2024.01.15

Andrius Kubilius. Why Is Ukraine’s European Union Membership Necessary For The European Union Itself?

The decision of the European Council last December to open accession negotiations for Ukraine’ and Moldova’ European Union membership is of particular historical significance. These are not just empty words about the significance of this decision, because Ukraine’s accession to the European Union fundamentally changes the long-term development perspective of the whole European continent. Today, it is particularly important for the European Union itself, its Member States and its citizens to understand that Ukraine becoming a member of the European Union is not some kind of the EU charity for Ukraine, which is struggling hard for its freedom. This is a goal that is important not only for Ukraine, striving for it since the Revolution of Dignity in Maidan in 2013, but also for the European Union itself.

Why is it important for the European Union to understand this? Because the enlargement process of the European Union depends largely on the political will of the European Union itself – in the late 1990s, the EU negotiations with the Central European and Baltic countries lasted 3-4 years and were fruitful, while the integration process of the Western Balkans, which began almost 20 years ago, is not moving at all, because the EU has declared that it is “tired of enlargement” and no longer has a “hunger for enlargement”.

Ukraine’s integration process can and must bring back to the European Union the “hunger for enlargement” and the understanding that such an enlargement is also necessary for the European Union itself, not only for Ukraine. Ukraine’s “hunger” for the EU membership is the major factor, an icebreaker, which forces the EU to change its own attitude to the whole process of enlargement: not only towards to the region of the Eastern Partnership, but also towards the region of Western Balkans. The strategic importance of such an enlargement for the European Union should be made clear by Russia’s war against Ukraine, which started two years ago. Why? Because lasting peace on the European continent can only be achieved if the EU’s efforts fulfill two essential conditions: a) that the West has the political will to provide sufficient military support to Ukraine, thus creating the conditions for Ukraine to achieve a victory over Russia; and b) that the European Union has the political will to do all it can to ensure that Ukraine and other countries from Eastern Partnership and Western Balkan regions become members of the EU by 2030.

Why is this important?

There are three main reasons why the European Union should see Ukraine’s membership by 2030 as its key strategic objective:

1. EU membership is the only way to build Ukraine’s economic success, which is necessary not only for Ukraine but also for the EU itself.

The history of the successful economic development over the last two decades of the Central European and Baltic countries as EU members is a clear evidence that in the post-Soviet space, economic success can only be created if a country has the potential to become an EU member state and, at the same time, part of the EU’s rich Common Market. My country, Lithuania, started negotiations for EU membership in 1999. Negotiations lasted only for 3 years until 2002 and Lithuania became the EU member in 2004. In 1999, Lithuania’s GDP per capita in PPP terms was only 36% of the EU average. After Lithuania became the EU member, its economic development has been so rapid that nowadays the same indicator of Lithuania’s economic development already reaches 90% of the EU average, and Lithuania has not only overtaken many Central European countries, but is also starting to overtake the old EU members in Western Europe.

Ukraine’s economic development is now  at the same level Lithuania had reached in 1999: Ukraine’s GDP/capita in PPP terms is now only 36% of the EU average. For various geopolitical reasons, largely beyond Ukraine’s control, the country has not been able to join the European Union at a time when the Central European and Baltic States have successfully followed this path. This has led to the current enormous economic gap between Ukraine and Central Europe. However, it is necessary to remember that Ukraine in the 1990s was equal in economic development to its neighboring Poland, because Ukraine had, and still has, a strongly developed industrial base, an abundant highly skilled workforce and is extremely rich in natural resources. All this is a clear evidence that if Ukraine were to become a member of the EU, and thus join the EU’s Single Market, it would very quickly replicate the path of Lithuania’s (and other Central European countries’) successful economic development. This means that over the next 20 years upon becoming an EU member, Ukraine would practically catch up with the EU’s average level of economic development. This is what Ukrainians truly deserve. It also means that EU businesses investing in the economy of Ukraine, as an EU member state, would have made huge profits and increased the value of their investments several times over 20 years. An economically wealthy Ukraine would also increase the EU’s own economic power. And of course, an economically successful Ukraine, as a member of the EU, would extend European success and stability far to the East. This would also be a clear strategic benefit for the EU.

2. Ukraine’s EU membership – eliminating security grey areas on the European continent

Since 24 February 2022, the entire European continent, including the European Union, has been living in the context of a huge geopolitical crisis: Russia’s war against Ukraine. One of the reasons why Putin decided to wage the war against Ukraine was that the West had for decades left Ukraine in a “security grey area” with no clear prospects of becoming a member of the EU or NATO. This created a temptation for Putin to believe in the fallacy that the West would not defend Ukraine, leaving it in Russia’s “zone of interests”.

Today it is clear that peace and security on the European continent can only be realized when Russia ceases to be a source of neo-imperialist aggression. There is a famous quote by Z.Brzezinski that Russia, which has the opportunity to control Ukraine, will always remain an empire, and only Russia, which loses this opportunity, will have the chance to become a normal European state. Ukraine’s accession to the EU is therefore also important in the sense that it will remove one of the most dangerous “security grey areas” on the European continent. This will also, in the long term, help Russia to become a normal state. Achieving such a change on the European continent should be the European Union’s most important long-term strategic objective. Ukraine’s accession to the EU is therefore strategically important for the European Union and for the security on the European continent.

3. Ukraine’s success story – an inspiration for change in the wider post-Soviet East

After the 1990s, the post-Soviet space, separated for decades from the democratic Western world by the Iron Curtain, is undergoing an inevitable historical transformation: the values of democracy and the European rule of law are slowly but surely spreading from the western fringes of this space to the eastern spaces, still riddled with authoritarianism and underdevelopment. Central Europe and the Baltic States at the beginning, now Ukraine and Moldova and Georgia (Sakartvelo) are following the same path. Armenia is rushing to follow the example, since it is attractive and contagious, because it is the only way to create success in the post-Soviet space. A normal successful state is what the majority of its citizens naturally want.

By helping Ukraine to become a member of the EU and thus a successful country, the European Union will also create the most powerful geopolitical instrument of its positive influence, because Ukraine’s success will inspire positive change in the populations of Russia and Belarus, South Caucasus and Central Asia, who also want to live in their own normal countries. This is a particularly significant time for the European Union because it has a window of real opportunity, unprecedented in the European continent’s painful history, to help the eastern part of Europe to transform itself and to overcome its underdevelopment. That window of opportunity for the European Union has a very clear name: “Ukraine’s success”. And such a Ukrainian success can only be created by the European Union realising the ambitious plan of “Ukraine becoming a member of the EU”. That is why Ukraine’s membership of the European Union is not only necessary for Ukraine, it is necessary for the European Union itself, it is necessary for change in Russia, Belarus, the South Caucasus and even Central Asia.

If Ukraine’s membership is necessary for the European Union itself, who can prevent it?

While it is clear that Ukraine’s membership is also necessary for the European Union itself, the European Union may well itself be the biggest obstacle on this strategically crucial path. The biggest obstacle is to stop seeing long-term strategic goals through the daily routine. Two problems will potentially rise as the biggest obstacles: a) the EU’s own rules for the enlargement negotiations, requiring the unanimous consent of all EU members at every step of the negotiation process; and b) the fear among the EU’s old-timers (especially in Central Europe) that Ukraine’s economic success could create a great deal of competitive pain for both old and new EU members.

Therefore, for the EU enlargement to be a success story, not only will Ukraine and other candidate countries need to implement reforms, but the EU itself will also have to pass its own “wisdom test”.

To pass this “wisdom test”, the EU will first need to revise the framework and decision-making process of membership negotiations to create rules and procedures that no longer serve as a trap but start to facilitate negotiations. Until now, the EU’s political will for enlargement has been too weak, with bureaucratic traps during negotiations being overly intricate. The absence of enlargement in recent decades, along with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, are direct consequences of these issues. Now is the time for the EU to demonstrate wisdom.

And secondly, the Central European fear of economic competition with Ukraine’s successful economy is absolutely of the same nature as it was in the 1990s, when Germany and France feared impending competition with the economy and agriculture of Poland. At that time, German and French businesses managed to overcome their fears and began investing in Poland’s economy, from which they reaped huge profits. The same will happen with those EU companies that start investing in Ukraine today. This could primarily be businesses from Central Europe, which will invest in Ukraine and have a vested interest in the success of Ukraine’s integration into the EU because it will create a predictable European business environment. However, if Central European businesses focus only on preventing Ukrainian businesses from entering the EU Single Market, then it will be businesses from Western Europe that will invest, “occupy” the Ukrainian market, and earn huge profits. Central Europe will simply lose out in competition with Western Europe. It’s time for “wisdom” on the Central European side.

*****

The European Union is on the threshold of historic prospects. The name of these prospects is “enlargement”. These prospects will only materialize if the European Union itself understands that expansion is primarily necessary for the Union itself, as only bold enlargement will create the EU’s own success. And for that, the European Union needs to learn to live not just in a paradigm of “fears”, but also of “victories”. Ukraine’s membership in the European Union by the year 2030 will be a historic victory for both Ukraine and the European Union.

2023.02.03

Andrius Kubilius. How the West Will Help Democracy In Russia?

Recently, there has been a growing debate, both in the West and among the Russian opposition and intellectuals, about how Ukraine’s victory will affect Russia’s own future. All sorts of scenarios are being painted, and it is being debated whether Russia can ever become a democracy, or whether it is just facing another period of chaos and confusion.

Meanwhile, in the West, there are those who fear that such a Ukrainian victory could lead to the complete collapse of Russia, chaos and the threat of an uncontrolled nuclear arsenal. It is possible that this perception of alleged threats has so far deterred some Western capitals from supplying Leopards, Abrams and ATACMS to Ukraine. The strong response of Khodorkovsky and Kasparov to the hyperbolization of such alleged threats that is widespread in the West has also just emerged, pointing out that such a hyperbolization is very useful to Putin: the more the West is frightened by the consequences for Russia of a Ukrainian victory, the more the same West will limit the supply of its own heavy weaponry to Ukraine. Khodorkovsky and Kasparov present a convincing concept of Russia’s transformation into a normal state, with a clear “Day After” plan of what will be done from the first day after the change of power (after Putin, after the defeat of the war), in order to establish a normal federal democracy, with strong regional self-government, in Russia. Earlier, a similar plan for a “post-Putin” Russia was put forward by Navalny.

It is absolutely clear that the transformation in Russia will be carried out by the Russians themselves: by the opposition, by civil society activists, intellectuals and other patriots who genuinely care about the fate of Russia and who clearly see that the Kremlin’s current autocratic, neo-imperialist policies have brought Russia itself to a complete existential dead end, to a complete catastrophe threatening the survival of Russia itself, to what I have described as “the tragedy of Russia”.

The Russian opposition is preparing a strategy for the transformation of Russia. Whether the opposition succeeds in implementing it, will depend not only on the victory of Ukraine, which will open the door to such transformation. It will also depend on whether the Russian opposition manages to convince Russian citizens, or at least key groups in society, of the effectiveness of such a strategy.

Transformation happens when the citizens, who support such a transformation, have the opportunity to start to believe that they are in the majority, as well as when society has the opportunity to realise that it is not alone, when it realises that such a struggle for transformation is not only important for Russian citizens themselves, but also for the whole democratic world. This will only happen when the West proves that it is not just a passive observer of such a transformation, merely writing various theoretical scenarios for post-Putin Russia’s development, but that it has a clear strategy for helping such a transformation to take place.

Some in the West are afraid to talk about such a strategy of support for Russia’s transformation, because it is allegedly akin to a strategy of “regime change”, which is simply forbidden to talk about. Such a notion is completely irrational and is imbued with the simple fear, which still never leaves the Western subconscious, that talks of democracy in Russia might not please Putin.

Russia becoming a normal democracy is as much a global good for the European continent as stopping climate change. It would be strange if the West had a strategy for achieving one good (the Green Deal) and no strategy for contributing to another good (democracy in Russia) and instead, it would limit itself just to discussing various theoretical scenarios.

We are at a historical turning point: many of us still remember the historical moment when the Berlin Wall came down. I believe that we are now approaching the collapse of the “Kremlin walls” – the walls of the autocratic, kleptocratic, aggressive neo-imperialist Kremlin regime. It would be simply shameful and regrettable if, in the face of such historical fractures, the West were to remain a passive observer with no strategy.

In such a strategy of Western support for the transformation of Russia, we must not talk about some Western strategy of support for armed coups in Russia or mass Maidans in Moscow, but rather about a Western strategy that includes strategies of support for the victory of Ukraine and Ukraine’s integration into the EU and NATO, for the tribunal against Putin and for the future EU’s relations with democratic Russia. All of this must be aimed at bringing about the transformation of Russia. The West can also support Russia’s transformation very strongly by implementing its policies in this way.

Although I have written a number of texts on why the West should believe in Russia’s democratic prospects and what the West’s strategy of support should be (the aforementioned “The Tragedy of Russia”, as well as “Our Russian Psychological Complexes”, “Smart Russian Officers Will Decide The Fate Of Russia?” , “What Does The West Want?”), I have decided to briefly reiterate in a single text some of the main ideas that have been accumulated during the past months on what such a strategy should look like. This is prompted by the fact that we continue to see the West’s ongoing strategic indecision about Russia’s prospects.

So what should the West’s strategy be and how will the West ultimately help Russian democracy? And what is our, Lithuania’s, interest in all of this?

The Tragedy Of Russia And Western Responsibility

As I have already mentioned it is clear that Russia is currently going through one of the most tragic pages of its history, by bringing together many tragedies to its neighbours, especially Ukraine.

I have every confidence that Ukraine, with the support of the West, will win this war and will have every chance to recover and become a successful European country.

Meanwhile, Russia is at a historical crossroads. If imperial dreams continue to dominate in Russia, it will probably end in total disaster for the Russian state and the Russian people. Defeat in the war could open the door to the transformation of Russia, to deep self-reflection and to the deputinisation of the Russian society.

It is obvious that such a transformation of Russia is not only necessary for Russia, but also for the whole of Europe. Because the security of the entire European continent depends on it. Democracies do not fight each other. For this reason alone, the EU must have a strategy to help Russia in this transformation.

It is time for the West to realise that an instant, short-term or just a reactionary policy to the Kremlin’s actions is no longer sufficient. The West needs a long-term, proactive policy towards Russia based on a broad and inclusive philosophy: a clear isolationist policy towards the current Putin regime, a strategy of support for the future transition (post-Putin), a strategy for future relations with democratic Russia.

The West took a similar approach during the Cold War when it pursued a long-term strategy of containing Russia. The famous US diplomat and analyst George Kennan gave birth to this strategy with his philosophical doctrine of containment of Russia, which he explained in 1946 in his “Long Telegram”. This doctrine was based on a thorough analysis of Russia’s internal processes and the prevailing mentality of Russian society. This doctrine gave rise to the famous Truman Doctrine, which shaped Western behaviour during the Cold War. The latter doctrine consistently led to the 1947 Marshall Plan for Western Europe, which influenced the creation of the European Union and NATO. That way, the West not only resisted Stalinist and later Soviet plans to extend its influence throughout the Western Europe and the rest of the World, but were also able to overcome one of the long-standing tectonic conflicts on the European continent, that caused the First and the Second World Wars.

This conflict was linked to the early 20th century disputes between Germany and France over the dominance of the entire European continent and the inability to share the economic power of the Ruhr region’s industrial steel and coal resources. This long-standing tectonic conflict only ended when the Americans proposed the Marshall Plan to both countries and to the whole of Western Europe, calling for the integration of the coal and steel industries, thus starting the process of unification of all the Western economies. This long-term strategic move not only ensured an end to the conflicts over the riches of the Ruhr, but also brought sustainable peace to Western Europe.

Similarly, one can 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 Karol Wojtyla becoming the Pope John Paul II, 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 strategic approach is needed now.

Although the West was able to resolve the deep tectonic conflict between Germany and France in the 20th century with a clear strategy, Europe and the West continue to struggle with a second tectonic conflict on the European continent. This was and still is the tectonic conflict between imperial or neo-imperial Russia (the Soviet Union) and continental Europe. In the 20th century, this conflict led to bloodshed and captivity over large areas of Europe. As a result, large parts of the European continent have been occupied and cut off from democracy, freedom and prosperity for decades.

Between the end of the war in 1945 and the beginning of the 1990s, the Stalinist and expansionist policies of the Russian Empire were at the root of this conflict. After 1990, the causes of the conflict were the post-imperialist nostalgia and sentiment, in which Russia was trapped. This also bred Putin’s kleptocratic, autocratic and increasingly aggressive regime, which eventually led to the war.

Although Russia is at the root of this tectonic conflict, the West needs to propose a long-term strategy for resolving this conflict. Such a strategy must achieve one goal – Russia must transform itself into a normal, European type of democracy. Democracies do not fight with each other and do not fight bloody wars. The West must help such a transformation to take place. This requires a Western strategy, and it must be of the same scale and systemic nature as the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the strategy to contain Soviet Russia or the strategy to bring down the Evil Empire.

The nature of the conflict between authoritarian Russia and democratic Europe is unfolding and requires new means to address it. The search for such a solution is also the responsibility of the West, because the cost and damage of the failure of Russia’s transformation could be extremely high. New wars on the European continent could be even more terrible.

Unfortunately, the West has not yet developed a long-term strategy that will not only resolve this conflict but also help Russia to overcome its tragic trajectory. For only democracy in Russia is a proper and long-lasting solution.

Therefore the West, and the European Union in particular, must finally wake up from the sleep of “geopolitical laziness” and realise that Russia’s transformation is not only necessary for Russia itself, but that it is also of equal strategic importance for the European Union. For such a transformation of Russia would facilitate the creation of a completely different security architecture across the European continent. That is why the European Union must have a clear strategy to assist such a transformation.

Looking for a solution: How Can The West Contribute To Russia’s Transformation?

As Mr Borrell, the EU’s “Minister for Foreign and Security Affairs”, admitted very openly last October in the plenary session of the European Parliament, the European Union’s deep dependence on gas and other energy resources from Russia has so far prevented the European Union from having a clearer strategy for its relations with Russia. And, by the same token, a strategy towards Ukraine. Now that the volume of Russian gas on EU markets has fallen from 41% (before the war) to 7.5% (in September), according to Mr Borrell, there is also a room for an independent strategy towards Russia.

This frank and courageous acknowledgement of the EU’s past strategic mistakes, coming from Mr Borrell, gives us hope that the EU will be truly capable of moving from the “Putin-first!” strategy in its relations with Putin to finally turning towards “Democracy in Russia-first!” strategy. As well as towards a strategy on how to help Russia transform itself.

This strategy to support the transformation must be based on a number of principles:

  • The European Union must overcome its division between those who “believe” and those who “do not believe” in the possibilities and prospects of democracy in Russia.

Only by believing that democracy is possible in Russia we will be able to help this transformation to happen. Putin has for long time been trying to prove to Western leaders that democracy in Russia is not possible. All the poisonings of Litvinenko, the Skripals, Navalny, where the Kremlin has made no effort to hide the traces of its involvement, have been suitable for this. This was simply aimed at frightening the West and at demonstrating what the Russian reality is, which the West would not be able to change. The Kremlin’s aggression, both internal and external, was also suited to this, by constantly communicating to the West that this is what Russia is: aggressive, savage, oriental, with a nuclear bomb in its hands, ready to take revenge and punish anyone who tries to explain the prospects for democracy in Russia, and to punish those who are unwilling to adapt to the kind of Russia that Putin’s regime has created. Western leaders have succumbed to this Putin “influence” and have tried to adapt to such Russia, believing themselves that Russia will never become a democracy. Hence the whole “Putin-first!” doctrine, with successive Western leaders rushing into dialogue with Putin, regardless of how Putin himself behaved.

  • In the minds of the Russian people, the dream of a normal life must overcome the dream of rebuilding the empire.

It is obvious, that any transformation of Russia will only be realised by Russians themselves. By those who will begin to understand that the Putin’s regime is the Russia’s greatest tragedy. Putin is pursuing a scorched-earth strategy with regard to such opposition to his regime. It is therefore not surprising that protests against the war, against the mobilisation, are not becoming a mass phenomenon in Russia. However, this does not mean at all that the transformation in Russia will not begin in the near future. It may depend on a number of factors, the most important of them being whether ordinary Russians will be assisted to create for themselves a new dream of their future, of a normal European life, instead of the collapsed dream of a return to the past, to the “glorious” days of the Empire. The European Union can play a particularly important role in helping Russians to return to such a dream and to work towards its realisation through the fundamental transformation of Russia. The European Union is capable of playing such a role because many members of the Russian opposition, its intellectual leadership, have now largely emigrated to various European Union countries. The European Union, by extending the hand of intensive cooperation to this opposition, could help it to unite and to work together with the EU institutions already now on joint strategic cooperation programmes that could be implemented as soon as Russia’s transformation into a democracy is realised. This would also help the EU to mobilise its institutional resources to launch a completely new phase of EU policy towards Russia right away, in a real move away from the strategy “Putin-first!” to the strategy “Democracy in Russia-first!”. This, unfortunately, has still not happened.

How can the EU help the Russians in their war of dreams?

In politics and geopolitics, we tend to look only at the actions, motivations, and emotions of the national leaders, because many feel that this is what determines the development of countries and the internal or external actions of the particular country. This is not unimportant, but it would be a mistake to forget other relevant factors: the general public, its nostalgia, its expectations, its beliefs or its dreams. Dreams lead to change in democracies, but they also affect possible transformations in authoritarian systems. Even authoritarian regimes have to be concerned with the loyalty of their citizens, which depends on the prevailing dream in the society. Authoritarian regimes cannot remain in power for long by relying or sitting on the bayonet alone.

In Russia, too, change can only begin when the majority of Russians will start to believe in the dream of a new, normal life, and will have the opportunity to see, in some way, that such a dream is believed in by the majority.

There are three actions on which the West should concentrate its efforts to help the Russians to achieve a new dream:

  • the West must help the Russians to immediately and definitively rid themselves of the false nostalgic dream of regaining the supposed “greatness” of the empire, as such a dream leads only to a deeper and deeper tragedy for Russia;
  • the West must work already today with Russian opposition intellectuals to map out a strategy for future relations between the West (including the European Union) and a future democratic Russia. Such a strategy would explain to ordinary Russians how a new “normal” dream would be realised in a democratic Russia together with the West.
  • the West must politically and economically invest in the success of Ukraine, so that the example of such success would encourage the Russians to pursue a new dream of a normal life in Russia.

How Important For The Russian Society Is Ukraine’s Victory, a Special Tribunal for Putin and Ukraine’s NATO Membership?

To help the Russian people to get rid of the old “imperial” dream, it is necessary that this dream is completely crushed on the battlefield. Ordinary Russians need to see the tragic consequences of this false dream for themselves, including painful sanctions against Russia and Russia’s international isolation. Only a clear understanding by Russians that this false dream is the root cause of the current tragedy in Russia will not only bury this “imperial” dream, but also open the door to a new dream of a normal life in Russia.

Therefore, Western arms supplies to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia are important not only for Ukraine to be able to defend itself and win the war, but also for this false “imperial” Russian dream to be finally crushed, and thus for ordinary Russians to be able to free themselves from the tragic trap of such a nostalgia.

It is worth recalling once again the words of Alexei Navalny from his text, published in September 2022: “Too many people in Russia are interested in normal life now, not in the phantom of territorial gains. And there are more such people every year. They just don’t have anyone to vote for now.”

The Russian opposition is well aware of how important it is for ordinary Russians to believe in the dream of a new, normal life in Russia. The West has a duty to help Russians to believe in the reality of such a dream. This requires, first of all, helping Russians to finally rid themselves of their belief in what A. Navalny called “the phantom of territorial gains”. Instead, Russians must be helped to believe in what Mr Navalny himself has described as the dream of “a wonderful Russia of the future”.

Second, Russian society will have to go through a painful process of “deputinizing” itself. There will be many important parts: from lustration to self-reflection, from a new constitution to the restoration of the rule of law.

First of all, the Russians themselves will have to admit that the root cause of the crisis is that they have allowed themselves to believe in the dream of rebuilding the empire that has been “infected” into them by Kremlin propaganda. By relying on such an artificially exalted nostalgic dream, Putin has guaranteed the loyalty to his regime of a large part of the Russian society. At the same time Putin has created a mafia-like power structure; and the mixture of mafia-like power propaganda and the dream of rebuilding the empire has become the basis of the ideology of the new, Russian Nazism. Same as during Hitler’s time, this type of Nazism is capable of generating the loyalty of a significant part of the people (even the educated German people). Hitler enjoyed this loyalty in his time, and Putin has been enjoying it up to now.

The Russians themselves will have to find the strength to say goodbye to Putinism. For an example of how to do this, one need not look far: once upon a time, as far back as 1956, Nikita Khrushchev had the courage to openly name and condemn Stalin’s crimes at the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party. Thus, at least for a time, the Soviet Union farewelled with the Stalinism. And now someone, perhaps even from within the current Kremlin elite, will have to take on the same role, just to talk about the crimes of Putinism. This would be the first step towards a national understanding that the state and the nation are in the deep crisis.

The international community can play a particularly important role in this inevitable path of self-reflection and self-examination in the post-Putin Russia if it urgently establishes a Special International Tribunal to investigate Putin’s crimes of war aggression. All the crimes of Russia’s war in Ukraine are and will continue to be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, but Putin’s crime of war aggression need special attention and can be investigated only by a special tribunal that can give an answer on Putin’s guilt not in ten years’ time, but in the foreseeable future. This would also help Russia to say a final goodbye to the imperial dream.

For Russians, the road from the imperial dream to the dream of a normal life will not be easy: it will not be enough for the Russian public to recognise that Putinism is evil. Nor will the decisions of the International Tribunal established by the international community on Putin’s crimes be enough. Russia itself, after Putin, will have to take decisions on reparations and damage repayments to Ukraine. Such will be the price of transformation.

And, above all, Russia after Putin, as well as the changes that have taken place in it, will be judged first and foremost in terms of its relations with its neighbours. Only the complete disassociation of the new Russia from its aggressive, neo-imperialist policy towards Ukraine and other neighbours, and the liberation of the occupied territories, not only in Ukraine, but also in Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, will be the main criteria by which the Western democracies will judge the results of Russia’s transformation towards democracy. No one will believe in “change” in Russia if those changes do not meet the minimum criteria listed here. Even if Putin is gone.

Finally, a new dream requires that Putin’s imperial dream of Novorossiya not only be crushed, but also prevented from recovering, even when the inevitable post-revolutionary wave of nostalgia for the past once again sweeps over the newly revitalised young Russian democracy. This requires that even the Russian imperial hawks finally realise that Ukraine is no longer within their reach. It must therefore be in the West’s interest to grant Ukraine NATO membership in the near future. This is important not so much because it would increase Ukraine’s security (Ukraine itself is doing just fine without the NATO membership), but because it would help the Russians to stop succumbing to the imperial nostalgia.

NATO was created to enable the West to resist the imperial expansion of Russia/Soviet Union; Ukraine is now doing just that, with its military capabilities exceeding all NATO membership criteria; NATO’s admission of Ukraine would not only strengthen NATO  military capabilities, but also help Russia to say goodbye to its “imperial” dream for good: Russia’s imperial return to Ukraine by military force would become impossible, and such dreams would become unreal.

Ukraine’s EU Membership Is A Cornerstone Of The European Union’s Strategy “Democracy In Russia – First!”

Like Ukraine’s membership in NATO, Ukraine’s membership oin the European Union is important not only because it is the only way in which Ukraine’s democratic and economic success can be built, but also because it is another way to help Russia free itself from the grip of “imperial” nostalgia. Ukraine becoming a full member of the European Union would be a crushing and final knockout blow to Putin’s long-standing “imperial” dream, the realisation of which the Kremlin has concentrated in Ukraine.

The main pragmatic objective of Putin’s “imperial” dream has always been the same: to prevent Ukraine from becoming a successful state, because such a contagious example is dangerous for Putin’s mafia regime, while in the post-Soviet space, the only tried and tested way in which a country can become a success story is very well-known: it is the country’s integration into the European Union and its subsequent EU membership.

In the same recent text, A.Navalny highlights the same reasons for Putin’s aggression against Ukraine: jealousy of Ukraine and its potential success, hatred of Ukraine’s pro-Western choices and the desire to turn Ukraine into a “failed state” are the dominant features of Putin’s “Ukraine strategy”:

“… since the beginning of Putin’s rule, and especially after the Orange Revolution that began in 2004, hatred of Ukraine’s European choice, and the desire to turn it into a failed state, have become a lasting obsession not only for Putin but also for all politicians of his generation.”

Exactly the same is observed not only by the leaders of the Russian opposition, but also by the most prominent Western experts. For example, a few days before the war broke out, the former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, together with Robert Person, published a valuable text with the title “What Putin Fears Most?”. The authors’ answer to the question they had formulated was unequivocal: what Putin fears most is not Ukraine’s membership in NATO, but Ukraine’s membership in the European Union. He is panic-stricken about Ukraine’s success, and Ukraine’s success can only be created if the West is interested in and helps Ukraine to become a member of the European Union. Because the whole of Central Europe and the Baltic States only became success stories when, immediately after the democratic revolutions in the late 1980s, these countries were given the opportunity to integrate rapidly into the European Union.

Putin’s “Ukraine strategy” has always been clear and unambiguous – to prevent Ukraine from becoming a successful state. This has been cloaked in various slogans of imperial nostalgia, but in fact Putin’s main objective has not been the annexation of the new territories of Novorossiya, but the destruction of the success of Ukraine. “Novorossiya” was, and remains, only an instrument for achieving this strategic objective, because  the survival of the Putin regime depends on Putin’s ability to prevent the success of Ukraine. That is why Putin is fighting against Ukraine’s success. And this is the axis of his entire geopolitical strategy in recent decades.

Unfortunately, the West (including the European Union) until the beginning of the war did not have a clearer “Ukraine strategy”, it did not have a strategy to counter Putin’s “Ukraine strategy”. It had no strategy to help build Ukraine’s success with the ambitious EU enlargement strategy.

This was one of the reasons why Putin was tempted to go to war against Ukraine, because it seemed to him that the West would continue to have no strategy for Ukraine and would therefore very quickly return to business as usual with Putin.

Why the West has not yet had its own “Ukraine strategy”, was, as has already been mentioned, very openly and significantly acknowledged last October by Josep Borrell, the EU’s “Minister of Foreign and Security Affairs”, in a speech during the European Parliament plenary debate on Russia’s war against Ukraine. There was no strategy only because the European Union has hitherto been very significantly dependent on Russian gas. Mr Borrell openly admits that the European Union has not had its own “Ukraine strategy”: “We have not had our own foreign policy towards Ukraine” – the most frank and courageous admission by EU leaders of the EU’s past mistakes, these mistakes having contributed to the fact that the whole of the European continent is now in a profound geopolitical crisis.

There is only one way out of this geopolitical crisis: the European Union must have an ambitious and effective “Ukraine strategy”. This must be a strategy for Ukraine’s rapid integration into the European Union and full EU membership. Such a strategy must be realised by the end of this decade. The first right steps in this direction have already been taken: Ukraine has been granted the candidate status. But for Ukraine to become a member of the EU by the end of the decade, membership negotiations in Brussels must start as early as the beginning of 2023, rather than be delayed in the traditional bureaucratic way.

EU bureaucrats and political leaders must remember that Ukraine’s EU membership is not only necessary for Ukraine’s own success, but also for Russia’s transformation and the EU’s strategy of “Democracy in Russia – first!”. It is therefore clear that Ukraine’s membership of the European Union is, above all, necessary for the European Union itself, because it is the only way for the EU to implement a strategy that will lead to peace and security finally taking root on the European continent. The extension of the dream of democracy, of normal life, to the East of the European continent is the only way to ensure that the basic dream of Europeans, “Europe – whole, free and at peace”, is finally realised, because democracies do not usually fight with each other. And the European Union can realise this, first and foremost, by building on Ukraine’s success, which will have a huge positive impact on Russia’s transformation.

Ukraine’s geopolitical integration into the West (NATO and the European Union) is no less important than Leopards or Abrams for Ukraine’s defence. This requires a consolidated political will. The political will of the West for the defence of Ukraine is being consolidated in the “Military Ramstein”. Obviously, the West also needs an “Integration Ramstein” in order to consolidate the political will needed to realise Ukraine’s membership of the European Union and NATO.

It is worth remembering again and again that the success of countries and people on the European continent is only built on their integration with the European Union. The European Union has enormous “soft power” to positively influence and change the lives and policies of its neighbours, but often the European Union itself forgets about this special power. Or sometimes it does not dare to use it, as Mr Borrell openly admitted.

It is worth talking about this formula for success, not only in terms of the success stories of Central Europe and the Baltic States, not only in terms of how the success story of Ukraine can be created, but also in terms of how the dreams of a normal, European life in Russia can be realised in the future.

The prospect of a normal, European life in Russia and the European Union

Although the European Union will certainly not offer Democratic Russia the prospect of the EU membership, the European Union must already now propose a strategy for future relations with Democratic Russia, this strategy providing the most effective mechanisms of relations that would provide Democratic Russia with the same stabilising prospects for young democracies as the young democracies of Central Europe and the Baltic States were given by the prospect of membership of the European Union in 1993.

The European Union and democratic Russia could start planning now for a future special Association Agreement – something similar to what the European Union signed in its time with Ukraine, Moldova, Sakartvelo (Georgia) and later with Armenia. Such a future treaty with democratic Russia should provide for a strong future relationship of free trade, visa-free travel and economic partnership in the name of modernisation, the clear prospect of which would allow ordinary Russians to believe in a new dream – the possibility of a normal, European life in Russia – already today.

For democratic Russia, the EU should also open the door to joining the regional Eastern Partnership programme in one capacity or another, which would allow democratic Russia to engage with its neighbours in a European format, rather than in the manner of the dictatorship of the former imperial metropolis, which has led to the current disaster.

This EU strategy would be important not only because it would help to shape such a new Russian dream, but also because the implementation of such a strategy would be essential to protect the young, resurgent Russian democracy from the destructive force that the inevitable post-revolutionary nostalgia for the past brings with it. Just as the post-war Marshall Plan protected the young German democracy from nostalgia for the defeated Nazism, also it protected all the old European democracies struggling to recover from the tragedies of the war, as the joy of victory in the war was quickly crushed by the hardships of a shattered economy across Europe, and as societies weighed down by these hardships began to become radicalised at a very rapid rate, just as the communists in every country, local, but submissive to Stalin, were waiting for. The Marshall Plan saved the old Europe from such radicalisation and from public support for the Communists.

The young democracies of Central Europe were saved from the same dangers of nostalgia and radicalisation in the early 1990s by the prospect of European Union membership. However, nothing saved the young Russian democracies at the same time from the sudden rise in the threat of nostalgic radicalisation, which is why Yeltsin was followed by Putin.

For this reason, the importance of such a strategy for the EU’s future relations with the Democratic Russia was underlined by the European Parliament in its special report on the EU’s strategy for relations with Russia, adopted in September 2021. What such a strategy for the EU’s relations with Democratic Russia could look like, and why it is important to develop it today, was set out in detail in the special study “The EU’s Relations With a Future Democratic Russia: A Strategy”, drafted by experts from the European Union and from Russia and published by the Martens Centre in July 2022.

Both the European Parliament’s report and the study underline the same principles:  The European Union (including Lithuania) wants good, mutually beneficial relations with Russia, but this depends on Russia’s ability to transform itself from an authoritarian, aggressive state into a democratic, normal, European state. This is one of the European Union’s most important strategic interests, and for this the European Union must have a clear strategy on how the EU can help Russia to achieve this transformation. It must also have a strategy now for future relations with Democratic Russia, because that is the way to help Russia’s transformation.

This must be a strategy for assisting Russia. Not the Putin regime (by offering the Kremlin to return to business as usual), but Russia and the Russian people. This must be a strategy on how to help the Russians to avoid a “tragedy of Russia”, on how to help avoid the catastrophic consequences of such a tragedy for Russia itself. Because it is not only Russia itself that would suffer from a catastrophic “tragedy of Russia”, but also the whole of Europe and the whole world.

It would therefore be simply irresponsible to say that the “tragedy of Russia” is a matter for the Russians alone.

Time to Act: Interest of Lithuania

It is in Lithuania’s best interest that the West has such a strategy and implements it systematically, because Lithuania’s geopolitical security depends on whether Russia eventually becomes a pro-European, democratic and peaceful country. As NATO has finally recognised, authoritarian Russia is the biggest threat to the security of the European continent. We, those of us in Russia’s current neighbourhood, feel that threat particularly acutely. Because it is not a distant and theoretical threat, but a real and visible one. Our painful historical experience is a proof to that.

We cannot just sit on our hands and wait for the West to come up with a strategy towards Russia. We should be more active in seeking such a strategy ourselves. We should go beyond just asking for NATO battalions to be reinforced in Lithuania, and not just look for ways to punish Putin or support Ukraine by our own actions. We need an ambitious and comprehensive Western strategy towards Russia, and we need to offer its draft.

We need the West, together with NATO, to have a strategy not only for deterrence and defence against the threat of an authoritarian Russia, but also a strategy for helping an authoritarian Russia to transform itself into a normal, European, democratic state. Only then will there be no Russian threat: either to the European continent, or to its neighbours and the Russian society itself.

This requires that the West today not only engages in discussing the scenarios of a “Russia after Putin”, but also develops and implements a strategy to help realise the “good scenario” – the good scenario for the future of Russia and, by extension, for the future of Europe as a whole.

2023.01.31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2023.01.30

Start accession negotiations with Ukraine now

The upcoming summit between the EU and Ukraine on Friday should set out a clear pathway for the start of accession negotiations with Kyiv as soon as possible this year.

“The EU has granted candidate status to Ukraine, but that is not enough. We need to make the next step forward and open accession negotiations as soon as possible in Spring 2023. This will help Ukraine to ultimately defeat Putin, who started a brutal war of aggression in order to steal the European perspective from Ukraine. Sending the message to the struggling Ukrainians that their path to EU membership will take decades is not acceptable”, stresses Rasa Juknevičienė MEP, EPP Group Vice-Chair responsible for Foreign Affairs.

For the EPP Group, the ultimate goal is to grant EU membership to Ukraine before the end of this decade – providing all necessary reforms are implemented in Ukraine.

2023.01.29

MEP Andrius Kubilius: “We need to do all we can to make sure that Ukraine wins. For our own good.”

Andrius Kubilius, a Lithuanian MEP of the Group of the European People’s Party, chair of Euronest and a member of the EP’s key Committee on Foreign Affairs, has always underscored the danger for all of Europe of an authoritarian Russia. Some would downplay the caveats as exaggeration, some would heed the warnings without taking any action. But, now, the former Lithuanian Prime Minister feels having been far-seeing. “It is in the core interests of the EU to accept Ukraine, Moldova and Sakartvelo (Georgia), and then a democratic Belarus, in the bloc – their success would push Russia to transforming  itself also,” the MEP told The Baltic Times Magazine.

Ukraine has been seeing un unprecedented wave of support. Yet what do you believe has been omitted, especially by the European Union, to prevent war in Ukraine?

Indeed, I have been telling my colleagues for years now that Russia has been dangerous as such and will remain a menace to all for the foreseeable future, unless it is helped to transform to democracy. Unfortunately, far from all heeded the warnings and that led to the war.

Since the beginning of the war most EU decisions regarding Ukraine were ad hoc, i.e. addressing the concrete situation. In terms of assistance to Ukraine, it is the United States, not the European Union that takes the leader’s position.

Although eight Russian sanction packages are in place, the next step for the European Union, I believe, should be systemic decisions, especially considering that war can take place longer than most expect. This means that the European nations need to plan their Ukraine-aimed ammunition production and logistics, long term financing, etc. If they do this, they will not need to search for them frenetically in their stockpiles when a conflagration like this breaks out.

Speaking of the sanctions, I believe they do effect Russia, especially the first ones, which effectively stopped Russian gas and oil exports. Let me remind you that, before the war, Russia’s gas export to the European Union amounted to 41% and, as of the time of the interview (it took place on October 12 – TBT) it is at a mere 7.5% and continues to edge down.

Russia’s high-tech imports have also been dealt a big blow – some of the technologies, like the Taiwanese chips which are necessary in the production of Russian weaponry, are just no longer available and are hardly replaceable with the local production. No wonder that, now, to believe the press, Russia uses the derelict Soviet-era kukuruzniks (the Russian word is derived from “kukuruza”, maize. During the Soviet era, it was used as a nickname for the utility aircraft used extensively in agriculture – TBT) in war.

The European Union will likely adopt new sanction packages against Russia, but, understandably, they will not be anywhere as harsh and inflicting damage to its core economic interests as the first ones. Simply because there is little left to sanction.

In the European Parliament, I have been insisting on setting up ad hoc an international Special Tribunal for Russian crimes of war aggression. It would be different than those existing courts already, like that in Hague, which are in charge of war crimes mostly.

You have always been known for your tough stance on Russia – even in much better times. Here in your MP bureau, I see the sheet of paper on the stand – likely to have been used by you for a small number of your visitors – with the inscription in capital letters “How to stop Putin?” written by hand. Is he stoppable? And as a member of the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs, can you be sure that with a change of regime, the new Russian leader will be more predictable and democratic?

Let me state the status quo we have now: with the help of the West, Ukraine has stopped Russia. That’s first. Secondly, it appears Russia’s military might is nowhere where Russia had claimed it to be. Thirdly, until the recent Russian bombardment of civil Ukrainian objects – a desperate move by the perpetrator, Ukraine was gaining momentum as its military capabilities are strengthening. What I now see as essential in securing Ukraine’s advancement is providing it with the weaponry it needs.

The implementation of the above-mentioned Tribunal would also help many Russians understand Putin’s guilt. And only after that Russians can take on the dream of a new life, marked with liberties, respect and responsibility.

There are no reasons to believe that the Russians, likewise the Ukrainians and the Belarusians, do not want to live a normal life – a European life, marked with democracy and with peace.

I do believe Russia can take the path after Putin is gone. Obviously, at this point, no one can be sure how the war will evolve in the weeks and months to come, but we need to exert all effort to help Ukraine win it, as only its victory can foster a transformation in Russia – for good. Also, it may help Russians get rid of the ostensible imperial glory of Russia, an idea that Putin insistently foists on his country fellows, but which, in fact, leads to a tragedy for the country. Especially under Putin – the war is instigating various disintegrational processes within Russia itself. We see that happening already.

I do believe that if Ukraine succeeds – wins the war and rebuilds itself successfully and turns into a sustainable state, that would be the best impetus for Russians to seek change and follow the Ukrainian example. In case Putin lasts that long (to see Ukraine’s success – TBT), the Ukrainian success story would be very dangerous for him and his regime.

I believe the European Union has to try all the ways to reach out to Russia’s Democratic forces – the bulk of them live in the West – now. In doing so, we will ensure the whole country’s transition to democracy. Already now the ordinary Russians should know what their lives will look like once Russia and the European Union start cooperating on the basis of democracy. Due to the immensity of Russia, we cannot propose an EU membership for it perhaps, but in return to its abiding by law we can propose it free trade and a visa-free regime.

I understand this may sound like a fantasy to some, but there can be a new reality – sooner or later. Of course, perhaps no one can rule out that a more ruthless leader can emerge once Putin ends his rule, but not to try to help Russian transformation would be strategic mistake on our side.

As a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and as Lithuania’s former Prime Minister under whom the idea of construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal in Lithuania was born, are you concerned about possible energy shortages and record-high prices this winter?

The bulk of the possible problematic issues lies in Germany’s significant dependency on Russian gas until very recently. To be exact, until the war, over 50 percent of Germany’s gas supply was of Russian origin. I can only regret that the Germans did not follow in the footsteps of Lithuania, which built its liquefied natural gas terminal in 2010 – 2014. On the contrary, the Germans insisted that Gazprom is a reliable partner and the whole relation was purely economic.

Obviously, Germany is now compelled to scramble to reverse the policy and find new energy sources – as quickly as possible. The challenge it is facing will definitely impact the whole energy situation in Europe. However, I am convinced that, at the end of the day, it is the European Union, not Putin, that will come out victorious from the Putin-launched energy war. As we speak, roughly 90 percent of European gas storages are filled and the Russian gas imports are historically low, as I said, in single digits. Until recently, due to the energy war, Putin thought that he will make the Europeans subservient, but we clearly see that he failed. The energy crisis will also prompt the European Union to switch to renewables faster. I have no doubt that the Baltics and Lithuania will also feel the big impetus for green energy. Unfortunately, Lithuania failed to build a safe state-of-the art nuclear power plant. I still believe that scrapping the idea was a mistake. Yet Lithuania has made a big step forward in harnessing solar and wind energy – just in 10 years or so, it can be one the greenest EU nations.

You’re chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly (PA). How is the war effecting EU cooperation with the Euronest’s six countries, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Sakartvelo (Georgia), all of which are on very different terms with the EU?

Indeed, on the one hand we have Ukraine, Moldova and Sakartvelo that eye EU memberships – the former has been granted the EU’s candidate status. Then, on the other hand, we have Armenia and Azerbaijan that are shedding blood in Nagorno Karabakh and, then, we see Belarus with an illegitimate president. I do believe that the war in Ukraine will be sort of an eye-opener for the European Union. Because of the reliance on Russian gas until recently, the EU did not have a clearly outlined policy towards Ukraine and the other Eastern Partnership countries. Now, we have a new reality – generally, we see less fear of Putin, although the war still rages and can drag out and spill over the borders. I think it is in the core interests of the EU to accept Ukraine, Moldova and Sakartvelo in the bloc – even until 2030, which, with their success, would remove them from the Russian orbit for good.

And when it comes to Belarus, Lithuania’s immediate neighbor, the victory of Ukraine over Russia will have a huge effect on it – to an extent, where change of the regime will be inevitable.

Sadly, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader, is in a way overshadowed by the war. But as we speak, she is to visit the European Parliament – we need to discuss with her what Belarus’ transition to a democratic Belarus will look like. Its long-range goal should also be an EU membership, which would create much more stability and security in the region and in all of Europe.

2023.01.20

Ukraine war: MEPs push for special tribunal to punish Russian crimes

In a resolution adopted on Thursday, MEPs demand the Russian political and military leadership be held accountable for the crime of aggression against Ukraine.

Parliament says the atrocities committed by Russian forces in Bucha, Irpin and many other Ukrainian towns reveal the brutality of the war and underscore the importance of coordinated international action to bring those accountable to justice under international law. MEPs urge the EU, in close cooperation with Ukraine and the international community, to push for the creation of a special international tribunal to prosecute Russia’s political and military leadership and its allies.

Establishing a tribunal would, MEPs argue, fill a vacuum in international criminal justice and complement the investigative efforts of the International Criminal Court, as it currently cannot investigate the crime of aggression when it comes to Ukraine.

Political and military leadership in Russia and Belarus must be held accountable

While noting that the exact modalities and composition of the special tribunal remain to be determined, MEPs stress that it must have jurisdiction to investigate not only Vladimir Putin and the political and military leadership of Russia, but also Aliaksandr Lukashenka and his cronies in Belarus.

They also emphasise that EU preparatory work on the special tribunal should begin immediately and focus on building the arrangements for the court in cooperation with Ukraine. Ukrainian and international authorities must be supported in securing evidence to be used in the future.

Parliament strongly believes that the establishment of a special tribunal would send a very clear signal to both Russian society and the international community that President Putin and the Russian leadership at large can be convicted for the crime of aggression in Ukraine. MEPs point out that it is no longer feasible for the Russian Federation under Putin’s leadership to return to business as usual with the west.

The text was adopted by 472 votes in favour, 19 against with 33 abstentions.

Full text: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/RC-9-2023-0063_EN.html

2023.01.09

Andrius Kubilius. Our “Russian” psychological complexes

Latvians had revoked the broadcast licence for the Russian opposition TV channel Dozhd. Before that, the channel had been expelled from Moscow by Putin.

It is for Latvians to judge how well this decision was legally and politically justified. Rasa Juknevičienė, and I believe that this decision was neither very correct nor strategically wise. The decision was also met with a lot of public reaction in Lithuania, most of which was the same: “that is what they deserve because they all are imperialists. All Russians are agents of the Evil Empire.”

The Russian liberal opposition has responded with a similarly angry reaction, without any shades. This made both Lithuanians and Latvians even more furious.

That reaction of ours is what prompted me to write this text. Because I believe such a reaction shows the problems we have in our own thinking and attitudes. Psychologists call it the problem of psychological complexes. Some of them can lead to severe societal diseases. And we need to talk about this openly. Because some of those complexes may lead to significant negative consequences, particularly for ourselves and for our role in the region.

We have to analyse our own problems. Just as the Russian opposition must first analyse its own issues. We often feel more righteous and better than the Russian opposition; therefore, we are more inclined to analyse their problems first and foremost, but not our own. That is not a healthy approach.

That is why I am starting to first look at ourselves. Not at the Russian opposition. One day, I may take that up too.

I will try to identify briefly those our basic attitudes, those essential ‘Russian’ complexes of ours, which have been particularly prominent in the context of the TV Dozhd story, which in my opinion, are wrong, and I will try to explain why they are wrong.

Attitude 1 – Russia is incompatible with democracy.

Many in Lithuania and in the West, in general, have bought into the notion that Russia, because of its statehood traditions, is totally unsuited to democracy. Having inherited many state institutions from the Tatar-Mongol invasion, it has forever lived under autocracy, under tsars, secretaries-general or authoritarian presidents, and it has never had true parliamentarian, the rule of law, inter-institutional checks and balances. Something like the Great French Revolution, whose attitudes created the present-day West, never happened in Russia. Therefore, the West needs to stop naively dreaming of a democratic Russia.

It is worth noting that Putin has consistently sought to persuade the West to believe the same notion – that Russia has no chance of becoming democratic. By his own actions, Putin has effectively created and has been creating the image of a savage, oriental Russia which is poisoning its opponents of an aggressive state with a nuclear bomb in its hands. According to Putin, there will never be democracy in such a state, and the West must therefore stop talking naively about the prospects of democracy in Russia because this could make Putin nervous, and provoke him. He would again start threatening with nuclear weapons. According to Putin, the West simply has to adapt: adapt to the current Russia, which means that the West has merely to maintain a dialogue with Putin, regardless of how he behaves.

Mr Emanuel Macron is an example of how Western leaders are willing to accept this doctrine imposed by Putin and are eager to adapt to it because Mr Macron does not believe that Russia can be different. The consequence of this is that some Western leaders are still willing to geopolitically ‘sacrifice’ Ukraine to ‘accommodate’ Putin. Moreover, it is necessary not to anger or provoke Putin with support for Ukraine. Putin and Russia are savages, they will never be different, and they still have a frightening nuclear bomb.

One can evaluate in different ways the arguments based on historical determinism that Russia will never be able to become a democracy because its past history supposedly prevents it from becoming a democracy. I do not believe in such arguments because I have seen many examples of countries or nations that had no democratic experience before turning into successful democracies at the end of the 20th century. One such country is Mongolia, the ancestral home of the Mongols and the Tatars, which today, according to many global studies, is doing quite well in the light of the index of democracy. The second example, Taiwan, demonstrates an extraordinary capacity for democracy, even though the main nation of the country is Chinese. Despite hundreds of arguments from many proponents of historical determinism as to why China, the Chinese and Confucianism are incompatible with democracy.

Therefore my first piece of advice on the matter of our ‘Russian’ complexes is not to believe that Russia will never become a democracy. Or at least to doubt those who insist on this. Because that is what Putin claims.

Attitude 2 – Russians as a people are not fit for democracy.

We often hear claims that Russians are simply not fit for democracy: they all long for the restoration of the empire, and they all support Putin and the war he has started against Ukraine. The Russians are a dark, uneducated people (‘народ’), brainwashed by propaganda. They have no democratic instincts and never will have any, so let us stop deluding ourselves with illusions about Russia’s democratic prospects.

In doing so, we inadvertently turn ourselves into nothing more than simple racists. Because such an attitude means that, from our point of view, the Russians are an underdeveloped nation, just as some people nowadays still think of people of African descent. And that the Russians will never rise from this inferiority. We are beginning to see ourselves, intentionally or unintentionally, as a nation of higher genetic quality compared to the Russians. Putin says the opposite: that only the Russians are the ‘chosen people and that, therefore, according to him, the Russians can exterminate the Ukrainians. I hope that, first of all, we will stop at the right time and will not follow the Nazi way of judging and classifying other nations according to their quality and of sending the representatives of ‘inferior quality’ to the gas chambers.

There are different people among  Russians. Just like among the Lithuanians. I remember massive demonstrations during Gorbachev’s time when ordinary Russians were not only fighting for democracy in Russia but also supporting Lithuanian independence. I do not believe that such genes can be lost to alcohol. The genes might have been “tarred” with the brush of dictatorship and persecution, but they are not disappearing anywhere. And when the opportunity arises, they break out with tremendous force. Just as it happened in the summer of 2020 in Belarus. That is what scares Putin. That is why he has started a war so that the example of the Belarusian revolution and the success of Ukraine does not infect ordinary Russians.

Attitude 3: Ordinary Russians and the opposition do not take up arms against the Kremlin regime

Increasingly, one hears Lithuanians complaining that not only ordinary Russians but also the leaders of the liberal opposition are not protesting in the streets against the Kremlin regime, taking up arms, and, whether in Russia or Ukraine, joining the frontline against the criminal aggression aimed at rebuilding the empire. Hundreds of thousands or millions of Russians who are being mobilised are choosing to flee Russia but not to take actions of defiance in Russia itself that would shake the foundations of the regime from the ground up.

Indeed, there are no such mass protests in Russia. This allows Lithuanian “champagne revolutionaries” (a reference to Britain’s “champagne socialists” or Spain’s “caviar left”) to advice the liberal opposition, which has fled from Putin’s persecution to better “pick up their arms”, to go back to Russia and to take up the real struggle there. At the same time, it is as if we are saying that we would certainly do so if we were in their shoes because we heroically fought for our independence and our democracy, we took part in huge demonstrations, we took to the Baltic Way, and we brought down the Soviet empire and the communist dictatorship.

Somehow, we are so easily swayed by the demagoguery of self-satisfied Europeans. We forget that before Gorbachev’s Perestroika, we did not dare to hold mass rallies or protest en masse in any other way. There was brave military resistance by “forest brothers” after II World War there were brave dissidents who were imprisoned and persecuted; there was Romas Kalanta, who put himself on fire in protest in 1972, and his mass demonstration-style funerals. However, during Brezhnev’s time, Lithuanians who were mobilised into the Soviet Army did not protest or run away from the army or from the mobilisation when the Soviet Army occupied Czechoslovakia or invaded Afghanistan. Some in Lithuania are even now proud of their “Afghan” experience.

Why did we not then have the courage that we now want to teach the Russian opposition? Because we were humanly afraid of persecution, imprisonment, forceful treatment in a psychiatric hospital, or simply of having our professional careers ruthlessly ruined. That is why we only rebelled when we believed that Gorbachev’s perestroika meant that we would no longer go to prison for participating in a rally. In contrast, in Russia, they do go to prison now. And one can get 8 years of hard labour for a Facebook post. Or one can simply be poisoned. With “Novichok”.

Therefore maybe we should stop making ourselves comfortable on the sofa and teaching the Russians how to fight such a terrorist regime. Because we did not fight it ourselves when we were enslaved. And even now, only a few of us would resist.

Attitude 4 – all Russians are collectively guilty of the war against Ukraine, and the opposition must be punished

When one sees the brutal war crimes committed by the Russian army in the cities of Bucha, Irpin, Izyum, there is no doubt that the first and simplest emotional statement that comes to mind is that all Russians are guilty. Equally guilty. Because they allowed Putin to come to power, they allowed Putin to become a dictator, to become an aggressor because they did not protest; they did not fight against this criminal regime which today terrorises Ukraine with war, torture, rape, murder, and terrifies the Russian opposition with its prisons and its “Novichoks”.

Well, in fairness, a part of the collective blame for the current Putin also lies with the West because the West has consistently made concessions to Putin and sought dialogue and the resumption of relations with him – even after the war against Georgia in 2008 and the occupation of Crimea in 2014. Because a large part of the European Union has allowed itself to be tamed by the Kremlin to the needle of cheap gas, Nordstream and Abramovich yachts. That is how the current Putin came about, with the paradigm in the West of “just let us not provoke Putin”: let us not provoke the Kremlin with Western support for the integration of Ukraine, with the fight for freedom of speech or assembly in Russia, with the fight against the poisoning of Navalny. The West has not reacted to Putin’s crimes. Therefore, Putin has responded increasingly aggressively to the West’s non-reaction.

Advertisement

We can justify ourselves that we, Lithuanians, reacted and shouted loudly. Today, many in the West admit that we were right. But that does not make us feel righteous because we are part of the collective West, for better and for worse.

Of course, it would be a mistake to justify Putin’s crimes solely based on Western indifference or appeasement. But it would also be a mistake to make all Russians equal subjects of the collective guilt. We, several Members of the European Parliament and well-known Western experts, have recently written about this in the text “’Collective guilt’ – the dilemma of penalising Russia’s opposition” (https://euobserver.com/opinion/156141).

In that text, we have provided a historical example of how the West’s attitude towards collective German guilt for the crimes of Nazi Germany has evolved. Here is a quote from that text:

“In the first years after the defeat of Hitler’s Germany in 1945, “collective guilt” — blaming all Germans for Nazi aggression — was the guideline for the Allies to deal with the German people.

This strategy was deliberately ended after it was understood that the building of a democratic Germany would be jeopardised in this manner. Collective guilt was replaced by a more selective approach in which Germans who had demonstrably resisted the Nazis, were fully integrated into the effort of remaking Germany.”

We have to answer for ourselves to the question of what is more important for us and for the West as a whole: to hold all Russians “collectively responsible” and “collectively guilty” of Putin’s crimes or to be genuinely concerned about how to fight against Putin together with Putin’s opponents and, once Putin has been defeated, to build a different, expected Russia together.

Attitude 5 – Democracy in Russia could be dangerous for us because Russia will again gain strength

Many of us know that Russia, with the authoritarian Putin at its head, is getting weaker and weaker politically, economically and technologically. Putin also understands this, which is one of the main reasons for his aggression.

It is also understood that Russia’s transformation, as it returns to a democratic path of development, would also enable Russia to return to the world markets and to a standard modernisation path. It is likely that, in this case, the European implementation over the coming decades of the Green Deal would also force Russia to transform its economy and move away from total dependence on oil and gas exports. This would allow Russia to become an economically successful and robust country.

However, there are Lithuanians who think that it is better to let Russia remain without democracy because if democracy is going to strengthen Russia’s economic power, we do not need it. After all, it is dangerous.

Such Lithuanian fears that the expansion of democracy to the East may not be suitable for us re-occur every few years, every time the foundations of authoritarian regimes in our region begin to shake. Thus, a few years ago, in the summer of 2020, our experts shouted loudly that Lithuania was making a grave mistake in supporting the Belarusian opposition and Sviatlana Tsykhanouskaya. Because such support is allegedly weakening Lukashenko, and Lukashenko is supposedly the only guarantor of Belarusian sovereignty. Where that “guarantor” has led Belarus is something we can all see today, but no one dares to admit that they were wrong at the time.

It is not surprising that there is a lot of such thinking in our countries. These days it has emerged that such review has recently infected Ivars Āboliņš, a Latvian who today heads the Latvian National Council for Electronic Media (NEPLP), which recently revoked the licence of TV Dozhd. According to the media, in 2014, Mr Āboliņš had publicly spoken out against the Maidan revolution, denouncing support for it because he believed that Ukraine’s integration into the European Union would be dangerous, as many Russian speakers would end up in Europe. He also felt that Putin’s regime was good for Russia because his authoritarian rule prevented Russia from falling apart, which could again be dangerous for Europe. It has however to be said that recently the same Ivars Āboliņš, when after he decided to close the TV Dozhd, he was reminded of his earlier words, has publicly admitted that he was wrong at the time and has apologised.

In trying to answer to these arguments of fear for democracy in Russia, we must first all answer the question of why an economically weak Russia is not something good for us to strive for and for which we should oppose the prospects of Russia’s democratic transformation.

It has long been demonstrated by world-renowned political scientists that democracies are not at war with each other. Authoritarian regimes being prone to military aggression is something that we have seen once again since 24 February. From the point of view of our own security, therefore, Russian democracy would be good for us. Political scientists have also demonstrated that democracy is more stable in countries that are sufficiently rich and economically developed (this does not apply to countries that export oil or gas). Poverty and democracy can be difficult to reconcile because poverty breeds political radicalism. Germany’s painful experience is a well-known example of that: after its defeat in the First World War, Germany was impoverished by extreme reparations, which the famous John Maynard Keynes considered unfair and dangerous, and then by the global crisis of 1929, which led to the collapse of the fragile democracy of the Weimar Republic, which opened the door to Hitler’s rule.

It is also worth remembering the experience of the West after World War II. As early as 1944, when the Allies were discussing how to deal with the defeated German economy, the plan drawn up by the US Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, was approved, which took the name of the “Morgenthau Plan” and envisaged the destruction of the German heavy industry and the division of Germany into several independent states. This plan was based on Morgenthau and his associates’ basic premise that this was the only way to prevent Germany, which had recovered economically from the war, from starting World War III ten years later.

One of the memoranda which endorsed the Morgenthau Plan stated that the military industry in the Ruhr and Saar regions of Germany (its central industrial regions) would have to be destroyed and that Germany itself would eventually have to be transformed into a “country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character”.

However, after the war, the Americans very quickly realised that this plan was completely wrong, as it would condemn the Germans to a long period of poverty and deprivation, which would enable various radicals, including the Communists, supported by Stalin, to win the elections.

Therefore, as early as 1946, the United States and President Harry S. Truman began to realise that the main objective of the US in post-war Europe was to defend the democracies against Stalin’s encroachments on them. They promptly abandoned the implementation of the Morgenthau Doctrine and any hint of its territorial partition or of the destruction of Germany’s economy. On 6 September 1946, US Secretary of State James F. Byrnes delivered a famous speech in Stuttgart, called by the Germans themselves the “speech of hope”, in which he essentially “buried” the Morgenthau Plan and outlined the prospect of an independent, democratic and economically strong Germany. In 1947, the US announced the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, the implementation of which was aimed at the economic reconstruction of post-war Europe (including Germany), with the clear geopolitical objective of defending European democracies against the radicalism of the electorate (which had become disillusioned with the post-war difficulties), and thus against the communist expansion of Stalin.

Thus, if we want more security for ourselves, let us look after democracy in Russia. And that requires a democratic Russia to have the capacity to develop economically and become a strong economy. That is why today when we are considering how the West will have to deal with Russia that has lost the war, we need to consider not the Morgenthau plans for such Russia but something like the Marshall Plan for a democratic Russia. For only this will help to stabilise the revival of democracy in Russia after the defeat of the war if such a revival takes place. We have written about this with experts from the Western and Russian opposition in a dedicated text, “The EU’s Relations With a Future Democratic Russia: A Strategy” (25 July 2022; https://www.martenscentre.eu/publication/the-eus-relations-with-a-future-democratic-russia-a-strategy/).

Attitude 6 – the only way to ensure our security is to put a high fence around Russia and then let Russia, closed off from the world, rot and collapse.

Some in Lithuania believe that we can build a high fence against Russia. A very high fence. Not just a physical fence but a NATO Article 5 fence and a missile defence fence. They also say that when we are so fenced in, we will no longer have to worry about what happens to Russia next because it is not up to us anyway. We are better off becoming a “Baltic Israel”, which, although surrounded by hundreds of millions of hostile Arabs, can defend its sovereignty, win wars and, at the same time, be an innovative start-up nation able to attract billions in investment.

I have nothing against this dream of becoming a “Baltic Israel”. It just does not seem very realistic to me. Because first of all, we are not Jews, with all their painful and tragic historical experiences that have shaped the unique nation of Israel.

Secondly, Israel, even though it is surrounded by hundreds of millions of Arabs, has the privilege of having nuclear weapons, whereas the Arabs do not. Even Iran does not yet have one. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian “dream” of a failed and divided Russia is dangerous because Russia is a nuclear state. The traditional “turmoil” (“смута”) in Russia can be not only profusely bloody but also horribly nuclear, or it can be accompanied by the diffusion of marauding bands and terrorists of the “Wagner” group into Europe, above all, through Lithuania. Because historically, the route to Europe for Russian wars or looting has been via Lithuania as the most geographically convenient route.

It is naïve (to say the least) to expect that we will not be affected by possible turmoil in Russia. Moreover, the prospect of such potential turmoil in Russia is likely to frighten some Western leaders already today. Therefore, they are tempted to be wary of the main cause of such potential turmoil – a complete military victory of Ukraine over Russia.

The popular explanations among us are that Russia will never become a democracy and that it is best to lock Russia up in its own “pot” and watch from a safe distance it self-destruct and collapse are all the more dangerous because they can only serve to fuel the West’s natural fears even further. Such Western fears are Putin’s most desired and cherished ally. Because Putin has lost the war in Ukraine, he is desperate to negotiate peace with the West in his favour, and he desperately needs the whole world. The West, in particular, believes that Russia after it has lost the war and after Putin, will really descend into complete chaos (including nuclear disorder), which would be dangerous for the whole world. And that is why, according to Putin, the West should stop supporting Ukraine because its victory will also confuse Russia.

We must therefore ask ourselves honestly: do we really want to help Putin to continue frightening the West?

******

So much for our attitudes towards Russia. Sometimes I have the impression that such attitudes are even prevalent among us. But nevertheless, I would argue that they are misconceptions and even dangerous ones.

I have already explained why they are wrong and dangerous.

It is equally important to understand why we have such attitudes and why we feel that way. What are our own psychological complexes that lead us to behave this way? And how can we help ourselves?

First of all, it is evident that some of our current attitudes are caused by what we see with our own eyes. Not only Putin but the entire Russian army, all of Russia, has been and will continue to be accompanied by reports of the most atrocious war crimes they have committed, of the killings, the rapes, and bombings, of the infinite human suffering of the Ukrainians. It is impossible just to watch it all without any feelings.

Solidarity is a natural reaction to it, and hatred is, too.

Hatred for those who are killing, hatred for the terrorist army, hatred for Putin, who is leading it, and hatred for everything that is connected with it. It is a natural emotional reaction, and this reaction is inevitable.

But that alone is not enough. We have a much greater responsibility than just indulging in hatred. We are responsible to future generations to help them not live under such a threat.

We have been saying for decades that Putin’s Russia is the greatest threat. The rest of the West has finally become convinced of this, and NATO has finally agreed that authoritarian Russia is the greatest threat to European security. That is why NATO is now radically reinforcing its key instruments for dealing with such a threat: the policies of Deterrence and Defence.

But deterrence and defence are not enough to make the threat go away. The Russian danger will only disappear completely if Russia transforms itself into a democracy. Just as the threat of Nazi Germany only disappeared when it was forced to transform itself into a democracy after losing the war.

Therefore, western policy towards Russia must have three strands: Deterrence, Defence and Transformation.

For such a transformation to take place, the Russian people need to be helped to let go of their old dreams of rebuilding the empire and to start to believe in a new dream of normal life in Russia.

Therefore, the transformation strategy implemented by the West must first of all include a plan for the deputinization of Russia (the Americans had a plan for the de-Nazification of Germany), which includes the destruction of the post-imperial dreams: the military crushing of Russia in Ukraine; a tribunal for Putin and his cronies; the general lustration of the current regime’s politicians, administrators, judges and power structures; and Ukraine’s NATO membership, which will finally kill the post-imperial Russian dreams.

On the other hand, such a transformation strategy must include a plan for a Strong Ukraine because the example of a strong, prosperous Ukraine can be the most substantial incentive for ordinary Russians to demand change in Russia itself. The goal of a strong Ukraine requires not only that the West helps Ukraine win the war and assists Ukraine in rebuilding its war-torn economy but also that the West ambitiously helps Ukraine to rapidly become a member of the EU (because only this creates success for the EU’s neighbours).

On the other hand, it must be agreed in such a Transformation Plan that the West will work much more intensively with Russia’s opposition and will work with them to develop plans for a different, expected, successful Russia, the EU, together with democratic Russia, assisting in the implementation of such plans. In the name of this, the West must help the Russian opposition to unite today and must help it to strengthen its communication with ordinary Russians.

Such a transformation strategy is not only necessary for the Russian opposition, not only for Russia’s prospects but also for us and the West as a whole. Because a different Russia will no longer be a threat to European security. It is worth making every effort to ensure that our future generations do not have to live under threat.

When Russia loses the war, there may be opportunities for change in Russia. It is essential to be ready to seize those opportunities. The West must be prepared for it, we must be ready for it, and the Russian opposition must be prepared for it.

We in Lithuania are uniquely positioned – when the war broke out, the West began to listen to our views. On the other hand, we know how to work together with the Russian opposition.

At the moment, Western support for Ukraine is our main strategic objective. The West will support Ukraine even more strongly if it believes that Ukraine’s victory will also bring positive changes to Belarus and Russia. But if they do not believe this, if they think that Russia cannot under any circumstances become a democracy, if they believe that Russia without Putin will descend into bloody and nuclear chaos, the West may simply be frightened of the consequences of a Ukrainian victory.

So let us understand that our “Russian” psychological complexes, our loud statements about not believing in the democratic and common human perspective of Russia, about the fact that it would be best for Russia to collapse, are dangerous because we are already being listened to in the West.

We would help Ukraine much more if we broadcast to the West our belief in the possibility of Russia’s transformation if we started to implement such a strategy ourselves, if we worked even more intensively with the Russian opposition if we were concerned about how to open up more channels of communication with ordinary Russians, rather than how to close down the channels that are already open.

We are in the midst of major historical events. The Berlin Wall once fell. We had a hand in that. Now the “Kremlin walls” may come down: the walls of autocracy, kleptocracy, aggression and state terrorism. We have the potential to contribute to this too. But only if, as we did during the times of our Independence movement “Sąjūdis”, we act wisely and not just emotionally.

Emotions are sometimes a convenient cover for intellectual laziness. It is easier to condemn than to create anything else. Superficial populism is also possible on patriotic and geopolitical issues. Meanwhile, it is not populism that wins wars these days, but reason and wisdom. Let us wish ourselves more wisdom! Because we need it for our security!

2022.12.12

Andrius Kubilius. Our “Russian” Psychological Complexes

Latvians had revoked the broadcast licence for the Russian opposition TV channel Dozhd. Before that, the channel had been expelled from Moscow by Putin.

It is for Latvians to judge, how well this decision was legally and politically justified. Rasa Juknevičienė and I believe that this decision was neither very correct nor strategically wise. The decision was also met with a lot of public reaction in Lithuania, most of which was the same: “that is what they deserve, because they all are imperialists. All Russians are agents of the Evil Empire.”

The Russian liberal opposition has responded with similarly angry reaction, without any shades. This made both Lithuanians and Latvians even angrier.

That reaction of ours is what prompted me to write this text. Because I believe that such a reaction shows the problems we have in our own thinking, in our own attitudes. Psychologists call it the problem of psychological complexes. Some of them can lead to serious societal diseases. And we need to talk about this openly. Because some of those complexes may lead to major negative consequences, particularly for ourselves and for our role in the region.

We have to analyse our own problems. Just as the Russian opposition must first analyse its own problems. We often feel both more righteous and better than the Russian opposition, therefore we are more inclined to analyse first and foremost their problems, but not our own. That is not a healthy approach.

That is why I am starting to first look at ourselves. Not at the Russian opposition. One day, I may take that up too.

I will try to identify briefly those our basic attitudes, those basic ‘Russian’ complexes of ours, which have been particularly prominent in the context of the TV Dozhd story, which in my opinion are wrong, and I will try to explain why they are wrong.

Attitude 1 – Russia is incompatible with democracy

Many in Lithuania and in the West in general have bought into the notion that Russia because of its statehood traditions is totally unsuited to democracy. Having inherited many state institutions from the Tatar-Mongol invasion, it has forever lived under autocracy, under tsars, secretaries-general or authoritarian presidents, and it has never had true parliamentarism, the rule of law, inter-institutional checks and balances. Something like the Great French Revolution, whose attitudes created the present-day West, never happened in Russia. Therefore, the West needs to stop naively dreaming of a democratic Russia.

It is worth noting that Putin has consistently sought to persuade the West to believe the same notion – that Russia has no chance of becoming democratic. By his own actions, Putin has effectively created and has been creating the image of a savage, oriental Russia which is poisoning its opponents, of an aggressive state with a nuclear bomb in its hands. According to Putin, there will never be democracy in such a state, and the West must therefore stop talking naively about the prospects of democracy in Russia, because this could make Putin nervous, provoke him, and he would again start threatening with nuclear weapons. According to Putin, the West simply has to adapt: adapt to the current Russia, which means that the West simply has to maintain a dialogue with Putin, regardless of how he behaves.

Mr Emanuel Macron is an example of how Western leaders are willing to accept this doctrine imposed by Putin and are willing to adapt to it, because Mr Macron does not believe that Russia can be different. The consequence of this is that some Western leaders are still willing to geopolitically ‘sacrifice’ Ukraine in order to ‘accommodate’ Putin. Moreover, it is necessary not to anger or provoke Putin with the support for Ukraine, because Putin and Russia are savages, they will never be different, and they still have a frightening nuclear bomb.

One can evaluate in different ways the arguments based on historical determinism that Russia will never be able to become a democracy because its past history supposedly prevents it from becoming a democracy. I do not believe in such arguments, because I have seen many examples of countries or nations that had no democratic experience before turning into successful democracies at the end of the 20th century. One of such countries is Mongolia, the ancestral home of the Mongols and the Tatars, which today, according to many global studies, is doing quite well in the light of the index of democracy. The second example, Taiwan, demonstrates an extraordinary capacity for democracy, despite the fact that the main nation of the country is Chinese, and despite of hundreds of arguments of many proponents of historical determinism as to why China, the Chinese and Confucianism are incompatible with democracy.

Therefore my first piece of advice on the matter of our ‘Russian’ complexes is not to believe that Russia will never become a democracy. Or at least to doubt those, who insist on this. Because that is what Putin claims.

Attitude 2 – Russians as a people are not fit for democracy

We often hear claims that Russians are simply not fit for democracy: they all long for the restoration of the empire, they all support Putin and the war he has started against Ukraine. The Russians are a dark, uneducated people (‘народ’), brainwashed by propaganda. They have no democratic instincts and never will have any, so let us stop deluding ourselves with illusions about Russia’s democratic prospects.

In doing so, we inadvertently turn ourselves into nothing more than simple racists. Because such an attitude means that, from our point of view, the Russians are an underdeveloped nation, just as some people nowadays still think of the people of African descendance. And that the Russians will never rise from this inferiority. We are beginning to see ourselves, intentionally or unintentionally, as a nation of higher genetic quality compared to the Russians. Putin says the opposite: that only the Russians are the ‘chosen people’, and that therefore, according to him, the Russians can exterminate the Ukrainians. I hope that, first of all, we will stop at the right time and will not  follow the Nazi way of judging and classifying other nations according to their quality, and of sending the representatives of the ‘inferior quality’ to the gas chambers.

There are different people among  Russians. Just like among the Lithuanians. I remember huge demonstrations during Gorbachev’s time when ordinary Russians were not only fighting for democracy in Russia, but also supporting Lithuanian independence. I do not believe that such genes can be lost to alcohol. The genes might have been “tarred” with the brush of dictatorship and persecution, but they are not disappearing anywhere. And when the opportunity arises, they break out with tremendous force. Just as it happened in the summer of 2020 in Belarus. That is what scares Putin. That is why he has started a war, so that the example of the Belarusian revolution and the success of Ukraine does not infect ordinary Russians.

Attitude 3: Ordinary Russians and the opposition do not take up arms against the Kremlin regime

Increasingly, one hears Lithuanians complaining that not only ordinary Russians, but also the leaders of the liberal opposition are not protesting in the streets against the Kremlin regime, taking up arms, and, whether in Russia or Ukraine, joining the frontline against the criminal aggression aimed at rebuilding the empire. Hundreds of thousands or millions of Russians who are being mobilised, are choosing to flee Russia, but not to take actions of defiance in Russia itself that would shake the foundations of the regime from the ground up.

Indeed, there are no such mass protests in Russia. This allows Lithuanian “champagne revolutionaries” (a reference to the Britain’s “champagne socialists” or Spain’s “caviar left”) to advice the liberal opposition which has fled from Putin’s persecution to better “pick up their arms”, to go back to Russia and to take up the real struggle there. At the same time, it is as if we are saying that we would certainly do so if we were in their shoes, because we heroically fought for our independence and our democracy, we took part in huge demonstrations, we took to the Baltic Way, and we brought down the Soviet empire and the communist dictatorship.

Somehow, we are so easily swayed by the demagoguery of self-satisfied Europeans. We forget that before Gorbachev’s Perestroika, we did not dare to hold mass rallies, nor did we dare to protest en masse in any other way. There were brave  military resistance by “forest brothers” after II World War, here were  brave dissidents who were imprisoned and persecuted, there was Romas Kalanta, who put himself on fire in protest in 1972, as well as his mass demonstration style funerals. However, during Brezhnev time Lithuanians who were mobilised into the Soviet Army did not protest and did not run away from the army or from the mobilisation when the Soviet Army occupied Czechoslovakia or invaded Afghanistan. Some in Lithuania are even now proud of their “Afghan” experience.

Why did we not then have the courage that we now want to teach the Russian opposition? Because we were humanly afraid of persecution, imprisonment, forceful treatment in psychiatric hospital, or simply of having our professional careers ruthlessly ruined. That is why we only rebelled when we believed that Gorbachev’s perestroika meant that we would no longer go to prison for taking part in a rally. In contrast, in Russia, they do go to prison now. And one can get 8 years of hard labour for a Facebook post. Or one can simply be poisoned. With “Novichok”.

Therefore maybe we should stop making ourselves comfortable from the sofa and teaching the Russians how to fight such a terrorist regime. Because we did not fight it ourselves when we were enslaved. And even now only few of us would fight.

Attitude 4 – all Russians are collectively guilty of the war against Ukraine and the opposition must be punished

When one sees the brutal war crimes committed by the Russian army in the cities of Bucha, Irpin, Izyum, there is no doubt that the first and simplest emotional statement that comes to mind is that all Russians are guilty. Equally guilty. Because they allowed Putin to come to power, they allowed Putin to become a dictator, to become an aggressor, because they did not protest, they did not fight against this criminal regime which today terrorises Ukraine with war, torture, rape, murder, and terrifies the Russian opposition with its prisons and its “Novichoks”.

Well, in fairness, a part of the collective blame for the current Putin also lies with the West, because the West has consistently made concessions to Putin, sought dialogue and the resumption of relations with him – even after the war against Georgia  in 2008 and the occupation of Crimea in 2014. Because a large part of the European Union has allowed itself to be tamed by the Kremlin to the needle of cheap gas, to Nordstream and yachts of Abramovich. That is how the current Putin came about, with the paradigm in the West of “just let us not provoke Putin”: let us not provoke the Kremlin with Western support for the integration of Ukraine, with the fight for freedom of speech or assembly in Russia, with the fight against the poisoning of Navalny. The West has not reacted to Putin’s crimes, therefore Putin has reacted increasingly aggressively to the West’s non-reaction.

We can justify ourselves that we, Lithuanians, reacted and shouted loudly. Today, many in the West admit that we were right. But that does not make us feel righteous, because we are part of the collective West, for better and for worse.

Of course, it would be a mistake to justify Putin’s crimes solely on the basis of Western indifference or appeasement. But it would also be a mistake to make all Russians equal subjects of the collective guilt. This is what we, several Members of the European Parliament and several well-known Western experts have recently written about in the text “’Collective guilt’ – the dilemma of penalising Russia’s opposition”.

In that text, we have provided a historical example of how the West’s attitude towards collective German guilt for the crimes of Nazi Germany has evolved. Here is a quote from that text:

In the first years after the defeat of Hitler’s Germany in 1945, “collective guilt” — blaming all Germans for Nazi aggression — was the guideline for the Allies to deal with the German people.

This strategy was deliberately ended after it was understood that the building of a democratic Germany would be jeopardised in this manner. Collective guilt was replaced by a more selective approach in which Germans who had demonstrably resisted the Nazis, were fully integrated into the effort of remaking Germany.

We have to answer for ourselves to the question of what is more important for us and for the West as a whole: to hold all Russians “collectively responsible” and “collectively guilty” of Putin’s crimes, or to be genuinely concerned about how to fight against Putin together with Putin’s opponents and, once Putin has been defeated, to build a different, normal Russia together.

Attitude 5 – Democracy in Russia could be dangerous for us, because Russia will again gain strength

Many of us are aware that Russia, with the authoritarian Putin at its head, is getting weaker and weaker politically, economically and technologically. Putin also understands this, and this is one of the main reasons for his aggression.

It is also understood that Russia’s transformation, as it returns to a democratic path of development, would also enable Russia to return to the world markets and to a normal modernisation path. It is likely that, in this case, the European implementation over the coming decades of the Green Deal would also force Russia to transform its economy and to move away from the total dependence on oil and gas exports. This would allow Russia to become an economically successful and strong country.

However, there are Lithuanians who think that it is better to let Russia remain without democracy, because if democracy is going to strengthen Russia’s economic power, we do not need it, because it is dangerous.

Such Lithuanian fears that the expansion of democracy to the East may not be good for us re-occur every few years, every time the foundations of authoritarian regimes in our region begin to shake. Thus, a few years ago, in the summer of 2020, our experts were shouting loudly that Lithuania was making a grave mistake in supporting the Belarusian opposition and Sviatlana Tsykhanouskaya. Because such a support is allegedly weakening Lukashenko, and Lukashenko is supposedly the only guarantor of the Belarusian sovereignty. Where that “guarantor” has led Belarus is something we can all see today, but no one dares to admit that they were wrong at the time.

It is not surprising that there is a lot of such thinking in our countries. These days it has emerged that such thinking has recently infected Ivars Āboliņš, a Latvian who today heads the Latvian National Council for Electronic Media (NEPLP), which recently revoked the licence of TV Dozhd. According to the media, in 2014 Mr. Āboliņš had publicly spoken out against the Maidan revolution, denouncing support for it because he believed that Ukraine’s integration into the European Union would be dangerous, as many Russian speakers would end up in Europe. He also felt that Putin’s regime was good for Russia, because with his authoritarian rule he was preventing Russia from falling apart, which could again be dangerous for Europe. It has however to be said that recently the same Ivars Āboliņš, when after his decision to close the TV Dozhd, he was reminded of his earlier words, has publicly admitted that he was wrong at the time, and has apologised.

In trying to answer to these arguments of fear for democracy in Russia, we must first of all answer the question of why an economically weak Russia is not something good for us to strive for and for which we should oppose the prospects of Russia’s democratic transformation.

It has long been demonstrated by world-renowned political scientists that democracies are not at war with each other. Authoritarian regimes being prone to military aggression is something that we have seen once again since 24 February. From the point of view of our own security, therefore, Russian democracy would be good for us. Political scientists have also demonstrated that democracy is more stable in countries that are sufficiently rich and economically developed (this does not apply to countries that export oil or gas). Poverty and democracy can be difficult to reconcile because poverty breeds political radicalism. Germany’s painful experience is a well known example for that: after the defeat in the First World War, Germany was impoverished by extreme reparations, which the famous John Maynard Keynes considered unfair and dangerous, and then  by the global crisis of 1929, which led to the collapse of the fragile democracy of the Weimar Republic, which opened  the door to Hitler’s rule.

It is also worth remembering the experience of the West after World War II. As early as in 1944, when the Allies were discussing how to deal with the defeated German economy, the plan drawn up by the US Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, was approved, which took the name of the “Morgenthau Plan”, and which envisaged the destruction of the German heavy industry and the division of Germany into a number of independent states. This plan was based on the basic premise of Morgenthau himself and his associates that this was the only way to prevent Germany, which had recovered economically from the war, from starting World War III ten years later.

One of the memoranda which endorsed the Morgenthau Plan, stated that the military industry in the Ruhr and Saar regions of Germany (its main industrial regions) would have to be destroyed and that Germany itself would eventually have to be transformed into a “country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character”.

However, after the war, the Americans very quickly realised that this plan was completely wrong, as it would condemn the Germans to a long period of poverty and deprivation, which would enable various radicals, including the Communists, supported by Stalin, to win the elections.

Therefore, as early as 1946, the United States and President Harry S. Truman began to realise that the main objective of the US in post-war Europe was to defend the democracies against Stalin’s encroachments on them, and they promptly abandoned the implementation of the Morgenthau Doctrine and any hint of its territorial partition or of destruction of Germany’s economy. On 6 September 1946, US Secretary of State James F. Byrnes delivered a famous speech in Stuttgart, called by the Germans themselves the “speech of hope”, in which he essentially “buried” the Morgenthau Plan and outlined the prospect of an independent, democratic and economically strong Germany. In 1947, the US announced the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, the implementation of which was aimed at the economic reconstruction of post-war Europe (including Germany), with the clear geopolitical objective of defending European democracies against the radicalism of the electorate (which had become disillusioned with the post-war difficulties), and thus against the communist expansion of Stalin.

Thus, if we want more security for ourselves, let us look after democracy in Russia. And that requires a democratic Russia to have the capacity to develop economically and become a strong economy. That is why today, when we are considering how the West will have to deal with Russia that has lost the war, we need to consider not the Morgenthau plans for such Russia, but something like the Marshall Plan for a democratic Russia. For only this will help to stabilise the revival of democracy in Russia after the defeat of the war, if such a revival takes place. We have written about this, together with experts from the Western and Russian opposition, in a dedicated text “The EU’s Relations With a Future Democratic Russia: A Strategy” .

Attitude 6 – the only way to ensure our security is to put a high fence around Russia, and then let Russia, closed off from the world, rot and collapse

Some in Lithuania believe that we can build a high fence against Russia. A very high fence. Not just a physical fence, but a NATO Article 5 fence and a missile defence fence. They also say that when we are so fenced in, we will no longer have to worry about what happens to Russia next, because it is not up to us anyway. We are better off becoming a “Baltic Israel”, which, although surrounded by hundreds of millions of hostile Arabs, is able to defend its sovereignty, win wars and, at the same time, be an innovative start-up nation, able to attract billions in investment.

I have nothing against this dream of becoming a “Baltic Israel”. It just does not seem very realistic to me. Because, first of all, we are not Jews, with all their painful and tragic historical experiences that have shaped the unique nation of Israel.

Secondly, Israel, even though it is surrounded by hundreds of millions of Arabs, has the privilege of having nuclear weapons, whereas the Arabs do not. Even Iran does not yet have one. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian “dream” of a failed and divided Russia is dangerous because Russia is a nuclear state. The traditional “turmoil” (“смута”) in Russia can be not only profusely bloody but also horribly nuclear; or it can be accompanied by the diffusion of marauding bands and terrorists of the “Wagner” group into Europe, above all, through Lithuania. Because historically, the route to Europe for Russian wars or looting has been via Lithuania as the most geographically convenient route.

It is naïve (to say the least) to expect that we will not be affected by a possible turmoil in Russia. Moreover, the prospect of such potential turmoil in Russia is likely to frighten some Western leaders already today. Therefore, they are tempted to be wary of the main cause of such potential turmoil – a complete military victory of Ukraine over Russia.

The popular explanations among us are that Russia will never become a democracy and that it is best to lock Russia up in its own “pot” and watch from a safe distance it self-destruct and collapse are all the more dangerous because they can only serve to fuel the West’s natural fears even further. Such Western fears are Putin’s most desired and cherished ally. Because Putin, having lost the war in Ukraine, is desperate to negotiate peace with the West in his favour, and he desperately needs the whole world, and the West in particular, to believe that Russia, after it will have lost the war, and after Putin, will really descend into complete chaos (including nuclear chaos), which would be dangerous for the whole world. And that is why, according to Putin, the West should stop supporting Ukraine, because its victory will also cause confusion in Russia.

We must therefore ask ourselves honestly: do we really want to help Putin to continue frightening the West?

******

So much for our attitudes towards Russia. Sometimes I have the impression that such attitudes are even prevalent among us. But, nevertheless, I would argue that they are misconceptions, and even dangerous ones.

I have already explained why they are wrong and dangerous.

It is equally important to understand why we have such attitudes, and why we feel that way. What are our own psychological complexes that lead us to behave this way? And how can we help ourselves?

First of all, it is obvious that some of our current attitudes are caused by what we see with our own eyes. Not only Putin, but the entire Russian army, all of Russia, has been and will continue to be accompanied by reports of the most atrocious war crimes that they have committed, of the killings, the rapes, the bombings, of the infinite human suffering of the Ukrainians. It is impossible to just watch it all without any feelings.

Solidarity is a natural reaction to it, and hatred is, too.

Hatred for those who are killing, hatred for the terrorist army, hatred for Putin, who is leading it, and hatred for everything that is connected with it. It is a natural emotional reaction and this reaction is inevitable.

But that alone is not enough. We have a much greater responsibility than just indulging in hatred. We have a responsibility to future generations to help them not to live under such a threat.

We have been saying for decades that Putin’s Russia is the greatest threat. The rest of the West has finally become convinced of this, and NATO has finally signed up to the fact that authoritarian Russia is the greatest threat to European security. That is why NATO is now radically reinforcing its key instruments for dealing with such a threat: the policies of Deterrence and Defence.

But deterrence and defence are not enough to make the threat go away. The Russian threat will only disappear completely if Russia transforms itself into a democracy. Just as the threat of Nazi Germany only disappeared when it was forced to transform itself into a democracy after losing the war.

Western policy towards Russia must therefore have three strands: Deterrence, Defence and Transformation.

For such a transformation to take place, the Russian people need to be helped to let go of their old dreams of rebuilding the empire and to start to  believe in a new dream of a normal life in Russia.

Therefore, the transformation strategy implemented by the West must first of all include a plan for the deputinization of Russia (the Americans had a plan for the de-Nazification of Germany), which includes the destruction of the post-imperial dreams: the military crushing of Russia in Ukraine; a tribunal for Putin and his cronies; the general lustration of the current regime’s politicians, administrators, judges and power structures; and the Ukraine’s NATO membership, which will finally kill the post-imperial Russian dreams.

On the other hand, such a transformation strategy must include a plan for a Strong Ukraine, because the example of a strong, successful Ukraine can be the strongest incentive for ordinary Russians to demand change in Russia itself. The goal of a strong Ukraine requires not only that the West helps Ukraine win the war and assists Ukraine in rebuilding its war-torn economy, but also that the West ambitiously helps Ukraine to rapidly become a member of the EU (because only this creates success for the EU’s neighbours).

On the other hand, it must be agreed in such a Transformation Plan that the West will work much more intensively with Russia’s opposition, and will work with them to develop plans for a different, normal, successful Russia, the EU, together with democratic Russia, assisting in implementation of such plans. In the name of this, the West must help the Russian opposition to unite today and must help it to strengthen its communication with ordinary Russians.

Such a transformation strategy is not only necessary for the Russian opposition, not only for Russia’s own prospects, but it is necessary for us and for the West as a whole. Because a different Russia will no longer be a threat to European security. It is worth making every effort to ensure that our future generations do not have to live under a threat.

When Russia loses the war, there may be opportunities for change in Russia. It is essential to be ready to seize those opportunities. The West must be ready for it, we must be ready for it, and the Russian opposition must be ready for it.

We in Lithuania are in a unique position – when the war broke out, the West began to listen to our views. On the other hand, we know how to work together with the Russian opposition.

At the moment, Western support for Ukraine is our main strategic objective. The West will support Ukraine even more strongly if it believes that Ukraine’s victory will also bring positive changes to Belarus and Russia. But if they do not believe this, if they believe that Russia cannot under any circumstances become a democracy, if they believe that Russia without Putin will descend into bloody and nuclear chaos, the West may simply be frightened of the consequences of a Ukrainian victory.

So let us understand that our “Russian” psychological  complexes, our loud statements about not believing in the democratic and common human perspective of Russia, about the fact that it would be best for Russia to collapse, are dangerous, because we are already being listened to in the West.

We would help Ukraine much more if we broadcast to the West our belief in the possibility of Russia’s transformation, if we started to implement such a strategy ourselves, if we worked even more intensively with the Russian opposition, if we were concerned about how to open up more channels of communication with ordinary Russians, rather than how to close down the channels that are already open.

We are in the midst of major historical events. The Berlin Wall once fell. We had a hand in that. Now the “Kremlin walls” may come down: the walls of autocracy, kleptocracy, aggression and state terrorism. We have the potential to contribute to this too. But only if, as we did during the times of our Independence movement “Sąjūdis”, we act wisely and not just emotionally.

Emotions are sometimes a convenient cover for intellectual laziness. It is easier to condemn than to create anything else. Superficial populism is also possible on patriotic and geopolitical issues. Meanwhile, it is not populism that wins wars these days, but reason and wisdom.

Let us wish ourselves more wisdom! Because we need it for our security!

2021.02.01

A. Kubilius. A revolution in Russia?

In September last year, I publicly raised the question as to when a “Belarusian” democratic revolution would begin in Russia.

On Saturday, Russia’s people across many cities – from Vladivostok to Moscow and St. Petersburg – took to the streets en masse under the united slogan “Путин уходи!” The Reuters agency reports that in Moscow, some 50,000 people gathered to a “Navalny protest.” This is the largest number of protesters in Moscow since 2013.

Across Russia, 3,000 protesters have been arrested – this is also a single day “record” in Russia. In Moscow, the OMON chased and beat on protesters no less than Lukashenko’s OMON in Minsk. Navalny’s headquarters has already announced that next week, it will once again be organising protests across Russian, though a large number of Navalny’s comrades are already arrested, just like the man himself. Can this already be seen as the beginning of a “Belarusian” revolution in Russia? I am no prophet to make predictions, but as I wrote in my text in September, there is a number of objective historical factors, which suggest that the Russian people could follow the path of Belarus’ revolution. Democracy is possible not only in Ukraine and Belarus, it is also possible in Russia – this is the first lesson to all those who, up to last year’s revolution in Belarus, thought that Russia would never be able to become democratic. The Russian people aren’t particularly different to those of Ukraine or Belarus, perhaps just that they have been brainwashed a little more by the Kremlin’s propaganda, perhaps they are more deeply infected with post-imperial nostalgia, but this does not make a vast difference.

At the same time, it is worth remembering that exactly a year ago, in January-February 2020, no one in Lithuania believed that something like a democratic revolution would occur in Belarus, with the first real indications of its potential only showing up in May-June. This is because we all thought that the Belarusians are even more brainwashed than common Russians and that to them, a post-imperial “union with Russia” is the most acceptable future trajectory.

Only now can we earnestly admit that a year ago, we were deeply mistaken about the thinking of the Belarusian people and that already then, among them prevailed the thinking (which we failed to notice), which later led to the power of the continuing democratic protests. From the experience of the democratic revolution in Belarus, we can also draw conclusions that not only a revolution’s leaders decide the success of the endeavour. The protest’s leaders play a crucial role, but more as triggers, which help spark the flame of revolution. But the continued spread of the fire then controlled by wholly other processes of mass society and not leaders. Following the experience of the revolution in Belarus, it can be said that the greatest danger unto Putin’s regime isn’t Navalny himself, despite him being an incomparable hero of contemporary Russian history, who is performing a massive task in dethroning Putin’s regime. The greatest danger to Putin is 59% segment of Russian citizens who in a 2019 Levada Centre poll answered that they want fundamental changes in Russia.

After 2019, Levada no longer posed such questions in surveys (at least not in publicly released reports), but it would be hard to expect that over the past two years, there would have been a decline in Russian citizens who want fundamental changes. Surveys done in Belarus last May also indicated that more than 60% of Belarusians wanted fundamental changes. To me, this was the most serious signal that “something could happen” in Belarus. The democratic revolution in Belarus actually began when the Belarusians, who truly want change, felt and saw that they are the majority. The Babaryka and Tsikhanouski candidacies were needed for them to realise they are the majority. This created the picture of kilometres-long queues of people lining up to sign. Afterwards, when Babaryka and Tsikhanouski were arrested, three brave women, with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya at their head, and their protests across Belarus were needed, which displayed that all the regions of Belarus (not only Minsk) are part of this “protest majority.” And finally, it took the election day on August 9, the ability of Golos and Zubr to convincingly prove that the true majority of Belarusians actually voted for Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya despite Lukashenko’s entire propaganda machine seeking to claim otherwise. All of this, as well as the results, helped the Belarusians come to believe that they, those seeking change in Belarus, are in the majority. When they realised this, they ceased fearing both Lukashenko and his entire OMON. A “Belarusian” revolution in Russia requires the same – the 60% of Russians who in surveys speak in favour of change need opportunities to see that they are the majority. Navalny is creating these opportunities. When the Russian people, who seek reform, come to believe that they are truly a majority, then no Moscow OMON or arrests of protest leaders will stop them.

Today, the path towards a democratic Russia has only begun in Russia itself. Putin is consistently following Lukashenko’s path and hoping that prisons and OMON will halt this democratic path for Russia. All that Lukashenko achieved last year is that today, the only question that remains is when he’ll have to go seek refuge somewhere like distant Venezuela. Putin could hear the very same question at the end of this year. The democratic Belarusian revolution is an inspiration for the Russian democratic revolution. In the near future, the Kremlin may come to lack the political, financial and OMON resources to also take care of Lukashenko’s survival. The Belarusian revolution and Navalny are what will inspire the continuation of the Russian revolution. Its success will be decided by whether the silent majority in Russia, which favours change, will come to believe that it is the new majority. It happened in Belarus. It is completely possible for it to happen in Russia as well.

2021.01.19

Member of European Parliament A. Kubilius. Democracy in Russia: Mission possible

×