Czech president-elect warns of “undesirable scenarios” resulting from Russia’s defeat in Ukraine

Petr Pavel in the Munich security conference

“Continued support for Ukraine for as long as the war lasts” was the main message to come out of the Munich security conference last weekend. However, the Czech president-elect Petr Pavel stressed that Russia’s defeat could happen under various scenarios, including some that the West should try to avoid.

With increased Russian attacks on Ukraine expected in the coming weeks and months, Kyiv has been stressing the need for more military support from the West as fast as possible. As President Zelensky stressed, the country needs more tanks, more ammunition, and fighter jets to defend its airspace.

And, while the will for continued assistance and solidarity with Ukraine remains strong, there are heated debates on how best to secure Ukraine’s victory. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said the concerns expressed do not detract from the main message.

Jan Lipavský  (middle) in the Munich security conference | Photo: Aleš Zápotocký,  ČTK

“Of course, we have debates and differences of opinion on how to best help Ukraine and what to do. Sometimes the discussion dwells on various scenarios, but the main message from Munich is that Europe remains united. “

Czech president-elect Petr Pavel, a former head of NATO’s Military Committee, provoked an exasperated reaction from Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba during one of the debates when he expressed skepticism that Ukraine will succeed in winning the war this year and said that it is necessary to leave various options open.

Mr. Pavel’s remarks came after Foreign Minister Kuleba said there was no alternative to regaining control over Crimea and ensuring that Russia faces an international tribunal for the war crimes committed on Ukrainian territory. Petr Pavel called for caution in mapping firm objectives on how the war should end, saying that Russia’s defeat could come under various scenarios, including some that the West should try to avoid. He warned that if Russia – as a nuclear superpower collapses – the West will have no one with whom to negotiate disarmament. Western leaders, he said, should be realistic and “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”.

Dmytro Kuleba in the Munich security conference | Photo: Petr David Josek,  ČTK

In response, an irritated Kuleba called on European politicians, including Pavel, to "trust Ukraine" and not force Kyiv to make concessions. He argued that the line of thought presented by Pavel was an "intellectual trap" and was precisely what Western leaders should avoid.

According to the Ukrainian daily Ukrainska Pravda, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin supported Kuleba, stressing that Russia must not be granted an "easy defeat” and must pay a high price for attacking Ukraine. However, former CIA Director David Petraeus, who also took part in the debate, said he shared Petr Pavel’s concerns regarding the need for caution.

The Czech president elect made it clear that his call for caution and a smart military strategy did not in any way detract from the need to help Ukraine win the war and his country’s commitment to do so, stressing that as a former military man he could not just base his stance on trust but on facts and strategy. He also called on the West to activate its defense industry to help Ukraine and strengthen its own security in the face of dwindling arms stockpiles.

“The capacity to raise arms production in Europe is there-it just needs to be activated, so that Europe fulfills its commitment to Ukraine and raises its own defense capacity.”

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