Press & News |

Watch President Bill Clinton’s Conversation with President Zelensky at CGI 2022

13 Minute Read

President Bill Clinton:

Thank you very much. Mr. President, can you hear me? There he is.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy:

Yes, I hear you, Mr. President. Good afternoon.

President Bill Clinton:

Good afternoon. Well, I hope you heard the voices of all of the people here standing and cheering. First, thank you for taking the time to be with us briefly today. We have people here from all over the world lot of them are interested in anything you have to say, but also, especially in the purpose of our meeting here, which is to do things that have still not been done by governments or philanthropists or other actors. We want to know what you’re facing, good and challenging, and what, if anything, any of us can do to help?

We spend a year every year, now that we’re back in business, trying to identify challenges people face and put together teams of people to meet them. One of our number, I know Jose Andres has already been there and you’ve seen him helping to feed people. But we want to know first, how are you doing? How are the people of Ukraine doing? And second, you should know there’s a small army of people here with friends, contacts, and resources all over the world who would like to help your people prevail. Thank you.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy:

Thank you so much, Mr. President. Thank you everyone in the audience. Quite a general question, how the world can help us. I’d like to start by saying about what the world has already done to help us. What the leaders from the United States do. There are results that you can already see in Ukraine. The reoccupation, the strength and army of Ukraine.

Our army has become stronger around the battlefield. Our servicemen have become resilient, but they are resilient because of the good feeling because of their immense love towards the motherland. But again, when you are on the battleground, having good feelings or strong beliefs is not enough. And I’d like to take this opportunity and think President Biden, the US administration nation and all of Americans for your support of Ukraine, how Ukraine can be helped.

Yes, there are ways in which many countries worldwide could help Ukraine through artillery pieces that we need, nations and definitely the US could have political influence on this country to convince them. We have regular communication among presidents, among Senators and the lobbyists, they are already present also in your home and they can do it. Yes. Some people would like to remain on the sidelines, but in this war, you cannot remain on the sidelines because we have reoccupation in the war aggression that Russia has waged against us. And you definitely have to take sides. You cannot vacillate between the good and evil or the light or dark.

Actually, we are fighting for the freedom. We want to defend freedom. You are absolutely free in your choice of selecting. Freedom that we fight for. No, the general some place going to start today. You know, that it was a voting to allow me to address them via video call. And we had 101 state in favor of my video appearance and seven countries were against. So a clear indication that the majority of the world supports Ukraine stands against the autocracy of the Russian Federation. What we need, we need to grow faster with our base.

We need to have better support of our army. When we received what we needed, we already immediately showed what we are capable of in Kharkiv Oblast to show that Russian army is not the strongest one. And we showed that there is a nation which is not afraid of them and is ready to march the fight against them. The second, how to make Russia sit at the table of negotiation with us already after they leave the [inaudible] about sanctions, the sanctions that the United States, the UK, the European union have jointly imposed. It’s very important to remain unified and united around that.

You know that it’s very important also for some European leaders to remain united and not to lose Europe over it. Unified sanctions will definitely heal the Russians military industrial complex and economy. The most important thing is for it to be felt not just by Russian leaders, but for the public, for people, people do feel it when it heats the bullets, when they feel they’re limited in their right freedoms. And from here, they need to limit the…regime for Russian Federation. This is when Russian public will feel that they have war, the bloody war on their hands and they will remember that it was them who voted for their current leaders and they have responsibility. They have to bear the price of war. They have to feel it. They have to feel it strongly.

And I think no free shopping or tourism attractions for Russia Federation nationals in Europe, as long as they’re aggressors. Stay at home guys. Another important moment is to recognize Russia, and I think by the way, this is the most important sanction so far, to recognize Russia, the state sponsor of terrorism. This is what the United States of America can do for the whole of the civilized world.

The United States of America is an indicator of democracy. When you give us artillery, other governments and nations join giving us artillery pieces too. So when the USA recognizes the Russian Federation as the state sponsor of terrorism, other countries will say, “Europe will join in this initiative.” The answer to a question how the US could help or can help, can be leaders pioneering this pressure on the Russian Federation. We can talk about economic support. We see the importance of the support from the IMF. Again, on a separate note, this micro financial assistance for us to pay salaries and benefits to our volunteers, this is what is already happening. This is what we were promised. Thank you for this.

President Bill Clinton:

I personally am very glad that the United States and many of our allies through NATO have continued to give strong support to the Ukrainian military efforts and to increase your capacity to compete with and now defeat a lot of the Russian military forces. But I’m also aware that you’re a president of a country that has to get up and live every day, that children have to be fed, I saw the children going back to school and pictures a few days ago. We have here a thousand or more people who have done things all over the world that maybe need doing now in Ukraine.

One of our major partners has given over 150,000 sets of hearing aid supports. Do people need them in Ukraine? Do they need to be replaced? I could give you lots and lots of other examples. I know you have done a brilliant job in keeping the public support high and the determination to resist and defeat aggression high. And we want to support that. And so I think that either now or later, if it occurs to you, that there are things that we could do, which would make it easier on the day to day lives of the Ukrainian people to take on this enormous responsibility and continue to fight, I hope you will feel free to ask. If there’s anything we can do to help move more of your agricultural products out to places around the world who need them, ask. Most of us are pretty well connected with our various governments, but also have maybe non-governmental means to move a lot of these products and services and bring help. So please feel free to ask and know that we’re pulling for you. 

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy:

Yeah. Thank you so much, Mr. President. The humanitarian assistance is the priorities for Ukraine to today. The restoration of educational and public health protection infrastructure, the one that was so heavily damaged after Russian missile strikes on Ukraine, this is also very much relevant today and you were right when you mentioned the beginning of this academic year, children going to school. And we do understand that after the war, the whole world will be assisting Ukraine, which will need hundreds of billions of investments.

And this will be needed. This infrastructure reconciled innovation will be needed like kindergartens for kids, hospitals for the whole of the population. We need to see that people come back to life and that everyone is able to lead alive. And, yes, we will have to build bomb shelters also in educational facilities to ensure the safety. And yes, we’ll have to prepare our education institutions to this winter season in terms of heating.

And we’d like to address you for the following, we have a strong deficit of 3.6 billion for this infrastructure until the end of this year and more than 10 billion for the coming year, for the next year. And these are the costs that our educational facilities for kids will need to remain afloat. And President Biden has been delivering 1.5 billion a month.

On the other hand, we have 5 billion deficit each month, so there is a difference and we need to see people come back to the country. We need them to restart the employment, the work. We need our economy to report. We need people to restart paying taxes, but people can only go back and start working when they’re confident the kids are safe and can go to school. From here, we need to rebuild the infrastructure. This is where millions of people will come back.

We have the statistics that up to 90% of our current migrants are willing to come back. They will come back when the infrastructure is back. Educational, healthcare, and so on. This is when people will start paying taxes back when the economy will be humming once again, and it will be better and cheaper for the whole of the world if Ukraine is able to get back on track. So thank you for your proposal. We will definitely be addressing our partners in the years as well for this.

President Bill Clinton:

Thank you, Mr. President, I think at least based on my experience in many other countries with this group over the last more than 15 years, we’ve built a lot of things and we can help with construction. And this is one thing where the private sector can come together with donors and with your support in Ukraine, if we meet all the requirements, we can just do what you ask us to do. So we will follow up on that and try to do that. Is there anything else you want to tell us, any other marching orders you want to give us?

I like it that today, the US pay more attention to global thing. Taking Ukraine as an example, to avoid these things repeat themselves in the world, recently, we have designed a document on security guarantees for Ukraine. We did it together with our partners and the documents covering the set of guarantees for the future of Ukraine. I think this could make a good example for other countries. For those countries and nations that are not empires, but nevertheless, they cannot then be grantors of safety. And the security guarantees have been designed by us and people would like to see the circle of grantors represented by NATO members, by the UN members to be as quiet as possible.

This is a very important, a powerful document. It’s very important in terms of political support of Ukraine, in terms of guarantees for the private sector, because guarantees are multifaceted from military to political to economic. This is a good example for the country that is still not in NATO, but in spite of not being a NATO member, it still wants to live and it has to live. It’s about the air defense. It’s about foot safety, all other things that are so relevant for the world today. I would love to see the United States to be the first country worldwide to sign this document and security guarantee with the Ukrainian counterpart. Thank you.

President Bill Clinton:

Thank you very much. I think for many of us, the most encouraging things we’ve heard was that the Ukrainians will come home if we can have the basic conditions, they need to come back in the building.

So we’re grateful that you took time to talk with us. We think of your people, all that you have lost and all that you have won, and we wish you well and I hope that we will be able to produce some more support for you and do it soon because the world should be standing up for freedom. And it has to start in Ukraine. Do you want to say anything else? Do you want to ask anything else specifically of our group?

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy:

I have so, so many questions, frankly. Those questions that some of them are still unanswered. I think the key point is that we share same values that we stand, that we love freedom and democracy. And I nevertheless think that even most important is that our kids are safe and in good health. From here quite a simple point, we have no other way around, but to defend the values that the whole world stands for.

We are a nation on the territory of which Russian Federation came, the servicemen came, we have nowhere to run or hide. We have to defend what we have. And from here two simple questions, if we defend our common values, will the US remain with us to the end of it?

President Bill Clinton:

Well, I think, I don’t speak for the government anymore, I just work here. But I don’t think it’s just in the US, I think all over the world, you’re going to get more support and more and more and more as people see the courage that not only you, but your people have shown and they realize that we don’t have to give up on democracy. We don’t have to give up on independence. We don’t have to give up on freedom. That people would far prefer that than to be bossed around, pushed around, bullied around and beat around, and you have proved that to all of us and we are forever in your debt. And I’ve got the signal on the building and we will follow up on other things. And if any of us can do anything to help you ever, let us know, we’re very proud to be supporting someone who is proving every day that democracy is not an outdated old fashioned notion that’s too inefficient to compete with dictatorship. We now know better because you have proved it. And we thank you for that.