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Putin’s shadow looms large at Munich Security Conference

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dominated discussions at the Munich Security Conference. Western leaders and diplomats had a clear message for the man in the Kremlin who started the war nearly a year ago.

Ukraine can not be safe as long as Vladimir Putin remains in power, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said of the Russian president at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

“If he doesn’t change by 360 degrees then, no,” she said when asked about the long-term prospects for peace in Ukraine.

Baerbock added, however, that it was up to the Russian leader. “He can decide that he changes his course by 360 degrees tomorrow,” she said.

“If he doesn’t change his mind, we stand on the side of Ukraine until they have freedom, peace and liberty again,” Baerbock said.

Putin was not invited to the annual gathering of diplomatic, security and defense leaders, but he was mentioned — by name or indirectly — by almost every speaker. 

Harris says time not on Putin’s side

The message was that the alliance stands firmly behind Ukraine. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called on Ukraine’s allies to “double down” on their support.

“When Putin started this war, he gambled that our resolve would falter. Even now, he is betting we will lose our nerve,” Sunak told the delegates on the second day of the three-day conference.

US Vice President Kamala Harris warned that hoping for a drop in the West’s resolve to support Ukraine would be a miscalculation.  

“If Putin thinks he can wait us out, he is badly mistaken,” she said. “Time is not on his side.”

Harris also said there was reason to be optimistic after almost a year of fighting in Ukraine.

“Kyiv is still standing, Russia is weakened, the trans-Atlantic alliance is stronger than ever, and, most importantly, the spirit of the Ukrainian people endures,” Harris said.

That is just some of the reason why US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Putin was facing a “day of reckoning.”

“Look at what has happened, what Putin has done to his own country,” Blinken said. “The course he is on is a strategic failure for him in the most graphic terms possible.” 

Territorial integrity ‘not negotiable’

There was also another message for Putin about the face of a postwar Ukraine.

“We need to end this war with the respect of territorial integrity and also with a clear understanding that aggressors will pay for aggression,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told DW on the sidelines of the conference.

It comes as China’s top foreign policy official, Wang Yi, said Beijing would push for a “political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed thjat Putin should not be rewarded for his invasion.

“The biggest risk of all is if Putin wins. If Putin wins in Ukraine, the message to him and other authoritarian leaders will be that they can use force to get what they want,” he said.

Germany’s Baerbock also ruled out territorial concessions to Russia, saying peace requires “that the one who has violated territorial integrity, namely Russia, withdraws its troops from the occupied country.” 

“World peace is based precisely on the fact that we all recognize the territorial integrity and sovereignty of every country,” she said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said there could be “no concessions” made to Russia when it came to Ukrainian sovereignty and territory.

“No compromise is possible with regard to the territorial integrity of Ukraine or any other nation in the world,” he said.

‘Everything except Vladimir Putin is my retirement plan’

Asked if he could imagine a time when Ukraine is at peace, Russia had completely withdrawn its forces from Ukrainian territory, and he would be having negotiations with Putin, Kuleba replied: “Everything except Vladimir Putin is my retirement plan.”

“I want to end the war. I want to go to the village and the countryside, live there in peace, raise … see my children. I don’t have to be old for that to happen. I’m ready for that to happen when the war is over,” Kuleba said. “As long as Putin is in power, we’ll be in trouble, because Ukraine is his personal obsession.”

“The period between the moment when Putin is gone and the new leader emerges will be the period of opportunity for all of us,” he said. “But we cannot forecast when that will happen.”

Source: DW

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