Mr. Chair and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today to brief you on the security challenges our three countries—Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine—face.
I know about the time constraints, so I'll go directly to my statement.
I've been in the diplomatic service for the last 30 years, and for these last 30 years I witnessed seven or eight wars and conflicts in our region—in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in Transnistria, in Nagorno Karabakh, the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, the annexation of Crimea and military actions in eastern Ukraine—and all these conflicts, dear committee members, either were instigated by Russia, or Russia was and continues to be part of these conflicts.
These conflicts are the most serious challenge and impediment for countries like Georgia, which seek closer ties and integration with NATO and the European Union. Conflicts are instruments in the hands of Russia, and by using this instrument, it tries to maintain so-called spheres of influence in the neighbourhood.
These conflicts are not isolated cases. They point to a pattern of Russian behaviour, and it's important to see the pattern in order to not only just cope with the existing challenges but to address threats that Russia may pose in the future.
Unfortunately, Russian leadership still thinks in terms of spheres of influence. Actually, the Kremlin always considered the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a humiliating defeat for Russia. No one has made this Russian mindset clearer than President Putin when he said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”. We are witnessing intensified efforts by Russia to undo this greatest catastrophe. Its aggressive actions can, however, also be viewed as an act of desperation in light of declining influence in post-Soviet areas. The reason for this decline is the unattractiveness of the undemocratic political model Russia has to offer.
In order to understand Russia's attitude toward Georgia, and generally to its neighbourhood, it's important to have the historical perspective. Georgia is 3,000 years old, a European kingdom with its own original language and traditions, Europe's longest-serving single royal family, and a European mindset and political culture. After almost 100 years under the Russian Empire, and a short period of independence after World War I, in 1921 it was forcefully incorporated into the Soviet Union. This background is a reason why, after regaining independence in 1991, it was very natural for Georgia to declare European and Euro-Atlantic integration as its major foreign policy priorities.
Russia's response was swift. It started to arm and entice the separatists in two Georgia regions, and as a result of the military conflict in 1992-93, Georgia lost control over these two regions, and it received hundreds of thousands of IDPs, ethnically cleansed with the help of the Russian military.
In the 1990s, Georgia gradually started to become an alternative transit route for Caspian oil and gas to Europe. This further infuriated Russia, which sought total control over energy sources and routes of delivery in the neighbourhood.
In 2000, Georgia started the set of comprehensive reforms designed to fight corruption, rebuild infrastructure, consolidate state institutions and strengthen Georgia's ties with NATO and the EU. Our desire was simple and very challenging: to build an independent and democratic nation with a market economy, which Russian leaders considered a dangerous alternative to their own model. Any political or economic progress in the neighbourhood was seen as a danger by the Kremlin.
In 2006, the Kremlin closed down all the road, air and maritime connections with Georgia, stopped oil and gas supply, and introduced an embargo on Georgian wine and agricultural products. The aim was to kill the Georgian economy and put pressure on the government to change its pro-western policies. In response, in two years' time Georgia managed to completely diversify its export markets and energy sector, diminishing dependence on Russian oil and gas from 80% to 12%. When nothing else worked, in a desperate attempt, Russia resorted to direct military aggression.
The war with Russia in August 2008 was the hardest test, not only for Georgia but for the established international order. Before attacking Georgia, Russia carried out the illegal process of passportization in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in order to later claim that it defended its own citizens there.
Russia mounted an all-out military invasion, using tactical ballistic rockets and strategic bombers, in addition to ground forces. Georgia fought back and we managed to survive.
In full defiance of a six-point ceasefire agreement facilitated by the French EU presidency, Russia recognized the independence of two occupied regions. Unfortunately, at that time, Russia did not pay any price for this aggression.
The two main goals of the invasion were to deter Georgia from the Euro-Atlantic path, and to stop the flow of Caspian oil and gas through Georgia. From today’s perspective, we can say that despite military aggression and occupation, Russia could not achieve its goals. Georgia continues its democratic transformation and is strengthening institutions. One week ago, for the first time, we had a second tour of presidential elections, and for the first time, a woman was elected president of Georgia.
According to the World Bank, Georgia is one of the world’s top reformers and leaders in the “ease of doing business” rankings. It is one of the least corrupt countries in Europe, and is part of major international and regional infrastructure, transport and energy projects. Last year, Georgia, which is a country of 4.5 million people, received seven million tourists. In 2020, we expect nine million.
Georgia continues its NATO and EU integration, which has huge public support. This is a big asset for Georgia. About 70% of Georgians support NATO integration, and around 80% support EU integration.
Georgia has all the instruments for membership in NATO. We have a well-established NATO-Georgia Commission, and we are implementing a substantial Georgia-NATO package. We are involved in the Black Sea-security strategic discussions. We have joined military drills, and for years, Georgia was the third biggest contributor to NATO's operation in Afghanistan, with ISAF. It continues to be the third biggest contributor to the Resolute mission today. We've had heavy casualties, for a small country. Thirty-two people have been killed and more than 300 have been wounded in combat.
Despite formidable security challenges, the government continues with difficult reforms. At the same time, we are trying to ease tensions with Russia. We established multilateral and bilateral formats for negotiations, and even though we have not had diplomatic relations with Russia since 2008, the Georgian government has also introduced a bilateral format for consultations.
There are some positive trends emerging as a result of this. Trade is improving, direct flights have been established and—I mentioned the seven million tourists—Russians are one of the biggest groups among the tourists.
However, despite these attempts to improve relations with Russia, the fundamentals of the Kremlin's policy toward Georgia have not changed. Russia continues its occupation of 20% of Georgia’s territory, does not allow around 500,000 IDPs to return to their homes and spares no effort in derailing Georgia from westward movement. The Russian military is erecting dividing walls and barbwires on the occupation line, and constantly moving the line of occupation deeper into Georgian territory.
Recently, the Georgian Parliament adopted a resolution about the gross violation of human rights in occupied territories by Russian forces, and the Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili list, which imposes sanctions, including restrictions related to visa, property and financial transactions on those officials accused and convicted of murder, abduction, torture and inhumane treatment of citizens of the occupied territories.
We submitted that list to Global Affairs Canada. We would be grateful to the Canadian government and to Parliament for their support in implementing this resolution, and sending yet another signal that every crime and gross violation of human rights would have its consequences.
We welcome Canada's more active involvement in eastern Europe. This involvement is not just about deterrence, defence and security. First of all, it is about shared values: the values of democracy, rule of law, open societies and free trade. Russia tries to destabilize Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine because by adhering to these values those countries constitute a direct challenge to the Russian ideological narrative. Their success in building open and prosperous societies would undermine Russian influence in other states of the region by proving that there is a viable alternative.
Experience shows that the only way to stop Russia from undermining international security is by showing determination and solidarity within the alliance and with the countries that fall victim to its actions. Moscow did not pay the price for invading Georgia in 2008 and supporting separatism in Moldova and, as a result, today we have an annexation of Crimea and an invasion in eastern Ukraine.
In conclusion, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are interconnected and bound by shared history, mutual respect and common challenges. We are immediate neighbours of the EU and NATO, and what happens in our countries directly affects the security environment, not just in Europe but here in North America, in Canada, too.
That is why it is so important to provide help to Ukraine today when it faces such big challenges. By helping Ukraine, you're assisting Georgia and Moldova, too, and by supporting Georgia and Moldova, you are making Ukraine's case stronger. The best responses to destructive policies are further democratic reforms and deepening our integration with western institutions. We believe that the doors of NATO and EU should remain open for countries like Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. I hope that one day, sooner than later, our countries' European and Euro-Atlantic perspective will become a reality.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and distinguished members. I am ready to answer your questions later.
Chair Fuhr, vice-chairs, distinguished members of the committee and my fellow ambassadors, I am truly honoured to take part in this briefing session on regional security, especially in this format along with my colleagues and good friends from Georgia and Ukraine. I am particularly glad that all the three heads of diplomatic missions have been invited to address the esteemed members of the defence committee and share some of our thoughts and reflections on the regional security that directly affects our countries.
I view this briefing in the current composition, first of all, as yet another testament to Canada’s growing concern over regional security in eastern Europe, and as a confirmation that Canada recognizes the commonality of the legacy of the past of all the three countries, of the challenges and threats posed to their independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and their common aspirations. Not least, I would like to see this as a sign that Canada is seriously considering a common approach towards supporting our three countries in addressing these threats.
Mr. Chair, my country, the Republic of Moldova, is deeply concerned about a serious deterioration of the international security environment, which we all feel so closely and which reminds us of the sad times of the Cold War. We all face a great deal of serious, older and newer challenges and threats to our common security that undermine peace, stability and the rules-based world order, and hinder countries’ development.
The Republic of Moldova, by its geographical position, is an integral part of the security architecture of the Black Sea region, an area of interest for a number of regional and international actors. Security in this part of Europe is influenced by the existence of the frozen or protracted conflicts in Georgia and Moldova, as well as by an ongoing war in Ukraine.
Transnistria makes up 11% of Moldova’s territory, where about 40% of the country’s industry is concentrated. Abkhazia and South Ossetia make up 20% of Georgia’s sovereign territory. Eight heavily industrialized southeastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, along with Crimea, together make up over 20% of Ukraine’s GDP and population.
I brought these figures to show how much is at stake for the countries that chose to pursue their path to democracy and Euro-Atlantic integration free of external coercion and pressure.
Of course, the level and scale of intensity of the territorial conflicts in each of our countries could differ in various periods of time, but the pattern applied is common. Separatist movements are being encouraged from outside of our countries. The breakaway regions are being strongly supported economically, financially and militarily. The fact that an active phase of the Transnistrian conflict ended by reaching a ceasefire agreement in July 1992 does not mean that it cannot degenerate into armed hostilities when needed. The conflict has remained unresolved for 28 years. Today, contrary to the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, over 1,700 Russian troops are stationed in the eastern region of my country and over 20 thousand tons of arms and ammunition remaining from the former Soviet 14th army are stockpiled in the region, posing a serious threat to regional security.
As you are well aware, we have addressed these issues consistently and repeatedly in the framework of the highest international fora, including the UN and OSCE, as this problem does not include exclusively the Republic of Moldova. It affects the entire region, the Black Sea countries and the European continent.
Instead of disarming the separatist forces and withdrawing the Russian troops stationed illegally on our territory, in accordance with Russia's international commitments, the region is being continuously militarized with an increase in the capacity to produce and modernize weapons, assault-armoured military equipment and Grad artillery systems. This was clearly demonstrated last September at the Transnistrian military parade.
In this context, I would like to draw your attention to the continuous supply of these forces with modern technology and conventional weapons beyond any control of the international community. Russia continues to offer, on a large scale, Russian passports and to recruit local population for its troops stationed in the region.
I take this opportunity to voice our concerns about the recent intensification of the joint military exercises conducted by the Russian troops, along with the paramilitary forces of the Transnistrian separatist regime. During 2017 alone, over 320 training military activities were carried out in the region.
This year the number grew considerably. Activities of this kind are being recorded almost daily, with crossings of the Dniester River during the exercise advancing towards the capital city of Moldova; military exercises with the use of artillery systems; and elements of tactical training engaging diversion groups, reconnaissance personnel, snipers, etc. The last major exercise included the mobilization of the entire force.
We perceive these actions as a direct threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of my country. At the same time, these exercises are likely to create new tensions in the region in the context of the crisis in Ukraine.
We are also worried about the ongoing activities of the Transnistrian regime aimed at increasing the number of military education institutions specializing in such areas as infantry, tank and artillery education activities for land forces, and craftsmen of propaganda.
Additionally, during 2017 two cadet schools with a capacity of 500 students, aged 11 plus, were opened in the region, both founded with the direct support of the Russian defence ministry and the former Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, declared by my government to be persona non grata on our territory. Nowadays graduates of these institutions are active military personnel of the Transnistrian paramilitary structures and officers of the Russian troops stationed on our territory.
That being said, we are firmly committed to continuing our efforts aimed at finding a comprehensive and sustainable political solution to the conflict within the existing five-plus-two negotiating format, which includes the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the OSCE as mediators, plus the EU and the U.S. as observers. These major international actors have all the potential to achieve this goal, that of granting a special status to the Transnistrian region based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova within its internationally recognized borders, as is stipulated in the relevant international documents.
I am glad to note a positive dynamic in the process of negotiations that views particularly confidence-building measures in the context of small-step policy. Parties to the conflict have worked hard lately, being focused on resolving the daily problems faced by the population in the conflict zone—in particular, issues related to ensuring the rights to education, property, free movement, etc.
We will continue to advocate both within the UN, OSCE and now the international fora, but also in the framework of a bilateral political dialogue with the Russian Federation in favour of a complete and unconditional withdrawal of the Russian troops and ammunition from our territory. We will continue to stand up for the transformation of the current peacekeeping operation on the Dniester River into a multinational civilian mission under international mandate.
Ladies and gentlemen, to interfere in the course of development of a state, no war is needed today. It is enough to have the ability to influence its politics by using various means of persuasion, misinformation and manipulation, and cyber-attacks; by corrupting officials and using all sorts of sophisticated schemes of money laundering; by imposing economic embargos and by meddling in the election processes. This is how I describe the current challenges posed to my country. They are also relevant to Georgia and Ukraine to a large extent and we are not ready to counter these hybrid threats.
Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine have all signed association agreements with the EU, which provide a clear road map for closer political association and full economic integration with the European Union. They have chosen a western model as their development and security option, which would, in effect, fully anchor them in the western space of democratic values.
Looking specifically at Ukraine and Moldova, the two neighbouring countries, they can't be treated separately from each other. Only together will they succeed in becoming genuinely European or they will fail by being turned into a grey area. This is due to their geopolitical and geographic proximity, as you may see on the map provided. Better governance, economic opportunities, justice reform and the fight against corruption should be the cornerstones of western strategy for these states.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel put the crisis in Ukraine in a wider context of Russian interference in eastern Europe, accusing Russia of creating instability, not only in eastern Ukraine but also in Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Armenia. She said, “There is a belt of countries that cannot develop as they want. In the face of this, we cannot close our eyes as Germans.” I am confident Canada fully shares this view.
Mr. Chairman and members of Parliament, it's an honour to be here to address you and, through you, to thank the Canadian people for their unwavering support towards Ukraine.
It provides great support for my nation, and I thank you for it.
I would like to start with the footage that many of you have probably seen. This video was filmed on November 25 in the international Kerch Strait by a Russian naval officer who wanted to capture the moment when his ship would follow orders and ram the Ukrainian tugboat.
There is something in this video that strikes me every time I watch it. It's the voice of the Russian captain, who is so excited at this chance to hunt, chase and hit the Ukrainian vessel. He screams, “Press her! Hit her! Squeeze her!” Make no mistake; they knew what they were doing and they enjoyed this opportunity to do whatever they wanted without any threat of receiving an appropriate response.
Radio exchanges between the Russian officers show that there was a clear order to shoot, ram and capture the Ukrainian vessels. The picture at top right shows the damage to the control room of the Ukrainian vessel. They knew exactly where the people were, and that is exactly where they targeted.
Apparently, not everything went well for the Russians either. The picture at bottom right shows the Russian patrol boat, which was damaged in a collision with another Russian vessel.
It was a well-planned attack that was controlled directly by President Putin, as would later be recognized by his press secretary, Peskov. For the first time since the Russian aggression into Ukraine in 2015, we saw a case where the Russian military directly attacked the Ukrainian military. This time they did not hide behind green men, as they did in Crimea, or behind mercenaries, as they did in the eastern part of Ukraine.
This incident was a result of the Russian decision to block passage through the international Kerch Strait. As you know, the bridge was illegally built by Russia. A number of individuals and companies related to that were sanctioned by the U.S. and our other partners, and I hope Canada will follow suit.
If you look at the picture, you will see there's nothing really new in it, because this is exactly what the Russians did when they invaded Crimea and tried to blow up Ukrainian vessels in Donuzlav Lake in the spring of 2014. At that time, Russia stole Crimea from Ukraine and the world did not interfere. This time they want to steal the Sea of Azov.
As of today, Russia has dramatically escalated the situation in the region. It started in the spring. The circled zones that you see show the areas where the Russians started intercepting and inspecting commercial vessels. Now they are practically blocking the Kerch Strait from free passage. They have two goals in doing that.
First, they want to cut off the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, which you can see in the upper part of the picture and which are key to the exports of steel and grain from the east of Ukraine.
Second, this is a perfect set for extending their military advance along the northern coast of the Azov sea, all the way to Crimea. The blue box at top right shows you the area that is already heavily used for Russian naval exercises. It's right next to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Russia has deployed major forces into the region, which allows it to effectively control the water and the air in the region, as well as most of the coastline of the Sea of Azov.
The bigger picture of the region tells us that by militarizing Crimea, Russia has greatly increased its presence throughout the Black Sea. As you can see, Russia has also stepped up its aviation reconnaissance activities across the Black Sea. As you know, Canada has deployments in Romania as part of the air patrol operations, so this picture tells you that it was the right decision by Canada to send your servicemen and servicewomen to exactly where they can make a difference. They are playing a very important role there in helping us to defend the eastern flank of NATO.
It's important to realize that the biggest threat from Russia is if it expands its influence into the Mediterranean and into the Balkans. Crimea, this red diamond in the middle, is very key to that strategy. If you look at the numbers, you can see that Russia has been turning Crimea into a huge military base. Our intelligence tells us we will see much more of that in the next several years.
It also tells us that Russia has already consolidated impressive nuclear capabilities in Crimea. This includes naval and air, and there are signs that Russia is restoring nuclear storage in Crimea. This can be a horrifying game-changer in the whole of eastern Europe and the Middle East.
In that sense the Russian presence in Moldova and Georgia is not just to put pressure on those independent nations leaning toward the west. They also need it for the military buildup across the region.
What do we ask you to do about this?
First, there are a couple of very practical things. We need your support to get our men back. We're talking about 24 sailors. The youngest is 19. They have been brought to Moscow and they have criminal charges against them. We know enough about the Russian judiciary to be very concerned about the trials. We believe they are prisoners of war. They went from a Ukrainian port to another Ukrainian port through an international strait. Many of them are alive only by a miracle and they deserve the right to be brought back home.
Second, we demand release of the three vessels currently held in Kerch.
Third, we need to restore free passage through the Kerch Strait. It's an international strait and international law should be applied.
At this moment I would like to specifically thank Canada for supporting these demands. This is exactly what was said in the statements of and also in the statements by the . Moreover, this was repeated in the joint statement of the G7 ministers. We praise Canadian leadership on this issue throughout the G7 community.
We also believe this is the time to upgrade NATO presence in the Black Sea region and to introduce more punishing sanctions on Russia.
We need to take a new level of co-operation between NATO and its allies in the region. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia feel and know that we can do much more together. We need this to deter Russia from further escalation. We also need more NATO presence in the region to ensure that the Black Sea will remain open to civil and commercial activities. This should complement our defence co-operation that already exists. Operation Unifier is a great example of practical co-operation between Ukraine and Canada.
I know that many of you have visited your troops in western Ukraine; so did I. It was an incredible feeling to see that genuine exchange of experience and the camaraderie that our men and women in uniform have built between them. By now, 10,500 Ukrainian soldiers have been through Canadian training, and only God knows how many lives have been saved thanks to this training. As we come to the date of renewal of Operation Unifier I encourage us to take the operation to a new level of scale and depth.
Following the Canadian decision to include Ukraine in the AFCCL we observed Canadian companies taking the benefit of the new market opportunities in Ukraine. As it has been made public that we are about to close the deal on sniper rifles, I think we should explore more areas of co-operation. Direct sales from Canadian companies to the Ukrainian government is obviously great, but I think we can go further. We would like Canada to see this as a necessary and worthy joint investment. This will help us to defend Europe and this will help Canadian companies to get its fair share of the market. We want Canada to follow the U.S. example and consider investment in the supply of weapons and equipment in Ukraine.
Finally, we want Canada to directly support our aspirations for NATO membership. As you know, the Ukrainian Parliament has just successfully adopted, in first reading, an amendment to the Constitution setting the goal of NATO membership for Ukraine. We are serious about profound defence reform. We know we are a de facto eastern friend of NATO, and we want membership.
Canada was the first western nation to recognize Ukrainian independence. There was also a time when you helped us to get into the WTO. I think this is the time when you would lead us on our way to NATO. We want you to show this type of thoughtful and visionary leadership again.
Thank you, Mr. Gerretsen.
I have two quick questions, since time is limited.
Both Russia and Ukraine are parties to the Geneva conventions, and more specifically, to the fourth convention. Based on the wording in the fourth convention, Russia has committed what are defined as grave breaches, in the incident in the Kerch Strait, namely—and I take this out of the wording of the convention—“the taking of hostages”. That's the first point.
The second point is about unlawful deportation, transfer or confinement. Signatory nations of the Geneva conventions are obligated—it's not optional—to search for persons having ordered these hostages to be brought to trial, regardless of nationality and the location where the crimes took place.
First, has Ukraine initiated any actions under the Geneva conventions towards those who have ordered this illegal seizure of Ukrainian soldiers, and also for the fact that they're not being treated as POWs?
The second question is in regard to the actual incident, the ramming, firing upon and seizure of ships and sailors. Importantly—and perhaps it wasn't clear in the presentation—this occurred in the international waters of the Black Sea, outside of the Kerch Strait. This undermines our international rule of law system safeguarding maritime law and shipping. It seems to be working in conjunction with what I call the de facto embargo of the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk. As you noted, this is economically destabilizing a region that's very vulnerable to this sort of destabilization, and militarily has potential value as a land bridge to the Crimean peninsula.
The west has regularly issued strong statements directed at the Kremlin. I don't think Mr. Putin loses any sleep over strong statements, diplomatic statements. The port of Rostov-on-Don and the sister port Novorossiysk—which is actually the mother port, as you could call it—are 300 kilometres apart, the distance from Toronto to Kingston. Do you think sectoral sanctions that target the corporate entities of those two ports as well as the oligarch owners would have an impact on Mr. Putin's actions in the region?
Thank you very much. I really appreciate your kind words.
I fully agree with the assumption that, not formally yet, we are allies. We were side by side in Iraq and Afghanistan. I also mentioned in my presentation that Canadian and Georgian soldiers, officers and military, were fighting shoulder to shoulder there.
In a sense, this example that you gave now also shows interconnection. It's about the small Georgia there on the eastern flank of Europe and about Canada here. Also, it's kind of a continuation of our liberation that the distinguished member of the committee raised: questions about Russia and sometimes kinds of sentiments on why there are so many anti-Russian approaches. First, I'd like to stress that, when we are talking about Russia, we are not talking about Russian people.
Personally, I already mentioned that I have 30 years of diplomatic service, being part of Russia and Georgia negotiations back in 1995, when Shevardnadze was the president of Georgia. He was a guy who was for balancing the issues, and he knew Russian politics. Then at the end of his career, he admitted that he knew nothing about Russia.
The issues that we are talking about are the regime, the Kremlin and the politics that they're implementing, not about the ordinary Russians. Honestly, we can see that the Russian people are the same kinds of victims of the aggressive politics of Russia, the same as the Ukrainians and Georgians.
As to your question about paying the price, once again we don't want the Russian people to pay a price for that. However, at the same time when we are talking about these conflicts that we have, I agree with my dear colleague Ala about the assumption. Still, consider that they are not frozen conflicts. They're hard conflicts. When everyday people are killed and abducted.... It's not a frozen conflict in that sense.
In Russia they receive messages well. I know it from my experience. When there is no counteraction to the aggression, they continue with this aggression.
What we are talking about, not paying a price, didn't start in 2008. It started somewhere in the beginning of the 1990s. From the outset of the independence of these three countries, they were pro-western. Russia considered pro-western policies, although we all had—let's agree on that, somewhere in the 1990s—this perception that Russia one day might be a democratic state and part of alliances, even. They were ahead of Georgia in the 1990s in dealing with NATO.
However, the issues are that in the 1990s Russia invaded Georgia, instigated conflict in Moldova and didn't pay a price. It attacked Georgia in 2008 and didn't pay a price. Next was Crimea and the aggression in eastern [Technical difficulty—Editor].
Believe me, it's very important that the western alliance—not because the alliance is a military one but has shared values—be very vocal that Russia will pay a price if it continues with its aggressive actions.