Russia’s undemocratic presidential elections and their illegitimate extension to the occupied territories

Madam President, dear colleagues, Putin is an illegitimate president. I call on the leaders of the democratic world not to call Putin president, because he is certainly not one now.

First of all, because this electoral operation took place in the occupied territories of Ukraine. There have been no democratic elections in Russia for a long time. It was a psychological KGB-type operation against its own citizens first of all.

At the same time, Ukrainians continue to die on the front lines. Their cities are being destroyed every day. On the eve of this special operation, which Putin calls elections, Aleksei Navalny died in a Gulag-like prison in the Arctic. A man whom Putin feared and therefore tortured.

Putin is afraid of real elections because he is afraid of his people. That is why Putin is the biggest Russophobe. Putin is creating a 21st-century totalitarianism in Russia based on hatred, aggression and violence.

But this colonial imperial regime will collapse sooner or later. I once again call on you to stop being afraid of Putin. Let him be afraid of us. We need a strategy and a coalition for victory in Ukraine. But we also need a bold coalition to defeat Putin and his regime; the kind of coalition that was built to defeat Hitler.


A.Kubilius. Will Lithuania start building an anti-Putin Western coalition to implement Russia’s anti-Putin strategy?

The terrorist attack in outskirts of Moscow on March 22nd has brought back the debate about the future of Russia, what we need to prepare for and what kind of Western policy we should pursue.

We will only know who carried out this act of terror and what it was aimed at after some independent investigations by Belingcat, Insider or Christo Grozev. Until then, we will hear whatever the Kremlin wants to say and whatever confessions it wants to be made to the FSB interrogators, proving the alleged Ukrainian or Western footprint. Although most sources of information claim that this is the work of an ISIS offshoot, intuition tells us that it is unlikely to have been without the FSB’s involvement: the way the terrorists retreated in the same white Renault that they drove to the scene of the terror, and the way in which they were intercepted by the FSB, is more like a tragic “play”, poorly staged by the FSB, rather than a seriously prepared terrorist operation. In any case, the innocent victims are to be pitied, but this is the typical style of the Putin regime: they did not count the casualties in 1999, when the FSB bombed apartment blocks in Moscow. It is not only Lithuanians, who traditionally suspect the Kremlin of everything, but also solid German politicians who are speculating that this could be an FSB operation.

However, today it is worth examining not only who might have organised and carried out such a terrorist act and who might benefit from it, but also what long-term conclusions we need to draw and what kind of Western policy we need to pursue towards Russia.

On this occasion, I have tried to reiterate what I have said time and again: we must seek to finally consolidate an anti-Putin coalition in the West, with a clear anti-Putin strategy, in which the victory of Ukraine and the defeat of Russia must be the top priority.

This time, I have tried to put my thoughts into a coherent 12 points:

– What next: Russia’s trajectory is increasingly desperate and bloody, and heading towards North Korea.

We will see more and more of the Kremlin’s insane internal and external aggression; the Kremlin’s consistent policy is only more blood: bloody persecution of any opposition activity inside Russia and more and more bloody aggression, both against Ukraine and against anyone else outside Russia.

– The threat of export of terrorism from Russia. The threats to Lithuania will only increase. And not just the threat of a conventional war against Lithuania or of a nuclear strike on anyone in Europe, but above all the threat of the export of Russian terrorism to neighbouring countries will increase. No Article 5 of NATO Charter protects against this. We have not yet seen this, we have not seen massacres in city centre streets, cafés or bus bombings. We must prepare for it with much greater intensity than we have done so far, because neither tanks, nor drones, nor the German brigade will protect us from this.

– A different Russia is a Europe without a permanent threat.

The only guarantee of long-term security for us and for the whole of Europe against such a bloody Putin Russia is a different Russia and Belarus (without Putin and Lukashenko), which, after the transformation of the regime, might yet be able to become more normal states. Even if the likelihood of such a transformation is not high, we would be making a historic mistake if we did not make every effort to persuade the West to invest maximum resources in realising such a remote possibility.

– Neither the opposition, nor Maidans, nor “elections” will change the Kremlin regime.

No opposition or civil society in Russia or Belarus will be the trigger for such a transformation. Neither will the regime’s organised and controlled imitation of “elections” bring about change, nor will there be any Maidans in either Moscow or Minsk, because on the very first day of public protests, everyone will be shot or blown up without mercy. However, the current democratic opposition and civil society will play a special and indispensable role when the transformation of the regime begins and the way is opened for lasting positive change.

– The revolt in the Kremlin is the path to the beginning of change.

The only way to start the regime transformation is to revolt in or near the Kremlin. Possible organisers: Putin’s rivals within the Kremlin; a younger generation of oligarchs who are losing access to the usual financial flows linked to international markets; “patriotic” officers who might see Russia’s existential doom as a real threat, as predicted in a statement issued by the Russian Retired Officers’ Association on behalf of retired General Lev Ivashov as long ago as January 2022 (a month before the start of war).

– The lessons of history: change in Russia can only come through change in the Kremlin.

It is worth remembering that after Stalin’s death, Nikita Khrushchev “cleaned up” the Kremlin within 3 years, ousting L.Beria and other rivals and becoming the sole leader; in 1964 L.Brezhnev “cleaned up” Nikita Khrushchev inside the Kremlin and took over from him; in 1984, Mikhail Gorbachev, with the blessing of the previously deceased Andropov, took over from the Kremlin gerontocracy; in 1991 Gorbachev was almost democratically ousted by Boris Yeltsin, who had managed to dismantle the Soviet Union itself; thanks to the manipulations of the Kremlin “family”, in 2000 Putin took over from Yeltsin in Russia. All changes in Russia have so far started in the Kremlin. It is therefore most likely that Putin will be removed from power in the same Kremlin-ripe manner, or only after his natural death.

– The opportunity for change in the Kremlin will only come after the crushing victory of Ukraine.

In the short term, the window of opportunity for the Kremlin’s own efforts to bring about such a change in the Kremlin environment can only open after Ukraine’s victory over Russia. For the Putin regime to suffer a crippling blow and for the window of opportunity for change to open, Russia needs to lose the war in Ukraine in a crushing manner. And that requires the West to have a clear plan for achieving such a Ukrainian victory.

– Ukraine’s victory requires EUR100 billion of Western military support.

For Russia to suffer such a defeat in Ukraine, it would require a much larger (2-3 times larger than before) Western military support to reach Ukraine. This requires Western support for Ukraine to increase from the EUR 40 billion of Western military aid provided in 2023 to EUR 100 billion in one year already in 2024. The same and even more Western military support will be needed in 2025 and possibly even in 2026. The EU must plan for such support without waiting for the US to make up its mind. Each year, such EU support to Ukraine would amount to around 0.55% of EU GDP. The EU can realise such military support for Ukraine if it borrows on its own behalf on the markets, as it did at the beginning of the pandemic, when it borrowed on the markets EUR 800 billion (I wrote about this in a previous text).

– The West will only provide EUR 100 billion to Ukraine once it has overcome its fear of what will happen after the collapse of the Putin regime.

In order for the West to muster the political will to provide hundreds of billions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine, it needs to ensure that the West is no longer afraid of Russia’s defeat in Ukraine and the possible collapse of Putin’s regime. The West needs to begin to see in the collapse of Putin’s regime the potential for positive change in Russia. Unfortunately, the collapse of the Putin regime is currently frightening many in the West with the uncertainty of what might happen in Russia after the collapse of the Putin regime. It seems to many that in such a case, there is a strong possibility that nationalists and enthusiasts for the restoration of the Russian empire who are even more frightening than Putin would take power in the Kremlin. Others feel that the collapse of Putin’s regime could lead to complete chaos in Russia, to the collapse of the state itself, to inter-regional and inter-ethnic bloody battles, and to the uncertainty of who will continue to control Russia’s nuclear weapons. Such fears, which prevail in the corridors of the West, are very unfavourable both for Ukraine and for our strategic ambition to achieve a clear victory for Ukraine, because if the collapse of Putin’s regime continues to be feared in the West, Russia’s significant defeat in Ukraine will also be feared, which means that Ukraine’s significant victory will be feared. And if the fear of the collapse of Putin’s regime also leads to a fear of a Ukrainian victory, then it will also lead to a fear of providing Ukraine with the number and type of weapons that would allow it to achieve such a victory.

– The Western strategy of “slow boiling of the frog” for Putin.

This is what we see today in the West’s behaviour: it gives Ukraine just enough military support to keep it from losing the war, but it is totally inadequate for Ukraine to win significantly. For such a Ukrainian victory would mean the crushing of Russia and the eventual collapse of the Putin regime. That is what the West fears. And that is why their strategy of support for Ukraine is simultaneously based on two diametrically opposed strategies: according to the West, on the one hand, Ukraine must not lose the war (but whether it must win to the extent of liberating all of its territories remains unclear); and, on the other hand, the West does not dare to say that Russia must lose this war painfully (which means that the West does not want Russia to lose either). Therefore, consciously or unconsciously, the West has so far pursued only a “slow boiling of the frog” strategy with regard to Russia: slowly increasing the supply of arms to Ukraine, in the hope that in the long run Putin will not even feel that he is “boiling” in the war he has started, and that any Kremlin uprising would then remove him from power. However, it is unclear which will “boil over” and collapse more quickly in the long term – the Putin regime or the political will of the West to support Ukraine. This “slow boiling of the frog” strategy in the West is a strategy of “not having any clear and consolidated strategy”, and this lack of a strategy could eventually lead to a complete catastrophe for the West, not to the collapse of the Putin regime. In order for the West to get out of the trap of the “slow boiling of the frog” strategy that it is pursuing, the West needs to be persuaded not to be afraid of what might happen in Russia after the collapse of the Putin regime. And this requires convincing the West that a positive transformation towards a normal and non-aggressive state can take place in Russia after Putin’s collapse. And for such a transformation to take place in Russia, it requires a consolidated and holistic Western strategy for this purpose, drawn up together with the Russian opposition and civil society.

– From a “slow-boiling” coalition to an “anti-Putin” coalition.

If the West is to have any more consolidated strategy for its action in this war, the first thing that must be achieved is that the “pro-Ukrainian” coalition that now exists in the West, although it is unable to clearly define its objectives, should dare to become an “anti-Putin” coalition. As Vladislav Inozemtsev, the Russian opposition analyst, very sensibly puts it, the victory over Hitler in World War II was achieved because the Nazis were not fought by a “pro-British” coalition, but by an “anti-Hitler” coalition that had clearly defined its aims and which in 1943 declared that it would seek Hitler’s unconditional defeat. So now, too, the democratic Western world must finally dare to join the “anti-Putin” coalition and seek the unconditional crushing of the Putin regime, at least in Ukraine. The creation of such an “anti-Putin coalition” is a prerequisite for the West to finally have the courage and the ability to pursue the unconditional victory of Ukraine and to invest the EUR 100 billion in it, without which it will never be achieved.

– For the Anti-Putin coalition – anti-Putin strategy.

European security requires a different Russia; it requires the collapse of the Putin regime, and it requires the victory of Ukraine, in which the West must invest as a long-term guarantee of its own security (not just Ukraine’s). For such an “anti-Putin” coalition to finally come together, its members need to stop fearing that an unconditional Ukrainian victory might also lead to the collapse of the Putin regime. This requires such an anti-Putin coalition to have an anti-Putin strategy for Russia, which not only includes ideas on how the West must invest in the victory in Ukraine in order to bring about the collapse of Putin’s regime, but also ideas on how the West must invest in preparing for future changes in Russia after the collapse of Putin, so as to ensure that those changes are positive. Therefore, the West’s anti-Putin coalition must involve the current Russian democratic opposition and civil society in its activities and in the development and implementation of its anti-Putin strategy, despite their weakness, fragmentation and immaturity. In this way, the anti-Hitler coalition began, before the end of the Second World War, to draw up a Western strategy for the development of post-Hitler Germany after Hitler’s defeat in the war, for the realisation of justice and the restoration of democracy, and for the development of the economy, so as to leave no room for political radicalism in the poverty-stricken society of post-war Germany. The same strategy must already be developed by the anti-Putin Western coalition.

– The West’s plan for lasting peace on the European continent is the West’s anti-Putin Russian strategy, subordinated to the West’s strategy for Ukraine’s victory and success.

Not so long ago, Mr J.Borell admitted in the European Parliament that the European Union did not have a Russian strategy before the outbreak of the war against Ukraine, because it was so heavily dependent on Russian gas, and that it did not have a Ukrainian strategy, because the EU’s strategy for Ukraine was subordinated to the EU’s strategy for Russia. Mr Borell believed that the end of the EU’s dependence on Russian gas could lead to the birth of a new EU strategy towards Russia. It is my conviction that such an EU strategy towards Russia must henceforth be subordinate to the EU strategy towards Ukraine. And the EU’s strategy for Ukraine must focus first and foremost on the victory of Ukraine and the crushing of Russia, but it must also include Ukraine becoming a member of the EU and NATO, because only that will create a long-term success for Ukraine, and that will be an inspiring example for ordinary Russians. That is the only reason why Putin launched the war against Ukraine – because he was afraid that it might become such a model of success. The West’s strategy towards Ukraine and Russia must aim both at a Ukrainian victory and at the fact that such a victory can be a trigger for positive change in Russia. This is the only way not only to the security of Ukraine, but also to the long-term peace and security of the whole of Europe.

Finally, I would like to reiterate the same 12 points, which should define not only the West’s response to Russia’s aggression, but also the Western policy that Lithuania should pursue by consistently bringing together like-minded people. It is not enough for us to be concerned only with our military security. Our security will be determined first and foremost by the victory of Ukraine and the West’s support for such a victory. We need to win the battles on the political front in the West in return for much greater Western support for Ukraine in order for Ukraine to win on the military front in the East and to crush Russia. These 12 points of the Western strategy are the main objective of our political battles on the Western front:

1. What’s next: Russia’s trajectory is increasingly desperate and bloody, and heading towards North Korea.
2. The threat of exporting terrorism from Russia; Article 5 of NATO Charter will not protect against terrorism.
3. A different Russia – a Europe without a permanent military and terrorist threat.
4. Neither opposition, nor Maidans, nor “elections” will change the Kremlin regime.
5. Revolt in the Kremlin is the path to change; the lessons of history: change in Russia can only come through change in the Kremlin.
6. Change in the Kremlin is only possible after Ukraine’s crushing victory.
7. Ukraine’s victory requires an annual Western military aid of EUR 100 billion.
8. The West will only provide EUR 100 billion to Ukraine once it has overcome its fear of what will happen after the collapse of the Putin regime.
9. The West’s prevailing “slow boiling of the frog” strategy for Putin.
10. From a “slow-boil” coalition to an “anti-Putin” coalition.
11. For an anti-Putin coalition – an anti-Putin strategy: European security needs a different Russia, it needs the collapse of the Putin regime, and it needs the victory of Ukraine, in which the West needs to invest as a long-term guarantee of its own (not only Ukrainian) security;
12. The West’s plan for lasting peace on the European continent is the West’s anti-Putin Russian strategy, subordinated to the West’s strategy for Ukraine’s victory and success.

Both I and my colleague Rasa Juknevičienė, representing Lithuania in the European Parliament, have consistently sought to ensure that the European Union formulates its short-term and long-term policy towards Ukraine and Russia in line with these 12 points. But Lithuania’s efforts in the European Parliament alone will not be enough to consolidate a clear anti-Putin coalition in Europe with an equally clear anti-Russian strategy in the name of a Ukrainian victory in the short term. The task of establishing such an anti-Putin coalition with an anti-Putin strategy needs to be carried out in all Western capitals, mobilising like-minded people and dispelling Western fears about what will happen to Russia after the collapse of the Putin regime following the defeat of Russia in war. This must be done on behalf of Lithuania, not only by the Members of the European Parliament, but also by the Government and the President of the Republic, who is unfortunately now concentrating more on visiting Lithuanian municipalities than Western capitals. The efforts of the Lithuanian public to encourage Lithuanian politicians to form such a coalition must be as enthusiastic as the efforts to achieve 4% of GDP for Lithuanian defence.

The anti-Putin coalition’s immediate task is to mobilise EUR 100 billion of Western military support to achieve a Ukrainian victory. Without such support, there will be no Ukrainian victory, and without a Ukrainian victory, the whole of Europe will end up where it was in 1938 after the Munich Agreement. The only question remains who will be the next victim if Ukraine is sacrificed in the same way that Czechoslovakia was sacrificed in Munich in 1938.

Our defence begins with the victory of Ukraine – we must never forget that. And that must be our top priority.


Andrius Kubilius. Putin Is Not The President

While listening to the news of the Lithuanian radio, I hear them reporting: “With presidential elections taking place in Russia today … etc.”

There are no presidential elections in Russia today and no President has been elected in Russia. Because there was no possibility of electing anyone or choosing from anyone. And that  hasn’t been possible for a long time.

The 17 March “presidential election” in Russia was exactly the same as the “parliamentary elections” on 25 February in Belarus, that were neither elections nor to a parliament.

We all know very well that Belarus has neither a real Parliament nor a real President. It has the usurper Lukashenko, it has the dictator Lukashenko, but not the President Lukashenko. Any dictionary of international terms can tell us that the only person who can be called President is someone who has been elected in accordance with the international electoral standards enshrined in the Constitution and who acts in accordance with the Constitution. Elections, the Constitution and Lukashenko have nothing to do with each other.

The same with Putin: neither elections nor the Constitution. Therefore, by continuing to call him President, we are deceiving ourselves and the international community. Just as we are fooling ourselves by continuing to say that there was a presidential election in Russia today. There were no elections in Russia, and they did not elect or choose any President. We can call Putin whatever we like: dictator, war criminal, Kremlin mafia boss, but not elected President.

Russia does not have a President, nor does it have elections. And it won’t have as long as Putin is around. And it is not elections that will bring down the Kremlin regime.

The only difference between the dictators of the 20th century and those of the 21st century, both in Russia and throughout the world, is this: in the 20th century, dictators did not need any elections; in the 21st century, dictators like to pretend that they are supported by their citizens.

In the 20th century, under the Soviet empire, Stalin did not need any elections to stay in power as long as he wanted. In the 21st century, in the era of the restoration of the Russian Empire, Putin, for some reason, wants to have the simulation of “elections” in addition to being in power for as long as he wants. “Potemkin elections”, as Politico called today’s “special operation”.

At the end of the operation, Putin will write down whatever victorious figures he wants: how many participated and how many voted for him. Those figures mean nothing, and it would be a mistake to analyse them in the same way as we analyse the figures for the same factors at the end of elections in Lithuania or the United States.

The only more significant result of the day is that the Russian opposition, with its “Noon without Putin” action, has managed to demonstrate to Western politicians that there is a sufficiently strong anti-Putin potential for public sentiment in Russia.

Changes in Russia will only come after the victory in Ukraine. And that is only – maybe – it will come. But for Ukraine to prevail, the West needs to stop being afraid of the collapse of the Putin regime and to stop being afraid of supporting Ukraine until its crushing victory. Today, such fears exist and they are  preventing Ukraine from receiving maximum support. For the West to stop being afraid, it needs to believe that a post-Putin Russia can be different. Today, the Russian opposition has tried to show this.

After today, the West must draw some simple conclusions:

  • Russia has a clear alternative: a Russia without elections or a Russia without Putin; as long as there is Putin, there will be no elections.
  • After today, Putin is neither elected nor President. All the other titles – dictator, war criminal, Kremlin mafia boss – fit him. Talking about Putin’s legitimacy is the same as talking about the legitimacy of a mafia boss.
  • Peace on the European continent is only possible when not only Russia is crushed in Ukraine, but also when Putin is no longer in the Kremlin. Therefore, the Western coalition “for Ukraine” must become an “anti-Putin” coalition, in the same way that the West was united by an “anti-Hitler” coalition during the Second World War. This is the only way to victory for Ukraine and to our security. The West is not yet united in such an “anti-Putin” coalition. And that is the biggest problem for Ukraine, for us and for the wider West.

Let’s try to act on it: that’s the main conclusion of the day. Let’s try to persuade the West to take on Putin seriously. Just as the West took on Hitler during World War II.


A. Kubilius. On Alexey Navalny

I want to start from the words of Ilya Jashin, another political prisoner of Putin. In his public statement yesterday from the prison he said:

“The confrontation between Navalny and Putin showed the scale of the personalities of both. Alexey will remain in history as a man of exceptional courage, who went forward for what he believed in. He walked, despising fear and death. He walked with a smile and his head held high. And he died a hero.

Putin will remain a small man who accidentally received enormous power. A character who hides in a bunker, kills on the sly and makes millions of people hostage to his complexes. But I don’t wish him to die. I dream that he will answer for his crimes not only before God’s court, but also before the earthly court.“

Putin killed Navalny. He killed Navalny, because Navalny had a dream. 

Navalny fought for his dream of a “wonderful Russia of the future” (“прекрасная Россия будущего”): a normal, European, democratic Russia. 

This is the prospect of Russia that many Russians still believe in. And that is why Putin killed Navalny. 

Putin killed a man, but it is impossible to kill a dream. It has a life of its own and it will one day become a reality.

When that happens, depends not only on ordinary Russians, not only on the opposition to Putin or on Russian civil society. 

“The wonderful Russia of the future”: a normal, European, democratic Russia is not only Navalny’s dream, which will live on. 

It is also our dream, because the existence of the whole of Europe depends on its realisation – whether we will ever be able to live in a stable peace without the threat of a post-imperial, authoritarian, aggressive Russia. To protect ourselves against such a threat, we need to invest not only in NATO’s “deterrence and defence” strategies, not only in our own military capabilities in our countries, but also in the realisation of Navalny’s dream.

We have in our hands the most important instrument to help Navalny’s dream become a reality. These are the Ukrainian victories, which depend only on the Western support: they will open the window for transformations in Russia.

Putin will lose. He will be crushed first in Ukraine and then in Russia.

Putin’s defeat is our task and our job. This requires a long-term and an ambitious   Western strategy. 

We say goodbye to Alexei Navalny. But our struggle will continue. Dreams never die. We shall continue the fight of A. Navalny, and the entire democratic world will continue his fight. It would be very important for European Parliament to continue to be in the leadership of that fight.


Andrius Kubilius. Two Observations And Conclusions

Andrius Kubilius, Member of the European Parliament,

Former Prime Minister of Lithuania


First observation

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

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

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


Second observation

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

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

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

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


Conclusions after two observations: what should the West do?

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

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

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

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


Andrius Kubilius. 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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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.


Andrius Kubilius. Our “Russian” psychological complexes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attitude 1 – Russia is incompatible with democracy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I have already explained why they are wrong and dangerous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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