Andriy Zagorodnyuk: “Ukraine wants to live as a democratic nation and there is no compromise on that”

Andriy Zagorodnyuk is the Head of the Board of the Centre of Defense Strategies. Also, from 2019 to 2020 he was the Minister of Defense of Ukraine. He was a speaker at the fifth #UkrainianDialogue that Aspen Institute Kyiv held with Aspen Institute Mexico. Andriy explained the reasons for Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Russia sees the countries around them or as their enemies or as dependent on Russia

Andriy underlined that for all these years Russia has been cultivating its internal narrative that the Western world creates some sort of a threat to Russia.

 — The current Russian Government has a certain vision of its role in the world and the way they see countries around them as essentially their enemies or as being dependent on Russia. 

That’s why despite the fact that none of the NATO strategies ever considered Russia as a threat, Russia considered NATO as its main rival.

 — Russia considers the West as the sort of geopolitical competitor in all fields. For some reason they see it not as a chance for cooperation, but as rivalry, hostility, and a sort of war in different domains.

Russian propaganda is the instrument to legitimize their aggressions against other countries 

Andriy said that one of Russian instruments to legitimize their aggressions against other countries was heavy usage of propaganda. Crimea annexation, Donbass invasion, the current war in Ukraine: all of that were followed by massive information operations:

 — They put a lot of investments, a lot of capabilities into trying to explain why they were doing that, so the international leaders decided that it was a legitimate operation. And indeed they succeeded in some of the countries, and many European politicians were trying to explain why Russia is doing it, but more importantly, they were trying to find ways to make deals with Russia. Russia tried to do the same with this war. But because it was completely unprovoked, completely unexplainable from an international perspective, and particularly followed by all those atrocities and terror, it failed. 

At the same time, Andriy underlined that although the Western space has clear understanding that Putin is a war criminal, in some regions such as the Middle East, Africa and India, Russian narratives are still dominating in informational space.

If you deal with Syria or North Korea, you are no longer dealing with Western world. The same thing will happen to Russia

Also, Andriy mentioned that companies that still  cooperate with Russia sponsor Russian terrorism in Ukraine, and it will cost them much more than their current advantage:

I know some companies trying to take advantage when others leave. They want to take empty place and grow their revenue. They are continuing to do this in the midst of Russia’s invasion, justifying the necessity to build value for shareholders and so on. These companies need to realize that their values are decreasing for their shareholders. Whilst they are making investments for growth, it is only a matter of time when they have to leave themselves.  If you deal with Syria or North Korea, you are no longer dealing with Western world. The same thing will happen to Russia because Putin’s actions on a larger scale are the equivalent of the Assad regime in Syria. 

Ukraine wants to live as a democratic nation and there is no compromise on that

Andriy summed that due to its imperial ambitions, Russians saw Ukraine in future as a Russian-dependent state, where they could impose their policies, puppet-governments, way of living and governance. For these reasons Russia didn’t accept Ukrainian integration into international democratic space in any manner. But they forget that there are Ukraine and Ukrainians who have a totally different opinion:

After 30 years of independence where most of the active population were born and grew up, we have not taken into consideration that we should no longer be a free independent nation based on the reasoning of some dictator. Like any other independent nation, we want to remain independent because this is the way we can think for ourselves and develop a natural way of improving the country. Like any independent nation, Ukraine wants to live as a democratic nation and there is no compromise on that.

Aspen Institute Kyiv launched the #UkrainianDialogue project in cooperation with Aspen Network international partners. Its goal is to create a platform for leadership dialogue between Ukrainians who fight for democratic values and other countries’ representatives that support Ukraine.

Listen to the podcast #UkrainianDialogue: