First of all, I'd like to thank the organizers of the Conference for the invitation.
Speaking about crisis of the system of the international security, let me ask A few very simple "eternal" questions: 1) what is happening in the Eastern part of Europe? 2) who is guilty? 3) what should we do?
The war is happening in Europe. The Kremlin is deliberately trying to globalize the conflict. From the very beginning, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine had a global character. The world order, established after WW II, that for seven decades guaranteed peace and stability in Europe, was ruined. Russia unilaterally, totally unprovoked, deliberately violated international law, international treaties and bilateral agreements with Ukraine. I am sure that the civilized world will never recognize the legitimacy of the violation of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. Unconditional and worldwide support to Ukraine is convincingly reflected in UN resolution A/RES /68/262. Only Russia and 10 other countries like North Korea, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Nicaragua, Cuba, Sudan and others voted against it.
Russia is seized with warmongering madness and wages war not only against Ukraine, but also against the entire Western civilization. Russia is deliberately ruining the world order. Political analyst James Sherr, when speaking at the Conference in Vilnius, noticed that most likely President Putin's goal at this stage is not to destroy the EU and NATO as such, but rather to make them unimportant, to demonstrate that EU and NATO are not capable of protecting Europe. Kremlin’s challenge to the democratic World is a global challenge, therefore, the response to it must be global, massive and united too. However, situation remains completely unpredictable: at any moment, anywhere, anything can happen.
Why did this happen to us? I could answer this question in one and only word: weakness. NOT actually being weak, the West demonstrated "provocative weakness", lack of leadership and political will. Weak political will from both – Ukraine's and Euro-Atlantic partners’, sides, provoked Russia. It provoked not only Russia’s strong political position, it provoked President Putin’s actions which we witness right now.
Unfortunately, we have to recognize that during THE last 24 years we could not (or have not been able, which is a big difference) solve the problem of Russia. The West never tried to destroy Russia, QUITE the opposite – it tried to help to create a successful Russia, but those efforts have failed. We are interested in the success of Russia, but the war in Ukraine proves that the success of Russia must be preceded by the success of Ukraine. Although THE Russian nation has been and remains a pro-Western, pro-European, or at least has huge potential for this, we HAVE not been able to persuade Russians to unify and celebrate the Victory over the Cold war together. Russians were humiliated by the incapacity and incompetence, mediocrity of all their leaders. Russians were forced to believe that the history of the Soviet Union is not the history of the “Bolshevism disease”, but rather a continuation of the history of the Russian Empire. What can the nation, who is still proud of the Bolshevik dictatorship, the bloodiest regime in human history, which has claimed close to a hundred million lives, hope for?
One more mistake that I can identify is the lack of our demand from Russia to fulfill its commitments, implement international treaties and obligations. Instead, we were galloping from one failure to comply with the agreements and commitments to another. In our relations with Russia we lacked firmness and responsibility. We had an irresponsible complacent belief that everything by itself, without our efforts will be fine and we shouldn’t worry too much. For example, Lithuania’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs were always asked by their colleagues not to exaggerate, not to overdramatize the situation with Russia.
Of course, one of our big mistakes was to relate Kremlin's boss with Russia itself. We were constantly, for these long two decades, doing the same mistake, despite the fact, that even now there are 20 or maybe 30 or 40 million Russians, who strongly oppose President Putin's politics. We have to notice them, send signals to them, help them to survive. It's time to unite wide anti-Putin pan-European front. We, who understand how detrimental and dangerous for Europe are Putin's policies, must be united. Do we have enough political will to do that?
I am far from demonizing President Putin, far from seeing him as a villain, who wants only to cause evil and strives to destroy the World. The Kremlin, as a collective figure, as a collective ruler represents for me an example of clandestine subculture, which is not able to accept incoming information, because of corrupted feedback. There was no formula for communication with Stalin or Hitler, however, I believe that a formula for communication with President Putin exists. We just have not found it yet, and there is no significant person, who could pursue this communication. Now is the right time to talk to him, but not to negotiate. Since the sanctions work, let us pause. Now is not a good time for unilateral proposals and searches of compromises. Russia is not ready for compromises and negotiations, let's appreciate the silence.
Gradual self-isolation of Russia, its gradual drift towards dictatorship, similar to that of North Korea, is A dangerous tendency not only for Russia, but also for the West. No one is interested in the collapse and disintegration of this nuclear state. In the nearest future, we will have to do the hardest work: to elaborate a solid and reliable paradigm of our relations with Russia and take Europeanization of it seriously.
I am also very concerned about the growing forces of revenge, revanchism and extremism in Russia, for which president Putin gave rise, but is gradually losing control over them. The tragedy may be like a sudden avalanche.
What should we do now? Firstly, to stop President Putin in Ukraine. Secondly, to help Ukraine.
At a tactical level – Europe's, and, in a broader sense, Western reaction to the Ukrainian crisis was relatively good. The main effective weapon is sanctions. Now it is important to keep them at the current level, and in case of new attacks - immediately introduce additional ones. Lifting the sanctions would mean the legitimization of President Putin's aggression, would bury the whole system of international relations and international laws, which was formed after World War II, and would give an indulgence on Putin’s further provocations. However, strategic understanding of the problem, as well as the will to fight back is not satisfying. Either we make the Kremlin concede and comply or they'll do it to us. Unfortunately, at the moment the West solves only a tactical task against Kremlin’s people, whose behaviour does not conform to international standards. Having such a strategic irresponsibility of the West in mind, the conflict will inevitably expand.
Under the given circumstances, temporarily, tactical situation in Ukraine is improving, although it still remains shaky and unpredictable. The main question that needs to be answered is the strategy. The situation will improve strategically, only if the West strategically supports Ukraine and invests in Ukraine. Firstly – in helping Ukraine with reforms, fighting down the corruption, through the EU integration and EU perspective. The success and the integration with the EU is the primary goal, which is possible, achievable, dependent on Ukraine's political will and persistence. The victory over Russia in the Donbas is secondary and not guaranteed. Ukraine's deeper involvement in the conflict, which would lead to a distraction from the European integration agenda, is one of the aims of President Putin. Defeat the enemy is one thing, but it is quite another to stop him, isolate him and cut his influence. All of us, Europeans and Ukrainians, have to understand that Russian aggression in Ukraine can be stopped only by military force, but the crisis can be resolved only by political means.
When goals of our policy are more or less clear and established, we should find ways to achieve them. What could we do in practical terms to change the reality? How to correlate our ambitions with our very limited ammunitions?
Kyiv continues its efforts to perform reforms. Not always successfully, not at fast pace. However, FOR first time in 25 years, THE Ukrainian nation is united for European choice irreversibly and decisively. We criticize Ukraine's Government that the efforts are insufficient. That’s right. But let's remember Lithuania's experience. We were united and thus needed fourteen years to implement the needed reforms and become members of EU and NATO. Fourteen years of hard work for the same goal, for all the Governments in power, all Parliaments and all political parties. Some things need time. It makes no sense to shake a tree, hoping it will grow faster. We should always remember that crisis brings not only threats, but also chances for changes. Ukraine will need years, maybe decades for these chances to be realized and reforms implemented. The most important and difficult challenge for Ukrainians and its authorities will be keeping the right direction: Europe, only Europe, nothing except Europe. Ukraine should stop sitting on two or even three chairs simultaneously. It is our task to help: Ukraine needs our presence, Europe’s presence, in clear signs, that Ukraine belongs to European civilization, in assistance at consolidation of political forces for Euro-Atlantic agenda. We can help Ukraine to believe in the necessity of the Minsk Agreements.
Is Europe ready to take the responsibility for the future of Europe? If yes, The agenda must be substantially different, larger and more strategically oriented, than simply demanding reforms from THE Ukrainian Government.
In fact, the strategic objective of the West remains Russia's success. Unfortunately, the West was not able to solve this problem, trusting in the good will of Kremlin’s bosses and making various concessions. History of the last two decades has shown that the key to Russia’s success lies in the success of its neighbours, first and foremost, in the success of Ukraine.
It is essential to give a clear signal to Ukraine about the future perspective of its membership in the EU and NATO. Visa-free regime should become not a matter of technicalities, but a powerful political signal to Ukrainians: "you belong to us, you belong to European civilization".
Recently George Soros wrote an essay for the New York Review of Books: “Europe needs to wake up and recognize that it is under attack from Russia. Assisting Ukraine should be considered as a defense expenditure by the EU countries.” Soros called on Europe to spend $50 billion bailing out Ukraine. More generally, Soros argued that Europeans need to realize that Ukraine isn’t just another emerging market and that Europe's future depends on the success of Ukraine. Above I mentioned - Russia's too.
Soros is right. However, his plan is unrealistic. We must understand that there is no political will in Europe to allocate such resources to a country, which many European voters perceive as irrelevant. There is no such thing as strategic responsibility of Europe. There is an urgent need to substantially improve communication about Ukraine and enhance the support to Ukraine in Europe. It is impossible to change the policy of Europe without changing the understanding and sympathy of Europeans and their attitude to the new reality. How? We should help Ukraine to knock at the hearts of 500 million Europeans, through culture, art, responsible and informative journalism, cooperation of NGOs from our countries. I have witnessed the unity of European leaders around "Je suis Charlie" in Paris and I hope to see the same unity for "I'm Ukraine" in Kiev. Our message must be persuasive enough to convince the world to invest massively in the birth of the new Ukraine, in the birth of the new success story, such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland or other new EU and NATO members.
To sum up - the strategy for the relations between the West and Russia should be as follows: 1) Create success stories around Russia, starting with Ukraine, 2) Abandon the "provocative weakness" in relations with THE Kremlin, 3) Make a distinction between Russia and the Kremlin.
The last remark I would like to make in Russian.
I notice that we, both in Lithuania and Ukraine, often give gifts to our enemy that he did not deserve. Thus, we almost presented the victory in the World War II to the President Putin, and he is perceived almost as a winner, but the victory over the Nazism is our common victory. This victory did not bring freedom to our people, but the defeat of the murderous regime in Central Europe and the end of the World War II is a good reason for celebration. Another wrong gift to the Kremlin is the history of the Soviet Union that with our indifference is not taught in Russia as the history of the Bolshevik disease of the society, but rather as a kind of Russian Empire’s history continuation. And the last gift that would delight the Kremlin would be anti-Russian hysteria. So, let's not give them the Russian language that does not belong to the President Putin, but belongs to all people who use it, love and respect Russian culture.