Select Page

Disclaimer: The debate has been freely translated by the redaction with the aim to catch the main ideas of the speakers. For the citation, please ask redaction for the authentic Czech version.

On 15th March 2022 the Faculty of Law, Palacký University in Olomouc hosted a very special round table entitled „Russian Invasion on Ukraine and Its Security and Legal Context”. The event was organized under the umbrella of Jean Monnet Network: European Union and the Challenges of Modern Society which is implementing the project „Legal Issues of Digitalization, Robotization, Cyber Security and Prevention of Hybrid Threats“, and under co-organization with the Czech Association of European Studies.

The round table was joined by Petr Kolář – former Czech Ambassador in Russia and the USA who debated with Miroslav Karas, the director of Czech Television Ostrava and former rapporteur of Czech TV in Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. The event was moderated by the Head of Jean Monnet Network Naděžda Šišková and Blaka Vítová from the Faculty of Law, Palacký University in Olomouc.

The host of the event Naděžda Šišková opened directly the event concerning surprising elements of the war and its unexpected brutality. She mentioned inhumane conditions in Mariupol and violations of human rights from the Russian side. She asked whether we shall understand brutality as an excess of field commanders or some sort of broader Russian strategy?

Petr Kolář said, that it is a sort of Russian style which is not very different from Aleppo or Grozny. He expected that in the case of Ukraine it might be different as Vladimir Putin recently published an essay about brotherhood between Russians and Ukraine. Maybe the brutality is present due to the fact, that Russians are not welcomed as promised by Russian elites. Ukrainians are facing invasion very strongly, also in a military way, and this is probably a shock for soldiers and their commanders. It is likely that they even did not know that they are at war, which is illustrated with the case of a tank crew who visited a local house to ask for some oil. Moreover, unexpectedly it was not blitzkrieg and that is maybe another reason why Russians reacted in an angry way. They probably attack civilians to force them to oppose the government. It is evident, that capturing Ukrainian territory will not end the war due to the courage and dedication of its citizens.

Miroslav Karas said that power and brutality are the core of the Russian regime. Brutality is multi-vector: not only brutality made by Russia against a country labeled as a “band of junkies and Nazis”, but it is also brutality against its own nation. He shared his own experience on how heavily armored police units drag women with hair and beat old women, uploading them forcibly into the car. The brutality is linked to the lie as Russians will never know about the deaths of their sons. They don’t know about protests, and they don’t have access to the truth. According to Karas brutality is everywhere and not only on the battlefield.

Naděžda Šišková: I would like to ask if you understand the brutality in the context of Gerasimov doctrine? As a part of the transition from the physical battlefield to the psychological battlefield. As Blinken said, Putin has decided to abuse citizens of Mariupol to torture. The important aspect is also the reaction of the West including heavy sanctions, SWIFT disconnection, and independence on fuels originating in Russia. The measures are devastating, however not fully matching the aims as it was to stop the aggression. Why do you think sanctions are not working in this way and not stopping the war?

Petr Kolář: We have sanctions of two kinds: People who are connected to Vladimir Putin and are connected to the leadership of the Russian Regime or the wallet of Vladimir Putin. I have a good feeling from such kind of personal sanctions as those people are elite who collaborated with Putin. Now the advantages are lost for them, it is not comfortable and possibly their power may change the situation in Russia. On the other hand, there are sanctions targeted at Russia which will have a long-term impact. Regular Russian is prepared to suffer and to deal with shortages. In Russia, except relatively small middle-class, people are poor, especially in the countryside. Those people who do not have a toilet with running water will be not hit by SWIFT cut, but they still love Vladimir Putin. Maybe Russia will disintegrate (Soroking is writing about it) or it will be under the stronger influence of China. In every Russian, there is a piece of Putin. But there are also brave exceptions, like the TV moderator who showed a sign in the live stream. Those people are sacrificed first. Those who stayed and are brave are facing strong pressure, many escaped, and sanctions will have a limited impact on them.

Naděžda Šišková: As you said, there will be longer effects. Russia is not winning the war, but on the other side the situation of the civilians deteriorates every day, more cities are hit including Kyiv, Lviv is attacked, and rockets are hitting Western Ukraine. Shall NATO consider other options? I mean the issue of implementing of no-fly-zone or providing jets to Ukraine? We know that Biden is against this option, but President Zelensky is in favor of it and every day is appealing to its partners to go forward. We know that Turkey is supplying drones and Poland weapons and there was no further escalation. Is it time to go forward and implement the no-fly zone?

Miroslav Karas: After 2014 I was a critic of sanctions, because western democracies including the USA, Canada, or the EU, were soft on Putin. The war did not start on 24. 2. 2022, it started in Donbas and Crimea, there are already 15 thousand dead people. Now, measures are hitting normal Russians: they cannot pay card, Russian ruble is going down, they cannot join social networks – impacts are practical. It is necessary to undermine the regime including military help. Czech or Polish governments are good examples of how to help, including enforcing clear rhetoric. Also approx. 16 thousand foreign volunteers are a good sign. About the no-fly zone: Ukrainian people are seeing the help differently. They need more to stop the attacks. But what it will contribute to the World? The no-fly zone may shift the war and spill over it somewhere else. I think that the World is helping Ukraine to push the aggressor out of the territory. No-fly-zone may include many more countries in the conflict.

Petr Kolář: From the realpolitik view, the no-fly-zone is an illusion. It is impossible to find consensus between 30 members of NATO, and a no consensus in EU 27 is not different. Moreover, also the Council of Europe is in sort of paralysis. This is due to the fact, that there are still many who are not understanding the brutality of the aggressor, who are threatening the world with nuclear weapons, and who behave like being in a gang. Putin published his ideas in the essay “Russia at the Turn of the Millennium” where he expressed, that Russia cannot survive without Ukraine, criticized the “rotten West” and viewed Russia as a Third Rome, after the Byzantium. In many aspects the ideas are similar to Hitler: we were feeding him and at the same time we thought that apologies will make the situation better. Russia saw this as an appeasement attitude, being persuaded that the West is weak. It is paradox because Putin is a chronic liar who was proven on many occasions including the Crimea occupation. From denial of presence, he turned to promotions of officials for the operation. This “Hooligan from the St. Petersburg” blackmailed the World and the West shall have told him, Mr. Putin, we have the finger on the red bottom too. He must know that army is failing as there are many undetonated bombs, wrong tactics, and many looser. I am in favor of the idea to help Ukraine in a more active military way. I would be in favor of the no-fly zone, but the consensus is hard to find. I think that the Polish plan to supply Ukraine with mig-29 was an interesting idea and that there was an opportunity to activate Article 51 of the Charter for collective defense. It was Putin who broke the rules, it was Russia having obligation to guarantee the territorial integrity of Ukraine for disarmament. It was Russia that violated the treaty on friendship and cooperation. The current situation shows that Russia will not respect anything which is against its interest or is not its priority. Its behavior is like that of the man, beating his wife which is finally leaving him for another good man. And the new man is not actively opposing the aggressor, but rather providing her a stone or a knife to protect herself. I am against it.

Naděžda Šišková: It is evident that the war on Ukraine strongly hit the reputation of international organizations and international law. That is why I would like to ask; do you think that the current system of the Security Council is sustainable without reforms? And what are the prospects for the future?

Miroslav Karas: It is important to say, that Russia does not care about international organizations and what others think about Russia. It is evident as Russia is leaving the Council of Europe, it was pushed out from other organizations and restrictions hit many areas including sport or culture. On the other side, Russia claims, that they have an interest to defend international peace and fighting fascism. And in order to do so, it is not necessary for Russia to be part of the Council of Europe as there is no impact for normal Russians. Regarding the UN: there are no tools and no power to do anything. It seems that there is no justification for its existence. What is worse, the aggressor is having permanent seat in the Security Council, which is rationally unacceptable from the western democratic perspective. The question: what shall be done is crucial and justified. However, I am skeptical about the UN as there are many collaborates, vassals, and blind followers of Russia from the Third World. The UN is not having the power to deal with Russia. I think that it will be a great challenge for World diplomacy.  

Petr Kolář: There is no sense of UN without the reform. The UN has been created under the experience of World War II when the nations were incapable to prevent world conflict. It is good to mention, that Czechoslovakia was presented by Jan Masaryk who described his experience with Gromyko: from the early beginning, Russians understood the organization as a tool of their politics in the World which was later reflected in the Security Council voting. The council was paralyzed, which is logical as there are two counties with different civilizational values. However, we were witnessing bypass of the international organizations as well in different conflicts. Now, we have seen a very symbolic gesture during the voting: Russia was completely marginalized and abandoned. In total approx. five countries were in favor of Russia. Generally, I am skeptical about the UN: it is expensive and there is no real effect. There are, however, positive outcomes of the “Putin effect”: First, Putin accelerated the creation of the Ukrainian nation. Even people who had little in common with Ukraine started to identify with Ukrainians. Second, Putin made the West united. Hopefully, Ukraine will stand and there must be a clear perspective given to Ukraine. That Ukraine is part of the European family and that integration into the western structure is welcome. Even in the terms of NATO: yes, even for NATO would be beneficial to have such an army that is fighting now in Ukraine. Without any forecast, there shall be something like the Marshall Plan for Ukraine, or its remaining territories in the case of some territorial changes. We must be ready to raise up Ukraine.

Naděžda Šišková: My other question is linked to the EU candidate status of Ukraine. For example, Czech – EU Association Agreement from 1995 was a treaty with a membership perspective as it contained the provision that the main goal of the association is a preparation for the membership. However, this is not the case in Ukraine where a similar provision within the Association Agreement is missing. Where is Ukraine heading? Many voices claims, that may be EU is not interesting in membership, and in this light, the conduct of reforms seems not very meaningful. On the other side as the President of the European Council Charles Michale said, we all feel that Ukraine is part of the European family and that they (Ukrainians) paid too much for European values. As a result, Ukraine shall be accepted. This is complicated by the fact, that Russia is purposefully destroying the country and causing damage in order to prevent Ukraine from entering the EU and NATO. What do you think about the effect of the war: does it put Ukraine closer to the EU membership or does it make membership less likely?

Miroslav Karas: The advisor of Zelenskyj was sharing one of the opinions and I am not sure whether it is fully correct. One issue is the destruction of Ukraine and killing of people in order to prevent membership of Ukraine in the EU and NATO, However, it is important to mention that in the heads of the Russian leadership there is simple hate: that Ukraine is not having right for the existence, that it shall decide alone for the future (with Russia). In this sense, I am in disagreement with Miloš Zeman that Russia is not the Soviet Union. I think that Russia is a country, where many people have the Soviet Union on their minds and that consuming Ukraine is the first step in the implementation of this idea. They want to humiliate Ukraine, debase it. The question is whether it will slow down or speed up the process up to the West. We shall ask the Ukrainian people what they want, for sure there are some doubts in this military situation but the first turn is up to them and then the West will decide. At the same time, the West shall provide help to Ukraine and a clear signal. In the Czech case, it was nine years until we become members. Not mentioning the case of Turkey. Ukraine is not waiting for the exact date, but for the promise and assurance, that they do well and the doors are open.

Petr Kolář: If Ukraine will not fall or be sacrificed, then it will speed up the process. It will be in line with the motto of Konrad Adenauer: “It is better to have fully one half of Germany, than having whole Germany in half”. Whatever the outcome, we are ready to help. It is the investment to our future, something like the Marshall plan – creating a prosperous economy is in line with our interest and it is justified with the extension of stability, prosperity, security, and democracy. The destruction of Ukraine is not devaluating it. On the burned land may new Ukraine rise. 

Naděžda Šišková: What is the issue of disinformation in this war?

Miroslav Karas: Kremlin is having a very clear motto “don’t spoil the story with the truth” which was applied during peacetime. The truth had never been placed there and the regime is built upon the lie. Look at the annexation of Crime, where more than three hundred soldiers received a medal for “thoughtfulness” during the annexation. There is a case of Kursk, small reactors explosions, and many others. Any information is turned into disinformation. How can we fight in the situation when even parents do not believe their children, have access to social networks and English resources? My own friends do not believe me. Even Věra Jourová does not know, how to help Russians who are mobilized on the basis of disinformation. How to prevent Russian soldiers from “liberating others from the fascism”. To make any change, it is necessary to wake up the nation, and help with the disinformation is fully part of the help. Unfortunately, here we have the shorter side of the rope.   

Naděžda Šišková: Is there any possibility of change? For example, Duma passed a law banning the use of the word “war”. I thought until yesterday that the situation is impossible to change, but then I saw the protest of the rapporteur during the live stream at Russia 1 channel. Is there a prospect of change?  

Petr Kolář: When there was an invasion in 1968 in Czechoslovakia, just a few brave went protested at the Red Square. No change happened apart from the satisfaction of a few Russians. We must accept, that Russians are brainwashed and that “there is a little part Putin in every Russian”. To implement the change, Russia would need to be defeated (like Germany or Japan), de-Nazified, de-communized, de-Sovietized, etc. which is an illusion to happen. It is a long-term problem, Russia will be isolated – like North Korea – and it is a question of how China will react. Whether there will be a new Cold War or not. Ukraine is just a catalyst highlighting problems that are present also in our own society which requires internal hygiene. Hopefully, the war is an opportunity to make the water clear. Ged rid of Troyan horses and useful idiots. Even Miloš Zeman feels harmed and touched that his fried Putin lied and put him into the wrong light with the claim, that the invasion of Ukraine is just a disgrace of CIA. Since the Vrbětice (ammunition depot was blown up by the GRU agents) there are many positive things including the clean-up of the Russian embassy.

Miroslav Karas: Yes, Ukraine is the catalyst and it is necessary that all good people will join. Certainly, members and leaders of some blocks who are now hiding in the holes will raise again and it is necessary to mobilize the public and appeal to all good citizens. Hopefully, no political movement will dismantle Czech society.

Freely translated by redaction.

Record is available here (Czech language).