From War to sustainable Peace: the destiny of Europe

Ukrainian and EU flags in the front of the Presidential Palace Republic of Ukraine. Photo Ruslanas Iržikevičius

The entire year, Europe is at war. Not just Ukraine but the whole of Europe is engulfed in this major geopolitical crisis on the continent.

In this situation, Europe needs a strategy for how to move from war to sustainable peace. It should not settle for temporary ceasefires or negotiations on short-term agreements like Minsk-3, which would only give the authoritarian regime a chance to rest, recover, and return with renewed aggression. Instead, Europe, in the end, must develop a strategy for achieving lasting and sustainable peace on the continent.

To attain sustainable peace in Europe, it is crucial to understand why such peace currently eludes us.

The aggression of Russia, led by an authoritarian Kremlin regime, is undeniably the main factor disrupting peace on the European continent. This regime poses a permanent threat to peace in Europe. While we can bolster our deterrence and defence military capabilities, authoritarian Russia will always remain a tectonic threat to security and peace in Europe and beyond.

Therefore, our strategy should not only focus on deterring and defending against this threat but also on political steps to eliminate it. The threat comes from authoritarian Russia. As history has shown, democracies do not wage war against one another. That is why the key to peace on the European continent lies in the spread of democracy towards the Eastern part of the European continent. A democratic Europe equals a peaceful Europe.

Hence, after Russia will lose the war, the path from war to sustainable peace on the European continent necessitates assisting the defeated Russia in transforming from autocracy to a normal democracy. That is why democracy in Russia is crucial for its citizens and the entire European continent, including the European Union.

One might argue that democracy in Russia is not possible since it has never been a democracy. However, this view is flawed and can be disproven with rational arguments. We only need to remember the process of Perestroika in the Soviet Union/Russia in the mid-1980s, when huge protests demonstrated the Russian people’s desire for democracy and a normal European-style state.

For the Russian people to transform their country back to democracy, it is insufficient to remove Putin from power merely. Russian society must “deputinize” itself, must shed its nostalgia for the lost “glory” of the previous empire and abandon the dream of restoring it. This dream has turned Russia into a criminal international aggressor. The same society must learn to embrace a new dream—a dream of normal life in Russia itself.

The European Union can assist Russian society on this challenging path of deputinization and transformation. Therefore, the EU needs a broad and long-term strategy to support the Russian people in this significant endeavour. Such transformation is crucial not only for Russia but also for the European Union’s own security and sustainable peace on the continent.

To achieve sustainable peace on the European continent, the EU must develop an overarching strategy that outlines specific long-term goals and strategies. These strategies can be divided into two groups: first, how the EU can help Russian people abandon their dream of restoring the empire, and second, how the EU can assist Russian people in developing a new dream of normal life in Russia itself.

Strategies to help Russian people abandon the dream of restoring the empire should  include:

  • The total defeat of the Russian army in Ukraine resulted in the liberation of Crimea and Donbas. It will depend solely on the West’s ability to provide sufficient weapons for such a victory. This defeat will not only crush the imperial dream but may also lead to the collapse of the Kremlin regime, creating a window of opportunity for genuine transformation in Russia.
  • An International Tribunal for the crime of war aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity should be established. It is crucial for the Russian people to witness the gravity of the crimes committed by their leadership in their name and in the name of the imperial dream. This will allow Russian society to acknowledge its moral responsibility for the war atrocities and initiate the process of deputinization. Such a tribunal would mark the first step in a long-term journey of soul-search and moral healing for Russian society, making it a pivotal task within the overall transformation strategy.
  • NATO membership for Ukraine, with the immediate clear path towards it,  is essential. It is crucial for the Russian people, including those who still harbour dreams of restoring the empire, to receive a clear and resolute message from the West: Ukraine has chosen the side of the West and Russian society must accept this new reality. That would contribute to the healing process of Russian society, helping it overcome the painful and dangerous post-imperial syndrome. Ukraine’s NATO membership is necessary not only for Ukraine’s security but also for transforming Russian society. Ukraine remaining in the “grey zone” will always pose a dangerous temptation for Russian society to indulge in imperial nostalgia. Therefore, Ukraine’s membership in NATO is imperative for the entire Europe.

How can the EU assist the Russian people to develop a new vision of a normal life in Russia itself?

  • The success of Ukraine can serve as an inspiration for transformation in Russia. Ukrainian success should be defined not only by their victory in the war and the swift post-war reconstruction but also by the ambitious EU agenda for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union. In the post-Cold War era, no country from the former “socialist bloc” has achieved success on its own, staying alone,  without integration into the EU. The success of Central European and Baltic states was realized because they were offered an ambitious European integration agenda. The such long-term strategy of the EU aimed to spread democracy and prosperity into post-imperial territories. The same story of how the soft power of EU enlargement can create success needs to be repeated with Ukraine (and Moldova), since the exemplary success of Ukraine will significantly inspire the Russian people to follow the path of democratic development taken by Ukraine. The Russian people’s aspiration and dream for a normal life require inspiration, and the European Union can provide that inspiration through the creation of Ukrainian success. Hence, the EU should embrace an ambitious enlargement strategy once again.
  • The strategy for future relations between the European Union and a democratic Russia (post-Putin) is needed now. The EU must promptly demonstrate to the Russian people that, following their country’s transformation back to democracy, the EU will provide substantial assistance to rebuild a normal life in Russia. Even without offering EU membership to a democratic Russia, the European Union should promise the availability of key policy instruments such as free trade agreements, a visa-free regime, and partnerships for modernization. This EU strategy for future relations should be formulated now in collaboration with Russian opposition experts, aiming to support the aspirations of the Russian people to enjoy a normal European way of life after their country’s transformation. This EU strategy should be swiftly implemented following the transformation, as it will contribute to stabilizing the young, reestablished democracy in Russia. The United States showed a similar approach after World War II by implementing the Marshall Plan to aid the stabilization of fragile post-war democracies in Western Europe.

These are the most important strategic policies the EU needs to implement to reestablish sustainable peace on the European continent. Everything starts with the victory of Ukraine in the war and the creation of Ukraine’s success, and it ends with the transformation of Russia into a normal, European-type statehood. This should be the most important strategic interest of the European Union. Achieving sustainable peace in Europe cannot be accomplished without the bravery of the Ukrainian people and the determination of Russian citizens to transform their country back to normality. The EU needs to have a strategy to assist both Ukraine’s success and the Russian opposition in their preparations for transformation.

Sustainable peace on the European continent necessitates a tectonic geopolitical reconstruction of the Eastern part of the continent, with democracy defended in Ukraine and democracy spreading towards Russia and Belarus. The major features of such a reconstruction have been described above. Implementing this reconstruction requires real geopolitical leadership from the European Union. That is why the EU should emphasize its “strategic responsibility” for sustainable peace on the European continent rather than its “strategic autonomy”.

EPP Lithuanian office
EPP Lithuanian Office
You may like

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.