Ukraine, the West and democracy will prevail. Whatever Mr Putin does or does not do, despite his war crimes and nuclear threats, despite his bombing of Ukrainian cities and the violence of his repression even within Russia, he can no longer win this war because his troops are demoralised and retreating on all fronts, his resources are dwindling, his “partial mobilisation” has opened up a political crisis, his allies are becoming circumspect, Central Asia is emancipating itself as a result of the quagmire which he has plunged into, and his inner circle is panicking and tearing itself apart in public, Bernard Guetta writes.
An end of a reign has begun in Moscow, but in order to limit the suffering, chaos and dangers it brings, to turn the page as quickly as possible and to silence the guns, we must accelerate the defeat of this dictator-backed up against the wall and at the same time offer Russia a future of peace and cooperation.
For Ukraine, the West and democracy, victory is approaching. Whatever Mr Putin does or does not do, he can no longer win the war because his troops are demoralised and retreating on all fronts, his resources are dwindling, his “partial mobilisation” has opened up a political crisis, his allies are becoming circumspect, Central Asia is emancipating itself as a result of the quagmire into which he has plunged Russia, and his inner circle is tearing itself apart publicly.
On the one hand, more arms must be delivered to Ukraine more quickly, and on the other, the foundations for the post-war period must be laid because once their victory is sealed, Ukraine and its Western allies, the democracies, will have a choice to make. They can either repeat the Treaty of Versailles mistake or remember the helping hand’s success extended to Germany in 1947. They would either punish Russia as they had punished Germany in 1918 or integrate it into the common front of the Democracies as they were able to do with Bonn.
In one case, the Democracies had sown the seeds of resentment and thereby contributed to the rise of Nazism and then the Second World War. On the other, they had allowed the consolidation of democracy so strong and prosperous that the side of freedom had been strengthened, and the East Germans had ended up bringing down the wall.
Between blindness and intelligence, between revenge and reconciliation, needless to say, Ukraine and its allies will tend towards the right choice, but the minds of both sides must be prepared for it. Because their victory is approaching, it is right now that the democracies must lay the foundations for the post-war period by telling the Russians seven essential things.
First, they will have to pay war reparations to Ukraine for the lives of each son lost and each property destroyed, as their natural resources will allow them to do so.
The second is that we consider them to be Europeans because they are Europeans by virtue of their geography and even more so by virtue of their culture, their literature, their history and their centuries-old membership in the European community of nations.
The third is that none of the Western countries occupy or intend to annex a single square centimetre of Russian territory and that if the Atlantic Alliance has expanded to the East, it is because the former vassals of the empire wanted its protection against Russia that never done anything to reassure them.
The fourth is that Russia’s elective affinities are European, not Chinese, that the vassalization of Russia by China would be as damaging to the Russians as it would be to the European Union, and that everything compels us not to let Beijing divide our common continent.
The fifth is that the longer the aggression against Ukraine continues, the more the Russian Federation will run the risk of splitting up, in which the European Union would have no more interest than the Russians, given that the emergence of mafia-like or theocratic micro-states in the Caucasus and the establishment of a Chinese protectorate over Siberia would be detrimental to our entire continent.
The sixth is that our economies, resources and capabilities are complementary, but that we would only cooperate based on full recognition of international borders; respect for the sovereignty of nations; freedom of political and military alliances; and security guarantees that the enlarged Union as much needs as by the Russian Federation.
The seventh thing to say to the Russians as of now is that we know that they are muzzled by repression but naturally eager to live in peace with their neighbours and attached to freedom because no people prefers war to peace and the arbitrariness of power to the security of the law.
These are the seven pillars of wisdom for our continent, but let us be under no illusion. Just as the first six messages on common culture, common interests and the need not to let China divide us are going to be relatively easily passed on, the seventh will not be.
It will not be easier to pass this on in Poland and the Baltic States than in Ukraine because memories of the Empire and the USSR are obviously vivid there. The abuses committed by the Russian army today are cruelly reviving them, and Central Europe suspects that Western Europe has always wanted to get along with Russia at its expense.
In the heart of Europe, the temptation is now strong to rebuild the wall on Russia’s own borders in the hope of closing the doors to what could only be an evil empire destined to remain so. This is Mr Putin’s work. Not satisfied with breaking down all opposition in Russia and bringing death and destruction to Ukraine, he has made everyone forget that in 1990 no one in Russia wanted to oppose the break-up of the empire by force, that it was a Russian, Mikhail Gorbachev, who let the wind of freedom blow into the USSR, and that faced with the possibility of change, the Russians accelerated it, not pushed it back.
Today, no one resembles young Europeans more than young Russians. The youth of this country is not at all fond of wars and not at all in love with dictatorship. It is with it them that we will be able to build a lasting peace in Europe, but to succeed in this challenge, we must think about the post-war period without any further delay.