2024.01.17

Andrius Kubilius. 2024 And Beyond: A Rationally Optimistic War Scenario

The year 2023 ended in Lithuania with  apocalyptic predictions that everything is bad – Ukraine is losing, it does not know how to fight, Russia is winning and will soon come to us, and the West is betraying us all. And we are the only ones who know how to do everything, but nobody listens to us.

I am hyperbolizing a bit, but the end of the year sounded like this…

We are not special – in today’s world of instant global communication and rapid change, it is common for societies to swing from a wave of over-optimism to a black pit of pessimism very quickly.

HOW CAN WE OVERCOME OUR PESSIMISM AND STOP THE KREMLIN ENJOYING IT?

We have to admit that at the beginning of last year, many of us were hoping for a quick victory for Ukraine, and when we did not get it, we were tempted, without thinking too much, to compete to see who could paint a blacker and more desperate scenario for the future. In the darkness of the long winter nights, pessimism becomes a new dangerous pandemic, because our and all the West’s disbelief in the possibility of a different outcome, of the victory of Ukraine eventually leads very quickly to the Kremlin’s longed-for mood of “fatigue” and “acceptance of reality” in our midst. Obviously, if this mood is allowed to prevail, Ukraine will receive even less support from the West.

So, it is worth answering a simple question for ourselves: if the Kremlin benefits from our emotional pessimism and apocalyptic predictions, is it really wise for us to indulge in such black pessimism indiscriminately and to encourage it even more ourselves?

The desire not to succumb to global pessimism does not mean that we do not need to see what is happening on the ground: Ukraine’s war against the Russian invasion has entered a new phase in which there are no immediate victories for Ukraine in liberating its territory. The war may last longer than we expected a year ago. However, this also does not mean that Russia’s victory in this war is imminent.

In order to overcome our own pessimistic pandemic, we must first of all realize that the only inoculation that can protect us from such a pandemic is not the fountain of over-optimistic sentiment that opposes general pessimism, but only a much deeper rational analysis, based on facts, figures, and reason (but not on emotion). Meanwhile, we are still not used to such analyses, even after becoming a frontier state. It is about time…

It is worth starting such a rational analysis with simple, basic questions: firstly, about the political will of the West, and secondly, about the material capacity of the West to realize this political will.

DOES THE WEST WANT RUSSIA TO WIN THE WAR?

The first question in this series of questions is quite primitive: why has Ukraine, which is supported by a West that is dozens of times richer than Russia, not yet won the war, and why is this war turning into a continuing conflict?

I provided a numerical answer to this question a good month ago in my text “On the Reality of War”: despite the fact that the West is economically much stronger than Russia, Russia has spent more than EUR100 billion on financing the war in 2023, while Ukraine, with all the support of the EU and the US, has mobilized only EUR80 billion. Ukraine spent 25% of its GDP on the war effort, Russia almost 6%, while EU military aid amounted to only 0.075% of its total GDP. Thus, on the front line, the West’s economic advantage has not yet been seen, and therefore Ukraine is so far receiving only the kind of support from the West that allows it to remain undefeated, but is not enough to achieve victory.

This raises a second simple question: if the West does not support Ukraine to the extent that Ukraine can win, is it possible that the West, on whose support Ukraine’s ability to win this war depends, want Russia to win this war?

I do not have the capacity to delve into the depths of the thinking of the leaders of the democratic world, especially the leaders of Western Europe, but I do not see any rational argument why they should want and seek to see Russia win this war. On the contrary, the fears of Western leaders that a Russian victory over Ukraine would only mean that in a few years’ time, Russia would turn its aggression against one of the NATO countries – Finland, Estonia, or Lithuania – are becoming more frequent in public discourse. My personal hunch is that an increasing number of Western leaders now similarly see the danger of a “peace under Putin”, in which Ukraine would be forced to give up part of its territory, which would only mean a victory for Putin and the prospect of imminent future aggression.

It is likely that some Western leaders are wary of the prospect of a quick and crushing victory for Ukraine, either because they fear that the Kremlin would respond with an unpredictable escalation of its aggression, or because they fear that such a Ukrainian victory would result in the collapse of the Putin regime and the frightening uncertainty of who will take over the Kremlin after Putin. However, such fears, even if they exist, cannot explain why the West should want a Russian victory.

This leads to the rational conclusion that there are no Western leaders who want Russia to win this war. There is no logical argument as to why a Russian victory, followed by a new wave of Russian aggression, would be of any benefit to the West. And since the West is also likely to be increasingly aware that a Russian victory would probably mean an inevitable increase in Chinese aggressiveness against the “weak” West and Taiwan too, this makes it even less likely that anyone in the West would think that a Russian victory in Ukraine would be of any benefit to the West.

Some might say that the West, even if it perceives that a Russian victory in Ukraine is not only disadvantageous to it but even highly threatening to them, may remain indifferent to the fate of Ukraine. But those who would think so, would be assuming that Western leaders are simply unwise, and that the only wise people in the entire Western world are us. Such an assumption on our part would say nothing good about our own wisdom.

The answers to the first two basic questions lead to a simple conclusion about the political will of the West: there is no indication that the West wants Russia to win this war; however, the West’s support for Ukraine until now has enabled Ukraine only not to lose, but not to win the war.

FROM SUPPORT FROM WAREHOUSES TO SUPPORT FROM MILITARY INDUSTRY FACTORIES

Having concluded that the lack of Western support for Ukraine is not due to a lack of political will, the third rational question is whether the West is materially capable of providing greater military support to Ukraine at this time. That is, is the West currently capable of providing Ukraine with more artillery shells, long-range missiles, air defense systems, modern tanks, fighter jets, and drones?

We must recognize a simple truth: during the first years of the war, many Western countries, including Lithuania, provided Ukraine as their military support with what they had stockpiled in their warehouses. As the second year of the war draws to a close, such stocks in the West (and in Lithuania) are running out. Meanwhile, the production capacity of the military industry throughout the Western world, while beginning to grow, is still not sufficient to meet the needs for a Ukrainian victory. The reasons why Russia, even in an environment of sanctions, has managed to put its economy on the warpath; why Russia’s ally North Korea has managed to supply Russia with 1 million artillery shells in one month; and why the European Union is still not able to produce and supply Ukraine with the same amount of artillery shells it promised, namely 1 million artillery shells – that is a subject for a separate discussion. But it is obvious that this is the core problem of the war: the capacity of the Western military industry, which has only just begun to be mobilized for the needs of the war in Ukraine, is still not able to meet those needs in full.

As stated in a recent valuable analytical, strategic text published by the Estonian Ministry of Defence, “Setting Transatlantic Defence up for Success: A Military Strategy for Ukraine’s Victory and Russia’s Defeat”: in order for Ukraine to maintain its 155 mm caliber artillery superiority over Russia’s artillery capabilities, Ukraine needs a minimum of 200,000 artillery shells per month (2.4 million shells per year). This rate of consumption of artillery shells threatens to exhaust the stockpiles of such artillery shells in both EU and US warehouses by 2024. However, Estonian experts argue that the West can increase its artillery shell production capacity by 2025 to fully meet at least Ukraine’s minimum military needs. At the end of 2023, EU companies were producing about 50,000 artillery shells per month, which is about twice as many as they were able to produce at the beginning of the year. The US currently produces 28,000 shells per month, which is also twice as much as it was able to produce at the beginning of 2023.

The US plans to increase its production capacity to 100,000 shells per month by the end of 2025, while the European Union’s production of artillery shells needs to be increased by an additional 140% by the end of 2025 to meet Ukraine’s minimum needs. However, it is worth knowing that Russia plans to produce and deploy 3.5 million artillery shells this year (2023) (which is 3 times the production of the previous year), and plans to produce 4.5 million artillery shells in 2024. Therefore, the most important task for the West today is, first of all, to realize that the war cannot be won if the projected production of artillery shells in the West is almost two times less than the projected figures for Russia. And for the West to be able to close this gap urgently requires a common Western strategy, not just plans by individual NATO countries to slightly increase their production.

This leads to the conclusion that problems on the Ukrainian front are not due to a lack of Western strategic political will to support Ukraine’s victory, nor to a lack of Western financial resources to support Ukraine’s victory, but to a simple deficit in the capacity of the Western military industry. This is an economic issue for the West, not a political or strategic one. It is rooted in the West’s long-held belief that there will be no war with Russia and that there is no need to prepare for such a war in advance, thus negating the need to develop its military industry. This problem is gradually being overcome if the political will and financial resources needed to overcome it become available in the West.

This situation mirrors the one faced by the collectively democratic West on the eve of the Second World War when only Churchill, from the beginning of the 1930s after Hitler came to power in Germany, was worriedly proclaiming that Hitler was rapidly increasing the capacity of the German military industry. Meanwhile, Britain and the other Western democracies did not heed Churchill’s warnings, they naïvely hoped that peace could be negotiated with Hitler, and were virtually unconcerned about their own military-industrial capacity. As a result, Hitler had clear military superiority at the start of World War II, and it was not until the war began that Britain and the US gradually managed to catch up and eventually overtake the pace of Germany’s military industry.

Today, the Western democracies are only beginning to develop their military-industrial capabilities, belatedly, after the war has started. The rapid expansion of the military-industrial capacity of the democratic Western Alliance at the outbreak of World War II did not happen overnight. The same thing is happening now. This is the main reason why the West’s support for Ukraine is so far only enough to enable Ukraine not to lose, but not yet enough for Ukraine to win.

2024 – STRATEGIC DEFENCE. VICTORY – 2026?

Is the lag of the Western military industry behind the needs of the war in Ukraine surmountable? The same Estonian experts, in their strategic analysis, provide rational figures on how many and what other weapons (not only artillery shells) Ukraine will need to exceed Russia’s capabilities: from artillery “tubes” to long-range GMLRS, ATACAMS, Storm Shadow, SCALP, or Taurus missiles. Increasing their production capacity to the required volumes would not seem to be out of reach in the coming years. The same applies to the production of drones or the tactical training of a larger number of Ukrainian troops in the West. All such Ukrainian needs are easy to calculate, not difficult to quantify financially, and the West is fully capable of realizing them in the coming years. But physically it cannot happen tomorrow: for the West to be able to supply Ukraine with more weapons than it was able to supply at the beginning of the war from its own warehouses requires that the capacity of the Western war industry grows very rapidly, at least several times over.

The same experts, therefore, calculate that Ukraine will have to live through 2024 with a level of Western support that will be insufficient to achieve victory, and that Ukraine may have to switch to strategic defense as a result. By 2025, however, the rapidly growing Western military industry will have reached a level of production that will allow it to accumulate and provide Ukraine with enough support to achieve victory in 2026.

I realize that such an attempt to take a rational look at the prospect of war may not convince everyone of its rational optimism. And especially when that rational and constructive optimism is formulated not by someone else, but by our neighbors, the Estonians (although when I found the analytical document cited on the website of the Estonian Ministry of Defence, I became jealous that it was not published by Lithuanians). We are easily swayed by emotions, but wars are won (and lost) not by emotions, but by material numbers: the economic strength of the belligerents, the volume of their military-industrial production and the number of weapons supplied, as well as the finances devoted to it. And of course, we must not forget the number of troops mobilized.

Again, the same experts say that if the Ukrainian armed forces were able to destroy (counting those killed or seriously wounded) at least 50,000 Russian troops in each six-month period, Russia, with its mobilization and recruit training capabilities,

would not be able to regenerate its human military resources (I would guess, based on the information available in the public domain, that the Ukrainian armed forces are currently capable of far exceeding this indicator). For its part, the West can easily increase the quantity and quality of training of Ukrainian troops, given that 100,000 Ukrainian troops have been trained in the West so far, at a cost of only around EUR 350 million.

WILL WE FORM A “0.25% GDP” COALITION IN SUPPORT OF UKRAINE?

And finally, once again about money. And about us.

At the very beginning of this text, I reminded that in 2023, Russia has spent EUR 100 billion on the war, while Ukraine, with all the military support from the EU and the US, has spent only EUR 80 billion. That is why the front has stalled. As it turned out, the West was unable to provide significantly more material military support because the stocks in the warehouses have run out and new military production is growing more slowly than desired at this stage.

In this text, I have discussed expert estimates of the levels of arms production needed in the West to provide Ukraine with sufficient supplies to achieve victory. However, it is clear that new financial resources are also needed for the West to grow new arms’ production capacity. As has already been written, this year total EU military aid (provided by the EU institutions and all EU Member States) amounted to only 0.075% of the EU’s GDP. The US has given a little more to Ukraine, with military aid amounting to 0.10% of US GDP in 2023. But in any case, it is clear that in financial terms such Western military support to Ukraine is insufficient to achieve victory.

One of the problems that has become evident during these two years of war is that the level of military support to Ukraine varies considerably from country to country: during these two years, Lithuania and Estonia’s military support to Ukraine has exceeded 1.2% of their respective GDPs; Norway is not far behind with 0.79% of Norway’s GDP, and Germany’s growing support has reached 0.43% of Germany’s GDP, while France’s support is still only 0.02% of its GDP.

This situation needs to be changed. One way is the one proposed by the Estonian experts already quoted above: the countries of the transatlantic alliance should commit themselves to provide military support of at least 0.25% of their national GDP each year, which would generate around three times the current level of Western military support to Ukraine (EUR120 billion instead of the current EUR40 billion). This would be enough for Ukraine to win and for Russia to lose.

And finally: more on the prospects for Lithuanian military support to Ukraine.

As already mentioned, Lithuania’s military support to Ukraine in the two years since the start of the war amounts to 1.2% of Lithuania’s GDP (the second highest among NATO countries), i.e., about EUR760 million since the start of the war or EUR380 million (0.6% of GDP) in one year of the war. However, it is worth noting that Lithuania’s currently officially approved programme of assistance to Ukraine foresees that such assistance will amount to only EUR200 million over the next three years, i.e., about EUR67 million per year or about 0.1% of GDP. This level of planned Lithuanian assistance to Ukraine is clearly insufficient. Our strategic task, not only in terms of Ukraine’s security but also in terms of our own and Europe’s security, is not only to think about how to support Ukraine bilaterally, but also about how to set a good example of support for Ukraine to other Western countries, and about how to build, if not a coalition of the 1%, then at least a coalition of the 0.25%, so that we can jointly persuade the laggards.

The problem with our support to Ukraine is the same as for many other countries – we have given away all the military stocks we have accumulated over the two years of the war, which we do not really need at the moment, therefore our level of support has been exceptionally high. But today we have nothing left in our warehouses that we can give to Ukraine. And we do not have much of a defense industry of our own in which we could invest further and produce what Ukraine needs. Therefore, in seeking grounds for rational optimism about the West’s support for Ukraine and Ukraine’s victory in 2026, let us first of all deal rationally with the prospects for our support for Ukraine. Our declarations of solidarity, our calls for the West to increase its support for Ukraine and our apocalyptic lamentations that the West is probably betraying Ukraine will certainly not be enough. In war, victories are not achieved by declarations of solidarity from allies, but by the abundance of material support they provide.

PUTIN WILL NOT WIN

Rational analysis clearly demonstrates that Putin has no chance of winning this war. Because, as Putin himself complains, Russia is now at war in Ukraine with the whole Western world. Putin did not expect this when he launched the war against Ukraine. And the West’s total economic potential is more than 25 times greater than Russia’s entire economy. This will eventually become apparent in this confrontation between the West and Russia, which Putin himself “asked for”. It will be felt, among other things, on the war front in Ukraine. But it will take time for the West’s economic advantage to be transformed into an advantage in arms production. The West needs not only a “defense NATO” but also a “weapons production NATO”. And that depends on us.

Rational optimism is made by “doing”. I wish to engage in that “doing”…

2023.12.03

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.

Why?

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.

Why?

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.

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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.

More:

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/

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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…

2022.12.30

Andrius Kubilius. The Fate Of Russia Will Be Decided By Smart Russian Officers?

The 2022 year came  to an end. A year that will be marked in the history of the world with the title of “Year of War”.

During this year, both here in Lithuania and in the West, there have been many analyses of why Putin started this war, as well as many predictions of how this war will end and what its impact will be, both on Ukraine, on the West and on Russia itself.

Strangely enough, as the year draws to a close, I have to conclude that perhaps the most accurate analysis of the causes and consequences of this war was provided, a month before the war, at the end of January 2022, by the Russian retired general Leonid Ivashov, who, in his famous statement of  the Assembly of Russian Officers, warned in the strongest possible terms of the tragic consequences of the war, first and foremost, for Russia itself. The statement proved significant at the time in that it was radically opposed to the Kremlin’s planned war with Ukraine, considering that such a war could ultimately destroy Russian statehood. Alongside this, it also contained more extremely harsh and bitter criticism of Putin’s policies, both domestic and foreign, making it clear that such policies are simply detrimental to Russia. This is why, at the end of the statement, Putin’s resignation is also ultimately demanded.

It is worth pointing out that Ivashov is not some liberal who has always opposed Putin, but neither is he another Girkin, Rogozin or Prigozhin who criticise Putin for not crushing Ukraine and not restoring Novorossiya.

Colonel-General Ivashov is known as an orthodox Russian nationalist and is certainly no friend of the West. He was a high-ranking official in the Russian Ministry of Defence under Yeltsin (Chief of the Main Department of International Military Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Defence (1996-2001)), who notoriously brought Russian troops into Pristina during the Yugoslav Wars, against NATO opposition, and thus caused a great deal of confusion. He has been, and continues to be, an outspoken opponent of the enlargement of NATO to the East.

What prompted the almost 80-year-old general to make such a statement, and who was behind it, is difficult to say today. According to Wikipedia, Ivashov is a descendant of the famous Decembrist Ivashov; in 2001 he was dismissed early by Putin, along with many other officers; and he is currently a member of the famous ‘Izbor Club’, where, according to the Lithuanian analyst Marius Laurinavičius, all the most important Russian affairs are decided, including its geopolitical situation.

It is possible that all three reasons – nostalgia for the glory of the Decembrists, a personal dislike of Putin, who dismissed Ivashov from the high office, and, finally, an attitude established even before the war amongst the Izbor elite that Russia is structurally in a deep crisis – have led to the publication of such a statement, while at the same time warning of the tragic consequences of such a war on Russia itself.

It is worth noting that General Ivashov continues to comment on various YouTube channels on the progress of the war and remains consistent: Putin must leave office and the Kremlin’s nuclear threats against the West are complete nonsense, as any attempt by Russia to use a nuclear weapon would result in the liquidation of the Russian state. Although General Ivashov has reached a respectable age and likes to digress into reminiscences, the overall understanding of the situation and the existential threats that the war has posed to Russia remains very clear and convincing.

hat is why, finding some time in the inter-holiday period, I read carefully once again the statement issued by the Russian Officers’ Assembly on 26 January 2022, signed by General Leonid Ivashov, and I was quite surprised at how accurate the analysis of Putin’s desire for war and the predictions of the tragedy of the war for Russia itself were at the time.

I have therefore decided to simply go through the statement again in detail, to look at the highlights, to add a few comments of my own, and to try to draw some conclusions about further scenarios in Russia itself.

The statement starts with the assertion that the world is at the risk of the war (the statement was issued on 26th January, while the war started on 24th February). According to the authors of the statement, every major war is a tragedy and a grave crime. Russia is at the centre of this looming catastrophe, and this is the first time in history, because until then Russia had been fighting defensive wars against threatening enemies. However, at the moment there are no critical external threats to Russia that would justify war, because the greatest threats to Russia are its internal threats.

The statement goes on to say that Russia is on the verge of historical extinction, with all the key vital spheres of the state, including demography, in a state of steady degradation and with population extinction rates breaking world records. That degradation has taken on a systemic character, and in any complex system, the collapse of one of the elements can lead to the collapse of the whole system.

And this, according to the authors of the statement, is the biggest threat to the Russian Federation. But it is an internal threat, the main causes of which are the model of the state, the quality of government and the state of society. This is what is constituting the main threat to Russia’s fate: the unviability of the state model, the complete incapacity and unprofessionalism of the government system and the ruling bureaucracy, and the disorganisation and passivity of society. According to the authors of the statement, any  country  would not survive for long in such a state.

One cannot disagree with this critical analysis of Russia’s current state of affairs. There is a lot of legitimate concern about Russia’s internal state, which threatens its continued existence. The only surprising thing is that this is being proclaimed by Russian generals and military officers. But there have been many cases in the history of the world where military officers have taken it upon themselves to save their country from those internal threats that they themselves were able to see.

The authors of the statement went on to say that the tension created by the Kremlin on the issue of Ukraine (the statement was issued a month before the outbreak of the war, when the Kremlin was actively and publicly raising the issue of Ukraine’s alleged threat) is artificial and self-serving, because it is organized only for the benefit of some of the internal Russian political forces. According to the statement, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became an independent state, a member of the United Nations, with the right to individual and collective defence under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. Until beginning of 2022, the Kremlin authorities have claimed in all the Minsk talks that the Donbas belongs to Ukraine and have never mentioned in any international organisation (neither the UN nor the OSCE) that Ukraine is committing genocide against the population of the Donbas.

According to the authors of the statement, in order for Ukraine to remain Russia’s friendly neighbour, it was necessary for Russia to demonstrate the attractiveness of the Russian state model and system of government to Ukraine and other neighbours . However, Russia has not become so attractive, its development model and the mechanisms of international cooperation used in its foreign policy is alienating practically all its neighbours, and not only them.

 

The fact that Russia has ‘acquired’ Crimea and Sevastopol and that this has not been recognised by the international community (which means that the majority of the world’s states continue to recognise that this is Ukraine’s ‘property’), the authors of the statement go on to say, is a clear proof that Russia’s foreign policy is a failure and that its domestic policy is unattractive. Attempts to make  anyone to  ‘love’ the Russian Federation and its leaders by ultimatums or threats of force are utterly pointless and extremely dangerous.

The use of military force against Ukraine will, firstly, call into question the very existence of Russia as a state; secondly, it will turn Russians and Ukrainians into mortal enemies once and for all. And thirdly, there will be tens of thousands of casualties on both sides, and these will be young, healthy men in the first place. This will have an impact on demography  of both dying countries. On the battlefield, the Russian troops will not only have to deal with Ukrainian troops, many of whom will be Russian-speaking, but will also have to deal with the troops and military equipment of many NATO countries.

Again, it is worth noting that the prediction of the course of the war made in this text was, and remains, remarkably accurate, especially when we consider it after 10 months of a tragic war. No naive insight that Kiev would be captured in 3 days can be seen in this statement.

The authors of the statement go on to say that if Russia goes to war against Ukraine, it will be added to the list of states that threaten peace and international security, it will be subject to the most severe sanctions, it will become a pariah in the international community, and it will possibly lose its status as an independent state (! – a significant prophecy).

Again, one cannot help but wonder at the accuracy of such predictions about the consequences of war for Russia’s international status. It is worth noting that the authors of the statement consistently repeat themselves when talking about threats to the continued existence of the Russian state. These are both structural internal threats and the threat  of  criminal war planned by the Putin regime.

According to the authors of the statement, the President, the Government and the Ministry of Defence cannot be so blind as not to see these consequences, because they are not stupid not to realise them. Therefore, according to the authors of the statement, the question arises as to what are the real objectives of the tensions that are being raised and of the possible large-scale hostilities (at least 100 000 troops are being mobilised on both sides)?

The authors of the statement themselves answer the question they raise about the real reasons for the war by arguing that the country’s leadership, unable to lead the country out of a systemic crisis (which could lead to a popular uprising and a change of power) and supported by oligarchs and corrupt officials, as well as by the Kremlin-fed media and power structures, has decided to prioritize a political strategy that will ultimately destroy Russia’s statehood and decimate the local population. The war is the means by which this will be achieved, with the sole aim to preserve Kremlin’s  elite’s anti-national power for a while longer and to preserve the wealth they have seized from the people. As the authors of the statement say: we cannot offer any other explanation.

Again, a surprisingly accurate analysis of the real reasons for the war: I myself have been saying the same thing all along: that Putin did not start the war because he felt he was very strong, but just the opposite – because he felt that the regime was weakening, that it was unable to resolve any of the country’s systemic problems, that the people’s allegiance to the regime was falling dramatically (as in Belarus in 2020), and that it therefore had to go to war. Just to “preserve their anti-national power for a while longer and to preserve the wealth they have seized from the people “.

 

And at the end of the statement, the authors explain that they, the Russian military officers, are demanding from the President of the country that he abandon his criminal policy of provoking a war in which Russia will find itself alone against the combined forces of the West, and they are also demanding that Putin step down in order to make it possible to put Article 3 of the Constitution into practice (“The bearer of sovereignty and the only source of power in the Russian Federation shall be its multinational people.”)

******

This was the statement issued almost a year ago by the Assembly of Russian Officers, the head of which is a descendant of Decembrist Ivashov. It is worth remembering that the Decembrists were Russian officers of the early 19th century who, in 1825, wanted the same kind of democratic changes in Russia as the Great French Revolution brought to Europe at that time.

It is worth summarising the main points of the statement in question:

  • Neither Ukraine nor the West poses a security threat to Russia; Russia’s threats of war against Ukraine are therefore criminal;
  • Russia’s greatest threat to its existence comes from its systemic internal crisis, especially its demographic crisis;
  • The root cause of the internal crisis is a flawed state model, mismanagement by the Government and a passive society. In other words, the authoritarian model of the state is becoming the root cause of Russia’s crisis and a fundamental threat to its further existence;
  • Russia has not developed either a model of governance that is attractive to others or a successful foreign policy. Attempts to ‘force’ others to ‘love’ Russia or its leaders are doomed to failure and are disastrous for Russia itself;
  • The war will be disastrous for Russia itself in particular, because the Russians will forever be mortal enemies of the Ukrainians, thousands of young men will perish, and Russia in Ukraine will have to fight not only the Ukrainians (including the Russian-speaking ones), but also the equipment and troops of the NATO countries;
  • Russia faces the threat of total international isolation, crippling sanctions and even the loss of its status as an independent state;
  • The war could completely destroy the Russian state and its nation; the only answer to why the Kremlin is initiating such a disastrous war is that the government has the sole aim of preserving its anti-national power for a while longer and of preserving the wealth that it has seized from the people;
  • That is why not only a abandoning of  the preparations of war is demanded, but also Putin’s immediate resignation, because that is the only way to avoid Russia’s ruin.

Now, almost a year after the start of the war, such insights and predictions are truly astonishing, not only in their accuracy, but also in their civil courage. And, above all, behind all the words there is a deep concern for the fate of Russia, not the imperial ‘hurrah-patriotism’ of Girkin or Prigozhin, but the concern of a genuine Russian patriot for the ‘Russian tragedy’. The same as in the patriotic declarations of the Decembrists in 1825.

One can only speculate why General Ivashov is still allowed to express his critical views in public when others are being mercilessly imprisoned for their far lesser criticisms of Putin and the war. Perhaps the Kremlin realises that putting the general in prison will only exacerbate his criticism, and that a ‘general’ is traditionally more respected in Russian society than some ‘liberal oppositioner’.

In the end, it is not very important what role the same General Ivashov or the Russian Officers’ Assembly under his leadership currently play in Russian society. Such a statement, published almost a year ago, only demonstrates the fact that there is more to critical thinking in Russia than just what can be found in the liberal opposition to Putin. And most importantly, the brightest sprouts of that critical systemic thinking can be seen among the military and retired officers.

Can any far-reaching conclusions be drawn from this?

Certainly not!

However, when many people nowadays consider how change will come about in Russia after the defeat of the war, one hears all sorts of scenarios, sometimes even fantastical. For example, that all the peoples once conquered by Russia will rise up: the Chukchi, the Chuvash, the Mordovians, the Yakuts, etc., the publicised plans to form armed Russian resistance groups in Ukraine and in Russia itself, which will in due course somehow take over Moscow and overthrow Putin, seem equally unconvincing; it is also unlikely that a mass political movement for change in Russia can emerge in Russia and that such a movement will succeed in bringing about change in Russia through democratic means.

Of course, all these scenarios are theoretically possible, and a mixture of them is also possible. However, one should not forget the fairly widespread historical experience of the military officers (not necessarily of the highest rank) taking the initiative to save their countries from ruin as they see it, using the organised force of at least part of the army, and often almost bloodlessly taking over the power of their country. There have been many cases of military officers taking power in this way and becoming bloody dictators, but there have also been many cases in history of “smart military officers” taking power in this way and managing to stabilise a country, returning it to a normal path of development and creating the right conditions for the evolution of democracy in that country. I do not wish to expand on this topic, but for those who would like to read more academic research on the subject, I can only recommend once again S. Huntington’s excellent “The Third Wave: Democratisation in the Late Twentieth Century”.

I am not an  expert on the Russian army or the prevailing views among its officers. Nor do I pretend to be. However, history shows that, quite often, officers feel a special sense of responsibility for the future of the country they are sworn to serve.

Whether there are any such officers in the Russian army, I do not presume to judge. But it is safe to say that there are some among the Russian reserve officers. That is why such a systematic statement of their Assembly was being born.

I cannot answer, whether the intelligent officers of Russia will take the initiative to save Russia from ruin.

However, I cannot deny that there are intelligent people in Russia either. This means that the time will come when the Russians start looking for ways to save Russia from the threats posed by the Putin regime. Otherwise, Russia is heading for certain doom. And that is not attractive to many Russians.

2022.12.27

Andrius Kubilius. What Does the West Want?

The fundamental question of the future course of this war is, paradoxically, not about Ukraine but rather about Russia. It is about the West’s attitude towards post-war Russia. Because Western fears, linked to the future of post-war Russia, determine and control the decisions that the West takes today in relation to support for Ukraine.

The support of the West to Ukraine is obvious. It is also obvious that Ukraine has won several strategic victories thanks to that support. But the future course of the war can either be a sequential and more rapid continuation of Ukraine’s victories, or a ‘frozen trench war’, frustrating for Ukraine, perhaps frustrating for Russia too, but comfortable for the West, because it does not require any clear strategic answers to the question: what does the West want and what does it seek?

Theoretically, the answer is that the West seemingly wants Ukraine to win and that it is up to Ukraine to decide what result it wants, but it remains unclear whether the West really wants Russia to lose in a crushing way.

The words about the outcome of the war being for Ukraine to decide sound like the position of a bystander; such words do not reflect any strategic interest of the West: do they want a crushing victory for Ukraine, or just the preservation of the status quo?

I believe that at this stage of the war, the crucial question is whether the West has a strategy for the outcome it wants in Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression. And this question is not so much about the scale of the Ukrainian military victory, but rather about the impact of that victory on Russia’s future after a lost war. Does the West want Russia to undergo a fundamental transformation into a normal state after the war, or does the West not believe in such a transformation and fear that Russia’s future after the war may be even worse than its present with Putin?

Such fears are the root cause of the West’s current indecision in supporting Ukraine.

Ukraine can achieve a resounding victory if the West gives Ukraine as many weapons as it needs to win, and not just as it is currently receiving (see General Zaluzhny’s interview in the Economist). Ten months of war have clearly demonstrated that Russia’s military power is no match for Western military technology combined with the courage and motivation of Ukrainian soldiers. This is the equation for Ukraine’s victory, in which the most important variable in determining when Ukraine will be able to achieve the victory is the level of Western military support.

Why doesn’t the West increase the quantity and quality of arms supplies? There are only three possible reasons: a) they themselves have no more weapons in their warehouses and are unable to produce more; b) they are afraid of the “escalation” when a strong and significantly increased Western support for Ukraine with Leopard tanks or ATACMS long-range missiles triggers an insane nuclear response from Putin; c) the West itself has no strategy for victory against Russia and does not know whether it really wants a total Ukrainian victory.

I will not go into the technical problems of whether the West can produce more weapons. They certainly can if they want to. The question is whether they really want to and how much they want to.

The talk about fears of escalation is also becoming less and less credible. Such talks were understandable in March and April, when the West was only supplying Ukraine with light weapons such as the Stinger or Javelin. However, when the Americans started supplying medium-range HIMARS, which have made a very significant contribution to the recent Ukrainian victories, this did not provoke any super-mad Russian reaction, apart from the so-called ‘mobilisation’ and the shelling of civilian energy installations. Therefore, the explanation that the supply of Leopard tanks, Abrams tanks or ATACMS to Ukraine will be the cause of some new madness of the Kremlin is merely an attempt to escape from the main question – what is the West’s strategy in this war and what is the West’s strategic objective in this war.

There is still no answer to this question, and therefore there is no supply of Abrams or ATACMSs.

The fundamental problem is that the West does not have a strategy for what kind of impact on Russia’s future the West expects and wants from the outcome of the war. The West knows what scenario it fears – the total collapse of Russia (after the lost war and after Putin), with bloody internal Russian chaos, nuclear and chemical weapons out of control. The West is not convinced that Russia will be able to transform itself (with the help of the West) into a more normal, European-type state after the defeat in the war (in the same way that Nazi Germany transformed itself into the present Germany). Or the West thinks that such a transformation will only take place if Russia not only loses the war, but is also exhausted by a long and Russia-destroying war before that.

This does not mean that someone in the West wants very much to keep Putin after this war; this just means that they are not yet prepared to loudly request ‘unconditional surrender’, just as the Allies said to Hitler at the beginning of the war. That is why the West is still repeating that the terms of peace will be determined by Ukraine (which is better than nothing), but it is not telling itself what it, as the West, wants.

When the West still does not know what kind of future  of  Russia it wants and seeks as the outcome of this war, the West’s support for Ukraine remains at a level that allows Ukraine not to lose, but also allows Russia to avoid being totally crushed. So far.

Such Western indecision is inexcusable. Not least because it costs tens and hundreds of Ukrainian lives every day. But also because the West does not dare to take a decisive initiative and leadership on the question of Russia’s future.

It is clear that this is the most important issue in this war. Not only how to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty in this war, but also how to destroy the threat factor of ‘imperial Russia’ forever – these are the fundamental questions of this war. This war  opens up the unique possibility of solving this second fundamental issue, which is the elimination of the threat of ‘imperial Russia’. This requires, first of all, a crushing military victory for Ukraine. However, this requires a much greater Western military support for Ukraine. And that starts with the West believing that it has a strategy to help a war-torn Russia transform itself into a normal, European-style state.

Paradoxically, such a crushing of the current ‘Putin’s Russia’ in the war it launched against Ukraine would be primarily to Russia’s own benefit, because this is the only way in which Russia can turn towards a radical transformation after the defeat in the war. In this way, Russia could return to the civilised world, modernise itself and learn to build a normal life in Russia itself through a gradual evolution, rather than punishing itself with the tragedies of imperial nostalgia, civilisational backwardness and internal revolutions or colonial wars.

And this would be good for Ukraine too, because it is the only way to avoid having an ‘imperial Russia’ which, after a few years of recovering from a lost war, is again planning how to return to Ukraine with a new aggression.

And this would be good for the European Union and for the West as a whole, because it is the only way to finally resolve the main European security problem on the European continent, i.e., the problem of ‘imperial aggressive Russia’. Only a democratic Russia will no longer be a threat to the European security, because democracies do not make wars with each other. Today, the choice for the West is an existential one: either the West invests in the opportunity that is opening up to finally resolve this ‘Russian threat’, or future generations in Europe will have to continue to live under such a  threat.

What is needed for the West to finally find the courage and the intellectual strength to have the kind of ‘Russia strategy’ that is needed today and that would be based not on the fear of Putin’s madness, not based on the fear of an escalation of war, not based on the fear of the chaos in Russia that has collapsed after a lost war, but focused on supporting the transformation of Russia that has been defeated? And a strategy implementation of which would begin with the kind of military support that would guarantee Ukraine’s immediate and crushing victory?

I see only one answer to this question: first of all, the problem of the West’s strategic leadership deficit must be resolved. The West has changed fundamentally since the beginning of the war: the false illusions about Putin have disappeared; the West has been able to mobilise so much support for Ukraine that Ukraine has achieved several strategic military victories: in the Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson regions; Ukraine has been granted EU candidate status; and the European Union has been very successful in ridding itself of its energy dependence. However, all this was achieved only in response to Russia’s aggressive actions and the shock they caused. One could welcome that the possibility for this response had emerged; but there is still no sign that the West has dared to answer the fundamental strategic question of whether the West will seek a transformation of Russia that starts with a crushing military victory in Ukraine, and finally will have a strategy of their own, and will pursue it, rather than merely reacting to Russia’s actions.

Where can such a leadership come from? I doubt that a collective European Union (which should be congratulated for what it has managed to do so far, and not expected to do anything qualitatively and strategically new) could take on this role. As Kadri Liik of the ECFR writes of the European Union since the war: “No single EU member state is guiding Russia policy; a ‘leaderless unity’ has emerged”.

Only the United States can realistically take such leadership in the West. And Ukraine can. Both the US and Ukraine need to agree on larger issues, not only on  HIMARS or ATACMS. They also need to agree on the transformation of Russia (after Russia has been crushed) and a strategy on how such a transformation can be implemented. Because only when Washington believes in the reality of such a strategy, will the ATACMS and much more HIMARS become available for such a victory.

What role could the European Union and Lithuania play in the matter of the Russian strategy, which is the most important contemporary challenge to the West? The European Union must first address the paradox of its “strategic autonomy” – if the European Union wants to participate in the post-war Russian fate, it must invest in the war as much as the Americans (in weapons) or the Ukrainians (in lives) do. The fact that the EU as a whole has so far supplied 5 times fewer weapons to Ukraine than the US only shows that the EU is deliberately avoiding involvement in the crucial issue of the future of post-war Russia. Or it is afraid to engage on it, because it is still afraid of upsetting Putin. That is why Mr Macron talks again and again about some kind of ‘security guarantees’ for Russia. And like a small child who has had his mouth burnt at least a few times by hot soup, he is still blowing into a plate of soup that has already cooled down. Even though it is clear that the greatest threat to Russia’s future is posed by the current Russia itself and its authoritarian Putin regime. If one wants to provide ‘security guarantees’ for the Russia of the future, there is only one way to do it: to see to the transformation of post-war Russia into a democracy. That requires stopping being afraid, including of the current Putin and of what will happen to Russia when Putin loses this war crushingly. Europe must finally free itself from it’s  ‘autonomy of fear’.

It would be important for Lithuania to realise that we can help Ukraine not only with what we have been supplying them bilaterally: first, weapons or generators; second, not only with new sanctions packages against Russia, which are biting less and less, but also by mobilising global public support for the leadership of the United States in resolutely tackling the transformation of post-war Russia, and investing in Ukraine’s resounding and immediate victory now. We need to talk in Washington not only about how to increase the number of American rotational forces in Lithuania, but also about what strategy to pursue with regard to post-war Russia, because the answer to this question is essential in order for Ukraine to be able to achieve victory in the near future.

Is the West and the United States capable of such a strategic leadership?

Let us remember the leadership of the West and the United States in the 1980s in bringing about the collapse of the Evil Empire: it started with John Paul II becoming the Pope, followed by the dramatic fall in oil prices, then Reagan’s threat that the US was beginning to invest in Star Wars technology, then Stinger missiles for the Afghan mujahideen, all of this leading to Gorbachev being forced to declare ‘perestroika’. All this was not an accidental action by the West, it rather was the consistent implementation of a multi-step Western strategy to defeat the Evil Empire. The same is needed now.

It is not for nothing that Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington, which had just taken place, has been compared by many to Churchill’s famous visit to the United States in 1941. The example of Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s leadership is much needed in the West today.

Putin in the Kremlin must finally hear a clear strategic message from the West – ‘unconditional surrender’. Only Mr Biden and Mr Zelenskyy can tell him that. Let us hope that the Europeans will not oppose such a leadership of the US and Ukraine.

2022.12.20

Holodomor: Parliament recognises Soviet starvation of Ukrainians as genocide

MEPs deplore that 90 years after the Holodomor, Russia is again committing horrific crimes in Ukraine.

 In a resolution adopted on Thursday, the European Parliament recognises the famine inflicted by the Soviet regime on Ukraine in 1932-1933 – known as the Holodomor – as genocide. MEPs strongly condemn these acts, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Ukrainians, and call on all countries and organisations that have not yet done so to follow suit and recognise it as genocide.

The past links to the present

Parliament states that the whitewashing and glorification of the totalitarian Soviet regime and the revival of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s cult has led to Russia being today a state sponsor of terrorism. MEPs also condemn the horrific Russian crimes being carried out once again against the Ukrainian people, such as the targeted destruction of Ukraine’s civilian energy infrastructure during winter.

Drawing links to Soviet times, the resolution accuses the current Russian regime of violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, seeking to liquidate Ukraine as a nation state and destroying the identity and culture of its people. It also condemns the fact that the ongoing war has created a global food crisis, with Russia destroying and looting Ukraine’s grain stores and continuing to make it difficult to ensure Ukrainian grain exports to the most deprived countries in the world.

In addition, MEPs want the EU and third countries to raise awareness about the Holodomor events and other crimes committed by the Soviet totalitarian regime. While condemning the current Russian regime for manipulating historical memory for the purpose of its own survival, Parliament calls on the Russian Federation, as the primary successor of the Soviet Union, to apologise for those crimes.

The resolution will be available in full here. It was adopted by 507 votes in favour, 12 against with 17 abstentions.

2021.12.20

Appeal regarding 80th Anniversary of 1941 Soviet mass deportations, the need to evaluate the Gulag and the crimes of the communist regimes in Europe

MEPs support R. Juknevičienė’s initiative to call for recognition of the Soviet mass repressions as a crime against humanity

More than 80 Members of European Parliament from various political groups have signed an appeal, initiated by MEP Rasa Juknevičienė, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the 80th anniversary of the Soviet deportations from the occupied Central and Eastern European countries. Among the signatories to the appeal are EP vice-president Roberta Metsola, the chair of the EPP group Manfred Weber and other members of European Parliament.

MEP R. Juknevičienė notes that this comprehensive document proposes to evaluate the historical events that took place in the former Soviet Union, as the international community has never morally and legally evaluated and condemned the mass deportations and the atrocities of Gulag system of the Soviets. 

One of the reasons behind Russia’s aggression is that it sees the past crimes of its leaders as glorious and glorifies them. As long as Russia does not evaluate its own history, it will continue to be so aggressive and will try to redraw the map of Europe, the MEP said.

The document, which reviews the Soviet mass repression on the territory of the former USSR, notes that the Soviet deportations, the entire Gulag system and the crimes of the communist regime in Europe must be condemned and remembered because they reflect the importance of the EU’s fundamental values and the position taken by the European Parliament in its resolutions that such crimes must not be allowed to happen again and must not be repeated.

The document also stresses that historical revisionism, revival of the Stalin cult and glorification of the Soviet regime are promoted by the Russian authorities; whereas historical disinformation is actively spread by the Russian government in the EU and its neighbourhood as well as within Russia to polarize the societies and to justify Russia’s aggression and territorial ambitions towards formerly Soviet-occupied territories.

This appeal recognises June 1941 deportations and other mass deportations ordered, planned and carried out by the Soviet regime, as well as the entire Gulag system, as crimes against humanity. The document establishes that the history of Soviet deportations and the victims of the Gulag is an integral part of the common European history. It expresses respect and sympathy for the victims and survivors of the Soviet Gulags and deportations, their families and relatives, as well as for the victims of communist regimes throughout Europe. 

The number of Gulag prisoners is estimated at between 15 and 18 million, of whom at least 1.5 million have perished. 

The document also notes that the Russian authorities have demanded the closure of the Memorial Centre for Human Rights and the International Memorial, which were founded 30 years ago by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov, and which carried out historical research into mass deportations, the Gulags and other crimes of the Soviet regime, as well as human rights advocacy and ongoing support for Russian political prisoners. 

The appeal also calls for 27 May to be designated as the European Day of the Victims of the Gulag, as it is the date of the largest prisoner uprising in the Gorlag camp in Norilsk in 1953. 

The document stresses that the Russian Federation refuses to disclose the burial sites of victims of mass Soviet repressions and continues to deny access to the Soviet-era archives. 

It also condemns totalitarianism in all its forms and its crimes, and pays tribute to the victims of Nazi tyranny, in particular the victims of the Holocaust. 

EU Member States are also called to include the history and analysis of the totalitarian regimes of Nazism and Communism in school curricula, and recommends the inclusion of the history of Soviet deportations and the Gulags. 

Support is expressed for remembrance initiatives such as the memorial to the victims of totalitarian regimes proposed by the European Platform for Memory and Conscience in Brussels.

It also proposes the creation of a European Museum of the Victims of Communism, and a stronger reflection of the history of mass deportations and the Gulags in a permanent exhibition at the European History House. 

This document has been sent to the Presidents of the European Parliament, European Commission, European Council, the Slovenian Presidency of the EU, and the Permanent Representations of the EU Member States in Brussels.

The full text if the document:

MEP Resolution on Soviet Deportations

 

 

2021.12.08

An Address to the Russian people on the occasion of 30 years anniversary of the end of Soviet Union and of Russian independence

Members of European Parliament

Bernard Guetta,

Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz,

Andrius Kubilius

 

Dear European neighbours,

Dear citizens of the Russian Federation,

Dear Friends,

Let us dream, yes, let us dream together.

Thirty years after the break-up of the Soviet Union redrew the map of Europe, 32 years after the Central European revolutions, in those times also when your freedoms do not cease to decline, let us dream of the day when your Federation and our Union, will find the paths of an understanding and a cooperation which are so necessary for Europe and the world.

Let us dream of the day when there will no longer be any room for mistrust and fear between us, when no longer will there be any wall to replace that of the Cold War, when none of the countries that have emerged from the Soviet orbit will have to fear imperial nostalgia for Russia, when no Russian will be able to believe that the appeal of the European Union would threaten your country by bringing the Atlantic Alliance closer to your borders.

Let us dream of the day when the end of the East-West confrontation will no longer be seen by anyone as a victory or a defeat but as the possibility of new times, the beginning of a new era of democracy and prosperity on the whole continent, as promising for all of us as the first steps of the Union had been for us.

Let us dream of the day when we will be able to combine our intellectual, natural and scientific capital to affirm Europe, its culture and its civilisation, to contribute to the development and to the democracy of all our continent, and thereby of the other shores of the Mediterranean as well, in order to one day constitute this ensemble: Europe, Africa and the Middle East, which Rome had drawn up and whose outline has never been erased by any of the vicissitudes of history.

Yes, let us dream of the moment when bridges will span the forgotten walls, let us dream of it because there is nothing impossible about it.

From St. Petersburg to Lisbon, from Paris and Moscow to Vilnius, Berlin or Warsaw, our middle classes and young people share the same lifestyles, the same tastes and the same thirst for freedom. All generations and all walks of life are not looking to Asia, but to that part of our common continent which, by uniting it, the European Union has enriched so much.

Europeans we are, all of us, for better or for worse, from the conversion of Vladimir to to the Gulag camps and mass terror so scrupulously documented by Memorial, from the abomination of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to the first defeat inflicted to Nazism in the heroic battle of Stalingrad, Russia has always been one of the most decisive European powers.

Europeans we are from Brest to Vladivostok because Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Chekhov and Bulgakov, belong to our common heritage, to the pantheon of world literature where they sit alongside Shakespeare, Hugo, Dante, Kafka and Cervantes.

Europeans we are all, because you and we draw our common culture from Greek philosophy, Roman law, the Old and New Testaments, the Enlightenment and the democracy of Athens and Rome, reinvented by the British and French revolutions.

European, totally European is your history, because the most enlightened of your tsars turned to France, Germany and Italy when they wanted to open Russia to the world, because 1905, February 17 and the liberation that was the perestroika drew on the ideals of 1789 and 1848, and because your Empire was defeated in the same century, the 20th century, as the Ottoman, Austrian, French, British, Dutch  and Portuguese empires were.

Like all the other former European imperial powers, you were then divided between those who applauded the independence regained by so many different peoples and those who saw it as a historical setback that they were too hurt to concede.

This heartbreak, too, we shared. In your country as well as in ours, it has weighed on our political chessboards and our political lives. It continues to do so for you, because in Russia this turmoil is only thirty years old, but there are fewer and fewer among you, and very few under forty years of age to think that Ukraine or Georgia should be reconquered.

You too have come to see, as we have, that in trying to deprive others of freedom, you end up depriving yourself of it, and that a community of cultures, a common heritage and the permanence of economic exchange based on historical and no longer constrained complementarities are infinitely preferable to the injustice and fragility of empires.

The evidence is there.

India and Great Britain are not in conflict any more, nor are Austria and Hungary. As France is no more in conflict with the Maghreb or Indochina, and Turkey was better inspired by the ambition of an industrial Commonwealth than by its military incursions into waters and coasts that it will no longer be able to dominate.

The state of our present relations saddens us, of course. The tensions between us are numerous and deep, but one day soon, very soon, your new generations will find the way of harmony with your now independent former possessions. That day will come, we are certain of it. And it is with you, with this new self-confident and democratic Russia – serene and free because it is at peace with its closest neighbours – that we will build a continent of trade, freedoms and stability.

We say this to you because we can feel freedom trembling in your hearts, because you will resume your interrupted march towards democracy, because that day will see the birth of a new Europe, free, strong and exemplary, a Europe which we will be proud to leave to our children, because it is our common aspiration and our common destiny to which, together, we will give substance for the good of us all.

It is this message of friendship, certainty and common ambition that we address to you today, in the hope that it will contribute to our much-needed rapprochement, and precipitate it.

Long live Europe! Long live peace! Long live liberty!

2021.12.01

MEP Andrius Kubilius. Six point joint agenda for democratic Belarus

Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces, during her address at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 24 November 2021 said that the Belarusian democratic movement cannot afford to wait for Europe much longer and that European expression of solidarity and concern must now be transformed into concrete action. She emphasised that Europe needs to become more proactive when facing autocracy. With this statement, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has conveyed a wake-up call to the political community of the EU to have a bold and effective agenda of democratic change in Belarus.

The suggestions on the six point joint agenda, as presented below, were put on paper after the inspiring and intensive consultations in Strasbourg we held with Sviatlana, her team and MEP friends of democratic Belarus in the European Parliament. I believe these actions are the straight way forward for the EU together with democratic forces of Belarus to make the transformation to democracy possible.

  1. Using international tribunals to seek justice for the people of Belarus

The EU must take real action to fight the impunity in Belarus enjoyed by Lukashenko and his regime; the EU institutions should lead the preparations together with the EU Member States to bring A. Lukashenko and collaborators of his illegal regime to the International Court of Justice in the Hague for crimes against Belarusian people, notably for offenses under the Convention against Torture; the EU institutions should also remind the Belarusian authorities that organising and sponsoring of illegal migrant smuggling into the EU territory is an international crime, and for this crime Mr Lukashenko and those involved must face criminal liability and be prosecuted under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which includes a legal opportunity to bring the Belarusian authorities to the International Court of Justice in the Hague for the breach of this Convention; the EU should start the proceedings to bring Lukashenko to international justice for the hijacking of the Ryanair plane in violations of the Chicago Convention, the Montreal Convention and other international agreements; the EU should coordinate with the Member States in their efforts to implement national universal jurisdiction instruments for bringing Belarusian perpetrators to justice.

  1. Seizing the assets of Mr Lukashenko and his family

The EU together with international partners should take the lead in seizing the assets, including the ones hidden in Arab countries, held abroad by Mr Lukashenko and his family. As a first step in this direction, the EU should make a comprehensive report on the assets held by Mr Lukashenko and his entourage, as well as on the ones helping to reallocate these assets abroad. Everyone assisting in moving these assets abroad shall be subject to targeted sanctions from the EU.

  1. Increasing sanctions to the ones who support Lukashenka and his regime: a message to the Kremlin

The EU should introduce targeted sanctions against the Kremlin regime and its oligarchs who support criminal activities of Mr Lukashenko; such sanctions should be introduced for at least: a) the Kremlin’s support to Lukashenko crimes in persecuting domestic opposition and civil society and b) the Kremlin’s support to Lukashenko crimes in initiating hybrid war on the external borders of the EU. The EU should also penalise Russian assets used directly and indirectly to interfere in democratic processes of Belarus. The EU institutions should make regular reports on Russia’s financial interference in Belarus, including in strategic sectors, and include information about assets of Mr Lukashenka and his entourage.

The EU should be sending a clear message to the Kremlin that any agreements with Lukashenko regime, such as related to the so-called “Union State” and further progressive destruction of Belarusian state sovereignty, are null and void, as an illegitimate Lukashenko regime has no right to take any decisions, especially those related to the sovereignty of the Belarusian people; the Kremlin’s attempts to implement annexation of Belarus should be met from the EU side with a clear threat to introduce the same sanctions against the Kremlin as in the case of illegal annexation of Crimea.

  1. Seeking reconciliation for those in bureaucracy of the regime who were not involved in the crimes committed by the regime and are willing to cooperate in building a future for democratic Belarus

The EU must help democratic Belarus effectively assess and separate from the outset those Belarusian government officials who are tainted by the crimes of the Lukashenko regime and those who have escaped them; this can be done under the national truth and reconciliation initiative of democratic Belarus, which can use the reconciliation experiences of many former dictatorships, such as Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa[[1]]; those government officials, who will prove through the truth and reconciliation programmes that they were not part of the Lukashenko regime crimes, should be invited to continue their work in democratic Belarus; those who have fled Belarus from the regime’s persecution or who have suffered the regime’s torture in prison, must take the responsibility from the outset for managing the reconciliation process in democratic Belarus.

  1. Immediate launching of the EU Marshall plan to embrace democratic changes in Belarus

The Commission has approved a large-scale 3.5 billion “Marshall Plan” of financial and investment support for democratic Belarus, which has to be provided immediately after the democratic transition of power. Unfortunately, the public potential of this plan is not yet exploited to a full extent: there are no substantive and detailed discussions led by the EU institutions with the leaders of Belarusian democratic revolution regarding the implementation modalities of such a plan. The ordinary Belarusians know very little about the EU’s plans to help democratic Belarus after its transition.

It is therefore imperative that the representatives of the EU, together with Belarusian experts on democratic change, have to start immediately intensive public consultations on the modalities for the implementation of the Marshall Plan. The EU institutions have to engage with democratic Belarus on this matter right now. The EU has to engage in structured political dialogue on the reform and investment support aspects of the plan for Belarus and provide administrative and advocacy capacity building assistance to the democratic forces of Belarus involved in the preparations of the plan.

This will not only help Belarusians better understand the opportunities opened up by the Marshall Plan, but will also help them get better organised and used to the idea that after the democratic transition the European direction is a worthwhile choice for them. Such discussions could have a major impact on the mood of the Belarusian people today, on the democratic transition itself, and on the geopolitical direction they will be inclined to take after the democratic transition itself.

At the initial stage after democracy Belarus will be established, the Commission’s approved 3.5 billion plan will be a good start. However, once the development finance architecture will be in place, there will be a need to convene a donor conference for democratic Belarus, which could launch an active phase of investment support to the modernisation of Belarus. The actual needs for modernisation of Belarus could stand at around 10 to 15 billion euros for the next 5 years, to which we should also add the costs of external debt.

The implementation of the EU plan will require preparatory work on both sides, the EU and democratic forces of Belarus, and that needs to be started now. The EU has to develop a consistent architecture and a mechanism to pursue the political dialogue with Belarusian democrats and seek an agreement on a joint vision both of investment support plan and of future relationship in between the democratic Belarus and the EU. This mechanism can work as an interim international agreement between the EU and the leaders who are fighting for democratic changes in Belarus.

  1. Building EU future relations with Democratic Belarus: agreeing joint policy guidelines within the Eastern Partnership initiative now and after the democratic changes

The EU needs to upgrade its policy for democratic change in Belarus and to engage more actively with democratic forces of Belarus by giving them a seat at the Eastern Partnership Summit. The EU can do even more and establish accredited democratic Belarus representation in the EU and its Member States. The upgrading of EU relations is a necessary step for the EU to endorse the democratic changes in Belarus. The EU needs to establish as soon as possible a clear perspective regarding its future relations with the democratic Belarus. This should be a much closer cooperation with the EU, which could take a form of a new generation Association Agreements (Europe Agreements) between the EU and democratic Belarus.

The EU can further contribute to the mobilisation of democracy in Belarus by organising the annual EU summits with democratic forces of Belarus followed by the adoption the joint policy guidelines. For example, at the first summit, the EU together with delegation representing the democratic forces of Belarus could agree on the following policy guidelines: (1) future of EU relations with democratic Belarus after the fall of the regime, (2) interim architecture of the EU’s political dialogue with the representatives of democratic Belarus, (3) implementation architecture for the comprehensive EU multi-billion plan, interim and after the fall of the regime, (4) establishment of the EU lead group to work on international justice for the people of Belarus (the trial process of Mr Lukashenko).

 

[1] http://www.justice.gov.za/trc/

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