Zelenskiy to Munich leaders: we need weapons fast to beat 'Goliath' Russia

Zelenskiy to Munich leaders: we need weapons fast to beat 'Goliath' Russia


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday urged allies to speed up sending weapons.

MUNICH (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday urged allies to speed up sending weapons to defeat the Russian invasion, telling global leaders assembled in Munich that dithering and delays also threatened their security.

His message at the start of a conference heavily focused on Europe's transformed security landscape after the Russian invasion of almost a year ago, won immediate endorsement from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Both leaders, who critics have accused of eqivocating over their countries' response to the war, pledged commitment to military support for Ukraine, and said long-term backing for Kyiv's cause was the only way to get Moscow to back down.

Zelenskiy, comparing the war in Ukraine to a David-against-Goliath struggle for freedom, said Russia was wreaking destruction and plotting to "strangle" Ukraine's neighbour Moldova while Western leaders dragged their feet.

He said it was "obvious" that Russian President Vladimir Putin had set his sights on other former Soviet countries.

"Determination is never abstract. David defeated Goliath not by the power of conversation, but by the power of his actions," said Zelenskiy, referencing the Biblical tale in which a boy, armed with only a sling, beat a giant soldier.

"Delay has always been and still is a mistake," Zelenskiy told the conference, where hundreds of politicians, military officers and diplomats have gathered. "Goliath must lose" for the world to be safe, he added.

Zelenskiy's appearance at the same event in 2022 just days before the war broke out. As on previous occasions, he mixed gratitude for Western help with pointed comments that such assistance should have come sooner.

In particular, Ukraine is asking for fighter jets and advanced battle tanks.

The conference has reignited long-running debates over how much Europe should build up its own military capacity, how much it should rely on the United States, and how much governments should spend on defence.


But with a Russian spring offensive expected, Europe's two main leaders sought to show a united front.

"The time is not for dialogue with Russia," Macron said, adding that Russia's invasion "had to fail."

Macron has drawn criticism among some NATO allies for delivering mixed messages regarding the war, with some considering his government a weak link in the Western pro-Ukraine alliance.

For now, he said, he would be doubling down on French support for Kyiv.

"We absolutely need to intensify our support and our effort to the resistance of the Ukrainian people and its army and help them to launch a counter-offensive which alone can allow credible negotiations, determined by Ukraine, its authorities and its people," he said.

Scholz, whose own government has faced criticism over slow weapons deliveries to Ukraine, urged other European countries to speed up sending tanks to Kyiv after Germany committed to ship its Leopard 2 armoured vehicles.

He said it made sense to prepare for a long war and let Putin know he would be miscalculating if he thought Ukraine's Western allies would grow weary.

As Russian troops massed on Ukraine's borders last year, Western leaders in Munich had urged Putin not to invade and warned of dire consequences if he did so, while Zelenskiy criticised what he saw as appeasement.

This year, leaders are grappling with the profound consequences of Putin's decision to unleash the most devastating war in Europe since World War Two.

"NATO allies and partners... will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes," the Atlantic alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the conference. "We will not allow President Putin to win this war, it (would) be a tragedy for Ukraine but also dangerous for us."

The conference has at times served as a barometer of relations between Russia and the West, most notably in 2007 when Putin criticised the United States in a speech now widely seen as a harbinger of a far harsher stance against liberal democracies.

This year, Russian leaders are absent, with conference organisers saying Putin had "broken with civilisation".