Carthago delenda est
17:10, Ales Charniakovich — Opinion
The indecisiveness of the Free World may cost it its freedom.
The leaders of the leading democratic countries are vacillating and seem like they don’t know how to react to Putin’s outrageous foreign policy and an overt military aggression. They should seek for answers from those, who know the innate nature of the threat, someone who lives in the neo-Soviet reality and knows it from the inside, someone who they have been afraid of listening to before, hoping the whole thing would not get that serious.
At the Brussels forum last week there was a good remark made by Andrei Sannikov, 2010 presidential candidate in Belarus and a former political prisoner, addressed to policy and decision makers in the West: want to know something about us – ask us. As Mr Sannikov duly noted, there is a knowledgable school of thought and quite a number of profound experts, who are well aware of the situation in the former socialist block, but whatever their analysis, Western policy makers always get caught off guard on the local developments.
Politicians and analysts in Eastern Europe have been voicing the concern of the non-finished Cold War business for over two decades already. Unfortunately, their voices have always got lost in the long corridors of Brussels, Washington, Berlin,London, you name it.
The subject of the matter is simple as a hammer: the collapse of the totalitarian Soviet Union is a process, not an event that took place on one fine December evening some 20 plus years ago. It is still ongoing and the fall of the Lenin statues all over Ukraine a month ago is the best metaphoric illustration of that. We have been speaking of the necessity to eliminate Russia’s interference into the domestic policies of post-Soviet states for way too long and way too accurately to keep ignoring our voices.
In her recent article Anne Applebaum admits that it was a mistake to approach Russia in the framework of the liberal democratic paradigm and hope it would westernize. Mrs. Applbaum originally comes from the region and is one of the few in the West, whoclearly sees the dramatic seriousness of the recent developments. What Mrs. Applbaum probably cannot say out of political correctness, though, is that there is a chance to make Russia a free and democratic country, but not in the way we know it now. Russia is an artificial combination of so many entities, nationalities and cultures, which used to be a common practice in 19th century, but is not something where freedom and democracy can exist. Not in an empire, created by force. Today’s Russia is a prison of nations just like the USSR was. These nations want and can be free, but only as independent sovereign states. We will inevitably see that taking place after the collapse of the Putin regime, which he is precipitating himself with crazy foreign policy moves and ever more repressive domestic agenda. It will come to that this way or another, the question is only whether there is a big war between now and then. Now there still remains a chance for the Free World to avert one.
Today is high time to start listening to the voices of the ones who have proved to be right all that time calling Russia the main threat to democracy and security in the region. Russia is an aggressor, ready to start a full-scale war. All the comparisons of Putin and Hitler are not merely curious observations, but an indication of a real threat. Even the language is borrowed from the Third Reich rhetoric and Mein Kampf. Actually,not borrowed, but stolen, cause, well, it’s Putin. The danger is dead serious and must be averted without delay, the issue is very time sensitive.
As someone, who knows the nature of what the world is facing today from living for almost 20 years in the dictatorship, where originated the whole autocracy epidemic that has hit the region of Eastern Europe so hard in the recent years, I’ll take the liberty of formulating the policy solution for the Free World to pursue with pressing urgency:
- The West and first of all NATO must declare its full support and backing to Ukraine and any other country that may face Russia’s aggression. It’s important to take into account that if the Free World swallows the intervention in Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia will follow and very soon. Declaring support does not immediately mean opening fire, but showing the seriousness of intentions and force, which is the only language the Judo Wrestler understands, besides German. Threats of sanctions usually bring about the desired effects before their actual introduction – sanctions theory revisited;
- NATO must increase its presence and reinforce border defense in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and the Black Sea. Japan must be involved in negotiations to reinforce its military capabilities at the border with Russia and back up the Alliance;
- The whole Putin’s inner circle with the president himself on top of the list must go under travel bans and asset freezes. The names can be found in Alexey Navalny’s investigations;
- Anti-corruption investigations must be started and respective criminal charges brought against people and businesses used to launder the ill-gotten funds in the West. Again, Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation has lots of lawsuits already prepared and waiting for a political will to put them in action;
- Trade embargo on Russian goods should be introduced. Well, quoting Hugh Laurie, it’s hard to think of anything Russia makes besides the rest of the world depressed, but they still produce and sell things, which international community should stop buying for a brief period of time until Mr. Putin rediscovers how to get in touch with reality;
- Special attention should be paid to refusal from Russian energy resources. Estimated Europe’s dependence on Russia’s oil and gas is about 30% , difersifying which seems pretty doable;
- The US should intensify talks with Iran and make sure it is ready to reenter the energy market;
- The US should start selling its oil reserves;
- Shale gas development should be intensified and promoted in Poland and Ukraine, which both have considerable reserves and capabilities;
- Complete political isolation of Russia should be put in place. In fact, we can see it happening already, but it should be declared officially: any political dialogue with Russia may only be held on the subject of the country’s meeting the conditions outlined below.
Russian leadership should be communicated the message that sanctions will be lifted only upon meeting the following conditions:
- Withdrawal of troops from Crimea, denouncement of all the documents signed on Crimea after 16.03.2014 and return of the peninsula under complete Ukraine’s jurisdiction;
- Withdrawal of troops from occupied regions of Georgia, denouncement of the documents singed on the “independence” of the territories after August 2008;
- Release and complete exoneration of all political poisoners in Russia;
- Denouncement of the 2008 amendments to the Constitution that increase the presidential term in Russia up to 6 years;
- Free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections within a year from the date of the denouncement of the above mentioned amendments under thorough international control and supervision.
That will be the start.
On the part of the happy news, though, let me assure you that this way or another Putin’s regime will collapse acting as a hangman to its own empire. Russia will disintegrate into a large number of democratic national and ethnically homogenous countries. That is absolutely worthwhile pursuing at least from the viewpoint of theDemocratic Peace Theory which has not yet proved wrong once. The question is only whether we act peacefully now, or come to the same results with disastrous destruction and millions of victims behind us.
And guess what? Not only acting harsh on Putin will eliminate the military threat to the whole peaceful democratic world, but will also magically solve a number of accompanying problems like the stalemate of the Lukashenka regime in Belarus or the civil war in Syria, just to name a few.
Your concern has been too deep for too long, esteemed ladies and gentlemen. Little less conversation, little more action. Carthago delenda est.
Ales Charniakovich, specially for charter97.org
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