, it would be a disaster, the United States would respond, but they didn’t.
But this world emerged after Russia annexed Crimea, which resulted in insignificant sanctions imposed on Moscow. Even though President Putin had violated international law. And what was said then? Oh, well, you have to understand Putin, Crimea is a “historically Russian territory”, there are ethnic Russians there, so if you don’t react harshly, maybe he will calm down, the main thing is that he doesn’t go to the mainland of Ukraine. Barack Obama was on the phone with Vladimir Putin all the time. And that was it, we immediately found ourselves in a completely different world.
But what was left for all the other politicians in the situation they found themselves in as a result of the United States assessed caution, which, by the way, has continued under Donald Trump. Interestingly, in this respect, Donald Trump is a direct heir to Barack Obama’s approach. Or he also has to manoeuvre, like Emmanuel Macron, who simply went in circles around Putin, trying to restart relations, which, of course, was not successful. And that de facto led to the humiliation of Emmanuel Macron. And we can also recall Angela Merkel, who immediately told Obama: “Barack, we have lost Putin, he is out of his mind”. But when she didn’t get the support she needed from the US, she simply tried to slow down Putin’s aggression and offer him the Nord Stream instead of war.
This is the world we live in, and we have no other world. And I don’t see this changing. We have a choice between the administration of Joseph Biden and Donald Trump, where Biden is simply a more determined person than Barack Obama, and Trump, who believes that Americans should just ignore conflicts. And if Joseph Biden doesn’t want to take part in conflicts himself, he wants to, at least, help those who are ready to resist, and Donald Trump doesn’t even want that.
And, of course, in such a world there are metastases, as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said during his last Middle East tour, and they will grow. By the way, we have already lived in this world before the Second World War, when Woodrow Wilson’s world was replaced by Franklin Roosevelt’s. Then Franklin Roosevelt had to participate in the war without any apparent desire. And Franklin Roosevelt is Joseph Biden. I’m ready to help those who are fighting Nazism not to isolate themselves in the way that others have suggested, like, say, the then US Ambassador to the UK, Joseph Kennedy, who was practically Trump’s current ambassador, who said, no, don’t, and therefore destroyed his political career. And there were many such politicians in the United States at that time.
And Franklin Roosevelt believed that he should help those who would fight Hitler, but not take a direct part in the conflict. And so he waited until Pearl Harbor. And I want to emphasise that in such a situation, Pearl Harbor always happens. These are the laws of history. And the American president who decides that he is capable of acting in this way will wait for his Pearl Harbor.
I will not ask you what exactly such a Pearl Harbor might look like because no one can know. Or can we?
Listen, why an attack on Taiwan cannot become Pearl Harbor? I’m not saying that this attack on Taiwan will happen, because I still hope for the common sense of the Chinese leader and the prudence of the members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee. But I cannot say for sure.
I also cannot say with certainty that Kim Jong-un will not go crazy and fire on Seoul. And we do not know what the American reaction will be, the Chinese reaction, whether a mechanism of action will be launched or not.
Well, yes, there may be different options. We don’t even know whether, for example, Russia can or cannot use hybrid scenarios in Estonia, for example. Or is it less likely?
I think that Estonia is a member of a fairly strong defence alliance, and now there are confrontations between different alliances in different regions, confrontations between the US and Chinese alliances, so to speak.
Do you believe in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty?
Yes, I believe in Article 5. It provides for, I would say, an unavoidable development of events. It’s just that Article 5 doesn’t necessarily provide for the use of nuclear weapons. All the time when we talk about it, we think that there will be an immediate exchange of nuclear strikes between Russia and the United States, and there will be an apocalypse, but that’s a film scenario because war can be conventional.
Yes, but Article 5 doesn’t even necessarily imply that a NATO member state will go to war in the literal sense. There are other ways to help, for example, by sending helmets or bulletproof vests, or by making declarations.
But this assistance can also be not only equipment but also manpower. To be honest, I don’t understand what threatens NATO member states in a situation where their army is much more modern than Russia’s.
You know, if the Russian army had destroyed Ukraine in a week, it would be in Uzhhorod right now, and we would be saying, oh, there is a risk of triggering Article 5 because Russia will go to Poland or Slovakia. But we are talking about the Russian army that is trampling around Avdiivka.
Let’s go back to the Middle East. And as you know, just recently, Iran attacked the American consulate that is being built in Erbil. Or at least that’s what Iranians say. Could this be seen as retaliation for the recent US-British strikes against the Houthis in Yemen, who, by the way, are being supported by Iran? How would you explain the logic here?
Iran has many fronts of confrontation. On the one hand, it is fighting the West and understands that the West is trying to destroy its proxy armies. On the other hand, there are other proxy armies, and radical organisations that want to destroy the Iranian regime because, in their view, it is not radical enough.
It is important to understand Tehran’s logic: on the one hand, the United States is hitting the Houthis, and this is a fact that needs to be addressed. On the other hand, the Islamic State is organising a terrorist attack on the grave of General Qassem Soleimani. And, for Iran, this is a much more serious story than the Houthis, because they are a proxy army and they don’t need to be saved. On the contrary, they should be the same tool in the fight against the West as Hamas or Hezbollah.
But when a bomb can explode where the entire leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is located, this is a serious story. And so I think that Iran simultaneously wants to destroy both radicals in the Islamic world, whom it considers enemies, and to demonstrate to the West its ability to respond to strikes.
I think that Iran may strike Erbil not because it is a response to the West, but because it is also quite important to pacify Iraqi Kurdistan as a Western-oriented state. It is also worth noting that among the victims of this strike was one of the most important businessmen in Iraqi Kurdistan, Peshraw Dizayee, a local oligarch who was closely associated with President Nechirvan Barzani. He was killed along with his family. For some reason, they were aiming at the territory of the American consulate but hit his house. And here they are sending a signal to Barzani, hinting that he is allowing the Americans and Israelis to operate on its territory too much, and we don’t like it.
You understand that all these players, Iran, Turkey, and Syria, do not like the very fact of Kurdistan’s existence. That’s the answer to the question. So, I think this is not the answer to the bombing of the Houthis, but an attempt to be a regional hegemon. Because strikes in Kurdistan automatically increase the “actions” of Shiite politicians in Iraq.
Recently, Pakistan launched strikes on Iran’s border province of Balochistan, claiming that the strikes were against insurgents. Iran also responded with attacks, and they again exchanged fire and bombed each other. How do you explain this “exchange of pleasantries”?
There are groups in the border areas of Pakistan that are fighting the current Iranian government. As you know, Pakistan has always supported certain groups that destabilise the situation in neighbouring countries. Islamabad pretends that it has nothing to do with it, but as a rule, these organisations work closely with the Pakistani intelligence services and army.
Iran does the same. Teheran also always has organisations that destabilise the situation in neighbouring countries. It’s just that, you know, if for Russia, war is a continuation of politics by other means, then for all these countries, such terrorist or insurgent organisations, are also a continuation of politics.
And besides, you can show your influence in the region by destroying them. And this is a mutual weapon, I would say. It can be used by Iran, but also by Pakistan.
In principle, Iran must have realised when it struck Pakistan that there would be a retaliatory strike because the Pakistani army simply could not afford not to retaliate. But what is also interesting is that the important Pakistani newspaper Dawn has been publishing articles by leading Pakistani politicians and military officials calling for de-escalation. In other words, for Pakistan, this may already be a closed case. Iran attacked Pakistan, Pakistan attacked Iran, and now we are talking.
This is one explanation, but it could be another. Six hours before the Iranian operation in Pakistan, the Pakistani prime minister met with the Iranian foreign minister in Davos. And Islamabad may consider it an insult that we are talking to you, conducting a dialogue, and then, just a few hours later, you attack our territory.
However, as you can imagine, the Iranian Foreign Minister is not the person who should be informed that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is going to bomb something. In countries like Iran, the foreign minister is somewhat alienated from decision-making.
And an additional point that needs to be mentioned is the elections in Pakistan. By the way, the Pakistani military may consider the Iranian attack as an attempt to change the situation before the elections because it would strengthen the opposition to Imran Khan, whom they are keeping in prison.
In other words, should we consider this situation only as a minor, insignificant issue?
As we know from the experience of the First World War, any minor conflict can escalate into a real war.
Back to the question that we have already talked about a little bit. America and the Western world have not responded strongly to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Does this encourage other countries to use force to pursue their interests?
Of course, it does. At the same time, it strengthens the position of third parties. We should remember that Iran and Pakistan are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). And there is a country that is interested in bringing them to the negotiating table – China, which has already brought Saudi Arabia and Iran to the negotiating table.
And the fact that it will now also be a patron of Pakistan and Iran is, of course, a very dangerous thing for the United States. Because Washington will have to say to itself that we are losing ground in Pakistan, we need to strengthen our position in India, even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi is quite keen on relations with the United States as an alternative to China. But he also wants good relations with Russia. And this will have to be accepted as a given. This is a difficult situation for America, but it has already happened.
You just mentioned America. Let’s discuss the policy of the Biden Administration, which lacks the determination to fight against rogue states such as Russia. According to certain Middle East experts, the United States has not been decisive in dealing with Hamas’ attack on Israel either. What is the policy of the Biden administration, and what might be the policy of the Trump administration should he win?
I think that the United States under Biden is trying to confront these countries in a way that does not involve them directly in clashes. And this, by the way, is Biden’s political strategy – to be a defender of the interests of countries that are attacked by dictatorships, but not at the expense of the lives of American soldiers.
He has always said that. If you read his memoirs, written before he became vice president of the United States, it says it all. There’s a whole chapter about the war in Yugoslavia, how he fought for Bosnia and Herzegovina to be provided with weapons, but he did not want the US army to be involved in that conflict.
That is why, by the way, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which was President Donald Trump’s idea, was embraced by President Biden. They have the same position on this issue.
But Trump may believe that he has to reach an agreement with all these regimes, except Iran, as he has already tried to do this with North Korea, but in a way that is contrary to China’s interests. For President Trump, China will be his main enemy. And he will offer Russia an alliance against China. And North Korea may receive investments if Pyongyang weakens its ties with China.
It seems to me, however, that this is no longer possible. Firstly, Russia will not break away from China from an economic point of view. And secondly, because North Korea will not break away from Russia. We see that Pyongyang is now strengthening its relations with Moscow while reducing its relations with the People’s Republic of China.
I’ll just give you an example: after the cancellation of the zero-tolerance policy on Covid, Putin and Kim Jong-un met in Russia, the DPRK’s deputy foreign minister came to Moscow just the other day, Sergei Shoigu and Sergei Lavrov visited Pyongyang.
But the highest level of visits by North Korean officials to Beijing is the Deputy Foreign Minister. There has been no meeting between Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un since the Covid because Pyongyang is not interested. But Beijing may not be interested either, because it may believe that it can easily influence the DPRK through Moscow. Therefore, it does not need to take responsibility for any of Kim Jong-un’s political manoeuvres because it can delegate power to Moscow as a junior partner to influence even smaller partners. The DPRK is now turning into a kind of Belarus with nuclear weapons in the Far East.
And still, you say that the United States does not want to be directly involved in wars. But we see the proliferation of conflicts in the world. Is it possible to address these conflicts without America as a strong player?
Let’s start with the fact that several countries are engaged in the re-division of the world. But these countries have different ideas about what this “new” world should look like. Russia speaks of a multipolar world, while China speaks of a bipolar world.
And now, Putin is worrying everyone exclusively about the war in Ukraine and his threats. But what if there was no war? Suppose Putin said it was over, Russia was withdrawing its troops from Ukraine. Who would talk about Russia the next day it’s over? What is so interesting and important about Russia other than the war and claims regarding a zone of influence? Nothing.
But on the other hand, we have to understand that the bipolar world is also fiction in a sense because China cannot catch up economically with the United States. And in terms of technology, China is also inferior. Everyone is concerned about China as a power that spreads influence. That’s why there are so many alliances in the Pacific region, in Asia, where the United States has created several anti-Chinese alliances.
On the other hand, we have to understand that the bipolar world is also fiction in a sense because China cannot catch up economically with the United States. And in terms of technology, China is also inferior. Everyone is concerned about China as a power that spreads influence. That’s why there are so many alliances in the Pacific region, in Asia, where the United States has created several anti-Chinese alliances.
The Middle East is a region where interests traditionally clash. And even there, China is not very present. But the fact that the leaders of the United States and India visited Papua New Guinea shows how the world has changed. Where are the centres of tension now? When the military alliance between the Solomon Islands and China is one of the biggest challenges to global security. When the front pages of Asian newspapers are now full of comments on the withdrawal of the Indian military from the Maldives, which creates new positions for the Chinese navy and the Chinese military, this is a completely different story.
Given that the current conflict between Hamas and Israel has been going on since October 7, 2023. What is happening there now? Where are we now, and where are we headed?
We are in a zone of lower intensity of hostilities, but the problem is that there is no solution in principle.
This is similar to Russia’s war on Ukraine. There is a formula by President Zelensky that fully describes all the norms of international law, and everyone agrees, even those who disagree, that it is a formula that describes the norms of international law. How can it be implemented? There is no way. There are Vladimir Putin’s demands on Ukraine, such as recognition of territorial realities contrary to international law, demilitarisation, “denazification”, all those kinds of things. How can this be implemented? It is impossible.
Do the negotiating positions of the parties allow them to sit down and discuss these concepts without military confrontation? No, because these are not positions that can be brought together. Maybe there is a favourable public opinion? No, there isn’t. Most Russians agree that Ukraine should be defeated and turned into Russia. And the majority of Ukrainians believe that we should return to the 1991 borders officially recognised by the international community. Where is the political solution? There is no political solution.
Now let’s look at the Middle East. The majority of Israelis, even those who believe that we should agree to the two-state solution, are convinced that Israel has the right to exist and to be secure in such a concept. Even those Israelis who come out and say, “Stop killing civilians in the Gaza Strip”, there are such Israelis too. It does not occur to them that Israel should be a state where some bandits break into kibbutz and kill women and children.
And there is the population of the Palestinian Authority, where support for Hamas has only increased, not only in the Gaza Strip but also in the West Bank.
Hamas’s programme is the destruction of the state of Israel, and the expulsion of Jews from Israel, because for Hamas there is no Israel at all. We can, of course, say that we will eliminate all Hamas structures, which is all well and good, but what about the population? And the population of the Palestinian Authority believes that the Palestinian state should occupy the entire territory of Mandatory Palestine.
But a sober approach would have to include simple, but absolute truths. Jews and Arabs have lived on this land since time immemorial. Of course, a large number of Jews came to the Jewish state after the Second World War, but a large number of Arabs moved to these lands not so long ago.
It is not who moved when that matters, but identity. Jews believe that they are on their land in the Jewish state that existed 2,000 years before, and Arabs believe that they have the right to their state in Palestine.
The ideal approach is to let these two states exist. But if one nation says “No, we will be the only ones here”, then of course there is no political solution. And by and large, time is working for the people who say, “Yes, you have the right to exist, and you can have a state here, but you have to guarantee the recognition of our state and our right to security.”
That is why I believe that every additional year that passes, when the Palestinians, with all their identity, cannot create a state that guarantees Israel its secure existence, it can put an end to the statehood aspirations of the Palestinian Arabs. Sooner or later, they will have to admit that they have missed a historic chance to create their state.
I don’t know how this will happen, but with each new conflict, the Palestinians’ position is weakening rather than strengthening. Everyone says that now is the time for a second Palestinian state, the Americans are talking about it, but as soon as they start talking to the Palestinians, they will immediately start saying that Israel should be eliminated. And that’s where all the chances end.
But this is wishful thinking, you know? The Arabs, for example, may dream that Israel should disappear, but they don’t have the power to make it happen.
Of course, and that’s why Arab states, at least some of them, want to reconcile with Israel. And you’ve seen that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other states, right now are interested in a Palestinian state purely declaratively. In reality, they want the Palestinians to destroy their chance. While talking to the Arab street, they say that we are supporters of the Palestinian state, we will fight for it, and we will not normalise relations with Israel until it disappears. But this is just a delay for the Palestinians to lose everything themselves. And this is the answer to your question.
And at the same time, I will tell you right away that I have always been a supporter of the two-state solution. But if you ask me, as a person of common sense, as a Jew, whether I want a state that will exterminate the Jews, no, I don’t. And if I were not a Jew, I would not want that either. Because why would I want that?
Have we seen what happens when a terrorist organisation supported by the majority of the population controls a territory? After Ariel Sharon withdrew his troops from the Gaza Strip, I dreamed that some kind of normal life would begin there. The Arabs of Gaza had a great choice: either to turn their territory into a terrorist fortress or to turn it into the United Arab Emirates. They had every opportunity, a huge stretch of beaches, cheap fruits, and the opportunity to receive Israeli and world tourists.
What do they do instead? They vote for Hamas, destroy all the objects left by the Jews in the settlements, burn everything down and turn their territory into a base for attack. This is the choice of the population. Golda Meir once said that Jews and Arabs would come to a settlement only when the Arabs loved their children more than they wanted to kill Jews. And the desire to kill the Jews remains the mainstream.
This is also very similar to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. For Russians, it is much more important to get someone else’s territory than to live normally.
But look, even with a theoretical reconciliation and the implementation of a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, there will still be states, such as Algeria, that are very strongly opposed to Israel, and pursue a policy of non-recognition of Israel. What to do with them?
You know, this is a process. Back in the 1970s, Egypt, Syria and other Arab states fought against Israel. Now, we have come to the possibility of diplomatic normalisation with Saudi Arabia, and this would have happened if not for Hamas’ attack on Israel.
As you can imagine, Algeria has its political processes. And this will not be static either. Algeria is somehow in a confrontation with Morocco over the Western Sahara, which means that Morocco will be more favourable to relations with Israel because it faces an existential threat from Algeria.
So, this is a long process of the Arab world realising the need for coexistence with Israel. And Israel also has to realise the need for coexistence with the Arab world, this is also absolutely clear to me.
We’ve talked about Israel. But what is the risk for Ukraine if countries such as the United States, Britain, France and Germany lose focus while trying to address all these re-emerging conflicts? How could this affect the Russian-Ukrainian war and the fate of Ukraine in general?
It’s a risk, and we talked about it in 2022. If the war goes on for a long time, there will be less interest in it. And it’s easy to understand when we look at all the other wars that had happened before, the Yugoslav wars, which were initially on the front pages of newspapers and then disappeared. Even the war in the Middle East, look at it. Of course, if you open the Times of Israel, it’s still the main topic, but if you open the New York Times, it’s no longer the main topic. And it’s normal.
Imagine when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. The next day, this event was on the front pages of all the world’s newspapers. And who remembered Sarajevo six months later? And in general, who bothered about the fate of people who lived in Bosnia or the Kingdom of Yugoslavia? Nobody. So yes, first of all, Ukraine runs the risk of losing attention. And so Kyiv should maintain this attention. Secondly, we also run the risk of a reduction in aid. And this is a serious opportunity for Russia. And thirdly, we undoubtedly have to think about how to get out of this situation.
If we want to fight for a long time the way we have been fighting for the past two years, we have to understand that high-intensity warfare can hardly be the direction we want to be heading. And we need to think not even about reconciliation with Russia, because I don’t believe in it, but about a low-intensity war, about how to end the war without Russia.
But we need to understand that we will not be at the centre of the world’s attention if the war continues for 5 or 10 years. We will be on the periphery of this attention, and this is also true. It’s not very positive for Ukraine, but we need to acknowledge this. We must always live, as I say, in the real world. And there should be an action plan for different scenarios.
And as of now, we cannot say that Ukraine has been forgotten. You can see that President Zelensky received with some interest in Davos. He was not the central figure at the forum, that’s also a fact. But he came and drew attention to Ukraine, and it is already important.
Otherwise, everyone would have been looking at Chinese prime minister Li Qiang. But at the same time, yet again, it won’t be possible to do this every time, and we need to understand this.
By the way, there was information that the Chinese leader avoided Zelensky in Davos.
We don’t know for sure, but there was no meeting. And the Chinese were not present at the meeting of national security advisers. Although the Chinese delegation was already in Davos that day, and the Chinese prime minister was already in Bern, where he met with President Viola Amgerd and Volodymyr Zelensky.
I would say that the issue is not that they are avoiding Zelensky, but that China is avoiding participation in the process related to the war in Ukraine. And Beijing does not even hide this, and this is a fact.
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