Five FOUN members featured in the 2022 Tbilisi International Conference "Slava Ukraini"

September 16, 2022

Last week, several members of USUF’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) spoke at the 2022 Tbilisi International Conference held on September 5-6 in the capital city of Georgia. The major theme of this year’s conference was Slava Ukraini, and 13 sessions held over the course of two days featured high-level discussions about Ukraine and Georgia, the future of NATO and the EU, and democracy in general, given ongoing Russian military aggression and disinformation. 

Among the panelists were five FOUN members: Ed Chow, senior associate in the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at CSIS; Ambassador John Herbst, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center; Ret. Gen. Ben Hodges, senior advisor at Human Rights First; David Kramer, managing director of global policy at the George W. Bush Institute; and Ambassador William Taylor, vice president of the Russia and Europe program at USIP. 

Ed Chow at the 2022 Tbilisi International Conference

Chow and Ambassador Herbst spoke on the Session II panel “The Western Response to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine”, which was moderated by Ambassador Taylor. “This is probably the greatest geopolitical shock since World War II,” said Chow. Referencing the recent letter by U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm that called on major U.S. oil refiners to reduce exports and build domestic oil inventories, he warned: “This is very dangerous talk because Western solidarity in energy security is extremely important… European natural gas prices are 10x higher than U.S. natural gas prices, so we should be supporting Europe by continuing our commitment to free trade in energy. But if we send signals of not doing that, then alliance unity will fray.”

Chow concluded with a call to action for U.S. policymakers and citizens: “The United States has a role to play and we should step up more and think long term, not just think about gasoline prices for the summer or this fall.” Noting the domestic challenges of rising gas and oil prices, he added: "In order to do this politically, we need to explain to our people what’s at stake.” 

Herbst agreed with Chow, emphasizing: "The United States must act today as it has in much of its recent past (recent meaning since the end of World War II): as a superpower with the will, the determination, and the vision to defend its interests wherever those interests are threatened… We must recognize and lay out for the American public—and for that matter, for our allies as well—that Putin’s revisionist foreign policy is an existential threat to our way of life. And therefore, we are not just helping Ukraine; we are defeating a threat that is coming to us.”

And how does the U.S. help Ukraine defeat this existential threat? Herbst concluded: “Negotiations will be essential to end this war. But real negotiations will only happen when we know that the Kremlin understands that they cannot establish full control over Ukraine. But that point has not been reached yet. If you want to reach that point, send all the weapons to Ukraine, take out the Kremlin in Kherson and the south, and force Putin to a real negotiation.”

Other panelists included Viola von Cramon, member of the European Parliament; Ambassador John Herbst, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center; Hanna Hopko, chairwoman of Democracy in Action Conference; and Nicolas Tenzer, chairman of CERAP. The panelists discussed the geopolitical implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the importance of Western solidarity in energy security. Watch the full panel discussion here: Tbilisi International Conference 2022 – Slava Ukraini.