Andrius Kubilius. Why the West needs to have the “Enlargement Ramstein”?

2023-01-31 | Ukraine, European Union, Russia

EPP Group External Meeting on “A Stronger Europe: Security and Defence of the Union”. Tallinn, 2023.01.30

In Madrid, NATO recognized that authoritarian Russia is the biggest threat to the European security. I would like to stress the word “Authoritarian”. Not Russia as such is a threat, but “Authoritarian” Russia is a threat.

If Russia was a normal, a non-authoritarian country, if it was a European type of democracy, Russia would not be a threat to the European security. Because established democracies do not fight with each other.

When faced with security threats, NATO and the whole Western community usually concentrate their efforts on two major goals: Deterrence and Defence. For the time being we, together with Ukraine, are doing exactly that – we are deterring authoritarian Russia and defending ourselves against the spread of its military aggression.

My message is very simple: that is not enough when looking into a longer-term future of our security. Besides deterrence and defence policies, we also need to have a strategy on how to assist the transformation of authoritarian Russia into a normal, European type of state. This is the only way to get rid of the threat permanently. And Ukraine is playing and will continue to play the most important role not only in the defence of the European continent, but also in terms of Russia’s transformation.

We, together with Ukraine, are defending against this war of aggression quite well. EU and NATO managed to achieve many positive things during the year of the war, especially with weapons’ deliveries, sanctions and financial support to the state of Ukraine. But of course, we need to be much more effective on some things. We are still too slow in decision making (i.e. the Leopard story), our finances and economy  are still not transformed into the model of “war economy” and the “war finances”. It will take time, but it is unavoidable.

From another side, our geopolitical capabilities of “deterrence” even before the war were weak. We were always sending the message to Putin that we would always come back to business as usual, would accommodate him and continue our dialogue with him no matter what he does. Because the majority in the EU did not believe that Russia can be different – not authoritarian and not kleptocratic. As J.Borrell has recently said in the Plenary session of the European Parliament – before the war, we were so heavily dependent on Russian gas, that we had no policy towards Russia and no policy towards Ukraine, because policy towards Ukraine was subordinated to our Russia policy.

Before the war, we had left Ukraine in the gray zone without its EU membership perspective. That was our biggest geopolitical mistake, which allowed Putin to think that we are leaving Ukraine in the Kremlin’s sphere of influence, and that we would not defend Ukraine. We did not have a “deterrence of Putin” policy – we implemented the “temptation for Putin” policy. Now we face the consequences of our geopolitical mistakes.

Despite our mistakes in deterrence policy, I am absolutely sure that together with Ukraine we will manage to defend Ukraine and to defend ourselves. Authoritarian Russia will be defeated. However, looking into a longer-term security future of the European continent, it is not enough just to defeat Russia. Because if Russia after its own catastrophe and defeat will not transform itself, then it will be only a question of time when the authoritarian Russia will come back with a new war of aggression.

In order to assist Russia’s transformation, the West needs to have two major tasks: 1. Russians need to abandon the idea to restore the Russian Empire and 2. Russians need to start to believe in a new dream – the possibility of having a normal, decent, European type of life in their homeland.

How can we succeed in the first task to assist Russians to get rid of the idea to restore the empire? We can call this task the “deputinization of Russia”. This can be achieved through a total military defeat of Russia, through the International Tribunal for Putin and Lukashenko, and through an invitation for Ukraine to become a member of NATO. Such an invitation would send the most powerful signal to Russians that their dream to restore their Empire is gone – Ukraine is in the Western camp now.

For the second task – assisting Russians to dream of a normal, decent life in a non-authoritarian Russia – first of all we need to offer them our vision on how relations between the EU and a Democratic Russia will be built. What kind of a relationship will we build, what will we offer to the new democracy in Russia – free trade, visa-free entry, a partnership for modernization, a new type of Association agreement?

For Russians to acquire the dream of a normal life, the crucial role will be played by the inspirational example of success of Ukraine, the country, which is not only able to defend itself, but is also able to create a democratic, an economically powerful and a prosperous country. Such a success ofUkraine can be created only through Ukraine’s integration into EU, just like the success stories of the Central European and Baltic countries were created.

We need to remember that democracy in Russia is needed not only for Russia itself, but also for the whole Europe. That is how we can resolve the issue of permanent Russian threat to European security. That is why we need to have a clear strategy on how to assist such a transformation. This strategy starts with Russia’s defeat and ends with Ukraine’s membership in the EU and NATO. Ukraine’s geopolitical integration into the West is no less important than Leopards or Abrams for Ukraine’s defence. Putin is fighting against such a geopolitical perspective of Ukraine’s integration, because he is afraid of Ukraine’s success. He is afraid that such an inspirational example can destroy the Kremlin’s regime. That is why we need to have a strategy on how not to allow Putin to win with his strategy against Ukraine’s integration. We need to have a strategy, which I call the “Power of Enlargement and Enlargement of Democracy Power” Strategy. And it should cover not only Ukraine, but also other Eastern Partnership countries as well as the Western Balkan region. In the West, when we want to achieve something, we know how to consolidate our political will.

When we understood that it is our strategic interest to deliver weapons to Ukraine, we created the “Military Ramstein”. Now it is very clear that for the future of the European geopolitical security we also need to establish the “Integration Ramstein” or the “Enlargement Ramstein” without any delay.

Peace on the European continent depends on our political will and leadership, which only the EPP can deliver. I would urge the EPP to come back to the language of Thomas Jefferson, who at the beginning of the 19th century was forcefully arguing for the enlargement of the United States of America towards the Pacific. He called to create the United States as the “Empire of Liberty”. That is how the modern United States of America were created – by an ambitious vision, not by bureaucratic procedures. The European Union needs to do the same. We need an ambition and a vision to enlarge in order to become the “Union for Liberty”. This is the only way to establish permanent peace on the European continent.