Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
First of all I would like to thank the organizers for making this session happen. It is very timely and necessary. I am also thankful for an opportunity to speak here and to share my thoughts with all those present. Since our time here is limited, I have compressed my ideas into ten basic points in a rather telegraphic style.
1. The title of our session is “How to Deal with Russia?”. I would suggest to change this title somewhat and to pinpoint it: “How to Deal with Putin’s Russia?”, or “How to deal with Putin’s Regime?”, or “How to deal with Putinism?” This is a very important distinction. Certainly, it can be taken for granted that it’s much easier and faster to say “Russia” than “Putin’s Russia” or “Putin’s regime”, or “Putinism”. It is crucially important, however, not to confuse Putin’s regime with the Russian people. We do know, of course, that many Russians and many Russian citizens have been brainwashed. It’s a fact of life. The now proverbial “84% of support” are probably a serious exaggeration, but nevertheless we have to admit that many Russian citizens have been brainwashed and have been effectively turned into propaganda “zombies”. It is shocking to witness the drastic change in perception of millions of people in front of our very eyes, in such a brief period of time.
Something similar happened in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. The very civilized nation at the very heart of Europe was brainwashed and turned into zombies. They turned against their neighbors and became aggressive. Something of the similar nature is now going on in Russia. We have to keep in mind that psychological warfare is now being waged against Russians, against Russian citizens and against citizens of other countries: neighboring countries, countries of Central and Western Europe and all over the world. Therefore, we need to distinguish between the regime and the people. People can be cured of the mass psychosis at some point, as can be supported by the historic case of Germany and of some other nations.
2. My second point has to do with a pivotal international development of the last several months which is now less and less being referred to as the “crisis in Ukraine” or the “Ukrainian crisis”. This is definitely neither a “Ukrainian crisis”, nor it is a “Crisis in Ukraine”. The process under consideration has two facets. First, it’s a Russian crisis. It’s a Russian crisis in her relations with Ukraine, it’s a Russian crisis in her relations with the neighboring countries and it’s a Russian crisis in her relations with the rest of the world. And, second, this is not even a crisis. This is war. The fact that this is war, plain and simple, brings me to my next point.
3. We have to come to an understanding of what kind of war we are dealing with. We have been involved in this war against our will. We did not make the choice of going to war. Neither did people of Ukraine, nor European nations made this choice. This war was imposed upon us all. Even the majority of the Russian people did not choose to go to war. Nevertheless now we are faced with real war.
What kind of war is it? First of all, it’s clearly a Russian-Ukrainian war. Or, to be more precise, it is Putin’s war against Ukraine. The majority of Russian people, as it has already been stated, don’t support this war. People in Russia may differ in their views and opinions, but war against Ukraine is definitely not popular with the Russian people.
One of its most striking features of this war is that is the long one. How long? Its long-term effect stems from three sources. First, this war was very long in preparation. It’s been under discussion at least since 2003. Some issues were discussed in my presence already at that time. Of course, then it seemed fully unthinkable that such crazy discussions could be preparations to such a war. However, what has been discussed in 2003 apparently led to the war ten years later.
In 2004, during the Orange Revolution, the waters were tested. There was an attempt to do what was eventually done almost ten years later: to occupy and annex the Crimea.
In 2008 one of the versions of the military plan developed by the Russian General Staff was leaked into an open publication in the “Russkii Zhurnal” (The Russian Journal). Anyone can look up the article entitled “Operation “Clockwork Orange”. The draft of the war against Ukraine was explained there in elaborate detail, including specific tasks for the infantry, artillery, tank, paratrooper brigades and divisions and so on. It describes an attack on the Crimea and after that on Eastern and Central Ukraine. At the very end the plan calls for the use of nuclear strike against Ukrainian troops south-east of Kiev. Starting from 2008 on, dozens of books have been published in Russia on the topic of the “future war against Ukraine”. If you look it up on the Internet or on bookshelves of a Russian bookstore you’d be appalled at how popular the topic was and is.
In 2009 the flag of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” , the existence of which most of us discovered only in the course of the last few months, was flown at the Seliger Youth Camp where Mr. Putin himself made an appearance and took part in the brainwashing process. Once again: it was summer of 2009. Starting from that time on, numerous activities supporting various subversive actions of potential separatists in Eastern Ukraine have been recorded by Security Service of Ukraine.
It may be also instructive to remember that when at the Bucharest Summit of 2008, Mr. Putin told Mr. Bush and other dignitaries that Ukraine is an artificial country and that about half of the Ukrainian lands in fact belonged to Russia. This war has indeed been long in preparation.
Another important feature of this long war: it has been going on for almost 16 months now. It was launched (one may even be tempted to say “officially declared”) on July 27, 2013 in Mr. Putin’s speech in Kiev on the occasion of the 1025th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity by the Kievan Rus. It’s chock-full of clear indications of the beginning of an aggressive campaign. This speech marked the beginning of the so-called hybrid campaign, the beginning of the information warfare. Time for the conventional weapons had not come yet. It was, however, the beginning. Two days later Russia’s top sanitary official Mr. Onishchenko started a sanitary war, an economic war followed, and a financial war against Ukraine was quick to follow as well. I would like to stress this point: this war was launched on July 27, 2013.
Finally, conventional warfare had started on February 20, 2014, which was four days before Mr. Yanukovich escaped from Ukraine. This fact is officially recognized by the Ministry of Defense of Russia by coining medal “For the Return of Crimea” with engraved dates of the military campaign “February 20th to March 18th”. Atrocities had started four days before Mr. Yanukovich abandoned his post. Therefore, it was definitely not a reaction to the Maidan Revolution or to the fact that Ukraine had lost its president. Russia started its assault when Mr. Yanukovich was still in power and was a legitimate president of Ukraine. It happened even two days before Mr. Yanokivich signed an agreement with three opposition leaders in the presence of three European ministers.
Unfortunately this war is not likely to end any time soon. Considering what Mr. Putin says and what he does, considering the numbers of troops which are being accumulated in Eastern Ukraine even as we speak, this war is not going to end any time soon. We are faced with a long war.
4. Moreover, this is not only Mr. Putin’s war against Ukraine.
At this point it may be conducive to our purposes to remember the Russian-Georgian war of 2008. That war started in 2008 and it’s still not over, since substantial territories of Georgia are still under occupation and are not controlled by the Georgian government. Moreover, considering political processes of present-day Georgia it’s quite easy to detect traces of Russian subversive involvement. Still, this war doesn’t end with Georgia.
A year ago Armenia was forced to abandon its plans to sign an Association agreement with the European Union. It happened as a result of enormous pressure and blackmail applied by Mr. Putin. Russia is now conducting a construction project in the Caucasus, which is being built at an unprecedented speed, 24/7. I am speaking of the Avaro-Kakhetian highway from Dagestan to Georgia. The cost of this construction is estimated as $1,5 billion. On the Southern side of the Caucasian Ridge it leads to the Alazani River Valley and Kura Riva Valley. This project is expected to be finished by March, 2015.
The problems of Moldova and the region of Transnistria have already been mentioned here.
Potential problems with Kazakhstan have also been mentioned. On August 29 Mr. Putin has stated that Kazakhstan has never possessed a “historical statehood” and has acquired it only due to the efforts of the unique person like President Nazarbaev. This is a quite clear indication that in Mr. Putin’s mind, Mr. Nazarbayev deserves praise for having created the new state of Kazakhstan, but after Kazakhstan may lose its statehood when Mr. Nazarbayev is no longer around.
Another area of serious concern is the Baltic states, which have been mentioned already. In the last few weeks a number of subversive actions have been detected in Latgale, region in eastern Latvia and in Daugavpils. This area is mostly inhabited by ethnic Russians and by the Russian-speaking people. The leaflets that have been found there are worded exactly along the same lines as the ones that were found in the Crimea and in the Eastern Ukraine when separatist movements were instigated. The same hand moves these pieces as the one that moved them in Ukraine. A few months ago it was possible to discuss separatist intentions for Latgale, Narva and Eastern Estonia from a hypothetical point of view. Now, however, they are became real ones. We can remember once again the late 1930s discussion in Europe “Who is ready to die for Danzig?” Just as then it was a real problem of what happens if Germany claims this territory, so now we are faced with the question of who is going to die for Narva, Latgale, or Daugavpils if one day these territories proclaim a Russian puppet “Narva People’s Republic” or “Latgale People’s Republic”. This challenge is directed not only against the states of the post-Soviet space.
5. This is a most serious challenge to the whole European Union and to the whole NATO alliance. So far there is no ready answer to this challenge. What we are dealing with here, therefore, and, especially in the case of the Baltic states, is not only a challenge to the post-Soviet space as we used to think just a few months ago. This as a challenge to Europe. This is a challenge to the European Union. This is a challenge to the NATO. The main idea is definitely to use the lever of Estonia and Latvia in order to intimidate all Western economic, political and security alliance and to effectively prove that it is no longer viable. The goal is to destroy an order that exists in Europe over the last seven decades.
6. It does not end there, however. About a month ago Mr. Putin made a speech during a session of the exclusive Russian Valdai Club. I would call it Sochi/Valdai speech which is of enormous importance to any European politician, any European leader or political expert. I urge all those present to read this speech and Q&A afterwards carefully and to do some comparative study. Let’s place this speech into a historical context.
Some experts swallowed the Kremlin interpretation of this speech line hook and sinker and called it a new Fulton speech. This is wrong. Putin’s speech has nothing in common with Winston Churchill’s Fulton speech. These two speeches could not be more different in content, in style, in place or in the person of the speaker. I compiled a special comparison in the historical context. This is not a Fulton speech. It is a Berchtesgarden appeal.
In August 1939 (August 23 and August 25) Adolf Hitler sent two messages to the Prime Minister of Great Britain Neville Chamberlain. In these letters he went much further compared to his earlier Sudeten request or demand of Austria Anschluss. In these two messages Hitler suggested to rearrange the world order acting together with the British Empire.
A comparative analysis of Mr. Putin’s Sochi/Valdai speech on October 24 and of the two messages of Mr. Hitler to Chamberlain discovered twenty five pieces of almost exact correlations of Mr. Putin’s ideas to those of Mr. Hitler. Practically word by word, sentence by sentence, idea by idea these matches go on and on.
A few months ago we were discussing Mr. Putin’ plans for the creation or re-creation of the so-called “Russkii mir” (Russian World), uniting all the Russian-speaking people and their descendants. This plan seems now outdated. The stakes went much higher. Now we are faced with a plan for changing the world order. This is a plan for the elimination of the international system that’s been in place since the end of the Second World War. This is a plan of bringing down the system that has been established in the UN Charter, in documents, describing and defining aggression and non-aggression principles, the principles of inviolability of borders, principles of sovereignty of states.
We are dealing, therefore, not just with a regional issue such as Mr. Putin’s war against Ukraine, no matter how essential it is. We are not even dealing with just Mr. Putin’s war against his immediate neighbors in the post-Soviet space. We are not even dealing with just potential war against the European Union and NATO, no matter how horrible it may sound. This is not just a revenge-seeking policy. This is a fundamentally revisionist policy. This policy is aimed at a total revision of all the basic principles of the world order as it has existed for the last seven decades. Mr. Putin and the Kremlin’s propaganda machine speak loud and clear: this is the Fourth World War. According to them, the Cold war was the Third World war and now they confirm that they are ready to wage the Fourth World War in order to change the rules of the game for the whole world.
7. Now we are coming to quite a sensitive issue. Is it really feasible to change the rules of the game, assuming that the resources under the command of Mr. Putin are much more limited than those under the command of the NATO or of the Western powers in general? The difference in demographic, economic, military and other resources possessed by two camps is unquestionable and shows an overwhelming advantage of the Western bloc. So how is it possible to dream, not even count on success in these circumstances? It appears inconceivable, if not outright ridiculous, to suppose that a state with much smaller resources may effectively challenge the existing system.
At this point we have to consider more closely the military theory. The types of war that under discussions have different names: a hybrid war, unconventional war, non-linear war. One of the most important chapters in these theories is called “Asymmetrical warfare”. In the standard case, the two parties that were confronting each other had some comparable resources and some comparable will on both sides. But one can imagine the case when one of the parties could have much more resources than the other one but have a weaker will than the other one. And the opponent could have less resources but stronger will than the former one. The result of the confrontation in such case is unclear. From the history we do know that the party which is more aggressive, more persistent and more determined may achieve a success or, indeed, be victorious even if it has access to less resources. Those, who think that such a confrontation is unconceivable simply because the resources of the parties are incomparable would be well advised to always keep in mind “the will factor”.
There are two more elements in this confrontation that we should keep in mind at all times.
One of these elements has been mentioned already and it has been discussed extensively – I speak of the information war or, to be more precise, of the disinformation war. Disinformation war has been waged not only in Russia proper, not only in the territories of the post-Soviet space, but all over the world. Information has no borders. It is disseminated all over the world and in all possible languages: in English, in French, in German, in Spanish and so on. As many of you know, soldiers and officers of the Kremlin disinformation army are very much present in the social networks in Europe and in North America. They conduct their operations in the local languages and in a coordinated manner. This disinformation troops try to create another narrative, they offer pictures and video for a new vision of the world and a new vision of the world order. Unfortunately, we have to admit that they have achieved some success. People have been influenced by the Russian propaganda not only in Russia, but in other countries as well. It is absolutely essential to remember this. Any country which does not eradicate disinformation will sooner or later be undermined from within and will fall victim to more “conventional” means of aggression.
One more point is nuclear blackmail. This is the most dangerous one. It goes without saying that any responsible politician, all responsible political circles in Europe, in North America or, indeed anywhere in the world are prepared to do whatever it takes in order to prevent a nuclear war. This point is extremely well understood and is now actively exploited by the new revisionist and revenge-seeking force.
That’s exactly why the offer of the Valdai/Sochi speech rings so loud and clear: “Either accept my terms of the new world order, or I threaten to use Russia’s nuclear arms”. The world has no ready answer to this challenge yet. These are unchartered waters and we have to find our way in order to avoid disaster. The responsibility may be overwhelming, but it’s not for us to choose the times we live in. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us” ©.
8. What, indeed, can we do? In essence – How to stop this War?
There are three possible options.
First option: to surrender. Means – to accept Mr. Putin’s offer. To admit to ourselves and to the rest of the world that there will be new terms, there will be a new order, and this new order will be well clear-cut. Under the new order the whip will always be in the hand of those who have more power. It will be the rule of the mighty and powerful. This will be felt particularly acutely by the weaker and smaller states. We can hear it loud and clear.
Another option is to try to compromise. Buy some time, drag our feet. Even some people who call themselves opponents of Putin’s regime openly say: “OK, possibly we were not completely in the right in the Crimea and in the Eastern Ukraine, some mistakes have been made, but it’s impossible to change the situation now. Let’s accept it and make the best of it”.
The third option is to resist. I am not going to waste everybody’s time and discuss the first two options, because the second one is essentially the same as the first one: it boils down to surrender. The option to resist, however, certainly needs serious discussion.
9. I will mention just the most crucial elements of possible resistance. These crucial elements include seven spheres of activities and five theatres of resistance.
The spheres of activity.
First, most importantly, understanding the problem, which means close academic and/or intelligence study and understanding of the nature of the beast.
Second, education of the general public and of authorities about the nature of the beast. Information and dissemination of true facts.
Third, counter-disinformation war. Without it we can expect no results, and this is an extremely important sphere of activity. Ukrainian experience proves that it may require a lot of resources. Ukrainians finally had to create a number of special units, special organizations which were doing only one thing: showing how disinformation against Ukraine was created and how it was disseminated. It was done 24/7. This is not a job for amateurs, it requires skill, resources and determination.
Fourth point concerns international law. Existing definitions of aggression or non-aggression are no longer relevant in the present situation because we are confronted with the realities of a non-conventional war. This is a hybrid war and aggression has taken on new forms and new shapes. If you have information aggression against your country it does not fit the traditional definition of aggression adopted by the United Nations Resolution. It’s crucial to have legal basis to respond to that.
Fifth, resistance in area of economy.
Sixth, resistance in energy area. I would like to mention here a bold step that has been taken recently by Lithuania. It has just completed the construction of a new gas terminal. Within a few days, by the beginning of December, Lithuania is likely to become the first European state totally free from gas imports from Russia. Just a few years ago Lithuania imported about 100% of its gas from Russia, and in a few days it will be zero dependent on the Russian gas. This is a right step in the right direction.
Seventh, it also goes without saying that the military area requires a lot of attention. With all due respect we need to understand that in the real conventional war enemy tanks can’t be stopped with good resolutions or with blankets only.
Five different theatres of action.
First, the so-called “old Europe” (mostly members of the EU).
Second, the “new Europe” meaning the front-line states, those bordering the aggressor, Baltics and Poland.
Third, Ukraine, which is now the critical element of the front and should be supported in all possible ways: economically, technically, with training, with political support, with education and with all other means that may be required.
Fourth, other countries of the post-Soviet sphere that are either already under attack or are potential victims of aggression.
Fifth, finally, Russia, Russia itself, Russian society and Russian people.
10. This is my last point. We need to understand a strategic goal of this war. We have not made the choice to wage this war: it has been imposed upon us. Strategically this war can be finally won only when Russia becomes a free and democratic country. Until then, as long as Russia stays an authoritarian dictatorship, the risk and the threat for the peace in the world persist.
We all remember a popular European slogan: “Europe should be free, democratic, whole and at peace”. This beautiful state of events is only possible if Russia is free, democratic and at peace with all its neighbors within internationally recognized borders.