Inside The Lviv Security Forum
7 December, 2017

The first ever Lviv Security Forum took place last week from November 30 to December 1. Experts from all around the world came to Ukraine to take part in panel discussions focusing on the most pressing issues in global security and potential new models for the international security order.

Ukraine and Eastern Europe already play host to numerous security forums and conferences, but Oksana Syroyid — Deputy Chair of the Ukrainian Parliament and one of the main organizers of last week’s event — thinks that the Lviv forum was more “honest” than some of its counterparts. In particular, she notes that some panelists were openly critical of the Minsk peace agreements.

“Some of the panelists were openly mentioning that, unfortunately, the current negotiation on Minsk is the road to disaster … [and] those were not even Ukrainian panelists who were mentioning this,” Syroyid told Hromadske.

Unsurprisingly, security issues related to the ongoing war in Ukraine’s occupied eastern Donbas region were at the forefront of the discussions at the forum.

“There [were] very good remarks that unfortunately the ‘hybrid war’ is in such a nature that it's very difficult to identify when it will be over, what will be the end of the war,” Syroyid said. “And actually, we all agreed that such a discussion is a great value for all of those participants and maybe the broader scope of people.”

Photo credit: HROMADSKE

However, Sven Sakkov, director of the International Centre for Defence and Security and another forum participant, advises caution when applying the term “hybrid war” to the conflict in Ukraine’s east. He says that, while Ukraine should defend itself in aspects of hybrid warfare such as cyber attacks and information warfare, it should not ignore the real threat of military force.

“The sloppy use of this term would be detrimental because I think this is also taking focus away from actually a very important aspect of what is called "hybrid warfare," which is actually a kinetic force, military force, or the threat of using military force,” Sakkov warns. “We saw events happening when, actually, Russian aggression against Ukraine started in February 2014, the annexation and occupation of Crimea and so forth. That was preceded by a Russian snap [military] exercise and a very credible, big, conventional threat on the other side of the border.”

But the nature of the war in the occupied east was not the only topic of discussion at the Lviv Security Forum. Panelists also discussed possible ways to relieve and resolve the conflict.

Most notably, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the Commanding General of the US Army Europe spoke about a potential UN peacekeeping mission to Ukraine and what it would have to look like to be effective:

“Number one: whatever the agreement is, [it] should not allow Russia to freeze in place what it has achieved. So, that would be very important. Number two: the quality of the peacekeeping force would need to be very high from countries, from militaries that have real capabilities and [that] everybody would respect.”

Photo credit: HROMADSKE

Hodges also stated that, ultimately, to achieve success in the Donbas, Ukraine has to progress further in its reform efforts and its internal issues.  

“Are we winning? I think that, if Ukraine does not follow through with reforms that it said it would do, then we’re not winning. I mean obviously President Putin, the Russian Federation would love to see no reform, oligarchs in charge of everything, and – candidly – I think, Europe and the West will grow tired if they don’t see, if we don’t see legitimate reform happening inside Ukraine,” Hodges said.