Andrius Kubilius. A Place Of Betrayal For Ukraine And Europe – The Future European Council?

The European Council will meet on 14-15 December. President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda will also attend. But this will not be an ordinary Council. The decision of the Council in mid-December will be decisive for the future course of European history.


Because it must decide to approve the European Commission’s recommendation to open formal negotiations with Ukraine (and Moldova) on their future EU membership.

But such a decision may be not taken.


Because Hungary threatens to block it. Orban does not love Ukraine. But he is friends with Putin. And Austria might block Ukraine if there is no positive decision on Bosnia. And the Netherlands are ready to block Bosnia’s accession. Therefore, all the decisions can be postponed until March next year. And there comes time when the Commission’s mandate ends together with the new European Parliament elections. In addition, Hungary will take over the presidency of the Council of the EU from the middle of the year. And so on.

The corridors of Brussels are full of such rumours and news. They are also full of sad assessments that, despite Russia’s war against Ukraine and the geopolitical crisis facing the entire European continent, EU leaders still do not seem to understand that the EU enlargement is the EU’s most serious geopolitical response to the Russian aggression. As a result, there is as yet no sign of any change from the desperate and sad experience of the last decades of enlargement, when negotiations and enlargement to the Western Balkans were proceeding at a pace that could be likened to a turtle race.

If the European Council adopts the same negotiating and enlargement tactics with Ukraine, where decisions are blocked and delayed while processes proceed at a turtle pace, it will be a betrayal of Ukraine, as well as a betrayal of the whole of Europe. Because the fate not only of Ukraine, but also of the whole of Europe depends on whether Ukraine becomes a member of the EU within the next decade. The European Union’s failure to realise such an enlargement will demonstrate that Europe is unable (or unwilling) to overcome the Kremlin’s resistance to Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration. This will be as much a defeat for the West in the face of the authoritarian Russia as the West’s inability to achieve a military victory on the Ukrainian front.

And the fact that the next European Council is on the verge of such a betrayal can be seen in a text published yesterday by Gerald Knaus, a well-known Austrian expert, based in Berlin (who is also well aware of what is going on in the EU capitals), and who heads the influential think-tank “European Stability Iniatitive”. The text is brief, ringing all the alarm bells and stating the prospect of a harsh reality: “How enlargement dies”.

In order to understand why it is necessary to ring all the alarm bells, here is the full text by Gerald Knaus.

But before that, I urge to pay attention to the fact that the alarm bells are being rung by an Austrian expert from Berlin. For some reason, I do not hear a similar passionate understanding of the dangers of “non-enlargement” from experts from the Central Europe or the Baltic States. Nor do I hear such concern from those who attend the European Council meetings. Including those representing Lithuania. What does this mean: are Gerald Knaus’s concerns unfounded; or are those attending the European Council simply indifferent to the prospects for enlargement and to the fate of Ukraine?

Indifference is an alternative name for betrayal.


Gerald Knaus. How enlargement dies (part one)

(published at: https://twitter.com/rumeliobserver/status/1730951944510771378)

Blocking accession talks with Ukraine & Moldova would be disastrous – unfair, destabilizing political madness.

But it looks ever more likely.

Orban blocks Ukraine. If Bosnia is blocked, Austria blocks others. The Dutch block Bosnia. Bulgaria blocks North Macedonia. As for Kosovo or Albania … (others often hide behind those who block)

Only those who paid no attention to the last two decades – and to the Balkans – are surprised by what is starting to hit Ukraine & Moldova. Nothing was more predictable.

Since Croatia joined the EU in 2013, EU member states have played this game with all Balkan candidates.

Kosovo? “A European perspective”. But since it applied for accession: no sound. No response. Silence. But: “do this or that not to threaten your European perspective.”

North Macedonia? “Solve relations with your neighbors”. It did, with Greece. Then France blocked, for no reason at all. Then Bulgaria – with outrageous demands related to history, backed by the whole EU. Now blaming Skopje.

Montenegro? A Nato-member, fully aligned on foreign policy, less than 700.000 people: still beyond EU “absorption capacity.” After 11 years of negotiations the message is: “not before 2030, but probably not even then.” Why?

Albania? For years it was “wait for North Macedonia.” Now it might be blocked by Greece. And when the first chapter is opened, one day, it will still be a decade behind Montenegro in this turtle race.

Bosnia? Too sad to recount. Never ending, ever shifting pre-conditions, more than for any other candidate ever. Meanwhile: impositions of laws by a vice-roy with unlimited powers.

If Balkan states are stuck, it is said that this is because 1. they do not reform. And if they reform, 2. they must wait for EU to get ready and get united. And 3. deal with bilateral vetos. Or wait for others.

All accompanied by never-changing rhetoric: the process is “meritocratic”; “strict but fair”; with “fundamentals first”; about the “rule of law”. Black is white. Words mean little.

What to do?

First: acknowledge reality. Second: design an accession process with a credible goal for all, now. This can still be done.


The turtle race: https://www.esiweb.org/publications/balkan-turtle-race-warning-ukraine

The bus without wheels: https://www.esiweb.org/newsletter/elephants-skopje-balkan-turtle-race-and-ukraine

The hamster wheel: https://www.esiweb.org/publications/hamster-wheel-credibility-and-eu-balkan-policy

Orban on Ukraine: https://www.euractiv.com/section/europe-s-east/news/hungarys-orban-doubles-down-on-blocking-ukraine-accession-talks/


Gerald Knaus’s suggestions on what needs to be changed in the enlargement strategy are practical and easy to implement. I myself have made very similar suggestions publicly, and even some of the European Parliament’s resolutions mention them.

Their essence:

– Part of the Old Europe is afraid of enlargement because the European Union’s institutions and decision-making mechanisms are supposedly not yet adapted to such an enlarged EU. Hungary’s wasteful use of the veto has frightened many, because it is feared that Ukraine, Moldova and the other newcomers from the Western Balkans will do the same with the veto.

– That is why the Old Europe is demanding that, before the next wave of EU enlargement, the EU institutions be reformed and that the veto be removed from the EU decision-making.

– the New Europe, including Lithuania, does not want to give up the veto.

– The EU enlargement process is stuck at this crossroads, and the Central Europe is not willing to sacrifice its veto for the sake of Ukraine’s membership of the European Union (in my opinion, this is a tragic mistake on the part of the New Europe).

– The confrontation and pitfalls of the proponents of such “institutional reforms” v.s. “rapid enlargement” can be avoided if the upcoming European Council hears Gerald Knaus’ proposal (which I wholeheartedly endorse), and decides that in the initial period Ukraine, Moldova and the Western Balkans will be able to negotiate and pursue their membership of the EU’s Single Market (which is a major part of membership of the EU itself), given that membership of the Single Market does not confer the right to participate in the EU decision-making and does not require immediate reform of EU institutions. Similarly, the Scandinavian countries made a similar transition to EU membership in the early 1990s through the intermediate step of Single Market membership.

– This would avoid the notion that enlargement must be linked to the institutional and decision-making reform from the outset; this would reassure the Old Europe; and this would allow the New Europe to enjoy the prospect of enlargement moving out of a decades-long stagnation (which looks set to be prolonged, if the December European Council is as unsuccessful as it at the moment seems to be). The EU candidate countries (Ukraine, Moldova and the Western Balkans) could rejoice that they are on the road to a reliably achievable and practically exceptionally useful goal: membership of the Single Market (membership of the Single Market is what has brought the most economic benefits to Lithuania; the same would be true for Ukraine).


I don’t myself like to make accusations such as “treason”. But I cannot remain indifferent either.

Meanwhile, today, some of those who are involved in decision-making are watching indifferently as the enlargement of the European Union is about to be killed off; others, who are not involved in decision-making, are watching indifferently as those who are going to decide, take over and kill off the enlargement; and then everybody will start to worry and to criticise each other.

When during recent weeks I see how the roads to Ukraine are blocked by Polish and Slovak truckers, thus destroying the Ukrainian economy no less than Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports; when I see Germany refusing to approve €50 billion aid for Ukraine from the EU budget, and Hungary promising to block the European Council’s decision to open negotiations with Ukraine, while others are promising to block the entire enlargement process; and when I see all this happening in a kind of dubious silence among Europeans – when I see all this, I can honestly say that it all seems like treason to me.

I can only repeat once again that indifference is also tantamount to the betrayal.

However, indifference is sometimes harder to notice. But not this time…

If it happens, a betrayal will be called a betrayal. And it will be known who has betrayed. And who were its indifferent accomplices. And it will be known where the betrayal took place. Possibly in the next European Council.

Andrius Kubilius. Will Poland Compensate Damages For Ukraine?

While all the Europeans and Poland’s neighbours, including Lithuania, remain politely silent, Polish truckers are blocking all entry points to Ukraine. This is being led by some pro-Russian Polish activists. And this has been going on for long enough.

On the Polish side, the queue of those trying to enter Ukraine has already reached 40 km. Drivers have been waiting for weeks.

Foodstuffs, medicines, fuel, civilian and military aid are being denied entry into Ukraine. Volunteers transporting aid, who used to be able to get to Ukraine and back to their homes in Europe in a matter of days, are no longer able to do so because they cannot wait for weeks at the border.

All this is described in detail in Milda Goštautaitė’s, with whom we drove to Kherson together.emotional text “KURWA” (https://www.facebook.com/milda.gostautaite/posts/10168632459070441),

When you see such a situation on the Ukrainian border, no other word comes to mind!

After all, this is a betrayal of Ukraine. Treason elementaris!

This is happening in Lithuania’s neighbour Poland. And not for the first time – previously, it was farmers and the grain issue.

The truckers are not the whole Poland, one might say. However, that makes it all the more terrible that the voice of the Polish authorities is not heard in such circumstances. Kaczynski’s Government has not yet gone, Tusk’s has not yet come to office, but there still is President Duda. Silence. There is a Polish civil society, and it is silent.

There is President Duda’s personal friend, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda. And he is also silent.

In terms of consequences, I do not see much difference between a road blockade by the Polish truckers and a blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Kremlin regime with its navy in the Black Sea. The consequences for Ukraine are the same – a severe blow to its economy. The same as Russian missiles bombing a factory in Ukraine.

Ukraine can defend itself against Russian missiles or port blockades by sinking Russian warships with drones it produces itself.

But how can it defend itself against betrayal by neighbours who otherwise swear allegiance?

The Western world is unanimous that Russia will have to compensate Ukraine for the damage it has caused, including damage to its economy. “Russia must pay” is a slogan pronounced even at G-7 level. And this is a matter of international justice – if Russia is not made to pay, there will be others who will want to follow its example.

The natural question arises: is Poland prepared to compensate for the damage that is being done and has already been done to the Ukrainian economy? I will not be surprised if Ukraine demands such a compensation. Because Slovakia is already following Poland’s example.

Both the Polish betrayal of Ukraine and the indifferent silence of Europe (including Lithuania) can be described by the same Polish word that Milda used to name her text.

Maybe it will at least wake us up…


Andrius Kubilius. On the Reality of War

We all know that this year Ukraine is finding it harder to liberate its occupied territories than last year. Increasingly, there are warnings (from the Ukrainian General V.Zaluzhnyi to the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis) that the war could become a war of entrenchment, which only benefits Russia. On this occasion, there are attempts in various corners of the West to persuade that the only way to avoid the stagnation of trench warfare is to negotiate peace with Russia on Putin’s terms.

Many in the World are worried by such facts that the US Congress is unable to approve a new package of financial support for Ukraine. In addition, the US presidential elections are approaching, where D.Trump may win. It is impossible to predict the impact of this on the further course of the war. And then there is Hungary, which also makes the EU’s decision-making on support for Ukraine unpredictable.

It is against this backdrop that it is worth looking for fundamental answers as to why the frontline in Ukraine is stagnating, even though the West proclaims that it has provided Ukraine with a lot of military support, which should be sufficient to achieve victory. Even the F-16s are about to arrive.

Increasingly, one can hear hints in the West that the West is “tired” or is “about to be tired” of supporting Ukraine because the frontline is stalled. North Korea is capable of finding a million artillery shells for Russia in a month, but the European Union cannot do it in a year. Meanwhile, General Zaluzhnyi is not asking the West for tanks or artillery (which the West has supplied for as long as it has them in its warehouses, because Western military industry is still unable to increase production), but for drones, electronic anti-drones or radars, which the Ukrainians could produce themselves if they were given the funding.

The fundamental question thus arises: why is it that the West, while supporting Ukraine, has not been able to achieve a fundamental breakthrough in Ukraine’s war of liberation against Russia? After all, the West is economically tens of times stronger than Russia, and as history tells us, wars are always won in the end by stronger economies. This has always been the case. Why are we still not seeing that this time?

To understand the essence of the problem, we need to look in some detail at the “war finance” situation of Russia, Ukraine and the West. Accounting is not only important for the state budget, but also for military affairs.

So here are some important figures.

First of all, on the economic potential of Russia and the West: in 2022, Russia’s GDP was USD 1,8 trillion. The European Union’s GDP was USD 18,35 trillion and the USA’s USD 26,23 trillion. So, the EU alone has 10 times the economic potential of Russia, and if you add up the EU and US figures, the gap between the major Western powers and Russia is up to 25 times.

The West is 25 times economically stronger than Russia! According to the simple historical and economic logic of the wars, Russia should have been crushed in Ukraine long ago. But, as we can see, this is not yet the case. Why?

Therefore, it is worth taking a closer look at the bookkeeping of “war finance”: how much money does Russia, Ukraine and the West contribute to the financing of the war?

When looking at the Russian data, it is noticeable that the figures published in various expert publications or in the World Bank statistics vary quite significantly, because since the beginning of the war the Russian authorities have classified the financial statistics. Thus, the World Bank announces that in 2022 Russia will have spent USD 86 billion on military expenditure, while experts at Sweden’s SIPRI Institute put the figure at USD 61 billion. The Wilson Center puts the figure at USD 81,7 billion. The figures for 2023 vary even more: between 80 billion USD (SIPRI) and 120 billion USD (Wilson Center) for 2023. The Wilson Center also states that Russia’s “war costs” do not include all the costs of the war, as they exclude the treatment of the wounded and many other costs (which, if included, would bring Russia’s costs in 2023 up to USD 160 billion). It is also worth noting that the Russian government announces that it will increase military spending by as much as 70% in 2024.

Although the figures published by experts on Russia’s military spending vary, in summary, it can be said that in 2022, such spending would amount to around USD 80 billion, and in 2023 it may reach around USD 100 billion. This could rise even further in 2024.

Calculating the ratio of Russia’s military spending to GDP, we find that it was around 4% in 2022, over 5% in 2023 and will exceed 6% in 2024.

Russia is able to finance such military spending because it earns around USD 7,4 billion a month from oil and gas exports alone. This means that Russia can earn around USD 90 billion a year from oil and gas.

Ukraine plans to spend almost unchanged amounts of money on war financing in both 2023 and 2024 – around UAH 1,7 trillion, or around USD 44 billion.

Such war spending represents as much as 26,6% of Ukraine’s GDP, resulting in the deficit of the Ukrainian budget of USD 38 billion, or 27% of GDP. Therefore, Ukraine needs not only Western military support, but also support to cover the budget gap. Ukraine is also planning to spend USD 1,25 billion on the acquisition of drones in 2024.

The European Union has provided Ukraine with USD 29 billion in military aid since the start of the war. This is the support that the EU has provided for Ukraine’s military needs, both from its own budget (EUR 6 billion) and from all EU Member States combined, i.e. all the support provided to Ukraine by Germany, Lithuania, Poland and all other EU Member States.

However, this amount represents only 0,15% of the European Union’s gross domestic product!!! In 2 years, only 0,15%! In one year, it comes out to 2 times less – USD 14.5 billion or 0,075% of EU GDP.

The NATO standard for defence is 2% of GDP. The EU says that it will “stand together with Ukraine for as long as it takes” and that the Ukrainian war is also “our” war, but it spends only 0,075% on this “our” war.

Ukraine will spend 26% of its GDP on this war in 2023, Russia 6% and the EU only 0,075%. A staggering difference!!!

Of course, there are countries such as Lithuania (leading), Estonia, Latvia or Poland, which have already allocated 1% or even more of their GDP to military aid, but the overall level of EU military aid to Ukraine looks dismal – 0,075%.

Of course, the European Union is providing a lot of money for Ukraine’s macro-financial support, or in other words, for the financing of other expenses in the Ukrainian budget, but this does not change the fact that the only way to win a war is to finance a military victory. Wars are not won by political declarations of solidarity alone.

United States military aid to Ukraine has reached USD 42,10 billion in 2 years. Not much better than the EU support. In one year of war, US support amounts to only USD 21 billion or 0.10% of GDP.

Once the individual figures are broken down, the overall picture of the war’s “bookkeeping” can be seen, which reveals the main reason for the stalemate in this war on the Eastern Front.

As has already been shown, Russia’s military expenditure in 2023 is estimated at USD 100 billion. Maybe more.

Ukraine’s military spending is USD 44 billion. The European Union adds USD 14,5 billion to this, and the US another USD 21 billion. To this could be added the figures for British or Norwegian aid (not included in the EU statistics), but these do not change the substance.

So, the total amount of funds Ukraine, the EU and the US have allocated in 2023 to militarily counter Russian aggression is only USD 79,5 billion. This is less than the USD 100 billion allocated by Russia for the same purpose this year.

One can remember that the US and the EU are 25 times more economically powerful than Russia. But Russia is spending 6% of its GDP on this war, while the EU and the US are spending only 0,075% and 0,10% respectively. That is to say, Russia is devoting 60-80 times more of its economy to this war than the US or the EU.

I stress, 60-80 times more!

This is why the war is stalling in the trenches: because Russia is clearly winning against the West on the front of its economic mobilisation for war.

This overall picture of the financial “bookkeeping” of the war also makes clear what is needed to avoid a disastrous trench war on the Eastern military front: this requires victory on the political front in the West. And this is one of the most important geopolitical tasks for Lithuania. Lithuania must not only worry about its own bilateral support for Ukraine, but also about how to build a coalition of like-minded and like-supporting countries (the Baltic States, Poland, Scandinavia, the UK) and how to persuade the rest of the West to follow our example.

I can say again and again what I have said many times before: It is important for Lithuania today to take care and fight on the Western front to ensure that Russia is defeated at Kherson and Kharkiv, and not just to accept the current situation of “trench warfare” in Ukraine, and to think now only about how we will defend Vilnius when Putin comes to us after victory in Ukraine.

Russia will lose in Ukraine if we win in the West. That is the alpha and omega of our defence and security strategy. This requires that we stop just watching military developments in
Ukraine like the self-righteous actors or neutral experts, we need to start to “fight” in the European Council in Brussels and Washington and in other Western outposts for real and much larger investment into Ukraine’s defense, in order to guarantee that Ukrainian military efforts are financed 2 or 3 times more than Russia is able to finance it’s own. I have not heard anything so far about such fights for such purposes on the Western front and about building coalitions for our victories on that front.

We will be talking about the new battles ahead on the Western Front and Ukraine’s future victories at a high-level conference in the European Parliament organised by the U4U (United for Ukraine) coalition this coming Tuesday, 28 November. We started the U4U coalition on the first day of the war in order to win the battles on the Western Front. Because only then will Ukraine finally win.

And we will achieve it!


Andrius Kubilius. Populism In The New Europe: The End Of The Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End?

In 2024, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the “New Europe” – on 1 May, it will be 20 years since eight Central European and Baltic States became members of the European Union. Romania and Bulgaria joined a little later, and Croatia was the last.

Someone in the US named all these newcomers “New Europe” because of their differences from “Old Europe”, and the title “New Europe” has stuck.

The New Europe, with its membership of the European Union, its access to the much richer EU Single Market and its billions in financial support from EU funds, has managed to grow rapidly over these two decades and to catch up with the economic development of The Old Europe.

In the light of the sad historical experience of the last centuries in the New Europe, such a leap in the region’s fortunes in recent decades could be generally regarded as a miracle. The New Europe should be the European Union’s greatest enthusiast, never ceasing to celebrate this post-war invention of the Old Europe.

However, this is not the case. Over the last decade, the New Europe has become a region where anti-European populism, disrespect for the European rule of law and democratic rules and traditions, and the development of a culture of “veto” blackmail have spread rapidly in the ruling circles. Orban’s Hungary, more recently Kaczynski’s Poland, a little before that Babiš’s Czech Republic, and now Fico’s Slovakia have been, and are, the flag-bearers of such populism, which is frightening the whole of the European Union. A few years ago, ideas of Karbauskis (leader of the Greens-peasants Union) for Lithuania were also along the same lines. In Lithuania, they continue to float, in ever-changing forms, between the Daukantas Square (President’s Palace) and the current opposition in the Seimas.

It is therefore worth looking much deeper into the causes of the New Europe wave of populism and where the whole of the New Europe is at the moment: is it at the beginning of such a wave and is the peak of the wave yet to come, or are we already witnessing the beginning of the ebb? And what are we to do about all this in Lithuania, being a part of the same the New Europe?

The results of mid-October elections in Poland make it possible to be more optimistic not only about Poland, but also about the prospects for the whole of the New Europe, especially Central Europe, in combating the pandemic of populism in the New Europe in this period. Not only has Poland returned to Europe, but it is likely that Europe is returning not only to Poland but to the whole of Central Europe.

Why am I so cautiously optimistic?

To answer such a question, it is first necessary to look a little deeper into the causes and methods of such populism in the New Europe.

Firstly, one has to answer the question why and how the demand for populism arose in the New Europe, and secondly, the question of why such a populism became the anti-European populism in the same New Europe?

It is clear that populism is no stranger to today’s democratic world. There are many examples of it both in Europe and in the United States: Le Pen in France, the AfD in Germany, and the Trumpists in the United States are all enjoying considerable electoral success, using the same formula for populist “success”: primitively telling the less educated part of the electorate who their “enemy” is, and then showing how that enemy is and will be fought.

There is a familiar list of such “enemies” on the standard menu, which has been successfully used for a long time and is constantly being updated: the global Jewish, Masonic or gay conspiracy, neo-liberalism, globalisation and the European Union. The historical experience of the populists shows that the naming of these “enemies” and the supposed fight against them is quite effective in mobilising large numbers of voters.

This formula for success was formulated in the first half of the 20th century by the famous German political philosopher Carl Schmitt, who argued that the most important function of politicians is to identify enemies and to fight them. This formula for the essence of politics, discovered by Carl Schmitt, was favoured by Hitler, admired by the Russian philosopher Ilyin, who escaped from the Bolsheviks, and whose works are now admired by Putin and the Kremlin elite.

This arsenal of populism, tested by Putin in Russia, has also been put to reasonably effective use in the New Europe. This does not necessarily mean that it was spread in the New Europe exclusively by the Kremlin (although the Kremlin was happy to spread it in both New and Old Europe). Poland’s Kaczynski cannot be suspected of being favourable towards Kremlin, but the Kremlin’s discovery of the methods of propaganda against Russia’s main “enemies” – against gay Europe and Western liberal democracy, or the supposed fight for traditional family values – was quickly adopted by the New Europe’s populists. This includes not only Poland, but also Lithuania.

In the New Europe, such a populism was exclusively the populism of political leaders. Political leaders gifted for such populism have claimed and instilled in their societies such a perception of “enemies”, and have concentrated ever greater powers of control over the media and the necessary finances for such a propaganda. Broad sections of New European society were prepared to submit to such indoctrination of the propaganda. This became an effective way of seizing power and holding on to it for long enough.

The first signs of this appeared already around 2000, and it began to take hold around 2010 with V.Orban, who first discovered G.Soros as the “enemy”, and then the entire European Union and liberal democracy. This was soon followed by Kaczynski and PiS in Poland, who already in 2015 declared that Poland’s biggest enemies, besides LGBT people, were Germany, the German-dominated European Union, and D.Tusk, who serves Germany. In 2017, A,Babiš, one of the richest businessmen in Czechia, notorious for his conflicts with the European Union, became its Prime Minister. A month ago, R.Fico returned to power in Slovakia, this time loudly declaring his anti-Ukrainian and thus anti-European stance. Anti-European populism guarantees political longevity in the New Europe: Orban, Fico, Kaczynski are the record holders for terms in office in the New Europe, while Babiš is again enjoying the status of the most popular politician in Czechia.

Lithuania has been no stranger to such populist trends over the last twenty years. The first to successfully use the traditional instrument of populism was R.Paksas (the impeached President of Lithuania), followed by a period of populist success by V.Uspaskich (a businessman with ties to Russia, who later became a minister of economy and now is a Member of the European Parliament). R.Karbauskis, using the same formula of populism, was successful in the 2016 parliamentary elections. The arsenal of “enemies” he named was wide – from V.Landsbergis and A.Kubilius to globalisation and the concept of a global Lithuania, to the bureaucrats of the European Union and Brussels, to neo-liberalism, the Istanbul Convention and LGBT, and even to the letter “w” or McDonald’s signs.

Looking at the Lithuanian history of anti-European populism, it is easy to see one tendency: it was and is primarily linked to those political leaders who were also leaders of big business. And such businesses in Lithuania were built up not only on the basis of contacts in Russia, but also on the basis of large-scale support from the European funds.

Very similar links can be found in the Central Europe: Czechia’s Babiš is not only a billionaire, but has also been the subject of a number of investigations by EU prosecutors regarding corruption related with the use of EU funds for his business, while Orban has long been known for building a business and media empire of friends and associates that helps him to monopolise power, and to distribute EU funds. Mr Kaczynski and PiS have used EU funds to exclusively strengthen their favoured sections of society. This phenomenon has been dubbed by some New Europe academic scholars the “grand” corruption, to distinguish it from “normal” corruption, where someone in a position of power takes care of their business. In 2018, Fico was forced to resign amid justified suspicions that a prominent journalist, Jan Kuciak, and his girlfriend had been murdered because the journalist was trying to investigate the large-scale corruption in the distribution of EU funds linked to the PM’s circle. Now Fico has regained power in order (as he proclaims) to drive out all the prosecutors and investigators who are still ruining his life.

Thus, the root cause of the wave of anti-European populism in the New Europe is the European Union’s own funds and money to support the development of the New Europe itself. Such money and the possibility of distributing it tempts some to seek power at any cost and at the cost of any populism, and then to use such money also to maintain power. In the new Europe, the most popular and effective populism for taking or keeping power is the anti-European populism. And so we have a paradox: the generous European Union itself is the main cause of anti-European populism in the New Europe. And we will continue to see waves of such an anti-European populism in the New Europe until the New Europe itself becomes a financial donor. Then the temptation to use populist methods to get into power in order to access EU funds will end. Just as the period of seeking power for the sake of “prikhvatisation” (the concept combining “privatisation” and the Russian language verb “прихватить(to grab), and meaning the usually dodgy privatisation process, where the state property was appropriated by persons/entities close to organized crime) once ended. There will be other temptations to populist power-grabbing, but it is safe to assume that there will be fewer direct business interests involved, and therefore less political power. And therefore it will be less dangerous.

Meanwhile, we in Lithuania are not far from the dangers of anti-European populism. Although the wave of Karbauskis’s populism seems to have receded, this does not mean that there will be no signs of a new wave of populism and anti-Europeanism during the next year’s elections. The European money is not over yet, the next Seimas and the Government and the President will have until 2027 to negotiate in Brussels the EU’s new macrofinancial perspective for the period of 2027-2034, which will define how much money Lithuania will receive and for whom. It may seem to some, including in Lithuania, that during the period of such negotiations it is better for Lithuania to have a more talkative, more “self-interested” government than the current government of “untalkative” conservatives and liberals.

How will this be attempted?

Once again, someone will have to harness the mobilising power of anti-European populism. The instruments for this are in place: members of marches for family, with Kremlin agents behind them, the you-tube videos of former and self-proclaimed journalists, and the goodwill of the Daukantas Square – everything will be used for this. The entire political arsenal of the left will be actively involved, no matter what they call themselves today: peasants, democrats or social democrats, or simply Žemaitaičiai and Gražuliai. All of them will, in one way or another, be under the wing of G.Nausėda and I.Vėgėlė, even if the latter will pretend that “they have nothing to do with all of this”.

The battle in the next elections will not be between the choices of the political left and right, but between populism and anti-populism. The populism will lean very strongly towards the anti-Europeanism. In the presidential elections, we will see not so much a fight between G.Nausėda and I.Šimonytė, but a duel between empty populism and constructive anti-populism.

Since the 1990s, anti-populism in Lithuania has been, is, and will continue to be a characteristic of only a healthy centre-right, even though it too has to continually rein in anti-European temptations within itself.

Finally, I must answer the question why I wrote at the beginning of this text that I am cautiously optimistic about the long-term prospects for anti-European populism in both New Europe and Lithuania?

It is because I think that next year’s elections in Lithuania may be the last elections in which the European anti-populism will have to compete with the region-wide anti-European populism. After that, the space for waves of anti-European populism is likely to begin to recede sharply.

Why do I think so?

First and foremost, because by the end of this decade, especially if Ukraine becomes an EU member before then, Lithuania will have moved from being a recipient of the EU aid to an EU donor. At the same time, there will no longer be such a strong temptation for somebody to rush to power and, in the name of that, to “wash” people’s minds with all the anti-European rhetoric. Then it will become clear that the majority of Lithuanians are really happy to be members of the EU and they want to live according to European rules, traditions and understandings, including on human rights issues.

Secondly, because the elections in Poland have shown that the younger generation is no longer “buying” all the anti-European rhetoric and threats to traditional values from Brussels. It is likely that we will also see in Lithuania a greater resistance of the younger generation to the populist bacillus.

By the end of this decade, the New Europe and the Old Europe are likely to finally converge: anti-European populism and pro-Kremlin idiocy will be present in some quantity everywhere, but it will no longer be dominant. Unfortunately, such a dominance still exists today in some parts of the New Europe.

Lithuania, together with the new Poland, can be at the forefront of the recovery of the New Europe from the pandemic of populism. Let us wish ourselves that!


Andrius Kubilius. Two Observations And Conclusions

Andrius Kubilius, Member of the European Parliament,

Former Prime Minister of Lithuania


First observation

Not so long ago, in 2015, we were all hearing about Daesh, or the Islamic State, a notorious terrorist organisation that operated in Iraq and Syria and occupied large parts of the region. It killed Arabs, raped their women and beheaded their children. The Yazidi religious community had suffered a real genocide. In the end, the Iraqi army and the Kurds, with the assistance of the American military, managed to crush Daesh. The whole democratic world cheered this. Even Putin portrayed himself as being at war with Daesh in Syria. In the end, the Arabs were liberated from the terror of Daesh.

The Hamas terrorists in Israel are behaving in exactly the same way as Daesh did. Perhaps even more brutally. Some say that Hamas is the same Daesh, its new offshoot. Hamas must be treated in the same way as Daesh was treated. Hamas must be crushed. And this must not be only Israel’s concern. It must be the business of the whole West. And it is the business of those Arabs who no longer want to live under the occupation of their terrorists. But someone seems to see the difference between fighting Daesh and fighting Hamas. One has a feeling that the difference is only visible because Daesh is being fought by Arabs who have experienced the terror of Daesh themselves, while Hamas is being fought by Israeli Jews who have experienced the terror of Hamas. To me, this difference in response to the defeat of Daesh and Hamas terrorists is akin to systemic anti-Semitism.

In 2015, Daesh terror and the Russian “carpet bombing” of Syrian cities triggered a huge influx of refugees to Europe. The European Union has experienced one of its biggest crises.


Second observation

Until now, the West has tried very hard to make sure that Russia’s military actions and aggression are confined to Ukraine. That is why we have always been hearing statements from NATO commanders and heads of Western countries that the West is not fighting this war, that NATO is not involved, and that this is just a war in Ukraine to defend itself against the Russian aggression. Even the West was afraid to give enough weapons to Ukraine, because it was very worried that Putin, in retaliation for the supply of weapons, would expand his military terrorist actions to wider areas.

Putin has expanded his acts of aggression – to the “belly” of the European Union: the Middle East. Only the blind can fail to see the Kremlin’s links to all this Hamas terrorism: the Kremlin’s communion with Iran, with North Korea, with Syria (all three officially recognised as terrorist states by the US), the visits to the Kremlin by Hamas leaders at the time – all this was the prelude to Hamas’s launching of a terrorist war against Israel. The Kremlin’s objectives are clear: to divert the West’s attention away from Ukraine and to trigger a wave of “instrumentalised” migration to Europe. At the same time, to inspire their fellow “terrorists” to follow the example of Hamas and expand the “terrorist war” to new regions: the South Korean intelligence already warns that North Korea is preparing to repeat Hamas’ “success” in storming the border between North and South Korea; the US intelligence warns that Iran could have a nuclear bomb in its possession within the next 2 weeks. Putin has made sure that not only Hamas, but also North Korea and Iran are prepared to wage a “terrorist war” (perhaps even a nuclear war) on new territories.

Putin’s new strategy for the war against the West does not need tanks, divisions or air power, but rather organised terrorists, still better state-sponsored ones, whatever they are called: Hamas, Wagner or Daesh.

The West must realise that Putin is fighting against the West, against Europe, no longer only in Ukraine. The war was transferred to Israel over the bloody weekend. For a long future and with unpredictable consequences. The day after tomorrow, it could move to South Korea or the Western Balkans. It is easy for Putin to manage such a “terrorist war”. He has always been well prepared for it. Ever since the Soviet era, the KGB has lived by one motto: “Terrorists of all countries – unite!”. Putin has effectively implemented this KGB task too.


Conclusions after two observations: what should the West do?

Firstly, the West can no longer fear that Putin will expand his war zone as a response to the West’s actions in supplying arms to Ukraine. Putin has already expanded the territory of his terrorist war against the West. The war is no longer just in Ukraine. The West can therefore no longer fear supplying arms to Ukraine.

Secondly, the West must realise that the Kremlin is the brain and the financial centre of the terrorist war it has launched. Therefore, the terrorist Kremlin must be crushed in the same way as Daesh was crushed and now Hamas is being crushed. And this must be done immediately in Ukraine. Without any delay, otherwise the Kremlin will take its “terrorist war” to new territories. And we do not know which ones.

Some people are worried that Ukraine is now losing the attention of the West as a result of the terrorist war launched by Hamas against Israel.

What Ukraine needs is not Western attention, but Western weapons, as well as Western brains and their understanding that the global terrorist war can and must be stopped now by crushing Putin, the world’s terrorist-in-chief, in Ukraine.


Andrius Kubilius. Differences In The West: Do You Or Do You Not Believe That Russia Can Become A Democracy In The Future?

Andrius Kubilius, former PM, MEP, initiator of  the “United for Ukraine” network

When we observe and analyse the West’s support for Ukraine, we sometimes see a lot of hesitation, questionable arguments and indecision. I believe that much of this behaviour by the West is linked to its attitude towards Russia. There is a fundamental difference between those who believe and those who do not believe that Russia can become a democracy. I propose to look at the geopolitical implications of this difference in Western attitudes:



– you are not afraid of what will happen after Putin’s regime collapses, because you believe that Russia will then start to evolve towards democracy;

– you are not afraid of a crushing military victory in Ukraine because you are not afraid of what will happen when after such a victory Putin’s regime collapses;

– you are not afraid to proclaim that the aim of the West is to achieve the unconditional defeat of Russia, because you are not afraid of the collapse of Putin’s regime and its fascist ‘Novorossiya’ philosophy, because that is what you are deliberately aiming for;

– you are not afraid of supplying Ukraine with Western weapons of a quantity and quality that would guarantee that Ukraine would achieve a crushing victory in the near future, followed by the collapse of the Putin regime;

– you are not afraid that Ukraine will soon be invited to join NATO, even if Putin is vociferously opposed, because you believe that such an invitation will help Russia’s transition to democracy;

– you do not fear that Ukraine’s rapid integration into the EU, thus building on Ukraine’s success, could become dangerous for the Putin regime, as it could inspire Russian citizens to demand same changes in Russia, which would allow Russia to follow Ukraine’s example in creating a normal life in Russia itself;

– you are convinced that the West’s biggest geopolitical mistake in recent decades has been to leave Ukraine for decades in a grey area of geopolitical security, with no real prospect of becoming an integral part of the West (NATO, EU), and that this is what has led Putin to think that the West has left Ukraine in the zone of Russia’s interests, and that Putin may even take military action against Ukraine;

– you do not negotiate with Putin before and during the war on alleged mutual restrictions on hostilities, while pledging to do everything possible to preserve “Putin’s face” and thus the regime itself;

– you are not pressing Ukraine to enter into peace talks with Putin as soon as possible (on Putin’s terms), because you are not afraid of what will happen to the Putin regime later on if the war, which has been disastrous for Putin, lasts a little longer and ends with a crushing Ukrainian victory;

– you are a real supporter of the Russian opposition, both in Russia and in exile, because you genuinely believe that Russia’s transformation and evolution towards democracy can indeed happen, and that it is necessary not only for Russia itself but also for the West, because this is the only way that a sustainable peace can be created on the continent of Europe once the main threat to that peace, i.e., authoritarian Russia, is no longer there.

– You are not a naive victim of Putin’s long-standing strategy of frightening and convincing the West that the Russian nation is oriental, always authoritarian and aggressive, and not ready for democracy, because you believe that both Russians and Belarusians are capable of governing themselves democratically, in the same way as not only the Ukrainians, but also the Mongolians and the Chinese in Taiwan are doing so very successfully nowadays.



– you are afraid of what will happen after Putin’s regime collapses, because you don’t believe that Russia will evolve towards democracy after that;

– you are afraid of a crushing military victory in Ukraine because you are afraid of what will happen after such a victory when Putin’s regime collapses – maybe some prigozhin will take over the Kremlin instead of Putin, or maybe Russia will fall into a bloody chaos of internecine warfare and some terrorists will take control of the nuclear weapons;

– you are afraid to declare that the West’s goal in this war is to achieve Russia’s unconditional defeat, because you fear the collapse of the Putin regime, so you limit yourself to loud statements that you will support Ukraine “whatever it takes” and that “only Ukraine will set the terms of the peace”, but at the same time you are silently increasing the political pressure on Ukraine to quickly come to the negotiating table with Putin to negotiate a cease-fire and a peace on terms dictated by Putin;

– you are afraid to supply Ukraine with the quantity and quality of Western weapons that would guarantee a crushing victory for Ukraine in the near future, because you are afraid that such a victory would lead to the collapse of the Putin regime;

– you are afraid that inviting Ukraine to join NATO in the near future would be seen in Russia as a huge defeat for the Kremlin and might even lead to the collapse of the Putin regime;

– you fear even Ukraine’s integration into the EU, because you believe that any integration of Ukraine into the West, thus building on Ukraine’s success, could “provoke” Putin; you do not believe that the success of a democratic Ukraine can inspire Russian citizens to seek the same democratic changes in Russia, because you do not believe that Russia can become democratic;

– you are convinced that Ukraine must continue to be left in a grey area of geopolitical security, with no real chance of becoming an integral part of the West (NATO, EU), because you believe that there is no need to provoke and be angry with Putin, since the West supposedly needs his partnership in the fight against China’s geo-political dominance;

– you seek to negotiate and have negotiated informally with Putin before and during the war on alleged mutual restraints in hostilities, pledging yourselves to do your utmost to preserve “Putin’s face”;

– you are pressing Ukraine (including by stopping the supply of necessary weapons) to enter into peace talks with Putin as soon as possible (on Putin’s terms), because you are afraid of what will happen to the Putin regime later on if the war, which has been disastrous for Putin, lasts a little longer;

– you do not really support the Russian opposition and its activities, either in Russia or in exile, because you do not believe that Russia’s transformation and evolution towards democracy can really happen; you therefore limit yourself to the standard (but empty) statements of support for the opposition and protests against human rights violations; and you continue to think that in relations with Russia it is more important to hold to the “Putin-first!” rather than “Democracy in Russia – first!” principle;

– you are a victim of Putin’s long-standing strategy to convince the West that the Russian nation is oriental, always authoritarian and aggressive, and not ready for democracy; you have succumbed to Putin’s propaganda, or to nuclear blackmail, or perhaps to the temptation of cheap gas or expensive yachts;


It is because of such fundamental differences and their implications for Western thinking and policy that all of us who care about Ukraine, together with Russia’s democratic opposition, need to do our utmost to convince the West that Russia, too, after losing the war in Ukraine and the collapse of Putin’s regime, can become democratic.


Andrius Kubilius. Russia’s war against Ukraine: what would F.D.Roosevelt and Winston Churchill say about the West’s aims in this war?

Andrius Kubilius, former PM, MEP, initiator of  the “United for Ukraine” network

(The Lithuanian version of the article was published on 17.08.2023)

I wrote earlier that the West still does not see Russia’s war against Ukraine as “its war”, as “our war”. Support is being given to Ukraine, but the new-quality weapons are only reaching Ukraine after a long period of hesitation by the West, after fears about how Putin will see it, after strange connections between its own actions – German Chancellor Scholz has promised to start supplying German long-range Taurus missiles only if US President Biden agrees to start supplying ATACMS missiles. For his part, Biden finally announced, after much hesitation, that the US will start training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets and they will become real pilots, but only in July 2024. This is apparently a good thing, but at the same time it is reported that only 6 Ukrainian pilots have been accepted for such training. Six. When maybe 60 or 100 are needed.

Why is Western support so lukewarm, slow and delayed?

I am convinced that it is because the West has not clearly, unequivocally and publicly defined its own objective in this war.

Ukraine’s objectives are clear enough: to defend its freedom, to liberate its occupied territories and to do everything possible to ensure that Russia does not dare to attack Ukraine again in future.

The West’s objectives may be the same as Ukraine’s, they may be greater than Ukraine’s (pursuing not only military but also geopolitical objectives: the geopolitical transformation of the eastern region of Europe (including Russia and Belarus) towards democracy, thus eliminating the very source of the threat), but they may also be lesser than Ukraine’s objectives, the West’s primary concern being that Russia, if it is defeated, should not be totally weakened and engulfed in complete, allegedly very dangerous chaos.

Unfortunately, so far, the West has avoided defining its own independent objectives in this war and has limited itself to nice-sounding but very lukewarm phrases: that the West will be with Ukraine for “as long as it takes”; that only Ukraine will decide when peace is possible; but always remembering to emphasise that NATO (i.e. the West) is not a part of this war (“we are not part of this conflict”). And for general reassurance, the beautiful (but empty) diplomatic formulation is repeated – “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine itself”.

It would seem that the West is demonstrating its full solidarity and loyalty to Ukraine with such formulations. As long as it takes… You might think that this loyalty declared by the West may be too unambitious, too slow and sometimes not effective enough, but it is still there, and it sounds nice.

But just sounding nice is not enough. The impression is that the West itself does not dare to say for itself what it wants in this war: it does not dare to say that it wants, and will want, Ukraine to liberate all its territory and Russia to lose this war. The West is supposedly subordinating its own objectives in this war to those of Ukraine, and this looks very much like solidarity. However, it also sounds like an effort by the West to preserve for itself the possibility of exerting covert or overt pressure on Ukraine to lower its objectives in this war and, for example, to stop seeking the liberation of its entire territory. Because such a liberation would be very painful for Putin. And the West is afraid of the consequences for Russia. Therefore, by not formulating its own objectives in this war, the West is leaving itself open to pressure Ukraine to rethink its objectives in this war. It is also possible to start putting conditions on the supply of arms. And when Ukraine, under pressure from the West, is forced to reduce its objectives in this war, the West will be ready to publicly and loudly support Ukraine, because the West is always with Ukraine whatever it takes.

One could disregard the possibility of such scenarios, being confident that it would never happen. However, seeing how difficult it is for Ukraine to regain control of its territories, and following the international media and the deliberations of Western experts, it is possible to predict that a new wave of pressure on Ukraine to “make peace and start negotiations” will start in the autumn. Because the war is supposedly unwinnable for Ukraine. And it can be predicted that this new wave of “peace” will involve not only the traditional “peace on any terms” harbingers – Africa, China, Brazil – but also a part of the West.

The greatest danger in this possible “peace (on Putin’s terms)” scenario, which is unacceptable neither to Ukraine nor to us, is that part of the official and unofficial Washington may be actively involved in all of this (and already seems to be).

The well-known Russian opposition expert A.Piontkovsky has recently been convincingly written about such scenarios of the Washington’s possible involvement in the “peace wave” (here and here). A.Piontkovsky is himself currently living in Washington and is closely following Washington’s official and unofficial actions these days and its plans for such actions. Piontkovsky examines in detail the activities of the “Not-defeated Russia” group, to which Piontkovsky attributes W.Burns (former US Ambassador to Russia, now Director of the CIA, recently promoted to the level of Cabinet Member, who is in regular contact with Russian Intelligence Chief Sergei Naryshkin), J.Sullivan (J.Biden’s National Security Adviser), T.Graham (former Special Adviser to President Obama and Director of Russian Affairs at the National Security Council in 2004-2007).

One would think that these are just fabrications and conspiracy theories by Mr. Piontkovsky, a well-known Putin critic. However, what makes one take Piontkovsky’s observations and warnings seriously is the fact that Piontkovsky is not so much giving his own thoughts as he is retelling and commenting on a recent detailed review published in the Newsweek magazine on the CIA’s (and Burns’ own) activities in the Ukrainian war, both now and before the war. Reading the text of the article and the numerous testimonies and analyses quoted from the CIA itself, one gets the impression that the CIA itself had a vested interest in the appearance of such a text.

The most interesting thing in the publication itself is the testimony of a CIA official about Burns’ visit to Moscow in November 2021 (before the Russian invasion of Ukraine), where he met with Naryshkin and had a phone conversation with V.Putin. They talked about Putin’s threats of war against Ukraine. And it turns out that both sides agreed on how that war should be conducted and what both sides would do and what they would do. Here is Newsweek’s account of the visit and the talks:

“In some ironic ways though, the meeting was highly successful,” says the second senior intelligence official, who was briefed on it. Even though Russia invaded, the two countries were able to accept tried and true rules of the road. The United States would not fight directly nor seek regime change, the Biden administration pledged. Russia would limit its assault to Ukraine and act in accordance with unstated but well-understood guidelines for secret operations.”

The position of the US administration and the CIA as set out in this Newsweek article is summarised even more clearly in the publication on the Italian nova.news website. This article summarises the content of the Newsweek article in the following passage:

“In January 2022, a month before the Russian invasion, the CIA would have acted as an intermediary between Washington and Moscow to establish a series of shared “rules”: during an already known visit to the Kremlin by the director of the agency, William Burns, Russia pledged not to extend the conflict beyond the borders of Ukraine and to avoid the use of atomic weapons; in return, President Joe Biden’s administration would ensure that Kiev would “would not take any action that could directly threaten Russia or the survival of the Russian state”. Based on the agreements between Washington and Moscow, it would be up to the United States to ensure compliance with these commitments.”

Such agreements between Washington and Moscow on the course of the future war against Ukraine sound strange, to say the least. It seems that Putin has managed to extract from Washington almost a tacit “blessing” for his aggressive war, on condition that the Kremlin abides by certain limitations in this war. And Washington has additionally committed itself to abide by the restrictions as well. And also to influence Ukraine: what it can and cannot do in this war.

In the Munich Agreement of 30 September 1938, Hitler (together with Mussolini) also undertook to take from Czechoslovakia only the German-populated Sudetenland and to guarantee the security of the new borders of Czechoslovakia (without the Sudetenland), while the West (Chamberlain and Daladier) not only blessed Hitler’s action, but also pledged to convince the Czechoslovakian leadership to not resist the implementation of such an agreement of the “Great Ones”. The Czechoslovak leadership had no choice but to accept such an agreement and the security guarantees of all the participants in the agreement for its new borders. As is well known, Hitler had already occupied the entire territory of Czechoslovakia in March 1939.

I do not want to use the same clichéd comparisons with the Munich Agreement to talk about the West again, but they are a comparison that naturally come to one’s mind. The conclusion is that it is not only hopeless but also morally very slippery to negotiate with an aggressor about the need to limit its military aggression in some way, because the aggressor thereby creates the impression that its actions are blessed by the “great” democrats in the West.

Today, the fundamental question is: why, after all, does the West succumb to the seemingly hopelessly naïve temptation to negotiate with the aggressor on the mutual rules to be observed in such aggression?

Newsweek quotes a US intelligence official as saying that the US simply fears that Russia might escalate its war effort if it sees that US support for Ukraine goes well beyond the limits previously discussed with Russia:

“Don’t underestimate the Biden administration’s priority to keep Americans out of harm’s way and reassure Russia that it doesn’t need to escalate,” the senior intelligence officer says.”

Another reason for this cautious US stance can be explained by what has emerged from expert publications on informal conversations this year between former Obama officials, now in high-level expert positions, and the Kremlin’s leadership, including Lavrov himself. According to NBC, these conversations with Lavrov included Richard Haass, a former diplomat and outgoing chairman of the renowned expert Council on Foreign Relations, as well as Charles Kupchan, a European expert, and Thomas Graham, a Russia expert, both former White House and State Department officials (under Obama), and now associates of the same expert Council on Foreign Relations. All three are also known as important US opinion-makers, influencing the Biden administration, often writing about the war, about Ukraine, Russia and US objectives in this war.

What they discussed with Lavrov is best summed up in the words of one of them, quoted by The Moscow Times:

“An attempt to isolate and cripple Russia to the point of humiliation or collapse would make negotiating almost impossible — we are already seeing this in the reticence from Moscow officials,” he said.

“In fact, we emphasized that the U.S. needs, and will continue to need, a strong enough Russia to create stability along its periphery. The U.S. wants a Russia with strategic autonomy in order for the U.S. to advance diplomatic opportunities in Central Asia. We in the U.S. have to recognize that total victory in Europe could harm our interests in other areas of the world.

“Russian power,” he concluded, “is not necessarily a bad thing.”

Thus, at least part of Washington’s influential political community simply does not want a Russian military smashing because it would hamper the much sought-after “peace” talks. And peace talks, they believe, are necessary because they are the only way to preserve Russian power. Because Washington supposedly needs such power too. This is how the West’s objective in this war is understood by those in Washington who are influential and whom Mr Piontkovsky aptly called the “Not-defeated Russia” group.

There are, of course, those in Washington who think differently. And they have a major influence on both President Biden’s administration and public opinion. They support Ukraine’s victory and Russia’s defeat unconditionally and are not afraid of the supposed threat of such a Russian defeat.

However, ambiguities in the official position of the United States remain quite numerous. Far too many to be able to take it calmly and fold one’s arms and just hope that, in the end, America will still do the wise thing. Despite the fact that elections are approaching. While the United States is simultaneously claiming that it supports Ukraine’s victory (whatever it takes), and at the same time is foolishly worrying about how to make Russia feel that it has not lost the war, we are all left in the dangerous limbo of the “Washington fog”.

It is worth remembering that at the NATO Vilnius Summit, the US was the main and almost the only participant who was categorically opposed to the Summit formally inviting Ukraine to join NATO. No clear reasons were given. Everyone else did not dare to oppose this US position. The consequence of this uncertainty in Washington’s thinking is that these days a senior NATO official (the head of the NATO Secretary-General’s cabinet) has already announced that Ukraine could expect to become a NATO member if it were to abandon its ambition to liberate all the occupied territories and leave them at Russia’s disposal. I have been in politics long enough to no longer believe in the coincidence of such phrases being uttered by such high-ranking officials. This is usually an informal but deliberate way of probing and trying to influence public opinion. The Ukrainians have reacted very harshly to such talk. We do not know how NATO members, including Lithuania, are reacting to such statements by a NATO official.

That is what is most frightening. The fog in Washington’s thinking can suck in everyone, including Ukraine’s strongest supporters in the West, including Lithuania. And that is because no one in the West has so far dared to ask a clear question: what is the ultimate goal of the West in this war? Declarations of solidarity with Ukraine are no longer enough: you cannot simultaneously declare that you support Ukraine’s victory and be afraid to say that you will seek a clear defeat for Russia.

This ambiguity in the Western thinking is becoming dangerous not only for Ukraine but for the West as a whole. Because the West must be concerned not only about how the war can be brought to a speedy conclusion with a Ukrainian victory, but also about what a post-war peace on the European continent will look like. Putin who does not lose the war will remain the greatest threat to the security of the entire European continent. “The Munich Peace” lasted only 6 months. How long the “Putin peace” would last is anyone’s guess.

The failure of the Munich “peace agreement” was a good lesson for the Western political leaders of the time. The conclusions eventually drawn by the leaders of the war against Hitler (US President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill) after Munich could be a good example for the present-day Western leaders.

It is worth remembering that in January 1943, at the Casablanca Conference, Roosevelt and Churchill, having invited the leader of the undefeated France, General de Gaulle, to assist them (in the absence of Stalin), adopted a declaration in which they defined clearly and unequivocally the purpose of their participation in the war against Hitler. The stated objective left no ambiguity: the members of the Alliance would seek Hitler’s unconditional surrender; there would be no separatist negotiations with Hitler; and there would be no negotiations with Hitler “for peace and a ceasefire” – only Hitler’s unconditional surrender was the objective of the war and the definition of victory.

The Allies were united in this position until the end of the war.

Why they did so was made very clear in Casablanca by Roosevelt himself: the only way to ensure a lasting sustainable peace after the war was to pursue a policy of unconditional surrender, while the ceasefire negotiations would only bring about a temporary cessation of hostilities (but would not guarantee a lasting peace after the war). An unconditional surrender clause would encourage both the German military and the wider German public to start to reject the war. If the Alliance members succeeded in weakening the foundations of support for Hitler within Germany, thereby weakening the motivation and morale of the army itself, it would only be a matter of time before Hitler was finally crushed. President Roosevelt stressed in Casablanca that the West’s objective of Hitler’s unconditional surrender was not at all about smashing German society, but only about smashing the prevailing Nazi philosophy in Germany, the thinking that is based on the conquest of other nations and the subjugation of others (one can read about it here and here).

History has shown that the clear war objectives of Roosevelt and Churchill – only the unconditional surrender of Hitler – have proved to be completely correct. It allowed the birth of a new Germany after the war, which said goodbye to the Nazi philosophy that had been crushed in the war. A lasting peace was thus established in the western part of the European continent. Germany, for a long time the greatest threat to European security, was reborn as a stable democracy after the unconditional surrender of Germany, becoming the locomotive for the peaceful unification of Western Europe.

I could confidently expect that, in response to the rhetorical question posed in the title of the text, how Roosevelt and Churchill would today formulate the West’s objective in the Ukrainian war against Russian aggression, their answer would be as unambiguous as it was in Casablanca: the unconditional defeat of Russia. For only in this way can the criminal “Novorossiya” philosophy that still prevails in Russia be crushed, and this is what is needed for lasting peace on the European continent.

Putin’s war against Ukraine is, of course, different from the World War II that Hitler had caused. Although the difference is not very great – the only significant difference is that Hitler did not have nuclear weapons, whereas Putin does. And also the fact that the West is not going to occupy Russia, whereas Germany was occupied.

However, these differences only add to the need for the West to clearly define its objective in this war today. It is clear that the only way for the West to remain consistent, not only in its concern for Ukraine, but also in its concern for a post-war, lasting peace on the European continent, is for it to repeat the words spoken in Casablanca today: The West’s goal in this war is the unconditional defeat of Russia, through the liberation of all the occupied territories of Ukraine. Russia can withdraw from these territories itself, or they will be liberated with the help of Taurus and ATACMS missiles and F-16 fighter jets. Such a definition of the West’s objective in this war would be a first step towards a much broader Western strategy of how a fundamental geopolitical transformation can be achieved in the East of Europe (Russia and Belarus), returning these countries to the path of democracy. Because everything in such a reconstruction starts with a Ukrainian victory. And, at the same time, it starts with the unconditional defeat of the current Russia.

Such a Western position does not require the miraculous resurrection of either Roosevelt or Churchill. The US presidential election campaign is a good opportunity for one of the candidates to make this point loudly, and therefore to win the full support of all Ukraine’s friends, both in the world at large and among American voters, in Chicago, California or New York, and everywhere else where Lithuania once had unequivocal support for the recognition of its Independence.

Russia and the Kremlin will, as always, try to participate in the US presidential elections and will pin a lot of hopes on the possible outcome of the elections. Lithuania and the whole of Central Europe can remain mere observers and “sofa commentators” in these elections, or we can set ourselves the goal of working together with the US electorate to ensure that Russia loses the US Presidential election unconditionally.

To do this, we must not be afraid to state loudly and boldly that the West’s goal in this war must be Russia’s unconditional defeat; we must be able to mobilise Western sympathisers who share this view; and we must not be afraid to appeal to the US electorate, whether it be in New Hampshire, in Santa Monica or Arizona. And everywhere else.

After all, this is our war too, and Russia must lose it unconditionally! What we need from the US is not just ATACMS and F-16s, but a clear statement of the West’s purpose in this war. America is certainly capable of repeating what Roosevelt and Churchill once did.


Andrius Kubilius. Western Reality and Our Responsibility

Andrius Kubilius, former PM, MEP, initiator of  the “United for Ukraine” network

(The Lithuanian version of the article was published on 11.08.2023)


Immediately after Putin launched Russia’s war against Ukraine in 2022, it seemed that the West had truly woken up from its geopolitical lethargy and embarked on a decisive strategy not only to help Ukraine defend itself, but also to stop Russia’s aggressive, authoritarian, kleptocratic Putin regime.

However, a year and a half after the outbreak of the war, and especially after the NATO Vilnius Summit, it is becoming increasingly clear that the West may have woken up, but it has still not got out of the comfortable bed of the “lazy and self-satisfied West”. The Western formula that NATO is not involved in the war, that it is only the Ukraine’s war and not the West’s war against the aggressor Russia, is increasingly becoming a clear symbol of the West’s desire to preserve the military and geo-political status quo in Ukrainian affairs. At least there is no sign of a Western willingness to seek decisive geopolitical change on the European continent or to invest seriously in a decisive military defeat for Putin.

It increasingly seems that the West is satisfied with, if not a quick peace with Putin (which only benefits Putin), then at least with a long war that debilitates Russia (whatever is he cost of this to Ukraine), without investing in a quick Ukrainian victory. Meanwhile, the West does not dare to proclaim its ambition to uncompromisingly crush the Putin regime. What is more, the West is unwilling, even geopolitically, to open the door to Ukraine in the near future (NATO membership), because this could (according to the West) provoke a new wave of Putin’s aggression. Even the prospects for membership of the European Union remain vague, despite the granted candidate status and even the possible decision at the end of this year to open negotiations, as fears are becoming louder and louder that Ukraine’s EU membership  could allegedly pose a number of challenges to the further functioning of the European Union’s institutions or the Single Market itself.

It is time to take stock of this emerging new “Western reality” so that we can not only predict possible future scenarios, but also have a proper understanding of the strategic responsibility that we, Lithuania, already have as an integral part of the West.

So far, we have mostly been sailing in the geopolitical fairway drawn by the “big” Western capitals, declaring solidarity with Ukraine along with all other Western partners, handing over military equipment and ammunition from our warehouses that are no longer used, but limiting our strategic geopolitical security aspirations exclusively to the individual security needs of Lithuania (e.g., deployment of the German brigade in Lithuania), although our security depends much more on whether Ukraine manages to defend itself, than on the timing of the deployment of the German brigade in Lithuania.

Unfortunately, it seems that, for us too, Ukraine’s war for its freedom has not yet become “our war”. For it is not enough to show that it is also our war to have Ukrainian flags in Vilnius, or to have nice statements or gestures of political solidarity, or to have civil society charity campaigns, or to know that we are not asking Ukrainians to thank us. This requires that we ourselves have a clear and overarching strategy for “our war for Ukraine”: how we are engaged in this war, what we are trying to achieve, and what resources we are using to do so. And this must be, first and foremost, our geopolitical strategy, from which our clear military strategy for the next decade would flow. We need to be aware of our role in this war – we are not the biggest military power that can alone determine military outcomes in our region, but we can be influential enough to propose strategic geopolitical initiatives and ideas to transform our region into a much safer space, and to bring together like-minded people from our region and from the much broader Western community to do so together.

This is the kind of activity that I miss most in today’s reality.

Because, exactly,  what the West is most lacking today is a clear long-term geopolitical strategy that includes not only Ukraine but also Russia and Belarus. This must be emphasised very clearly: as long as the West does not have a strategy for Russia, it will wander around with regard to the issue of Ukraine. At the moment, the West is afraid of the consequences of the Ukrainian victory for Russia’s further development, afraid that Putin will be replaced by some prigozhin (because the West has no strategy to help Russia’s democratic transformation, since it is afraid to talk about the regime change in Russia), and so the West’s military support for Ukraine remains lukewarm (because the West is afraid that, in the event of a decisive support, Putin will once again declare that it was NATO that attacked Russia, and not Russia that attacked Ukraine). The West lacks the leadership, the will and the capacity to see the importance of the “Ukraine factor” for the overall long-term geopolitical transformation of the eastern part of the European continent, including the potential transformation of Russia and Belarus themselves. Because there is no faith in the prospects for democracy in these countries: the West sees Putin and Lukashenko as the eternal leaders of their countries, and all the alternatives of different prigozhins only make them more frightening. Therefore, the narrative that still dominates all Western deliberations on Ukraine is how Putin will react to one or another Western action on the “Ukrainian front”, not how such or other long-term Western action will help to bring down the Putin regime.

It is this deficit, flaw or weakness in Western strategic geopolitical thinking that must be our main geopolitical target. And this requires, first of all, that we have our own vision of what kind of  Western strategy is absolutely necessary and that we are able to rally our fellow citizens around this vision of Western strategy, both in Europe and across the Atlantic.

But in order to understand why such a Western strategy is absolutely necessary, and why we need to engage in it, we first need to identify the basic elements (which may turn out to be bleak) of the “Western reality” of the last year-and-a-half period, so that we can understand what lies ahead of us in the long term if we are not able to respond to this reality strategically already today:

– The war is hard, and with the kind of Western military support that Ukraine is currently receiving, it may become increasingly difficult to expect Ukraine to achieve a crushing victory over Russia any time soon. This is not Ukraine’s fault or proof of its lack of military capability. It is a consequence of the West’s inability to make up its mind that this is our war too. The West is afraid of the consequences of Ukraine’s victory over Russia for Russia itself, because it has no coherent strategy towards Russia. As long as the West is afraid of the Ukrainian victory over Russia, it will not give Ukraine the weapons it needs to achieve such a victory. By hiding the root cause of its political ineptitude, the West increasingly wants proof of Ukraine’s gratitude (which proves that for the West it is only “Ukraine’s war” and not “our war”) and less and less talks about the West’s gratitude to Ukraine. In this context, Ukraine will come under increasing pressure from the West to end “its war” through peace talks with Putin and on Putin’s terms. And without any Tribunals.

– The prospects for NATO membership or Western security guarantees for Ukraine are even more vague after the Vilnius Summit, because the Vilnius Summit was limited to completely superficial formulations, which demonstrate that the big capitals of the  West does not consider the issue of security guarantees for Ukraine to be serious, important or timely. At least for now. The reason is the same: Western leaders still quietly think that Putin has a veto over who in Russia’s neighbourhood can and cannot become a NATO member. Because Putin has a nuclear arsenal to blackmail the West with. Western policy on Ukraine remains subordinate to the Western policy towards Russia, and the West still does not have such a policy towards Russia. They did not have it before, because they were dependent on Russian gas; they do not have it now because they are afraid of Putin’s nuclear blackmail. And they are afraid of what will happen to Russia if Putin is gone. Until the West has an adequate long-term policy towards Russia, based not on Putin first!, but on Democracy in Russia first! doctrine, the West will not have an adequate policy towards Ukraine. Conversely, as long as the West does not have a comprehensive and adequate policy towards Ukraine (weapons, reconstruction, NATO and EU membership), the West will not have an adequate policy towards Russia, because the future of democracy in Russia and Belarus depend on the effectiveness of the West’s policy towards Ukraine.

– It is still difficult to answer whether the West is really committed to building the foundations for Ukraine’s future economic and social success over the next decade, doing everything possible to ensure that Ukraine becomes a member of the European Union and is fully integrated into the EU’s Single Market within that decade. While we can be pleased that the European Union had the political will to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova at the outbreak of the war, and while there is optimism that both countries will be invited to start negotiations on EU membership at the end of this year, the prospects for membership themselves continue to be mired in geopolitical fog: France in particular is demanding major institutional reforms within the EU itself (by removing the veto power) in order to make the EU ready to welcome new members (Ukraine in particular), while such reforms within the EU itself are extremely difficult to achieve. Secondly, Poland and other Central European countries have clearly demonstrated with this year’s Ukrainian grain embargo initiatives that Central Europe, despite its many declarations of solidarity with Ukraine, can become significant opponents of Ukraine’s integration into the EU and the Single Market, as it is already showing its fear of competing with Ukraine’s agricultural production in the same EU Single Market. Paradoxically, one can already see that Central Europe could become the biggest obstacle in Ukraine’s path to EU membership: Central Europe has demonstrated this year that it is afraid and will be afraid of Ukraine’s economic competition in the future; Central Europe has also long demonstrated its reluctance to give up the veto power, despite the fact that the veto has consistently turned into a major instrument of the European “blackmail culture”. If the choice were to be made in between of retaining the veto power or Ukraine’s membership of the EU, it is not clear at the moment which one of the alternatives Central Europe would choose. Neither it is clear which one would Lithuania choose. The likely consequence of all this is a slow, lengthy and ineffective process of Ukraine’s integration into the EU. Not because Ukraine will not be able to implement the necessary reforms, but because the European Union itself will eventually lack political will and will stop at some vague model of gradual integration, without clear political will, without clear criteria, dates and stages for integration, leaving Ukraine in a grey geopolitical area for a long time to come. As it has been the case so far.        I am not writing all this to complain once again about how weak the West is, still geopolitically asleep or afraid of Putin. The West is what it is – we just need to see its strengths and weaknesses. They can change: the West may act one way while Biden is the US President, it may act another way if Trump comes back. But it is clear that the West is our only security potential and resource. On the other hand, it is also clear, at least to us, that the fate of the West is also being decided in Ukraine.

Obviously, “the West” is a broad concept, covering very different regions with quite different interests: it covers the new Europe with Central Europe and the Baltic States; it covers Northern Europe and the United Kingdom; it covers the old Europe with quite distinct Germany, France and the Mediterranean countries; finally it covers the transatlantic partners. Most of these countries are members of NATO and, on the European continent, of the EU. On Ukraine, there is more or less unanimity, although it is clear that different regions have different priorities. Sometimes, in the name of preserving unity, more decisive action is sacrificed, although this has not yet become the most visible problem. However, this may soon become an increasingly prominent challenge, as today’s “Western reality”, as described above, may have increasingly negative long-term consequences. First and foremost for our region, but also for the whole of the European continent, and thus for the West.

The reality of the West is what it is today. Our challenge is to be able to act and to achieve maximum objectives even in the face of this reality. The problems of today’s Western reality that concern us most can be identified very briefly: a) the lack of an overarching long-term Western strategy for the geopolitical reconstruction of the whole of the eastern part of Europe (Ukraine, Russia, Belarus), in which Ukraine (its victory, reconstruction, Euro-Atlantic integration) would play a central role; b) the lack of Western geopolitical leadership and political will for the preparation and implementation of such a strategy.

This raises the question of Lithuania’s responsibility. Our primary responsibility is to find partners and like-minded people with whom we can work together to change the “Western reality” of today. We are having a lot of discussions about the German brigade in Lithuania, about the purchase of German tanks and how to keep such a purchase secret (?!) – this is important, but it only concerns our individual security. Meanwhile, I do not see at all any broader and more fundamental discussions among us about how we can achieve a change in the current “Western reality”; what we have to do to make the unconditional victory of Ukraine and the crushing of Russia the West’s goal; what we have to do to make the West no longer afraid of the victory of Ukraine and its consequences for Russia; what we must do to ensure that the West sees Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration not only as an aspiration for Ukraine, but also as something that is vital for the West itself, because only in this way can the geopolitical reconstruction of Eastern Europe be realised and the conditions for a sustainable peace on the continent of Europe be created. This is no less important for the security of the whole of Europe and for our own security than what tanks or brigades will eventually be deployed in Lithuania.

Europe’s geopolitical problems (dangers and opportunities) are currently concentrated on the eastern borders of the Western area on the European continent. The political weight of the countries of the Western area representing this region (including Lithuania and Ukraine) has increased considerably in the Western area. This region can fill the deficit of the collective leadership that is so painfully felt in the West. But the region has so far failed to demonstrate such efforts.


Because we do not yet feel that this is also “our war”. If we did, we would be discussing not only NATO’s defence plans, which are important to us, but also whether a situation could arise where NATO or other Western coalitions of like-minded people would start to consider committing their own forces to the Ukrainian war; we would also be discussing right now whether or not we would be prepared to send troops to Ukraine together with a coalition of like-minded nations if it really were “our war” (and such a discussion is already taking place amongst experts in the West).

We would also be discussing how to give up the veto in European Union affairs and how to help Poland not to fear competition from Ukrainian agriculture. We would also be discussing how to convince the West that democracy is possible in Russia too, and that the West need not be afraid of a Ukrainian victory over Russia and the resulting collapse of the Putin regime.

As long as we are not discussing such things, we are a silent part of today’s “Western reality”. And that reality should not be satisfactory to us. If it is not satisfactory, then we should be trying to change it, and not thinking about how we can foolishly adapt to it.

Once upon a time, during the times of the Lithuanian Independence movement Sąjūdis, the “reality of the West” (“just don’t rock the Soviet Union’s boat, because the reformist Gorbachev must be preserved”) did not suit us either. And we managed to change it, working together with all the other like-minded countries: the Baltic States, Poland, Scandinavia, Great Britain, the US Congress. Now it is a historic moment of equal importance. And the fundamental problem is the same – “the Western reality”. We have the experience to change it.

That is what we must do, because that is our greatest responsibility today.


Andrius Kubilius. The Sobering-Up in Vilnius

Andrius Kubilius is a former PM of Lithuania, MEP, Initiator of the “United for Ukraine” network

(The Lithuanian version of the article was published on 15.07.2023)

The NATO festival  in Lithuania is over. That’s how many of us saw the NATO Summit – as a NATO celebration in Vilnius. Both those of us who were lucky enough to see it up close and those of us who watched it from the distances of Brussels or Strasbourg. Lithuania made sure that the celebration was well and efficiently organised, citizens made sure that they demonstrated how important Ukraine is to Lithuania and to the World. All Ukrainians, from journalists to politicians, with whom I have had the opportunity to interact these days, thank Lithuania for this. We did well!

Although, it is us and all the Europeans who have to thank Ukraine first of all. For its struggles and sacrifices made not only for its own freedom and security, but for the freedom and security of all of us.

However, celebrations tend to end. Then it is time to ask ourselves: what is the legacy of that celebration?

Unfortunately, when searching for an answer to such a question, there is less festive mood after the Summit. And especially because of the decisions (or non-decisions) taken at the Summit regarding Ukraine.

I will not repeat my praise for the decisions announced at the Summit (not on Ukraine), both on the completely new quality of the NATO regional defence plans and on the agreement between Sweden and Turkey. It is good that this was announced in Vilnius, but it had little to do with the Summit itself.

It is also good that Ukraine’s NATO membership has gained strong momentum during the last six months before the Vilnius Summit, and it seems that Ukraine has moved strongly along this path. It is good that the Summit itself was full of speeches and pledges to continue to support Ukraine with arms, but it is bad that the West did not dare to use the Vilnius Summit to send a strong geopolitical signal, in particular, to Russia, by taking a formal decision in Vilnius to invite Ukraine to become a NATO member.

Ukraine not only needs long-range military weapons from the West, it also needs long-range geopolitical weapons. And they are all in the hands of the West. I will repeat what I have said more than once: Ukraine’s invitation to become a member of NATO is necessary not only for the sake of Ukraine’s security, but also for the sake of the West’s message to the Kremlin elite and to ordinary Russians: forget your dreams of rebuilding the empire; Ukraine is no longer available for imperial nostalgia; there is no longer any point in continuing the imperial colonial war.

Inviting Ukraine would be the first step to demonstrate that the West is boldly embracing Brzezinski’s doctrine that Russia has a chance to become a democracy without Ukraine, and that Russia will always remain an empire as long as the West allows Russia to keep Ukraine in so called  zone of its interests. Moreover, in Vilnius, the West had the opportunity to show that it has already realised its fundamental geopolitical mistake of the last decades: Ukraine has been left in a “grey security zone” since the 1990s, with no possibility of becoming a member of either NATO or the EU, and this is what prompted Putin to resort to aggression. Vilnius was an opportunity for the West to start correcting this geopolitical mistake, which no amount of arms supplies, not even the largest, can cover. And yet this geopolitical mistake will have to be corrected by the West, sooner rather than later. Or never.

What is disappointing is not only the fact of the non-invitation  itself, but the way in which, through the efforts of Western leaders, this non-invitation has been superficially identified and explained – without even attempting to look for any serious substantive or geopolitical arguments.

What has disappointed me most in this Ukrainian affair is the indifference of the text and the comments on the non-invitation of Ukraine.

The text of the communiqué on Ukraine’s NATO membership, published in Vilnius, repeats almost word for word the wording of the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit’s non-invitation, reiterating that Ukraine’s future is with NATO. This future was also promised in Bucharest, but it has never become a reality. Putin understood this as the West agreeing to leave Ukraine and Georgia in the Kremlin’s zone of interests. To the disappointing phrase from Bucharest, repeated in Vilnius, was added the sentence from the North Atlantic Treaty that Ukraine would be invited to become a member of NATO when all the countries agreed to it. It is as if someone does not know that Treaty provision on the consensus.

It was also casually stated that Ukraine must improve democracy and the fight against corruption, because this is also the basis on which it will be judged as to whether it can become a NATO member. One should imply that, by such standards, Ukraine is still a long way from Albania, Montenegro or North Macedonia, which became NATO members not so long ago. To those who know a little more about the failures of these countries, both in democracy and in the fight against corruption, such conditions for Ukraine announced in Vilnius sound like a completely lax excuse from the West as to why Ukraine in Vilnius has not yet been invited.

It is also worth remembering that Portugal was one of the founding members of NATO in 1949, even though it was ruled from 1932 to 1968 by the same authoritarian and dictatorial leader, Antonio Salazar. Greece, a member of NATO since 1952, lived without any democracy after the “colonels” coup from 1967 to 1974, but its NATO membership was not suspended.

So much for the solidity of the additional “democracy and anti-corruption” conditions announced for Ukraine.

Of course, equally surprising was the argument made in Vilnius that Ukraine could not be invited to join NATO while the war was going on. It is obvious to everyone, and has been repeated over and over again by Mr Zelensky himself, that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO while the war is still going on. But why Ukraine cannot be invited to become a member of NATO now, while the war is still going on, remains completely unclear.

After all, the example of Sweden has already made it clear that there can be quite a long time between a formal invitation and the real membership. For Ukraine, Ukraine could have been  invited, but also been presented a condition that the ratification of the accession treaty would start not now, while the war is still going on, but when it is assessed that the circumstances of the war no longer prevent it. There are two separate geopolitically important steps in the process of becoming a NATO member: (1) the invitation to become a member of NATO, and (2) becoming a member of NATO. Each of them sends a strong political signal on its own and can be separated in time. Vilnius Summit could have sent the first signal – an invitation – distinctly from the membership. However, for some reason Western leaders ran away from the possibility of inviting Ukraine to join already in Vilnius, citing the threat of World War III if Ukraine became a NATO member during the war. Despite that no one (not even Ukraine) offered or asked for such membership during the war.

Thus, there were no serious business arguments for not inviting Ukraine. It was simply a missed opportunity to do so. And then the question is: why? Why did Germany and, in particular, the US resist to extend such an invitation? What factor accounts for their cautious or geopolitically unwise approach?

If there is no serious explanation that Ukraine still does not meet some of the NATO criteria, then one must inevitably conclude that the only such serious factor in why Ukraine still has not received an invitation, and about which one dare not go public, is the “Putin factor” and its impact on Western geopolitical thinking. Some in the West may still feel that Putin has a veto right over NATO enlargement in his own sphere of interest (which he clearly had in the Western mind in Bucharest in 2008 and had been holding there until 24 February 2022). Some may fear that such a NATO decision would escalate the military situation and provoke an unpredictable response from Putin (although the West’s geopolitical weakness and the still ongoing non-invitation of Ukraine is precisely what provoked Putin’s current aggression); some may fear that inviting Ukraine to join NATO could bring down the already weak Putin regime and bring some prigozhins to power (although why the West should care about Putin’s survival and why Putin is better than Prigozhin remains completely unclear).

In any case, it is clear that the “Putin factor” still plays an important role in Western thinking. It may be diminishing, but it is still important. This is what the non-invitation of Ukraine at the Vilnius Summit reveals. This is the moment of “Vilnius Sobering-up”: the West must have a clear strategy with regard to the “Putin factor”, that is to say, it must have a clear strategy as to what kind of Russia’s future the West expects to be after Ukraine wins the war. After that the invitation to Ukraine will no longer scare some Western capitals.

A wise and courageous Western policy towards Ukraine is the only way in which the West can also help Russia to transform itself into a normal type of state. This requires the West to believe that Russia, too, can say goodbye to the “Putin factor”; to believe that democracy is also possible in Russia, and that, after Ukraine defeats Russia on the military front, a window of opportunity will open up for such a transformation of Russia. Only by believing in such a possibility will the West no longer fear Ukraine’s crushing victory (and give it the weapons it needs to do so), nor Ukraine’s NATO membership (and invite it to join the Alliance), nor Ukraine’s becoming a member of the EU, thus creating economic success for Ukraine. It is those Western leaders who still do not believe in Russia’s ability to transform itself are afraid of the “Putin factor” and do not dare to invite Ukraine to join NATO. Those who believe in such a possibility are no longer afraid of the “Putin factor”. And they are no longer afraid to invite Ukraine.

This is the essence of the “Vilnius Sobering-up”: not only are we facing new challenges on Ukraine’s path to NATO; we are also facing new challenges on Russia’s transformation path. These two are intrinsically interlinked, and it is our duty to address them both at the same time. For the sake of Ukraine and for the sake of a different Russia. It is also our duty to explain this constantly and loudly throughout the West, with the help of all like-minded people. Otherwise, the West and NATO will continue to tread in our region between the fine words constantly repeated in Budapest, Bucharest and Vilnius about security guarantees and future memberships, but without distancing themselves from the “Putin factor”, thereby losing more and more of their geopolitical credibility.

When “sobering-up” and “awakening” occur in geopolitics, it is also an awakening from the nice, but empty words and one simply does not want to hear them any more.

It is always worth hoping that, after the NATO Summit, it was not only Vilnius that had a “Vilnius Sobering-up” moment, but also Washington and Berlin.


A. Kubilius. What will be the next act of the “Russian drama”?

There is a well-known classical genre as “Greek drama”: well-studied, well-researched, and a huge influence on today’s theatre.

In recent days, we have been observing what is worthy of being called the genre as “Russian drama”. Many of us have been watching it as if it were a good Hollywood action film, demanding new servings of popcorn for ourselves.

Many of us must have been confused after the end of the first act of the Russian drama (Prigozhin’s “turn”) – what does this mean, what will happen next? 

But this is the mark of a good theatrical drama: the first act is an act for dramatic intrigue; the second act is an act of speculation and doubt; the third act is the denouement, when everything becomes clear. There are also intermissions between the acts, when the audience can take a break, stretch their legs, sip champagne and speculate on the plot of the drama in the next act. As you know, the main characters may change during the play, the drama may turn into a comedy, and even into a tragedy in the finale, but one thing remains the same during the play: its main director.

As viewers of the Russian drama, we have to state that at the end of the first act we are now either still listening to the Entrance and sipping our refreshments in a state of confusion, or we are already watching the second act – an act of speculation and doubt. We have seen Prigozhin, the ‘hero’ of Act I. But who will play the role of the ‘hero’ in Acts II and III, we still do not know. Nor do we know the name of the play’s chief director.

For a viewer who does not know the entire script of the play, it is a futile effort to analyse what has just happened in the first act and what will happen in the upcoming second and third acts. The imagination of a good dramaturg and director can always surpass the imagination of any spectator, even if that spectator considers himself to be a great theatre expert.

As I write these lines, I am passing the time in Brussels and Frankfurt airports. I am flying to Croatia to attend a conference on European and regional security. Although I realise that speculating about the second and third actions is a futile exercise, as the ‘Russian drama’ may take a completely different turn, I have nevertheless decided to spend my time at the airports putting together my own analysis of the first and future actions. It makes it less boring waiting for the plane.

I have put together my analysis of the past and future actions of the Russian drama in the form of different scenarios, each of which seems to me to have its own causal links and internal logic. The scenarios are radically different, but each one is plausible enough. I am not yet in a position to judge which of the scenarios I am discussing is the most likely, because the reality of the ‘Russian drama’ has every chance of surpassing all the heights of my fantasy. I have given each script an individual dramatic title and tried to guess who the dramaturg and director of the script is.

Script I: Prigozhin is a lonely, not very wise adventurer.

Yesterday, at the very beginning of the so-called ‘revolt’ and ‘march towards Moscow’, I wrote that such a ‘revolt’ was probably long and planned by Prigozhin and his allies or ‘masters’. This seemed to be the case until the unexpected “twist” in the plot. Now I have less faith in such pre-planning. It is also possible that Prigozhin is simply a not-so-wise adventurer who personally decided to call Moscow’s bluff with his “rebellion” in order to be allowed to continue to deal freely with the Wagner group. Having gone as far as to Moscow, he realised that the bluff might have gone too far, and in the meantime the Kremlin might have discovered how to frighten Prigozhin himself (threatening his family or his wealth), and the adventurous Prigozhin realised it was better to turn around. That was the end of the rebellion, and we shall continue to see nothing but Prigozhin’s whining and await Putin’s inevitable and final revenge on the deluded adventurer, who did, after all, publicly humiliate Putin by instigating his rebellion. In this scenario, the dramaturg and director of the first act is Prigozhin himself; the director of the following act, “revenge” act, is Putin.

Scenario II: Prigozhin’s “master” has achieved what he wanted.

It is entirely possible that Prigozhin did not act alone, that a “master” representing some power structure from the Kremlin’s milieu (a part of the military leadership dissatisfied with the desperate war, FSB leaders worried about Russia’s existential crisis) planned to exploit Prigozhin’s revolt to, to show publicly, and thus to Putin himself, how weak Putin is, that nobody – neither the army nor the public – is going to defend him, that Prigozhin, with his slogans against the war in Ukraine, is being greeted joyfully by the people of Rostov (and perhaps by the people of Moscow as well). To a frightened Putin, Prigozhin’s ‘master’ could have issued a substantial ultimatum, which Putin was forced to accept (in order to prevent Prigozhin from taking over the Kremlin and Putin from being completely ruined), but we will find out much later. What that ultimatum might be we can only speculate, e.g. Putin resigns after a few months “due to a rapidly progressing illness”; Putin announces after a while that he will not take part in the presidential elections in 2024; Putin stops the war in Ukraine a few weeks later, announcing that he has achieved his goal and starts negotiations with the West for “peace” in Ukraine. In such a scenario, the second act of ‘speculation and doubt’ in this spectacle could be a long one, so we must be patient. It is clear that in the second and third acts, Prigozhin will no longer be the protagonist, but will be relegated to the ‘shadows’ for a while, in order to save Putin’s ‘face’ at least to some extent, until he delivers on the agreed ultimatum. Thereafter, Prigozhin will be duly rewarded. In the following acts of the play, the protagonist may become someone we cannot even see today, someone from the “master’s” milieu, who will be more courageous in saying that radical change is needed, that the war is a mistake, that Russia must be saved. This could be the new ‘hero’, whether portrayed as ‘ura-patriotic’ or ‘liberal-patriotic’. It is high time that the current Prime Minister, Mr Mishustin, appeared in such a role. The dramaturg and director of such a scenario may be the often-mentioned FSB chief N. Patrushev (Soviet Union’s “perestroika” was launched by KGB chief Y. Andropov), but it may also be one of the generals who can see what a desperate adventure Putin has led them into in Ukraine.

Scenario III. The West needs to be frightened by a “weak” Putin.

This scenario can be constructed on the assumption that Putin himself is beginning to realise what a desperate adventure he has gotten himself into in Ukraine.  He therefore urgently needs “peace” talks with the West on terms acceptable to Putin. This can only be achieved if the West is seriously frightened by the chaos that Russia may find itself in if the West does not agree to talks with Putin in the short term.

Putin may have realised that he was involved in a hopeless adventure already when he did not take Kyiv in 3 days and was then forced to retreat from Kyiv, Kharkov and Kherson. He realised even then that in the long term, there would be a growing dissatisfaction with such a war, both in Russian society and in the Russian army. Putin therefore appointed his loyal ‘chef’ Prigozhin as the accumulator and channel of discontent among the troops and the wider population. He allowed him to criticise the generals and the Shoigu, so that Prigozhin would gain some sort of reputation amongst the discontented people that he was his own man in the trenches, that he was with the common people. It is better for the Kremlin if the loyal Prigozhin is the leader of the discontent of the common people than if he is some more intellectual and independent general staff officer. In parallel, Putin has been sending signals to the West all this time that it is necessary to negotiate on Putin’s terms. In the name of this, he has periodically threatened the West with a nuclear strike, and then lobbied the leaders of China, India, Brazil and some African countries, who have come in repeated waves to offer the West and Ukraine new peace plans, but all according to the ‘Putin formula’. So far, this has not produced the result Putin wants. And Putin is becoming increasingly desperate because he realises that the Russian army will not be able to withstand the Ukrainian counter-attack. That is why he has taken both actions at once: Firstly, Karaganov, who is close to Putin, has published an article arguing that Russia must launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Europe in order for the West to finally “wean” itself away from Russia (some Western experts consider Karaganov’s doctrine to be the most serious nuclear blackmail yet formulated); secondly, Putin deliberately allowed his loyal cook to organise the “revolt” in order to scare the West with how weak the Putin regime is, how easily it can be overthrown by some criminal, aggressive, sabre-rattling, almost crazy Prigozhin (or Kadyrov), and how nuclear weapons will immediately fall into their unpredictable hands. This scenario of a ‘weak’ Putin must frighten the West, and it must either immediately agree to the terms of a ‘Putin peace’ or stop supporting Ukraine with weapons that would allow Ukraine to crush the Russian army, and therefore Putin. Because the West must believe that such a total victory of Ukraine will only mean that the unpredictable Prigozhin will take power in Russia. Putin is desperate for the West to adopt precisely this view of the situation in Russia. There have been examples of this Western thinking so far, and it will radically increase after the ‘revolt’. Yesterday, the Ukrainian portal “24 kanal” published a text quoting a “senior defence bureaucrat from a NATO country”, who says that “we do not need a Russia that is too strong. But we don’t want a too weak Russia either. We don’t want Russia to be a failed state because it is a nuclear state after all’.

So a ‘weak Putin’ is a threat to the West. Similarly with Gorbachev, a “weak Gorbachev” was also considered a threat to the West. This was also the focus of President George H. W. Bush’s “chicken Kyiv” speech. Perhaps even the August 1991 “revolt” against Gorbachev. The problem of a “weak” Gorbachev was then “solved” by Yeltsin and Russian civil society. Now these factors are absent, which is why Putin or his entourage can scare the West with a “weak” Putin. Prigozhin’s “rebellion” is very suitable for this. At some point Putin will pay him back properly, but for now he needs to be removed, because according to Putin, the West should negotiate with Putin, not with Prigozhin. The dramaturg and director of such a scenario is Putin himself and his inner circle. He will continue it right up to the end. Whether we will see Putin negotiating with a frightened West in the aftermath, we shall see in the near future.

My plane is about to take off. It is up to you to decide which scenario you think is most realistic. I lean towards scenario III.

But popcorn is still needed. And at the end of the day, Ukraine’s victory is crucial, because it destroys all the Kremlin’s scenarios, no matter how clever the directors and writers of the ‘Russian drama’ think they are.