Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry directly rebuked President Petro Poroshenko at a panel on Sept. 15, implying that the Ukrainian president was not taking a key issue in tacking corruption seriously.
The remarks came after Poroshenko asked the entire Yalta European Strategy audience whether their countries had specialized anti-corruption courts, before saying that only countries like “Kenya, Uganda, Malaysia” had the judicial bodies.
“Does the United States have an anti-corruption court?” the Ukrainian president asked, apparently rhetorically.
But Kerry brushed off Poroshenko’s implication, saying that “the truth is that in our nation, every court is an anti-corruption court,” winning applause from the audience of 350 people.
“Even now, you see a special prosecutor investigating the President of the United States,” he added, after a long pause.
Kerry’s remarks came on a panel with former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, moderated by former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt. Bildt started off the panel by asking whether Western nations could have done more to support Ukraine at the very start of the ongoing crisis – in 2014 – after Russia invaded following the toppling of Kremlin-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych during the EuroMaidan Revolution.
“There are clearly lessons to learn on the diplomatic front on the way we do these association agreements in the future,” said Cameron. Kerry gave the impression that the White House was almost completely blindsided by the annexation of Crimea, using the word “unforeseeable” to describe the crisis.
“The unforeseeability of the boldness of the outright deception with respect to the little green men running around in a country without insignia on their uniforms,” Kerry recalled.
The former secretary of state, who served under U.S. President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017, added that “the success of the response” is “not talked about enough.” But he went on to caution against the placement of UN peacekeepers in the Donbas, a proposal that has gained currency in recent weeks from quarters in Moscow, Washington, and Kyiv.
“If they’re only on the line of contact, that could become a de facto recognition of that line of contact meaning something,” Kerry said.
He added that the fight against corruption would end up defining this period in Ukraine’s history.
“The future of Ukraine is going to be defined by Ukrainians and by the leadership, and to fulfill the promise of what happened on Maidan,” he said. “I was here immediately afterwards, I remember the incredible emotion of those days, the tires piled up and the makeshift memorials.”
It was from there that Kerry rebuked Poroshenko.
“I was a prosecutor. We did white collar crime at the county, state and federal level,” Kerry said. “I think it’s vital for Ukraine to grab ahold of the moment. It’s not too late, but the decisions made here will help us to be able to defend the future of Ukraine that people have staked their lives for.
Later on, he critiqued current Western policy towards Russia as potentially not understanding Moscow’s point of view.
“Was there in the Libya resolution and the ultimate move on (Moammar) Gaddafi a perception of encirclement and deception?” he asked. “If those things are true and there is a perceived game being played, then you have to examine what your options are a little more carefully.”
“Nothing excuses the perfidy with which things have been carried out,” Kerry added, before saying that th eWest needs “two tracks” for Russia – one based on NATO’s mutual defense article being “real,” and another that “allows people to perceive an off-ramp and a resolution to these crises, or else you drive yourself into a corner.”
From there, the discussion broadened to cover the underlying reasons behind the 2016 election of U.S. President Donald Trump and the decision-by-referendum of the United Kingdom to leave the European in June of the same year.
Cameron called himself an “avowed believer in global action,” while going on to say that that “doesn’t mean giving up national controls and the national identities that we have in our countries.”
Cameron added: “Democracy is government by explanation.”
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