Analysis & Opinions - Wilson Center

A Message from Ukraine: Do Not Provoke Putin—with Weakness

| Apr. 29, 2024

"If you have sacrificed my nation to preserve the peace of the world, I will be the first to applaud you. But if not, gentlemen, God help your souls" — Czechoslovakian foreign minister Jan Masaryk to Lord Halifax, in response to announcement of allies' decision in Munich in 1938 to cede Sudetenland to Hitler.


2024 is a pivotal year for American and European politics, the war in Ukraine, and transatlantic security writ large. It has been off to a difficult start in Ukraine and there is an appreciation that it is bound to get only harder. As Russia's war against Ukraine enters its third year, missile barrages are continuing to kill Ukrainian civilians and degrade the Ukrainian grid. While the $61 billion supplemental bill for Ukraine was still stuck in the US Congress, until the House of Representatives vote finally approved it on April 20, Ukrainians have been slowly ceding territory due to the lack of munitions at the front.

It was amid this somber mood, air raid sirens, and Russian missile strikes that the 16th annual Kyiv Security Forum took place in late March in downtown Kyiv. This was the second such in-person gathering since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion. For those, who have attended the Forum last May, the drill was familiar: 3:00 or 4:00 am air raid siren, descent into a hotel shelter, sitting out a couple of hours in silence occasionally disturbed by echoes of explosions outside—together with fellow European and American ministers, ambassadors, think tankers, and academics—hoping to grab another hour of sleep once the air alert is over and before the conference begins.

Despite, or perhaps because, of this ever-present shadow of war, the Forum was a display of camaraderie and solidarity with Ukraine, with sincere dues paid to Ukraine’s bravery, sacrifices, and resilience, as well as in recognition that Ukraine belongs in the transatlantic security architecture. Europe whole and free is impossible without Ukraine whole and free. In his keynote address to the conference, chair of the NATO Military Committee Admiral Rob Bauer asserted that "the Swedish flag will not be the only blue and yellow flag at the NATO headquarters."While the audience greeted Bauer's words with an ovation, hardly anyone was given t o an illusion that Ukraine would get an invitation to join the alliance at the upcoming NATO summit in Washington, DC, this July....

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For Academic Citation:

Budjeryn, Mariana."A Message from Ukraine: Do Not Provoke Putin—with Weakness." Wilson Center, April 29, 2024.

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