About the Event

Diplochat: Ukraine featured remarks from the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya. We discussed U.S.-Ukraine relations, the international rule of law in a time of global conflict, and the role of the Ukrainian community within Philadelphia and beyond. Time for Q&A provideded audience members with the chance to dive deeper into the topics of their choosing.

During the introduction, the World Affairs Council thanked Ambassador Kyslytsya for participating in a surprise visit to the Council’s middle school UN Summer Camp. Further thanks were extended to Iryna Mazur, honorary Consul General of Ukraine in Philadelphia, for her efforts helping organize the Ambassador’s visit to Philadelphia.

Ambassador Kyslytsya began his remarks by expressing his gratitude that so many countries around the world have supported Ukraine in its time of need. He highlighted how a large majority of countries voted in the UN to condemn Russia’s invasion. The Ambassador went on to criticize Russia’s role in the United Nations, asserting that Putin abuses his power to inflame international problems and that Russia would not be considered a significant geopolitical force without its nuclear arsenal. Ambassador Kyslytsya was asked to weigh in on the recent rebellion of the mercenary Wagner Group against Russia. He emphasized that Western observers should not view Prigozhin in a positive light merely because he defied Putin, since the mercenary chief has also committed war crimes. The Ambassador expressed his private opinion that the rebellion was a staged event that went off script. He elaborated that Ukraine’s allies were wise to not involve themselves in supporting Prigozhin, since Putin would have used interference to claim that the West is attempting to dismantle Russia. The next topic was Ukraine’s application to join NATO and how the Ukrainian military would strengthen the alliance’s position. Ambassador Kyslytsya responded with a joke that has become common in Ukraine, “Before the war, Ukraine wanted to join NATO. Now, NATO wants to join Ukraine.” He elaborated that Russia remains a threat and that it was a mistake for Ukraine not to join the alliance earlier. To refute the argument that Ukrainian accession to NATO would have prompted Russian aggression, he pointed to how every former Soviet republic and former Warsaw Pact member which joined the alliance did so without a Russian military response. The conversation then turned to the humanitarian impact of the war. Ambassador Kyslytsya provided statistics on the huge number of civilian casualties, the flight of refugees, and the Russian abduction of children. He emphasized how unprecedented it is for a Security Council member to be condemned for violating children’s rights. On the refugee diaspora, he noted that most refugees have indicated their desire to return home, but that return will become less likely with time as refugees settle into their host countries. Before moving to audience questions, the last topic the Ambassador addressed was the proposed plan to seize Russian assets and use them to rebuild Ukraine. Ambassador Kyslytsya pointed to the precedent for reparations set by the WWII peace settlement. He further stated that Ukraine’s allies should plan for rebuilding the country after the war not only as a gesture of goodwill but also as a business opportunity. He also framed rebuilding efforts as a way to meet the prerequisite standards for integration into the European Common Market.

The first question during the audience Q&A was whether any Western aid money was being used for anti-corruption efforts. The Ambassador replied that Ukraine is fighting a double war against both Russia and corruption. He pointed to the arrest of their Supreme Court’s president on bribery charges as evidence of how seriously Ukraine takes its anti-corruption laws. Another guest asked about whether the Ambassador considers Russia’s initial admission to the UN Security Council after the dissolution of the Soviet Union to be legitimate. Ambassador Kyslytsya narrated the history of the Soviet seat on the Security Council and how it was transferred to the Russian Federation without any formal vote. He asserted that this transition was the worst violation of the UN charter in the organization’s history until Russia assumed the presidency of the Security Council in 2023 while prosecuting a war of aggression. The next question was about the different cohorts of Ukrainian diplomats who served exclusively for the independent republic versus those who started their careers during the Soviet regime. The Ambassador explained that even as a constituent republic of the U.S.S.R., Soviet Ukraine maintained its own separate diplomatic corps. The Ambassador said that some of the ex-Soviet diplomats who continued serving as representatives after independence truly earned their positions. In contrast, he disapproved of the decision to maintain continuity in the security forces and army before and after the Soviet Union’s collapse, which Ambassador Kyslytsya saw as an obstacle to true independence. The final question was about the future of Ukraine after the war. The Ambassador compared the situation to Winston Churchill’s electoral defeat after successfully concluding WWII, attributing the result to shifted expectations in times of peace versus war. He said that citizens desire a return to prosperity and government benefits at the end of a war, but those demands prove challenging after wartime destruction.


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About the Diplochat Series

For nearly three-quarters of a century, the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia has provided its members, supporters, and the Greater Philadelphia community with access to domestic and foreign policymakers, global leaders, and influential thinkers.

The Satell Family Foundation “Diplochat” series provides meeting attendees with the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with diplomats from around the world. Audience members can ask questions and engage with those appointed by their governments to represent their country, skillfully negotiate, and use soft power to maintain political, economic, and social relations on the global stage.