«Russian aggression is a trigger, a trigger for other terrorists around the world» – an interview with the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence

A number of important events directly affecting Ukraine’s national security and defense took place in October. In particular, the publication of a letter of appeal “Memorandum to the President of the United States” signed by more than 40 national security experts from the Atlantic Council think tank and the US President’s address to the American people.

Serhii Kuzan, Chairman of the Ukrainian Security and Cooperation Center, together with Oleksandr Zavitnevych, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence, discussed the latest developments that directly affect the national security of Ukraine. 

(Hereinafter – direct speech) S.K.:
How can you comment on the recent appeal of the Atlantic Council experts to the US President to support Ukraine, which was presented to the Ukrainian audience at the security forum by former US Ambassador to Ukraine, leading Atlantic Council analyst John Herbst?

O.Z.: First of all, let me remind you that the Atlantic Council is a powerful American non-governmental body of experts of the highest caliber. Their conclusions and statements have a direct impact on the formation of Washington’s official position, public opinion of average Americans, Europeans, and experts from NATO countries. The management and leading experts of this center also maintain working contacts with the leaders of the countries, and directly exchange views on geopolitics and national security. By the way, at the end of May this year, a delegation of the Atlantic Council visited Kyiv and had a meeting with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

We are grateful to the Atlantic Council experts who have consistently and convincingly supported Ukraine in the Russian-Ukrainian war. In addition, they are the leaders of the idea of Ukraine’s full integration into NATO. It is also important that this is not just a call from the expert community. It is about creating a working group of former ambassadors, diplomats, and heads of military structures in Europe. They all share a common goal: to develop proposals to speed up Ukraine’s accession to NATO through the Washington Summit to be held next year. 

This fully coincides with what the Ukrainian position is based on: the most reliable security guarantee for Ukraine and the basis of global Euro-Atlantic security in general can only be Ukraine’s acceptance into NATO. Ukrainian defenders have actually set a new NATO standard for national resistance to occupation by sacrificing their lives in the fight against Russian aggressors. It can become a solid basis for modernizing many Euro-Atlantic foundations, and first and foremost, for reliable counteraction to threats from Moscow and other challenges to the Alliance. 

Ukraine has proved its right to receive an invitation to join the North Atlantic Alliance and to begin the process of its implementation. Only this can show Moscow the futility of further aggression or planning for it in the future, not only against Ukraine but all over the world. 

S.K.: Much attention in the Memorandum and in the expert community in general is paid to the situation at the front. Could you comment on it?

O.Z.: The situation at the front is assessed by the country’s top political leadership, and the current situation is reported daily by authorized representatives of the defense forces. It is difficult for me to add anything to this information.  But I would like to draw attention to something else. For some reason, the counteroffensive has been the focus of public and expert attention since the spring of this year. In general, this led to the coverage of only one component of the summer and fall campaign of our defense forces.

I will briefly focus on the list of our achievements as a result of, as we now say, increased attention to the counteroffensive, which has significantly demoralized the enemy. I mean the following:

  • keeping the Russian occupiers in defensive positions and concentrating all their deadly potential on the contact line. This allowed the rest of Ukraine to more safely carry out measures to restore the defense industry, prepare reserves, successfully deliver weapons and ammunition, and prepare the energy system. In addition, the enemy paid less attention to the facilities in Crimea, which allowed us to conduct more effective strikes against them;
  • predicting the enemy’s actions in preparation for repulsing a counteroffensive, as well as the locations of its logistics centers. This made it possible to more accurately hit some of the warehouses and ammunition, partially nullifying the build-up of combat capabilities on the contact line; 
  • increasing panic among the Russian mobilization reserve and the occupiers on the front line. The command of the occupation forces was forced to withdraw some of the truly combat units from the front to suppress drunken riots and desertions in hastily mobilized racist units.

In addition, the enemy paid less attention to the facilities in Crimea, which allowed us to launch more effective strikes against them; predicting the enemy’s actions in preparation for repelling a counter -offensive, and the locations of its logistics centres. This made it possible to hit some of the warehouses and ammunition more accurately, partially nullifying the build-up of combat capabilities on the contact line; increased panic among Russia’s mobile reserve and the occupiers on the front line. The command of the occupation forces was forced to withdraw some of the truly combat units from the front to suppress drunken riots and desertions in hastily mobilised racist units.

All this shows how wide the range of activities planned for the summer and fall campaign of our defense forces was.

S.K.: How would you characterize certain remarks made by American experts on the pace of military assistance to Ukraine by the United States and NATO in general? 

The members of the Committee I chair maintain an effective dialogue with Western politicians, which allows us to discuss all issues of foreign security assistance in a frank atmosphere. However, we clearly distinguish where the sphere of dialogue with American experts ends, and the sphere of domestic dialogue or heated discussions in the United States on these issues begins. We do not cross the border of the second sphere.  

S.K.: What makes it possible to convince partners to support Ukraine?

O.Z.: Our power is the truth, which is that the Russian-Ukrainian war is not a war only for the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine.  It is a value-based, ideological war between the forces of goodness and justice and the forces of Russian evil and barbarism. Ukraine is not the end point of Russia’s powerful bloody aggression, but only an intermediate stop, and if we do not stop and destroy the Russian war machine together, it will destroy all those who oppose it, and the rest of Europeans, if they survive, will find themselves in a reality based on Orwell’s dystopia “1984”

These theses have been clearly articulated in the addresses of President Zelenskyy, parliamentarians, and diplomats to partners and all countries of the world. 

An important role in uniting efforts in support of Ukraine is played by the Peace Formula proposed by Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy, which has already been joined by 70 international actors. It is truly becoming global in nature.

The unity of our society, our faith in the defense forces, and the temporary nature of the difficulties have a very big impact on foreigners. Representatives from Europe, America, and Africa come to us with wide-open eyes, and they notice everything: the language spoken in the streets, the symbols on the belongings of ordinary people, and the visual campaigning. Foreigners want to see with their own eyes those who are not really afraid of Putin and are heroically resisting his occupiers. Everyone we have met is impressed by the resistance of Ukrainians, their optimism, despite the 9th year of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the volume of missile terror. Right after such visits of foreign partners and meetings with members of the committee I head that fatigue is out of the question, and no one needs to be convinced of anything. On the contrary, I have to quickly write down a list of proposals from partners. 

So we have every reason to be confident that the Russian occupier will continue to suffer mortally at the front because of the skillful use of Western weapons and equipment by Ukrainians. 

S.K.: Yes, but from time to time we still hear some NATO countries complain about economic difficulties, losses due to assistance to Ukraine, and start talking about fatigue…  

The fatigue is really showing and there is nothing surprising here. The burden of the confrontation with Russia is not easy, it affects economic interests and certain sectors of the economy, affects on the producers’ profits, and causes inflationary processes. We understand this and we are sincere in our gratitude for the assistance provided.

At the same time, we reiterate that Ukraine is an outpost that, at the cost of the lives of its defenders, provides Europe and the entire civilized world with the opportunity for peaceful development, protecting their citizens from air raid sirens, rocket attacks, bombed kindergartens and hospitals, the ruined lives of civilians and the grief of burying their dead relatives and friends.

S.K.: Yes, but from time to time there are publications in the Western press that can negate all of the above-mentioned optimistic achievements that foreigners are charged with after visiting Ukraine 

O.Z.: Yes, Ukraine is open to foreign media, and unfortunately, there are cases when this is abused, i.e., certain facts are collected by all means to create a certain bias, which is even difficult to verify. 

That is why unity and solidarity are very important, as well as the media component, responsibility and understanding of which information accents mobilize to oppose aggression and which ones play into the hands of the enemy. When we talk about security assistance, unity is not only about air defense, missiles and tanks. It is also about global media dominance in support of Ukraine, keeping the Russian-Ukrainian war in the focus of international attention, and building understanding and response to the needs of our defense forces not only from the political establishment but also from ordinary Europeans and Americans

For these reasons, we perceive the Atlantic Council Memorandum and the US President’s State of the Union address as the fulcrums that form an additional rib in the structure of our national security.

Perhaps few people noticed, but President Zelensky’s proposal in December 2022 to U.S. congressmen that U.S. financial assistance to Ukraine should be perceived not as charity but as an investment in global security and democracy was echoed in the U.S. President’s latest State of the Union address.  

S.K.: Yes, indeed, after this address, we observed a certain enthusiasm among the Ukrainian audience for further provision of our defense forces with the necessary weapons and ammunition. But the escalation of the conflict in the Middle East has somewhat changed the rhetoric among representatives of the American political elite. What is your opinion on this?   

O.Z.: First of all, as the Chairman of the Committee, I would like to express my gratitude to U.S. President Biden for his leadership and steadfast support of Ukraine. During this address, millions of viewers in America and around the world heard from the American leader that the national interests and security of the United States are inextricably linked to victory, that Hamas terrorists and tyrant Putin are the same threats to democracy, that without help for Ukraine, the Kremlin will have a chance to aggress against NATO countries, which will require direct American participation in combat operations. These are extremely important theses that take our partnership to the big leagues, so to speak. 

However, the conflict in the Middle East, which seems to be scaling up to the international level, requires an appropriate response of the US. There are discussions among US politicians, and different opinions are being expressed on how to use financial potential for security assistance. But what is important is that even in the face of such discussions, bipartisan support for Ukraine remains, so there is no reason to talk about threats to our partnership. I am confident that the U.S. President’s proposal in his address to the nation to finance the needs of our defense forces in a single security package with Israeli assistance will be supported. 

S.K.: A few words about the events in the Middle East

O.Z.: I’ll start with one of the quotes from President Biden’s address about how we are all living through a critical moment in history. This is not just a nice metaphor, it has a deeper meaning and significance. This quote reflects the prediction that we are trying our best to convey to the international community – large-scale Russian aggression is a trigger, a trigger for other terrorists around the world. And if we do not stop the aggressor and bring it to justice with joint, determined efforts, it will become an example for terrorists around the world to follow. Unfortunately, this prediction has come true. I am convinced that Hamas dared to commit its aggression, fueled by Putin’s example of arrogance and the weakness of international mechanisms in the face of the Russian invasion. The future of humanity depends on who wins the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Ukraine’s victory will guarantee that development will be based on the platform of justice and international law, the inevitable responsibility of tyrants for their crimes, otherwise the world will return to the worst times of the Middle Ages, large-scale wars and conflicts, concentration camps, settling historical and religious scores, according to the principle “Who has the power has the truth. 

S.K.: What impressed you most about the events in Russian Dagestan?

O.Z.: The events in Dagestan are a combination of the ideological farce of Moscow and tragic realities. The farce is that these anti-Jewish demonstrations took place a week before the celebration of the Day of National Unity in Russia and a week after, when Putin met with representatives of religious associations in Russia and told them about “one nation.” At the same meeting, the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar, reported that Jews in Russia experience neither street nor state anti-Semitism. 

The tragedy of the situation is precisely the real state and domestic anti-Semitism in Russia. We saw how young people, men like the Nazi storm troopers of the 1930s, were eager to massacre people purely on the basis of their nationality. At the same time, Russian security forces watched the pogrom inaction for a long time. It is clear why – the riot was not directed against Putin, but rather in support of his policy, in support of Hamas.

Another tragedy is that the Kremlin is emasculating the historical traditions of hospitality for which the Caucasus has always been famous. Moreover, the willingness to protect a guest, even at the cost of one’s own life, was another character of the Caucasians. But for the empire, it is more important to spread hatred towards other peoples. It is telling how Putin concluded the meeting on the events in Dagestan by calling on Dagestanis to go to war in Ukraine, where the Kremlin guarantees unlimited cruelty and violence. According to the Russian tyrant, the participation of Dagestani youths in the Russian-Ukrainian war and terror on our territory will help the Palestinian people. I do not exclude that, by this analogy, we may soon hear from Hamas representatives that they are defending “Russian speakers in Ukraine” in the war against Israel.  

Іnterview Serhii Kuzan, Chairman of the Ukrainian Security and Cooperation Center, together with Oleksandr Zavitnevych, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence, discussed. Source – USCC


S.K.: How do you assess the Kremlin’s strategy for the near future? 

O.Z.: The Kremlin is trying to play its bloody solitaire long and short, to turn three things into its trump cards: time to build up the defense industry and mobilization reserves; information falsification; and missile and bomb terror of the entire Ukraine. 

First and foremost, Russia seeks to retain the occupied territories in the typical Zhukov style of “the price of soldiers’ lives does not matter”. The next priority is to improve the tactics and strategy of occupation and missile terror. All this is planned to be ensured by modernizing certain types of weapons and increasing the production capacity of enterprises. We are talking about those that manufacture and repair tactical and strategic aircraft, combat helicopters, and assemble military drones and guided munitions. The Kremlin’s long-term strategic plans are to reach the figure of 2 million munitions per year. In addition, it should be borne in mind that Ukraine is not only confronting Russia. 

Moscow significantly fuels its aggressive potential with assistance from Iran and North Korea. For example, almost 3,000 Iranian drones have been used against us in the war of terror, and in September alone, the number of drone strikes reached 500.
Russia has recently received up to 1 million pieces of artillery ammunition from North Korea. Unfortunately, the enemy has the ability to organize shadowy schemes for the supply of certain components from companies in certain Western countries, and to take advantage of the imperfections of the sanctions mechanism. And while this shows the true state of, so to speak, the “power of the Russian economy,” on the one hand, it leads to increased vulnerability of our forces on the battlefield, and the enemy’s ability to continue the missile terror of Ukrainian cities and towns. There are reasons to predict that this winter Russia will try to repeat the same tactics, but with certain conclusions and increased terrorist efforts.

In the information sphere, we also understand the enemy’s logic: to impose the mantra “we are for peace and ceasefire” on the world, to freeze the conflict by making the United States and our other partners eventually withdraw from the marathon of war provoked by Russia. To do this, Moscow is actively working in the information space and on social media. The bet is on using the established political preferences of Western voters to bring to power those forces that will weaken the fragility of security assistance to Ukraine. 

S.K.: Can our own defense industry significantly neutralize the enemy’s plans, and what is the role of the Committee you head in this process?

O.Z.: All members of the Committee are aware of the value of each shell and each drone for Ukrainian defenders, so the Committee is taking all measures to ensure that the process of supplying weapons and ammunition of our own production to the front is uninterrupted and provides the necessary amount of products.

The first results are already in place. Due to fear of Ukrainian products, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is in an extremely anxious state, occasionally underestimating its strength and resources. Ukrainian drones often expand the geography of their routes, loudly reminding Russians that, according to Putin’s assessment of the so-called Eastern Sea, “not everything is so clear.” And we have not yet fully launched cooperation with our partners. I cannot disclose all the details. As an example, I will cite the readiness of the US Department of Defense to create a new defense industry in Ukraine based on new production technologies. This was officially announced by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill LaPlante at the ComDef 2023 conference. It is planned to use 3D printing technologies to manufacture spare parts and other components. 

France, continuing its support for Ukraine, has also signed agreements with Ukrainian large manufacturers of military equipment, small and medium-sized enterprises, and startups working in the fields of artillery, armored vehicles, drones, and mine clearance And there are many more examples. 

In his speech at the NATO Industrial Forum in Stockholm, the NATO chief stated that the European defense industry has three main tasks: to support Ukraine, to address the defense needs of its allies, and to keep NATO at the forefront of technological progress.

S.K.: Finally. You mentioned a large number of parliamentary meetings with colleagues from partner countries. What questions do they ask you most often?

O.Z.: They ask different questions, depending on the context of the topic of our meeting. But the most memorable ones are about where Ukrainians get the strength to sustain the national resistance. How do we manage to strengthen the will to win.

S.K.: And what do you say to them? 

O.Z.: This is the easiest question, and don’t forget that I represent Cherkasy region in the parliament, the edge of the Cossacks, the birthplace of Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Taras Shevchenko. I explain to my partners about the genetic code of Ukrainians, which is based on a great spiritual heritage formed over the centuries in the struggle for their statehood. I talk about the Cossack freedom-loving character, about the mental and cultural gap between us and the Russian occupier. 

President Zelensky’s leadership in our national resistance, the courage of Ukraine’s defenders, and specific examples of their heroism are important in such conversations. In conclusion, I always call for joint efforts to achieve a common victory over the common Russian enemy. 

Іnterview Serhii Kuzan, Chairman of the Ukrainian Security and Cooperation Center, together with Oleksandr Zavitnevych, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence, discussed. Source – USCC

S.K.: Thank you for the interview and answers, it was a pleasure to talk to you. I wish you fruitful results in your work.

O.Z.: Thank you, and I wish all of us daily good news from the frontline, as well as strength, inspiration, and mutual efforts to bring our victory closer.  

Read also: an interview about the achievements of Ukrainian intelligence with the Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov.

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