‘Russia Has No Chance Of Winning This War’: Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Talks With Yale Students

From left, Yale University President Peter Salovey, famed historian Timothy Snyder, Yale SOM professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, and CNBC senior White House correspondent Kayla Tausche. Screenshot by P&Q


CNBC senior White House correspondent Kayla Tausche got the first question of the event:

Kayla Tausche, CNBC: I’ll start with an impassioned plea that you made to the leaders of the G7 countries back in June to end the war by the winter. The winter is now approaching, and as the war goes on, everyone from progressive Democrats here in the U.S. to public figures like Elon Musk have made their own suggestions about how the war should end. At this point, will the war end with a battle or a negotiation? And when?

President Zelenskyy: It’s a complex thing because it depends on multiple factors. We’ve shown our resilience as a people. We’re motivated by being Ukrainians, by being the citizens of this country from different walks of life, from different nationalities. We are motivated to defend what we have.

It is also very much dependent on our partners. I’ve thanked the leaders of your country. I’d like to take the chance to also thank your colleagues, the journalists, those who have been communicating the stories and making sure that the public does not forget about the war.

It also depends on the public in the Russian Federation. For this, a powerful sanction base pressure should be exerted on Russia so the people understand that they also are responsible for the political choice of their leaders who decided to bring terror to my country.

So many factors are at play. This is united on just one principle: the principle of willingness. When we all will be willing to end the war, it will end, and it will end soon probably. It all depends on how willing we are on our inner motivation. Now, all of us are Ukrainians because it is the Ukrainians who are fighting for the values in Europe, in the U.S., in Asia, in Africa, everywhere – in every country that deems itself a civilized country, a civilized society, a civilized democracy. This depends on all of our will.

Tausche: But President Zelenskyy, you have said that you will negotiate, but not with Mr. Putin directly. So are you suggesting that there should be a different channel of negotiations or are you suggesting that the West should push for regime change?

President Zelenskyy: It is increasingly challenging for me to tell who or what is President Putin? Now, it looks like it is a bunch of individuals under the brand of Putin who pursue aggressive steps.

So, we are not ready to talk to Putin. We are not ready to talk in general with a regime like this, with this disrespect to our sovereignty, to the freedom of our citizens, to our choice, to our territorial integrity. This disrespect is demonstrated in a very clear way.

The first step should be: Get out of our territories. Then, it depends on how they’re going to leave the country. Are they expecting us to push them from here? Another thing is when one goes voluntarily away, then it’s maybe another sort of transition from war towards diplomacy. This is the form of dialogue that they have to choose for their own public. They have to think for how long their society will be de facto isolated from the rest of the world. For a decade? A couple of decades? For 1,000 years or 100?

They have their hands in blood and it will be really a challenge to clean those hands. They have children’s blood on their hands.

In a packed house, the audience of Yale students, staff, and faculty stand for President Zelenskyy, several waiving small Ukrainian flags. Screenshot by P&Q


During the event, President Zelenskyy answered several questions from Yale MBAs in the audience.

Alexandra Baker-Brown, first-year MBA: The Ukrainian military and civilians have shown absolutely remarkable resolve and tenacity in the face of the Russian invasion. How have you maintained the spirit of optimism and motivated the Ukrainian people in the face of the atrocities that they have undergone?

President Zelenskyy: To bring optimism to someone, you have to be optimistic yourself. I do believe in my own country, my family, my people, in our servicemen. I think patriotism is also optimism, combined with a belief in your own country. For me, my nation is the best. In the same vein, your nation is the best for you. This way we respect each other: We are patriots of our own nations, and there is optimism in that.

Our key motivation is our home. We have no other home. Just pay attention that we are not waging war against another country. We just defend what is ours.

Jay Rosenberg, first-year MBA: In this war, you and other Ukrainians have sacrificed their well being, safety and, for many, ultimately their lives in the name of freedom. What do you say to convince political leaders and citizens of other nations to make a sacrifice, even a small one, in order to further contribute to your cause?

President Zelenskyy: I don’t think that the fact that we defend Ukraine is a sacrifice. This is our responsibility. You defend your country in the same vein as you would defend your family. So we are not sacrificing anything, we are just defending what we love.

In regards to convincing leaders, now this story looks a bit different. We do sacrifice our lives for the lives of other nations. Other leaders have to understand: When we are no longer able to stand in defense, the enemy will go to their nation. And it will be them who will have to spend their lives defending what is dear to them.

Lingxiao Xu, second-year MBA: What is your opinion of Chinese leader Xi’s third term and the political impact of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) on the Ukrainian people, the ceasefire, and the rebuilding of Ukraine?

President Zelenskyy: I would really like to see Chinese society and the Chinese government support Ukraine. We have a history of positive, in-depth relations. In Ukraine, the biggest economic exchange before the war was with China, and I would really like to see these relations continue, particularly in the time when we have problems.

I would really like to see the Chinese position with regard in support of Ukraine be much more clear. I definitely would not want this country to support and defend Russia’s aggressive regime. This is my only wish.

During the event, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Lindsey Graham of the Senate Armed Services Committee reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to Ukraine. Screenshot by P&Q


Senators Richard Blumenthal and Lindsey Graham, who have led bipartisan efforts to support Ukraine and met with Zelenskyy this July in Kyiv, doubled down on their support for the country and addressed a growing divide among U.S. politicians about continuing Ukrainian aid. They spoke to Zelenskyy directly.

Senator Blumenthal: As you know, when we visited you, President Zelensky, we presented you with the resolution passed unanimously by the United States Senate to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. It would mean, if the administration follows it, that Russia would be one of the handful of pariah states, like North Korea and Syria, who are sanctioned, vulnerable to action in our courts. That’s why we are working so hard to support you, because you are at the tip of the spear defending our national security. We know that Putin will keep going; He will continue to threaten NATO if he is permitted to conquer Ukraine …

Just yesterday, (Putin’s) speech was designed to divide our own nation. But let me tell you, President Zelensky, that in my view, and I think there’s bipartisan support for this idea, there should be no negotiations without you and the people of Ukraine. You should be the one to decide when, whether and where there can be negotiations. We should not pull back at this point, we should not be talking about diminishing our support, we should be redoubling our support.

Putin is a thug. He’s a war criminal. He’s committing genocide, and we must bring him to justice. As you very correctly observed, freedom is not a thing. It’s not a physical structure. It’s not a power plant. Putin can bomb them, he can destroy them, but he cannot destroy your freedom as long as the people of the world are behind you.



Senator Graham: There are three fronts in Washington. First, in July, I went with (Senator Blumenthal) to visit President Zelenskyy, and here’s what I wanted to accomplish by the end of 2022. I want another aid package and in the omnibus bill, before the new Congress takes over. I want that aid package to be robust militarily and economically. And to my Republican colleagues who don’t want a blank check, that’s fine. I’ll be glad to sit down with you to make sure that the money goes where it should go and we have accountability.

But I promise you, the majority of Republican senators are fully committed to seeing this through. Because, if we don’t get Ukraine right, there goes Taiwan. If we don’t get Ukraine right, this war continues in Europe. When it comes to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, you either pay now or you pay later. So, I predict on this phone call, that before the new Congress is sworn in, there will be a robust package of military and economic assistance to Ukraine. I hope tanks are included so you can repel the invaders quicker.

Number two, I hope in this package by the end of the year, we have Russia designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, or something like it, to let the Russian leadership around Putin know that we’re not going to forgive and forget, that we’re going to keep in place sanctioned regimes, but we’re going to up our game. And we want the business community who may be watching this program to know that you do business with Russia at your own peril.

The third thing we want to do is to make war crimes real. If we forgive and forget, if all the war crimes committed by Putin and his forces are just forgotten because we’re so tired of dealing with this, then you’re destroying the rule based society that came out of World War Two.

How does it end? Russia withdraws to the 1998 boundaries. The Budapest Memorandum signed by Russia and Ukraine in 1998 was based on Ukraine giving up a third largest nuclear force in the world for a guarantee of their sovereignty by Russia, and we and others signed that agreement. If we let Putin get away with this, it’d be the biggest bait and switch of the 20th and 21st centuries. And the message will be if you have nuclear weapons, you should never give them up, and if you don’t have nuclear weapons, you should probably get them. What happens in Ukraine matters to all of us, and if you don’t get that by now, you’ve missed all of World War II.

President Zelenskyy: First of all, I’d like to start by thanking you for all the aid packages from the United States to Ukraine. I admire the unity in Congress regarding that.

But, going back to the key strikes of late, they were really about the energy infrastructure in Ukraine. To be more exact, up to 40% of power related infrastructure has been affected. So, from the 10th of October, we had not just Russian missiles, but also had 400 Iranian drones sent against us, and for the whole period of the war we’ve had thousands of Russian missiles. Because of that, air defense is our most important priority.

United States assistance is the trendsetter. We had not enough artillery, then the U.S. went trailblazing on that and then others joined. The U.S. opened a window of opportunity for other European countries to support. On the matter of tanks, unfortunately we haven’t gotten any tanks from the U.S. If there would be an opportunity, we already know the support that European countries could provide us with in terms of armored vehicles, tanks, etc.

But again, the topmost priority is aerial defense. We have to defend our skies. If my memory serves me right, I’ve been saying that since the first days of the war: aviation and idle defense, this is what we lack. We need to defend our skies to defend our children. Russian can do nothing against us on land.


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