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The West Can Hurt Russia in 3 Critical Ways, Ukraine's Former President Says

  • Ukraine and its allies in the West need to act to weaken Russia in order to deter it from launching any kind of attack on Ukraine, its former president said.
  • "Ukraine needs to weaken Russia," in three ways, Petro Poroshenko said.
  • He suggested that the West should target its gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 and arm Ukraine further.

Ukraine and its allies in the West need to act to weaken Russia in order to deter it from launching any kind of attack on the country, the former president of Ukraine told CNBC, listing three key ways that this could be done.

"What does Ukraine need now, the most?" Petro Poroshenko told CNBC on Thursday, "Ukraine needs to weaken Russia."

Firstly, in order to achieve this, Poroshenko told CNBC's Hadley Gamble in Kyiv, the West needed "to make Russia weaker" by sanctioning its giant gas pipeline project that's aimed at bringing Russian natural gas to Europe, bypassing Ukraine and denying it much-needed gas transit revenue in the process.

Poroshenko insisted that "Nord Stream 2 is not an economic or energy [project], this is completely a security project which has undermined Western unity and which can attack Ukraine and many many others."

"Point number two, make Ukraine stronger," Poroshenko said, which could be done by the West by increasing its supply of weapons to Ukraine, and by motivating economic growth.

Mainly, however, Poroshenko said the West needed to "increase the price that Russia will pay if [Russian President] Putin makes an absolutely crazy decision to continue the large-scale operation against Ukraine. So stronger Ukraine, increase the price and this is the shortest way to peace."

Thirdly, Ukraine's "resilience" needed to be increased, he said, by carrying out a raft of reforms within the country.

"We need ... to continue the reforms that were launched by my team, reforms of the security sector, economic reform, judicial reform, and to make Ukraine more understandable and more predictable for the Western world," he said, adding that Kyiv needed to make more of an effort to tackle endemic corruption.

'Don't trust Putin'

The comments from Poroshenko, who served as president of Ukraine from 2014 to 2019, come as the world watches how ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia might develop.

Russia has amassed over 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine and has stationed forces and military hardware within its ally Belarus. The Kremlin has insisted it has no plans to invade Ukraine, however, and said its forces in Belarus are there for military drills set to take place next week.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg remarked Thursday that there had been a "significant movement" of Russian troops to Belarus in recent days, estimating that these included 30,000 combat troops, special ops forces, fighter jets including Su-35s, Iskander dual-capable missiles and S-400 missile defense systems, according to Reuters.

There is widespread distrust in Russia's motives, given its 2014 annexation of Crimea and its support for pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, a country that has a pro-Western government and aspires to join the EU and NATO.

Poroshenko, who himself is now awaiting trial on charges of "high treason," having been accused of helping to finance pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine while in office in 2014-2015 — charges he denies and which he says are "a politically motivated prosecution" pushed for by current President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — told CNBC that during his time in office he learned not to trust Putin.

"Don't trust Putin. Nothing he promised to me, nor any of his guarantees he's given to the Normandy Format [talks between Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France] have been executed," Poroshenko said.

"Secondly, don't be afraid of Putin ... because this is the only way you can reach results and thirdly, keep the unity of the Western world because the purpose of Putin is to find out the weakest point and to ruin unity."

Russia has made a series of demands to the U.S. and NATO, including guarantees that Ukraine is never allowed to become a member of the Western military alliance. These demands have been rejected by Western officials.

On Wednesday, the U.S. announced that it would move 3,000 of its troops closer to Ukraine; 2,000 troops in the U.S. are to be sent to Poland and Germany, where they will join others, and another 1,000 who are already in Europe will be moved to Romania.

Russia blasted the move as "destructive," according to reports quoting Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, while Dmitri Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said the U.S. is "continuing to pump up tension in Europe."

He added that the deployments are "the best proof that we, as Russia, have an obvious reason to be worried," Russian state news agency TASS reported.

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