Czech President-elect Petr Pavel has irritated the Ukrainian government by calling for realism in the country’s ongoing conflict with Russia and warning against pushing for a result that could see the collapse of Russia and lead to greater problems for the region.
Pavel offered his thoughts on the war during the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. He said an attempt to liberate some parts of Ukraine from occupied Russian forces would inevitably lead to “unbearable loss of life” and Ukraine and its allies should “prepare for the worst.”
“We need to be careful about pushing Ukraine to a certain result. Maybe at some point, Ukraine will change its vision,” the former NATO general added.
Pavel, who will succeed outgoing Czech President Miloš Zeman on March 9, argued that a resounding Ukrainian victory that resulted in the collapse of the Russian Federation could be catastrophic for the region, and the West should avoid advocating for such a result.
“It is possible that this will lead to the collapse of Russia,” Pavel said, referring to a Ukrainian victory that sees the country liberate and retain the entirety of its territory. “If Russia collapses, then we may have more problems, we have no one to negotiate disarmament with,” he stressed.
He said such a situation would be undesirable for stability in Europe, and a collapsed Russia would become a huge security risk.
His comments were met with criticism by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who responded by claiming, “We must trust Ukraine, not prepare for the worst.” Kuleba reiterated that any concessions are considered unacceptable by the Ukrainian government and equated the response suggested by Pavel as akin to surrender.
Kuleba found support among Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who argued that “to be realistic is to be short-sighted.”
Pavel took to social media following the event to clarify his position.
“My remarks on the Ukraine panel at the Munich Security Conference in no way questioned aid by all means until Russia is defeated. But as an ex-soldier, I don’t want to be guided by hope or faith. I prefer a realistic view and fact-based analyses,” he tweeted.
At the conference, Pavel insisted support for Ukraine by Western allies was not in danger and said his country would continue to support Ukraine during his presidency. He did, however, warn that NATO’s minimum requirement for members to spend at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense may not be sufficient in the future.