The ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev is the result of a series of mistakes made by the US and its NATO allies, former Czech President Vaclav Klaus, told the World Economic Forum in Davos in a speech published on Friday.
The West’s blatant disregard for the geopolitical context led to this “tragic historic event” that “could and should have been avoided,” Klaus, who led the Czech Republic between 2003 and 2013, said.
“This war started on 4 April 2008,” Klaus said, referring to a NATO summit in Bucharest, where the US-led bloc members decided to support Ukraine and Georgia’s “aspirations for membership,” saying both nations “will become members of NATO” at some point in the future.
Recalling the event at which he was present, Klaus said the decision was “a tragic mistake.” He said he had personally opposed the decision and “tried to argue against it,” but it was “pushed through by the US and the UK.”
Most other NATO members, including Germany and France were also against it at the time, he said, adding that many of the attending presidents and prime ministers stayed “irresponsibly silent” in the face of pressure from London and Washington.
The West remained oblivious to the nature of Ukrainian statehood, Klaus argued, calling the country an example of an “unsuccessful and unfinished transition from communism to parliamentary democracy and market economy.”
Ukraine, he said, was not “a consolidated country” as it had major differences in ethnic composition and political preferences between its northwest and southeast. The country had already been in a state of “civil war” since 2014, long before the current escalation, Klaus said.
Following the US-back 2014 coup, the then-Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, known as Donbass, refused to accept the new government, which increasingly embraced nationalist ideology. The regions proclaimed their independence and Kiev responded with a violent military campaign that prompted a years-long conflict.
”To pretend that this was not the case and to discuss the current war … as if it were taking place in a vacuum is neither helpful nor productive,” Klaus argued, adding that it was “a big mistake not to pay attention to this fundamental split” within the country.
Klaus also argued that Moscow had not intended to occupy Ukraine when it launched its military operation in February 2022, but merely sought to prevent it from joining NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin also recently pointed to NATO’s 2008 decision as making conflict inevitable, having “drastically changed the situation in Eastern Europe.” Moscow has repeatedly said that preventing Ukraine’s accession to NATO is one of the key reasons for its military campaign.
Now it is clear that “all sides in the conflict have miscalculated,” Klaus said, adding that the frontlines remain “frozen” and no end to the conflict is in sight. He called on the West to change its approach and engage in meaningful dialogue with Moscow.
“My modest advice is to start negotiating,” Klaus said.