The Will and Courage

By Kateryna Yushchenko, Ariana Gic, and Roman Sohn

Amidst growing risks of a large scale military conflict breaking out in Europe, the former leaders of sixteen countries of a wide geographic region have signed a joint statement urging the international community to take effective action to prevent further escalation of Russia’s eight year long undeclared war on Ukraine.

The letter was sent to the UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres to encourage the United Nations to exert all its influence to stop Russia’s aggressive plans.

Russia’s recent extortionist political statements and hostile actions show that it has no intentions of abandoning its aggressive foreign policies and far reaching strategic objectives.

While talking of peace, Russia’s actions expose it continues to seek total destruction of Ukraine as an independent and sovereign nation. Moscow is blatantly demonstrating its readiness to expand its military aggression against Ukraine beyond the currently occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas, and to escalate to a large scale armed attack on the rest of Ukraine.

Despite Moscow’s deceitful and manipulative rhetoric denying its threat to Ukraine, Russia remains on the path of war by continuing to try to coerce Ukraine into submission. Moscow is threatening Kyiv with its military build up in Russia occupied Ukrainian territory, on Ukrainian borders, and in the Black and Azov Seas; strong-arming Ukraine with its energy blackmail; intimidating Ukrainians by unlawful actions such as cyber attacks on government services and institutions, and regular bomb threats against civilian populations including schools; provoking Kyiv with an act of lawfare by preparing to officially recognize the Russian occupation administrations in Ukraine as independent political entities; and by ramping up its vicious state sponsored media propaganda dehumanizing Ukrainians daily.

These recent hostile activities come from the same toolbox of war Russia has been waging against Ukraine since 2014. They indicate that Putin is determined to escalate pressure on Kyiv to extort concessions that would allow Putin to capture Ukraine.

This is why it is of a great significance that for the first time since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, former national leaders representing a broad international network are expressly and clearly stating that there is an “ongoing interstate conflict” between Russia and Ukraine.

This recognition of the interstate nature of the conflict represents an important shift in language about Russia’s war on Ukraine. There are no euphemisms like “crisis in Ukraine” or “separatist conflict in Ukraine incited by/ or led/, backed by Russia,” which obscure the truth of the Russian war.

The truth about the Russian war will dictate more committed action by the international community to help Ukraine defend against aggression. As the distinguished signatories of the statement say, Ukraine, as one of the greatest contributors to world peace, must receive full support from the international community to adequately defend itself, including material, financial, and military assistance.

The recognition of Russia’s responsibility as an aggressor for waging war on Ukraine, occupying both Crimea and parts of the Donbas region, is a necessary condition to put an end to any appeasement attempts to satisfy Kremlin imperialist ambitions by way of victim Ukraine making concessions.

For over a decade, the Kremlin has persistently pushed through its network of influence a so-called “Grand Bargain” with the West – a new division of spheres of geopolitical influence to recognize Russia’s privileged right to restrain the sovereignty of Eastern European and Central Asian nations. In recent months there has been a revival of pieces in Western media promoting a “Helsinki 2.0” type of a comprehensive security settlement in Europe.

The statement of the former world leaders strongly rejects these veiled attempts to change the European security order by legalizing Russia’s geopolitical conquests since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The signatories clearly state that they “reject any policies undermining the very foundation of modern rules based international order”, including “denouncing spheres of influence”.

Ukraine is not an only target of the criminal rogue regime in Moscow. Putin is not going to stop at Ukraine even if it were to be sacrificed on the altar of appeasement. Moscow has far greater ambitions of weakening the West and expanding its influence regionally and globally. This strategy is bound to create more and more conflicts around the world.

Only by treading the path of truth and forcing Russia to respect the existing international security order will the international community will be able to contain Russia’s threat to the world peace.

About authors:

Kateryna Yushchenko, First Lady of Ukraine, 2005-2010, Chairperson, Ukraine 3000 Foundation
Ariana Gic, Political and legal analyst, Director, Direct Initiative International Centre for Ukraine
Roman Sohn, Legal expert, Chairman, Direct Initiative International Centre for Ukraine

The Will and Courage to Stand Up to a Modern-Day Threat to World Peace

Published in EUobserver.

We, the undersigned former leaders and civil society representatives of countries of the European Union, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North America wish to express our grave concern about the rapidly growing threat of large-scale armed conflict that is threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty, political independence, unity, and territorial integrity.

The ongoing, almost eight-year-long interstate conflict — which has resulted in the illegal occupation and attempted annexation of vast parts of Ukraine’s territory — poses a serious challenge to the international security order.

The conflict’s humanitarian cost has also been distressing. The military hostilities alone took the lives of 14 000, injured over 25 thousand, and displaced more than 1.4 million persons from their homes. Massive and systemic human rights violations hurt the lives of Ukrainians remaining in the occupied territories.

Regretfully, until now, the international community has not been able to resolve this conflict through the available mechanisms of international law. It is especially worrying that the international organizations entrusted with maintaining world peace have not been able to enforce the rules-based international order essential to peace, security, and prosperity.

As a result, we observe further destabilization in the region, growing security risks for the entire European continent, and new threats to world peace.

We are sounding the alarm to prevent an irreversible destructive scenario from unfolding. We must take lessons from the bitter experiences of the twentieth century and dedicate all our efforts to reversing a march towards conflict, and support a rules-based international multilateralism that reinforces human rights and national sovereignty and territorial integrity as stated in the UN charter.

Today, the world is not blind. We can discern the truth from lies. We have the wisdom to see the catastrophic consequences of the path of destruction for our future. And we must be determined to remove modern-day threats to world peace.

Ukraine, a founding member of the United Nations, and one of the greatest contributors to world peace as a country that voluntarily gave up the world’s third-biggest nuclear arsenal, must receive full support from the international community.

To demonstrate their commitment to peace, security, and justice, our governments must take determined and timely action to restore peace and security in Ukraine and defend a rules based international order based on the principle of equality of sovereign nations, denouncing spheres of influence, and upholding human rights as a foundation of peace and stabillity.

Our governments must promote conditions under which the fundamental principles of the international order are maintained. We have the tools, and we must use them. Assertive enforcement of international law can be a formidable deterrent to any aggressive actors pursuing malicious agendas in an effort to reshape our world.

We encourage the leaders of the United States, the European Union, G20 countries to form a united front at a time of an unprecedented challenge to global peace and security.

We also call on the international community to provide material, financial, and military assistance to the government of Ukraine to help it to adequately defend itself.

All our nations stand to lose from any dismantling or weakening of the international order. If we want the world to prosper, and to enjoy global security, we must reject any policies undermining the very foundation of modern rules based international order. We must find the will and courage to stand up against any violations of international law. By ensuring Ukraine’s peace and stability and defending its territorial integrity our governments would also be protecting the peace security of the entire European continent and beyond. It would help to make the world safer for everyone.


Bertie Ahern, Prime Minister of Ireland, 1997-2008
Abdulaziz Altwaijri, former Director General of ISESCO
Ana Birchall, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for the Implementation of Strategic Partnerships of Romania, 2018-2019
Jan Fisher, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, 2009-2010
Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia, 2006-2016
Mats Karlsson, former Director of the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, and former World Bank Vice President of External Affairs and United Nations Affairs
Kerry Kennedy, President Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.
Aleksandr Kwasniewski, President of Poland, 1995-2005
Leonid Kuchma, President of Ukraine, 1994-2005
Zlatko Lagumdzija, Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2001-2002, deputy Prime Minister, 2012-2015
Igor Luksic, Prime Minister of Montenegro, 2010-2012
Rexhep Meidani, President of Albania, 1997-2002
Amre Moussa, Secretary General Arab League, 2001-2011
Rovshan Muradov, Secretary General NGIC
Francis O’Donnel, Ambassador, Member Institute of International and European Affairs, Ireland
Rosen Plevneliev, President of Bulgaria, 2012-2017
Paul Revay, former Director Trilateral Europe
Petre Roman, Prime Minister of Romania, 1989-1991
Rosalia Arteago Serrano, President of Ecuador, 1997
Shuvaloy Majumdar, Foreign Policy Program Director & Munk Senior Fellow, Macdonald Laurier Institute, Canada
Petar Stoyanov, President of Bulgaria, 1997-2002
Laimdota Straujuma, Prime Minister of Latvia, 2014-2016
Ismail Serageldin, Vice-President of the World Bank, 1992-2000
Eka Tkeshelashvili, Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia, 2010-2012
Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia, 1999-2007
Kateryna Yushchenko, First Lady of Ukraine, 2005-2010
Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine, 2005-2010
Valdis Zatlers, President of Latvia, 2007-2011