Find out an exclusive interview with John Herbst, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (2003-2006).
You remember US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. It was a significant show of support for Taiwan. Despite China’s threats of retaliation, what does this trip mean for the democratic world?
Well, it’s very good that she went. It’s not that she had to go, but she decided to go. And once it became clear that China was forbidding her to go, she had no choice but to proceed with the visit. So that was an excellent thing. And it’s a reminder to the United States that China is an aggressive power that we have to deal with as an aggressive power. And it was also a signal to China that we were not going to be threatened and deterred by their actions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited South Africa. U.S. offers new continent strategy. Who can really now support Africa: Russia, China? Maybe Western world and how Russia wants to use Africa?
Well, look. The Kremlin has sent its mercenaries into the Central African Republic to overthrow the government, to seize resources. China is putting a great deal of investment into Africa. But in ways that benefit China, not necessarily the African nations. I think it would be sensible for the United States to be more active in China, for the EU to be more active in China. And we’re seeing it in Africa. We’re seeing that now that there’ll be more work in this area in the future.
On August 4th, President of Ukraine Zelensky, during an online meeting with African journalists, said that Ukraine would change its policy towards Africa. The Minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine is going to visit Africa this autumn. What kind of changes is possible and will they help to stop Russian aggression?
I think it’s smart for Ukraine to reach out to countries around the world. The African nations, I think many of them voted against Russia’s invasion in February, but some of them have not stepped up to condemn Moscow for the looming food shortage caused by their blockade of Ukrainian grain. I think if Ukraine explains the situation to active diplomacy, it may help change the minds in Africa.
US President Joe Biden signed the documents for Sweden and Finland to China to bring the two countries a step closer to formally becoming part of NATO. How it can help to protect the countries of these countries, the NATO countries, and bring peace in the whole of Europe?
Look, it depends upon first Ukraine’s willingness and ability to fight, which we’ve seen. Second, strong support from the United States and other Western countries. And support has been pretty good, but it needs to be much better and hopefully it will become much better. And I think if these two things develop in the right way, Ukraine’s success on the battlefield will proceed. Moscow That aggression is not going to serve its interests. But that’s what has to happen. Moscow needs to be defeated on the battlefield in Ukraine, and the West has to provide more weapons and more advanced weapons to help Ukraine make that happen faster.
It’s interesting to hear your opinion. Chinese ambassador to Russia accused the United States of putting the Russian Federation into a corner due to the expansion of support in Ukraine, and integration into the European Union. A Chinese diplomat blamed Washington and called for its reason for the Russian war against Ukraine. What do you think about this?
This is simply nonsense. Russia and China are right now acting as partners. They both have a strong desire to change the global system so that they can commit aggression as they please. China is building islands in seas that belong to other countries. Russia trying to seize Ukraine. Russia seizing parts of Georgia and so on. It’s interesting. China doesn’t seem to value its relationship with Ukraine when they justify the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine and they deny Ukraine the right to choose its foreign policy partners and its economic partners.
Lots of specialists say that this winter is going to be hard for European Union. There are two groups, two parties of peace and war among the countries of the Union. What is the basis for consensus on Ukraine, speaking about the winter that it’s coming?
Look, Moscow is playing a game of let’s withhold some gas and oil in order to put pressure on Europe. Europe made a serious mistake, especially Germany, by establishing this dependency on Russia. I know that the United States, in cooperation with the EU, is looking for ways to find alternative sources of gas and oil for the winter. They are having some success with that, but not enough to avoid real price increases. So, I think that Europe will muddle through the winter, paying higher prices for oil and gas. But Europe will not be brought to its knees. But Moscow is withholding of these hydrocarbons, will also weaken its trade relationship with Europe in the future.
Russia is blaming. Ukraine is blaming. What we should do in this case?
I think Ukraine and Europe has a simple choice. Are they going to defend there in the case of Ukraine, their sovereignty and their lives? In the case of Europe, their foreign policy and their honor? Or are they going to submit to Russian aggression in the case of Ukraine and to Russian economic warfare in the case of the EU? And I think the answer is simple. Both Ukraine and the EU need to stand up to the Kremlin and deal with some of the problems that result from that, so that in the future they will be free of that sort of danger.
I’ll remind that the International Human Rights Organization, Amnesty International report that the presence of the Ukrainian military in the residential areas of cities endangers civilians and violates their rules of war. Amnesty International has already apologized because of this report, but what was the time of this report? Maybe Russian influence, some mistakes, or what?
You know, Amnesty International has a job that needs to be done. It’s not an easy job to do. It’s not surprising when mistakes are made. It’s a good thing when mistakes are acknowledged.
But what should do now U.S, Ukraine, European Union to avoid reports like these? Because now we must give only truth. Now we must give to all the people in the world the truth about Russian aggression.
I think it’s well understood globally that Moscow is committing aggression and war crimes in Ukraine. It’s also true, though, that reporting in wars is very difficult. Mistakes are not uncommon, and I don’t think we need to over emphasize mistakes in this case. As you point out, Amnesty International has acknowledged some of those mistakes. I think we move on.