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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Why is Western support so lukewarm, slow and delayed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Andrius Kubilius. Western Reality and Our Responsibility

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


Andrius Kubilius. What Does the West Want?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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!


EPP proposal for Resolution on Recognising the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism

The European Parliament is moving forward with the adoption of the resolution on recognising the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The adoption is planned in the plenary meeting next week in Strasbourg. Political groups have already presented their suggestions and expect to finalise the text this Thursday (November 17) or Friday (November 18) at the latest.

The draft resolution as proposed by the EPP Group in the European Parliament.



Andrius Kubilius. The Tragedy of Russia (full text)

Read only main points of the text.

Read the text (including summary) in pdf format.

It is not popular these days to speak with pity about Russia and its people.

It is much more usual to find ever more poignant words of indignation and dismay directed at all Russians. Because many of us are convinced that they are all guilty. All of them: for Putin, for the aggression, for Bucha, for Irpyn, for Izyum.

While we understand the reasons for such sincere indignation, we must nevertheless realise that such emotional anger does not relieve us of our own grave responsibility to help Russia to become different.

We are no longer able to help Putin, we are no longer able to help his clique, we are no longer able to help the war criminals, because they are facing defeat in Ukraine and the Hague Tribunal.

But after Putin is gone, we must find it in ourselves to help Russia to become something different: a non-aggressive, non-mad, normal European-type state, or at least a country beginning to move towards such a change. Because not only does Russia’s future depend on it, our security depends on it. A “normal” Russia in our neighbourhood would lead to a major change in the security architecture of the entire European continent. That is why today, when we talk about both the Russia of today and Russia of the future, we need to talk not only about deterrence of and defence from the aggressive Russia of (what NATO and Ukraine have been doing), but also about the transformation of the Russia after Putin. And for this, we need to move away from the paradigm of “Putin first!” to a completely new strategy of “Democracy in Russia – first!” in all the thinking of the West.

We have no obvious proof and no answers on whether Russia, after losing the war against Ukraine, will be able to transform itself into a democracy, whether we will find the right ways to help its transformation. But not to try to help Russia after Putin to transform itself, not to make every effort to make such a transformation happen – we simply do not have such a right.

Alexei Navalny writes about Russia after Putin in his latest piece in The Washington Post a few weeks ago in a very reasoned way, still out of prison, but firmly believing in Russia’s democratic, parliamentary future, believing that the majority of Russians do not want some new territories, but just a normal (European) life: 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.”

Navalny asks for Western help to transform Russia after Putin. Because people in Russia want a normal life, and they need and will need Western support. Despite the fact that Putin’s Russia has now declared war not only on Ukraine, but on the entire West.

However, for the West to move towards a strategy of “Democracy in Russia – first!” in its relations with Russia we, those of us who are closest to Russia, must first of all have a much better and more rational understanding of the historical processes behind Russia’s development, of the root causes of where Russia is today. And only after we have understood this, will we be able to offer the West a strategy to support Russia’s transformation. This requires rational thinking in the West, not just emotions. Especially our own (Lithuanian) rational, strategic thinking on Russia is needed, because the West has already started to listen to our thoughts on Russia. That is why we (and not someone else) must propose the draft strategy: because for us it is a vital issue of our own security, while for others it is something far away from their comfortable lives, where “geopolitical laziness” has become a habit that is difficult to change.


Putin Is The Tragedy Of Russia


Today, it is quite obvious to all the sanely thinking people, including in Russia itself, that Russia is in a tragic state. This tragic state of affairs is only deepening. Putin’s aggression against Ukraine has become a huge problem not only for Ukraine but also for Russia itself. Russia is losing the war it started, Russia is revealing itself as a completely backward country that is rotting from within; and Putin is behaving like a rabid rat cornered in a corner, threatening the World with nuclear strikes. But the prolonged stay of Putin in power threatens Russia itself with the further rapid collapse of the entire state and the complete disintegration of the country.

One of the Putin’s current henchmen, the Speaker of the Russian Duma, V.Volodin, once famously proclaimed: “If there is Putin, there is Russia; if there is no more Putin, there will be no more Russia”. It is now becoming increasingly obvious that Putin is one of the main causes of the current tragedy of Russia, and one of the main symbols of that tragedy. This is why Volodin’s famous words have to be rephrased: “If Putin is there, Russia may not exist; if Putin is gone, Russia may recover”.

However, it would be frivolous to think that, with Putin himself gone, all of Russia’s problems, which have led to today’s tragedy, will be solved very easily and spontaneously. Russia’s problems today are also the result of objective historical patterns, which Putin has exploited for the benefit of his regime and has himself fallen hostage to. Russia’s history in the 20th century is also full of tragic historical twists and turns, which are now echoing with existential challenges for Russia.

A couple of these fundamental historical problems in Russia are worth discussing separately, because only by understanding them can we better understand how we can help Russia.


Post-Imperial Nostalgic Seizures


Historians have noted that Russia’s historical development has largely followed the historical trajectories of Europe, but usually with a significant delay. And this delay has often had tragic consequences for Russia itself and the wider World.

Russia is now the last collapsing empire on the European continent, having begun to crumble only in the 1990s. The disintegration of an empire is not a one-day process, and it certainly did not end the day the Belovezh Accords were signed. The longest time the crumbling of an empire takes is in the mind of the imperial nation. It is still happening in Russia.

We in Lithuania are lucky that we managed to escape from that collapsing Soviet/Russian empire almost without the bloodshed.

Even though the Russian Empire began to crumble only in the 1990s, the other great empires of the European continent, France and Great Britain, began to say goodbye to their imperial grandeur immediately after the Second World War. Such a farewell was nowhere easy: nostalgia for the fading “glorious” imperial grandeur played a prominent role in public consciousness everywhere. By the mid-1950s, the French were so deeply nostalgic for the loss of Algeria and other colonies in North Africa that it was only de Gaulle’s return that saved French democracy from the complete collapse.

A tormented nostalgia for the past is common to all societies undergoing the revolutionary change. We in Lithuania, too, experienced a strong wave of nostalgia for the past immediately after the Sąjūdis revolution, when the Lithuanian public elected  a majority of former communists during the 1992 parliamentary elections, and then later elected the last General Secretary of Lithuanian Communist Party A. Brazauskas as the President of Lithuania. Even in 2004, when Lithuania became a member of the EU and NATO, in a poll commissioned by our party, when asked whether life was better under the Soviets or in the Independent Lithuania, 54% of the respondents answered that life was better under the Soviets. Lithuanians were no strangers to nostalgia for the past, for the Soviet past, and our democracy was only saved from the disastrous effects of such nostalgia by the fact that the European Union opened its doors to us at the same time.

Many scholarly books were written about the nostalgia for the past as an inevitable and dramatically important social phenomenon in young democracies. The two most memorable of such books for me personally were published   by the famous Samuel P. Huntington: Political Order in Changing Societies (1968) and The Third Wave: Democratisation in the Late Twentieth Century (1991).

Russia in the late 1990s was also undergoing a major revolutionary change. Inevitably, a wave of nostalgia for the past also swept throughout Russia. Only it was even more poisonous than in Lithuania,  because alongside the natural nostalgia for the Soviet past, the Russian society was also suffering from the nostalgia for the former imperial “glory and grandeur”.

The FSB took advantage of this by re-installing in 2000 to the power one of their own, Vladimir Putin. Putin and his circle in the Kremlin quickly realised that it was easy to score cheap popularity points by stimulating the nostalgia of ordinary Russians for the Soviet, imperial past. For the mafia, with its pyramid of power (if to use famous words of the late Senator J.McCain: “Russia is a gas station run by a mafia that is masquerading as a country.), that Putin had created, the most important objective has been personal gain from easy oil and gas money and the preservation of the regime’s pyramid of power. It was for the preservation of this pyramid that the public had to be fed ever greater doses of nostalgia-inducing global zombification. Putin has been very successful in creating (or restoring) an imperial dream for ordinary Russians, and the narrative “Krym nash” (“the Crimea is ours”) has become a volcano of such a nostalgia and imperial dreams. Putin had to simultaneously worry about how to maintain the society’s nostalgia for the imperial past, and about another problem: how to prevent a democratic, pro-Western Ukraine from becoming a successful state, because such an inspiring example could also make ordinary Russians want to live like Ukraine, and such a dream of Russians would very quickly destroy the foundations of the Kremlin’s mafia pyramid. Thus was born the Novorossiya plan, a mixture of nostalgia for the imperial past and jealousy of Ukraine’s success.

Such the mix led not only to the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine, but also to the tragedy of Russia and the threat to its existence. Nostalgia for the imperial past is the dynamite beneath Russia’s foundations; it is one of the root causes of the tragedy of Russia. It is clear that Putin deliberately stoked the fire under this dynamite for a long time, and finally, for reasons known only to him, decided to light the fuse that leads directly to that dynamite.

The process of the disintegration of the Russian Empire and the nostalgic storms of the public in recent decades are different from the post-war dismantle of the other empires on the European continent in a way that Putin personally encouraged the growth of nostalgia for the imperial past, then became a hostage to such nostalgia himself and thus killed off the young democracy of Russia. This is the opposite to other European leaders like de Gaulle who had the courage to contain the post-imperial nostalgia of their societies, and thus saved French democracy.

In order to help Russia to transform itself after Putin, the West must help Russian society to say a final and irreversible goodbye to the dream of the imperial nostalgia. In particular, Russia’s painful defeat in its own war of aggression against Ukraine would contribute to that. Western arms for Ukraine are therefore also the Western aid for the Russia’s transformation. Even Ukraine’s NATO membership would positively contribute to the Russia’s transformation, because it would demonstrate to ordinary Russians that Ukraine no longer remains in some grey area of Russian imperial interests. And that this is being established for ever.


When Will The Great French Revolution Happen In Russia?


Another historical difference between Russia and the Old Europe is that the Old Europe (Western Europe) has been undergoing major social changes since the end of the 18th century (and in some places, since much earlier), best symbolised by the Great French Revolution: the revolutionary transition from feudalism to modern capitalism, with the concomitant development of modern constitutional democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Some historians argue that in France itself, the Revolution, with all its iterations of the Terror, the Restoration, the repeated revolutionary upsurges (1830, 1848) and the ebb and flow of the tides, lasted until the war of 1870, which was lost to Bismarck and to a reunifying Germany. It was only this painful defeat that finally consolidated the revolutionary transformation in France.

In his fascinating book A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924 (1998, 2017), the world-renowned contemporary historian, Orlando Figes, details the tragedy of the 19th-century Russian Empire and how the Russian elite, in the wake of the French revolution, tried many times to replicate this revolution in Russia (starting with the Decembrist uprising of 1825), and never succeeded in any way. In the end, it was only the February Revolution of 1917 that succeeded, but this was followed by the Bolshevik coup in October of the same year, with Lenin at the forefront. In Russia, the “French” transition to capitalism (with the democracy that is characteristic of capitalism) did not take place, but ended with the dictatorship of the Bolsheviks and the terror of Stalin. Throughout the 20th century, Russia may have said goodbye to feudalism, but it never got to the classical capitalism. The 1990 revolution in Russia may have started Russia’s journey in this direction, but nostalgia for the past and the weakness of democratic institutions determined that the anti-democratic restoration that often afflicts young democracies has also happened in Russia. But such a restoration has not so much brought back times of the Soviet-era Central Committee of the Communist Party, but has rather created a completely new structure – the power of the mafia in the Kremlin and the rampant terror of that mafia.

For Russia to become a “normal” state, it is necessary, at the outset, to replicate the Great French Revolution. Russia is more than 200 years late in doing so, and this is another reason for the tragedy of Russia. Russia needs the institutions that are necessary for the functioning of a normal state, of a normal democracy. Currently, such institutions simply do not exist, beginning from the Duma, to regional self-government and to the Constitutional Court. And in order for them to appear, it will be necessary in a democratic Russia, first of all, to destroy institutions such as the FSB, which genetically cannot coexist with the institutions of democracy.


How Can The West Contribute To Russia’s Transformation?


First of all, 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.

As Mr Borrell, the EU’s “Minister for Foreign and Security Affairs”, admitted very openly in the last 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 [radical cuts in EU imports of Russian gas after the war has started] is something extraordinary that will lead us to free ourselves from the energy dependence on Russia, which was the major constraint of our foreign policy towards Russia and, consequently, of our foreign policy, which included Ukraine. In fact, we have not had a foreign policy towards Ukraine, because it was subsidiary to our policy towards Russia, and [policy towards] Russia was, in turn, subsidiary to our energy dependence – and was conditioned by it. Now we will have a clear policy towards Ukraine, which is dominated by the will and the desire for Ukraine to become a member of the European Union. A policy with clear objective, which will be possible because we will no longer suffer from this dependence on 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:

  • There can be no return to business as usual with the authoritarian Kremlin regime, regardless of who is the master of the authoritarian Kremlin – Putin or some other FSB general. The continuous returning to business as usual with Putin regardless of what criminal acts has the regime committed – be it the open poisoning of his opponents or the occupation of South Ossetia and the Crimea – has been a huge mistake on the part of the West. This has only increased Putin’s imperial aggressiveness and has ultimately led to the current tragedy of Russia. The EU must now have a clear strategy for the development of relations with democratic Russia, and this strategy must clearly define the criteria that will be required from the Russian democracy in order to recognise it as a functioning democracy and for cooperation to be built on entirely new foundations.
  • The European Union must overcome its division into those who “believe” and those who “do not believe” in the possibilities and prospects of democracy in Russia, because it is only by believing that democracy is possible in Russia that 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 a 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.
  • With the outbreak of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the overwhelming evidence of the criminal, inhumane behaviour of the Russian soldiers in Bucha or Izyum, for many ordinary Europeans such testimonies of the brutality of the Russian soldiers were also the evidence of the collective guilt and collective responsibility of the entire Russian nation as well as proof that Russia will never have a chance of becoming a democracy. However, it would be a major strategic mistake for Europeans to give in to their emotions and to attribute collective guilt to all Russians and to disbelieve in the prospects of democracy in Russia. Simply, it is difficult to devise any strategy for the EU support for Russia’s democratic transformation without believing in the prospects for democracy in Russia.
  • Therefore, despite all the understandable emotions, I have to urge Europeans again and again to return to a rational assessment of the situation and prospects in Russia: despite the tragic state of Russia and its society today, there are no rational arguments to explain why democracy is possible in Ukraine, why the Belarusians are fighting for it, and why the prospect of a normal European life and of democracy should be of no concern to ordinary Russians. The attempt to explain that Russia is essentially an Asian state and that it inherited its state structure and many of its traditions primarily from the Tatar-Mongol invasion, and that it will therefore supposedly never be able to become a democracy, is undermined by the simple fact that today’s Mongolia, which was once the homeland of the Tatar-Mongol invasion, is now one of the model democracies that is ranked highly in all the global democracy indices.
  • 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 Russians To Achieve A New Dream Of Normality?


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. It is simply not comfortable to sit at the point of a gun for long. In Belarus in 2020, it was clear that the loyalty of Belarusians to the Lukashenko regime is coming to an end, because the Belarusians had the opportunity to see, by electing Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, that the majority of Belarusian citizens are in favour of the dream of Belarus’ transformation. This is what mobilised the citizens to go to mass protests. It was only at the point of a bayonet that Lukashenko was able to temporarily maintain his illegitimate power, which is clearly a short-term way of stopping the inevitable transformation.

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.

How can the European Union help Russians to achieve such a new dream of normality?

There are three actions on which the West should concentrate its efforts to help the Russians to achieve a new dream: (a) 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; (b) the West must politically and economically invest in the success of Ukraine, so that the example of such success encourages the Russians to pursue a new dream of a normal life in Russia; c) 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.


How Important Is Ukraine’s Victory And Ukraine’s NATO Membership For The New Russian Dream?


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 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, already quoted earlier: “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”.

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!” Axis


Like Ukraine’s membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Ukraine’s membership of 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’s 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”:

“First, jealousy of Ukraine and its possible successes is an innate feature of post-Soviet power in Russia; it was also characteristic of the first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin. But 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 entitled “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. This is what the authors of the text say:

Forget his [Putin’s] excuses. Russia’s autocrat doesn’t worry about NATO. What terrifies him is the prospect of a flourishing Ukrainian democracy. (…) Putin may dislike NATO expansion, but he is not genuinely frightened by it. Russia has the largest army in Europe, now much more capable after two decades of lavish spending. NATO is a defensive alliance. It has never attacked the Soviet Union or Russia, and it never will. Putin knows that. But Putin is threatened by a successful democracy in Ukraine. He cannot tolerate a successful, flourishing, and democratic Ukraine on his borders, especially if the Ukrainian people also begin to prosper economically. That undermines the Kremlin’s own regime stability and proposed rationale for autocratic state leadership. Just as Putin cannot allow the will of the Russian people to guide Russia’s future, he cannot allow the people of Ukraine, who have a shared culture and history, to choose the prosperous, independent, and free future that they have voted for and fought for.”

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 in recent days 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.


The European Union’s Strategy For Future Relations With Democratic Russia – The Basis For A New Dream Of Normality In Russia


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.

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 for a strong future relationship of free trade, visa-free travel, economic partnership in the name of modernisation, with a clear perspective that would allow ordinary Russians to believe today in a new dream – the possibility of a normal, European life in Russia. 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.

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 above-mentioned special study “The EU’s Relations With a Future Democratic Russia: A Strategy”, drafted by experts on the European Union and on Russia and published by the Martens Centre in July 2022.

The European Union 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, 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.


The Tragedy Of Russia As An Impetus For Change: Self-Reflection And International Justice For  Russia


Russia is not the first nation to find itself at a tragic crossroads in its development, when the main narratives of national identity, the nostalgia and dreams that prevail in society, bring the nation to the brink of total catastrophe, of total collapse. Global history is full of cases where such a moment comes for a nation due to the state suffering a crushing defeat. For some nations it has been a tragedy that has completely ruined them. However, the global history also provides many convincing examples where the painful defeat of a state has been a radical incentive for the nation of that country to rethink its way forward and to rebuild itself from the roots.

In his book “Upheaval: how nations cope with crisis and change”, the renowned historian Jared Diamond describes how some nations have succeeded in radically recovering from the tragedies they have suffered through, using the examples of Finland, Japan, Chile, Indonesia, Germany, Australia, Chile and the United States. Diamond convincingly develops the theory that nations in such a crisis must behave in the same way as a person in the deep personal crisis. Psychologists know of as many as 12 essential actions and factors that lead to the recovery of such a person, starting with the person’s own admission that he or she is in the deep crisis and that he or she has to take action to get out of the crisis. Diamond transforms these principles of personal psychology into 12 rules for nations in crisis, ranging from the national consensus and the recognition that the nation and the state are in crisis and that the nation itself must find a new way out, to studying the experience of other similar nations, to rejecting established geopolitical constraints and to accepting support from other countries. Global history provides many compelling examples where a painful defeat has been a radical incentive for a nation to rethink its way forward.

What would Jared Diamond’s book “advise” Russia to do? Russia that is defeated in the war in Ukraine? Russia that is after Putin?

First of all, he would advise them to see the inevitable painful defeat in Ukraine not only as a national tragedy for Russia, but also as a defeat that opens up the possibility of a fundamental change of identity and the possibility of saying goodbye to Putinism and to the dream of the restoration of the Empire that has brought Russia to the tragic situation it is in today. Just as the painful defeat of Germany and Japan during the imperial wars of their time helped both of them to go into the deep self-reflection and to reorient themselves towards the dream of a normal life.

Mr. Diamond would also say that the Russians themselves need first of all to come to a fundamental national understanding that the state and the nation are in a deep crisis and that they themselves need to find new, strategic solutions. Secondly, 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 crimes need attention of 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.


The Inevitable Fourth Wave Of Democratisation And Russia


In his seminal book “The Third Wave: Democratisation at the End of the Twentieth Century”, published in 1991, the renowned American scholar Samuel P. Huntington made a clear case for a clear historical pattern: in the global world, democracy is spreading like the tides of the ocean: eventually, a wave of democracy is sweeping across the globe, and democratisation is sweeping across more and more new countries. However, not all new countries flooded by a wave of democratisation can establish a stable democracy, so when the tide turns, some new democracies, especially those that were flooded for the first time, revert to an authoritarian rule, and wait for a new wave of democratisation.

According to Huntington, the world experienced three waves of democratisation in the twentieth century: the first began after the First World War and lasted until the end of the 1920s; the second began after the Second World War and lasted until the 1960s; and the third began in the second half of the 1970s and lasted until the 2000s.

We, Lithuania and the whole of Central Europe, are also products of this third wave. We are fortunate that the global wave of democracy that washed over us did not retreat from Lithuania when the wave of democratisation was followed by its natural ebb. The European integration process that began in the early 1990s also contributed to preventing the tide from destroying our young democracy. In Russia, meanwhile, the ebb of democracy in the 2000s returned the country to Putin’s authoritarian rule. In Belarus, the ebb came even earlier. According to Huntington, this is the fate of countries with no previous experience of democracy – their first attempts at democracy are relatively short-lived.

It is clear that the convincing scientific arguments of Huntington’s theory of the three waves of democratisation, based on many concrete facts, including the history of change and transformation in our region over the last 30 years, also lead to conclusions about what we should expect in the future and allow us to be optimistic about the future of democracy in our region, including in Russia and Belarus: if the world experienced three waves of democratisation in the 20th century with the interval of roughly 20 years, now is the time to start preparing for a fourth wave of democratisation, since the third wave ended around 2000.

And this fourth wave, the first signs of which appeared in 2020 during the revolution in Belarus, and were at that time temporarily halted by repression, will inevitably sweep across Russia. This is a historical pattern.


The Tragedy Of Russia And Western Responsibility


Russia is currently living through one of the most tragic pages of its history, which is also bringing many tragedies to its neighbours, especially Ukraine.

Ukraine 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. Such a transformation of Russia is not only necessary for Russia, but also for the whole of Europe. The EU must have a strategy to help Russia in this transformation.

As Mr Borell has recently openly and courageously admitted, the EU has so far been constrained by its dependence on Russian gas supplies and has had no policy strategy either towards Russia or Ukraine.

It is time for the West to realise that an instant, short-term or reactionary policy to the Kremlin’s actions is no longer sufficient. The West needs a long-term, proactive policy towards Russia based on a clear and inclusive philosophy.

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.

However, Europe and the West continue to struggle with the second tectonic conflict on the European continent. In the 20th century, this conflict contributed to bloodsheds in large parts of Europe. As a result, large parts of the European continent had been denied the benefits of democracy, freedom and prosperity for decades. It was and still is  a tectonic conflict involving imperial Russia and continental Europe. 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. This strategy must be of the same scale and systemic nature as the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan or the strategy for containing Soviet Russia.

The changing nature of the conflict calls for new means of dealing with it. However, the cost and damage of a failure could be extremely high, as could new wars on the European continent.

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

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.

We cannot just sit on our hands and wait for the West to come up with a strategy (if it has one) 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. We need an ambitious and comprehensive Western strategy towards Russia, and we need to offer its draft, instead of wasting our time just reminding the West about how wrong it was not to listen to us or to call us “Russophobes”, and just to look for new ways to return to business as usual and to increase dialogue with Putin.

We are most interested in good relations with Russia. However, we are convinced that only democracies are not at war with each other. That is why we need fundamental and deep changes in Russia, and not just new personalities in the Kremlin, in order to be able to enjoy good relations with Russia. The West could help to bring about such changes. But this requires a long-term Western strategy towards Russia, and we must help such a strategy to see the light of day. In order to develop such a strategy, we first need to understand the causes of the phenomenon we call the “the tragedy of Russia”.

This text is an attempt to look deeper into the tragedy of Russia and into how we can help Russia to avoid a tragic catastrophe.

Andrius Kubilius. The Tragedy of Russia (main points)

Read the full text “The Tragedy of Russia” by Andrius Kubilius

Read the text in pdf format.

  • The European continent is facing a severe geopolitical crisis, caused by Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. This has also revealed a phenomenon worthy of being called the “Tragedy of Russia”: a Russia that is failing, rotting from within, defeated, aggressive, and a danger to all those around it, in particular to Ukraine. But at the same time, the greatest danger by Russia is caused to itself, to the fate of its own state. That is the tragedy of Russia. However, the tragedy of Russia is dangerous for the whole world, not just for Russia itself. That is why today we must consider not only how to help Ukraine win the war, but also how to help Russia avoid the catastrophic consequences of its own tragedy.
  • In analysing the current situation in Russia, we must also take into account the main historical factors that have contributed to the current tragedy of Russia: (a) Russia is a state with the European path of development, albeit Russia is often lagging behind in experiencing turns of the common European history, and this often determines the scale of its tragedy; (b) Russia is currently the last crumbling empire on the European continent, and there is a natural post-imperial nostalgia for the former imperial greatness (which is encouraged to the fullest extent by Mr Putin himself); (c) Russia also differs from other European countries in that the Great French Revolution (as we know it) never happened and was never realised there;
  • The development of the Russian society today is determined by nostalgia, emotions and dreams. The nostalgic dream of restoring the greatness of the empire, which has led to this tragedy of Russia, is the dominant emotion there today. Putin is constantly and artificially fuelling and encouraging this dream. This helps him to maintain the loyalty of the Russian people to his regime.
  • However, Putin fears that the Russian people will increasingly begin to dream not so much of the return of the empire, but of a normal, European life within Russia itself. Putin therefore sees the greatest danger to his regime not as the expansion of NATO, but as the success of Ukraine. The democratic, economically strong, future EU member state – such an example from the neighbouring Ukraine can have a very strong contagious impact for ordinary Russians. And this is completely incompatible with the survival of an authoritarian, mafia-like Kremlin regime. The desire to destroy Ukraine’s ability to become a model of a successful state was the main reason why Putin launched the military aggression against Ukraine.
  • The West so far has had no long-term strategy towards either Russia or Ukraine. The geopolitical consequence of this is the war on the European continent. The West must have a long-term strategy for dealing with the tectonic, long-term problem of the “Tragedy of Russia”, in other words, how to help Russia transform itself into a normal, non-aggressive, European-type state. This requires, first and foremost, that the West moves away from the “Putin-first!” to the “Democracy in Russia-first!” paradigm in their relations with Russia. Secondly, the West must help Russia to say a final goodbye to the nostalgic dream of rebuilding the empire and must help Russians to acquire a new dream of a normal life in Russia itself. A long-term, ambitious and effective Western strategy towards Ukraine will play a particularly important role in the West’s pursuit of these objectives in relation to Russia.
  • How can the West help ordinary Russians to say goodbye to the nostalgic dream of rebuilding an empire? First of all, such a dream must be completely crushed. Western support for Ukraine’s military victory therefore at the same time plays a role of supporting Russia’s ability to say goodbye to its imperial dreams; the immediate establishment of a Special International Tribunal to investigate the crime of war aggression (the crime of Putin) would play an equally important role, as would the process of Russia’s “deputinisation”. Moreover, Ukraine’s NATO membership would also help ordinary Russians to understand that Russia no longer has a chance of realising its nostalgic imperial dreams.
  • How can the West help ordinary Russians to acquire a new dream of a normal life in Russia itself? The West can do this by first having a clear and ambitious strategy to build on the success of Ukraine, whose example could be the basis for a new Russian dream. The West can build Ukraine’s success not only by helping it to win the war against Russia, but also by implementing an ambitious strategy for Ukraine’s European integration and the EU membership. Rapid European integration has been the only reason why Central Europe and the Baltic region have laid the foundations for the success of the countries in the region. In the same way, the success of Ukraine, Moldova or Sakartvelo (Georgia) can only be built on the European Union’s ambitious European integration strategy for these countries.
  • The West, in order to give ordinary Russians the dream of a normal life in Russia as soon as possible, must already now also propose a strategy for the future relations between the European Union and the future Democratic Russia. Such a strategy must outline the prospects for the free trade, a visa-free travel, a partnership for modernisation and the implementation of other important EU programmes that are important in creating normal living conditions in Russia. It must be clear to the Russian people already now that the dream of a normal life in Russia is very real and that it will be realised in a democratic Russia together with the European Union.
  • Democracy in Russia is something that can fundamentally change the security architecture of the entire European continent. The goal of democracy in Russia must therefore be important not only for the Russians themselves, but also for the European Union as a whole. The European Union can effectively contribute to Russia’s democratic transformation, but this requires a very significant shift in the balance within the European Union itself between those who “believe” and those who “do not believe” in the possibility of democracy in Russia in favour of the “believers”. It is worth remembering for the Europeans that the development of democratic space in the world is taking place in the form of the so-called Huntington Waves, and that the map of democracy in the world today is the result of three such tidal waves of democratisation in the twentieth century and the ebbs that followed them. It is not difficult to predict that a Fourth Global Wave of such democratisation is due to begin in the next decade. And it could start in Russia. The democratic West must prepare for it today.
  • On the European continent, the phenomenon of the “Tragedy of Russia” is something that the West has so far been unable to solve. This is what is causing today’s geopolitical crisis on the European continent.

Every crisis is also a new opportunity. The expansion of democracy to the east of the European continent is what must follow this crisis, and democracy in Russia is the best long-term cure for the “tragedy of Russia”. At the centre of Russia’s healing and recovery procedure is Ukraine and the West’s support for its success.


A.Kubilius. EU must stop financing Putin’s war machine! EU can introduce oil embargo now!

Putin’s war against Ukraine is an international crime. Ukrainians are defending their country in a heroic way. The West supports Ukraine, some countries are delivering weapons to Ukraine and sanctions of the West are hitting Russian economy in a painful way. However, the EU, which is very heavily dependent on supplies from Russia, until now is not able to introduce an embargo on energy resources. That is the reason why the EU continues to pay hundreds of millions of euros per day into the pockets of Putin. That way the EU is helping Putin to survive the impact of other sanctions. Some Western leaders claim that embargo (even if only oil embargo) will be very painful for European economies. Therefore, the embargo is still not introduced. This paper provides clear numbers from statistics as well as other evidence that the EU could immediately introduce embargo on oil import from Russia.

Read the whole paper.