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Munich Security Conference: Zelenskyy urges speedier support

February 18, 2023

Ukraine's president said there is "no alternative" to victory. Representatives from 96 different countries are attending the summit. The IMF has hinted at further support for Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via video link to the 2023 Munich Security Conference
The Munich Security Conference brings together defense leaders and stakeholders from around the world and is taking place February 17-19Image: Michael Probst/AP Photo/picture alliance

For more news from the 2023 Munich Security Conference on Saturday, please click here.

The annual Munich Security Conference (MSC) began on Friday against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which is top of the agenda at this year's high-level meeting.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy opened the conference via video link and urged allies to provide speedier support.

Over the course of the next few days, representatives from 96 countries are set to discuss key issues of defense at the conference.

'No alternative to Ukrainian victory' — Zelenskyy

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made the opening address by videolink and urged allies to speed up support for his country, warning that lives were hanging in the balance.

"We need to hurry up. We need speed — speed of our agreements, speed of our delivery... speed of decisions to limit Russian potential. There is no alternative to speed because it is the speed that the life depends on," Zelenskyy told those gathered, stressing there was "no alternative to a Ukrainian victory."

Zelenskyy likened the battle against Russia's invasion to the biblical fight between David and Goliath and said that while Ukraine had David's courage, it still needed the sling with which to defeat "the Russian Goliath."

Zelenskyy: 'We have to liberate Ukraine and Europe'

Germany took 'right approach' on tanks for Ukraine: US lawmaker Adam Smith

At the Munich meeting, US congressman Adam Smith told DW he believes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had taken the "right approach" on weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

"Germany has been a key partner in making [support for Ukraine] happen," Smith said, referring to German supply of Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Smith asserted that Berlin hesitated to deliver Leopard tanks to Ukraine because it wanted to first secure the US' support for the move.

Smith said that it is "very difficult to see how [US-produced M1 Abrams tanks] can work effectively, quickly in Ukraine," adding that the US would have to build up "supply chains" for the tanks to be used by Kyiv.

"It doesn't do us any good to send tanks to Ukraine that aren't going to have any fuel and aren't going to be able to be maintained in the field," he argued.

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IMF: Ukraine has fulfilled conditions for next support package

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been in talks with Ukraine about providing further support.

"Right now, we are completing a four month program of engagement with Ukrainian authorities to help them reach an economy under extraordinary circumstances of war," IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told DW.

She said she is "very pleased to say that Ukraine has shown strong performance under this broad monitored program that paves the way for the fund to put in place a fully fledged program for Ukraine."

Georgieva added that this was "important because the financial needs of Ukraine are significant. We estimate that somewhere between 40 and $48 billion (€37.4-44.9 billion) would be needed for this from outside for the country to function. And it is good for the fund to be there for Ukraine."

Scholz calls on allies to send tanks to Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the conference that Putin's "revisionism" would not prevail and called on allies who were in a position to do so, to send battle tanks to Ukraine. 

"Those who can send such battle tanks should really do so now," Scholz said.

In January, Germany approved the export of Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine from its own stocks as well as from third-party allies.

The German chancellor said that his country would provide support with training, supplies and logistics.

In a sentiment shared by other speakers, Scholz was of the opinion that the war in Ukraine would not be over soon. 

"I think it's wise to prepare for a long war," Scholz told the conference.

'Not the time for dialogue' — Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron took the podium after the German leader and said there needed to be readiness for "prolonged conflict" in Ukraine, while calling on EU members to invest substantially in defense spending.

"We absolutely need to intensify our support and our effort to the resistance of the Ukrainian people and its army and help them to launch a counter-offensive which alone can allow credible negotiations, determined by Ukraine, its authorities and its people," Macron said. 

The French president also said that it was not the time to attempt dialogue with Russia as it ramped up hostilities in the east of Ukraine.

"It is not the time for dialogue because we have a Russia which has chosen war, which has chosen to intensify the war, and which has chosen to go as far as committing war crimes and to attacking civilian infrastructures," Macron said.

Putin committed 'breach of civilization' — Heusgen

The conference is being chaired for the first time this year by Christoph Heusgen — former foreign policy adviser to ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel — and successor of Wolfgang Ischinger who served as chair for 15 years.

Heusgen began proceedings by saying the 2022 conference had closed with the hope that Russian President Vladimir Putin “would be impressed by the unity the international community demonstrated … We all know what happened," Huesgen said. 

"Vladimir Putin committed a breach of civilization," the MSC chair said, adding that it was the first time since World War II, that a country in Europe "denied the right of existence of another country and started an all out war."

NATO with Ukraine 'for the long run'

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana has told DW that the military alliance is "determined to continue supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes and make sure that Ukraine wins this war."

"Mr. Putin can stop this war any second," he continued. "I believe that Ukrainians are the ones that need to define what victory represents and which will be the preconditions for a political solution. We are here to stay for the long run with the Ukrainians."

Concerning Russia's threat to Moldova's security, he said: "The Republic of Moldova is a joint partner of both NATO and the European Union. The fact that the EU has given to Ukraine, but also to Moldova, a clear path towards EU membership is, in a way, helping Moldova to resist this huge pressure from Russia."

First conference for Pistorius as German defense minister

Ahead of the conference, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius reaffirmed the need to boost military funding by going beyond the target of 2% of gross domestic product, while highlighting the importance of the platform. The MSC "has always been a place of understanding and dialogue," he said.

"What is new is that all this is taking place while a war is being waged on European soil by Russia against Ukraine," Pistorius added. "But that raises the stakes for the conference. Also in light of the fact that the attack on Ukraine is not a purely European conflict, not a purely European issue, because it reaches far beyond that, as do Russia's ambitions, as you can see, whether we're talking about the Middle East, other regions in Eastern Europe, Africa, but also the Indo-Pacific."

It is Pistorius' first MSC in office, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg's last as he plans to step down from his post in October. 

Who is attending?

Participants at the conference include 40 heads of state and government and nearly 100 ministers.

Russia will again be a notable absence, with its leadership for the first time in two decades not being invited.

Other high-profile speakers expected on Friday include China's top foreign policy official Wang Yi and US Vice President Kamala Harris.

jsi, kb/fb (dpa,AFP, Reuters)