Lecture by Radek Sikorski: Russia Ukraine War

How did we get here? And what do we do now?

“I fear German power less than German inaction” said Radek Sikorski, then Poland’s foreign minister, in an oft cited speech at DGAP in 2011. On October 11, we had the pleasure of hosting him again for the inaugural Zbigniew Brzezinski Lecture.

Radek Sikorski at DGAP
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Sikorski started his speech on Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and its citizens by stating that after two world wars, such things were not supposed to happen. We were supposed to have learned. (...) And yet here we are.” He then reiterated the statement he made in his DGAP speech eleven years ago about the importance of German leadership in Europe but transferred its meaning to the current situation: Sikorski requested more support from Germany for Ukraine, stressing that Germany cannot lead from behind.”

Drawing a line from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech at the 2007 Munich Security Conference to today in his analysis, the Polish politician addressed key issues such as the danger of nuclear war and the geopolitics surrounding both Nord Stream 2 and energy in general. Sikorski had three recommendations for Germany:

First, Germany should not push for majority voting in the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) now. Because of the failure of the Minsk agreements that were brokered by Germany and France outside of the FAC, trust among smaller member states must be restored there before future voting reforms can be discussed.

Second, Germany should not rearm on a purely national level. It should not underestimate the fears that will arise in neighboring countries as it strengthens its military.

Third, Germany should not fight for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Given past demand for a permanent seat for the European Union, demand for a purely German one could send the wrong signals to partners and allies in Europe and beyond.

In a panel discussion immediately following his speech, Sikorski, DGAP Director Guntram Wolff, and Istituto Affari Internazionali Director Nathalie Tocci broadened the discussion to include topics such as the Italian perspective on Russia’s war in Ukraine, the implications of the conflict for Russia-China relations, and European defense spending.

DGAP thanks Radek Sikorski for his thought-provoking speech, Nathalie Tocci for her participation in the panel discussion, and all of our guests. We would also like to thank the Open Society Foundations for funding the event. Those who couldn’t attend will find a recording of the entire event here: