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.

Source: ELP