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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why am I so cautiously optimistic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will this be attempted?

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

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

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

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

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

Why do I think so?

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

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

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

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


Andrius Kubilius. The Sobering-Up in Vilnius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tragedy Of Russia And Western Responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The same strategic approach is needed now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to Act: Interest of Lithuania

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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