This text is based on a speech at a meeting of the Federal Political Committee of the Yabloko Party on 20 October 2022
On war and peace, the future of Russia, as well as the role of the political party at a time of military actions which are precipitating the country’s collapse
At present many people have been trying to compare the developments in Ukraine with events of the past century, frequently turning to World War II. However, this is fundamentally an erroneous and incongruous comparison. The world has changed over the past eight decades and in the 21st century a territorial war will never have a winner. Such a conflict will be endless. Germany and France fought over Alsace-Lorraine for 150 years up until the creation of the European Union which brought an end to all wars in Europe. In a territorial war there are no winners: everyone loses. There aren’t and cannot be any winners in a nuclear war, which is the ultimate risk of today’s confrontation between Putin’s Russia and the West and could happen at any point. We already realise that the Russian special military operation against Ukraine is merely the prelude to a global conflict.
Ditches across the road dug by Russian soldiers near Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, Ukraine, 7 April 2022 // REUTERS/ Gleb Garanich
Ditches across the road dug by Russian soldiers near Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, Ukraine, 7 April 2022 // REUTERS/ Gleb Garanich
As we all know all too well, Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022. For over eight months the whole world has been witnessing the continuous progression of a terrifying tragedy where tens of thousands of people are dying, both civilians and soldiers. Post-war Europe has never seen a tragedy on this scale. There are no justifications and no reasonable explanations for what is happening today in Ukraine. All the ideas transmitted by the Kremlin and repeated by Russian propaganda about a special type of sovereignty, a multipolar world, about threats to Russia emanating from Ukraine, about some form of radical nationalism and the persecution of Russian-speaking citizens in Ukraine – all these statements are untrue. This is the political assessment of the situation by the Yabloko Party.
The underlying reasons for these events can be traced back to the system built in Russia over the past three decades: to the 1990 reforms which created a system where there is no independent business, and accordingly, any other independent structures: a judiciary, political parties, parliament, press. It can all be attributed accordingly to the establishment of a corporate and oligarchic system, the failure to conduct a state and public assessment of Stalinism, which enabled, to all intents and purposes, Neo-Stalinist and Neo-Bolshevik forces to take over this system.
Over the past 30 years the Yabloko Party offered on 11 occasions a way out and a chance to choose a different path – on eight times at parliamentary elections and three times at presidential elections. Throughout this time we talked about the impossibility of war. We opposed both Chechen wars in the second half of the 1990s and the start of the 2000s. Ever since 2014 we have opposed the war in Ukraine. If at least 10-15 million people had voted for us on just one occasion, then it would have been possible to change the politics of the Russian state. However, this didn’t happen, there was no change, no turning away from the current path and we ended up with 24 February 2022.
We hear talk more and more frequently about the possible use of nuclear weapons. Against this backdrop, the most popular idea today is victory on the field of battle and an increase in the financial and material military assistance to Ukraine. Meanwhile, no diplomatic solutions have been discussed and no proposals on negotiations have been put forward by Russia, Ukraine or by the countries backing Ukraine in the West.
This is the reason why a ceasefire is the only solution today. This does not imply any recognition of any status, any territories or any borders. This does not mean capitulation.
This issue is multidimensional, in particular right now when there is a real risk of a global nuclear conflict. And if we analyse the politics of this issue, we can state with absolute certainty that global diplomacy has reached a dead end. One gains the impression that world leaders have already reconciled themselves that the fate of tens or even hundreds of millions of lives is all up to one individual, to his belief in reason, to his instinct for self-preservation – that in the final analysis he will understand that nobody takes his bluff seriously and that he will back off. However, what happens if he isn’t bluffing? Are we really saying that the fate of the whole of mankind will be offered up in this way?!
“Nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy — or of a collective death-wish for the world.” I quote here from a speech by the US President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
J.F. Kennedy delivered this speech more than 60 years ago, already after the Cuban Missile Crisis when the world had also been on the verge of nuclear confrontation. In this case, however, the crisis lasted 13 days, whereas the current crisis has already continued for almost nine months. This is the first global crisis of such a scale in what is effectively a nuclear world. So analogies with World War II are redundant. Today fundamentally different principles, drivers and participants are involved. Moreover, for the first time in history a nuclear power is involved directly in a military confrontation that it also unleashed.
It would be useful to recall here that Russia and the USA have vast arsenals of nuclear weapons. According to official data on deployed intercontinental missiles, ballistic missiles, submarines and heavy bombers, Russia has 540, whereas America has 659. Russia has 1,549 weapons for all these carriers, and America 1,420 weapons. Russia has 759 deployed and non-deployed missile launchers and heavy bombers, while America has 800.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis 60 years ago America considered the Soviet Union to be its equal. Today, the USA treats Russia as a third-rate power, whose national power can be summed up simply as energy resources and nuclear weapons. However, the problem is that Putin will do everything to rebut such a portrayal.
Current developments are driven by Putin’s political goal of achieving a new Yalta – a new carve-up of the world. However, this is a disconnect with reality.
And this is how political entropy rears its ugly head. This is a protracted crisis – the world’s political and economic systems are not fit for purpose and unable to cope with such developments. The lag behind developments is vast, and the chasm is only increasing.
Entropy is also discernible in Europe’s economic relations with Russia after 24 February. Notwithstanding the introduction of several sanctions packages by the European Union and the departure of hundreds of European companies from the Russian market by November, in other words, by the ninth month of the military actions against Ukraine, a number of European countries have resumed trading with Russia, reaching February volumes. In actual fact, they have restored trade in such a way that the exports of EU countries to Russia outstrip the level in February. For example, Latvia increased exports to Russia by 67%, Slovenia by 37%, Croatia by 28%, Bulgaria by 25%, Estonia by 19%, Cyprus by 12% and Luxembourg by 7%. At the same time, imports from Russia increased in the same period in general disproportionately: to Slovenia – 4.4 times, Croatia – 2.7 times, the Czech Republic – 2 times, Malta – by 88%, Spain – by 46%, Belgium – by 39%, Luxembourg – by 22%, Cyprus — by 13%, Estonia — by 11%, Bulgaria – by 10%.
The European Union broke off economic relations with Russia to support Ukraine. At the same time, however, European countries actually exempted certain imports to the European market from Russia – for example, such “vital” goods as diamonds – from all duties. Some East European countries have declared Russia to be a “sponsor of terrorism”, but still make payments to the country for energy imports and other goods. It transpires then that Europeans are themselves financing the “sponsor of terrorism”.
Against the backdrop of such a favourable situation, the IMF upgraded their Russian GDP forecast for 2022. In April 2022 the IMF projected that Russian GDP would fall by 8.5%, whereas now it has revised this figure to a decline of only 3.4%.
All this data demonstrate that despite the sanctions Russia will be able to maintain all its military expenses at current levels over the next two-three years.
In the 1990s the West adopted a different political line towards Russia. It was amicable and had the goal of contributing to the well-being and prosperity of our country. The IMF and the Washington sincerely wanted to help Russia unleash economic transformations. However, the reforms conducted in line with the Western roadmap and recommendations engendered the very system which led us, after several evolutionary stages, to 24 February 2022. Why did this happen? This happened because it transpired that the West’s recommendations were utterly illiterate and incompetent and had no bearing on Russia.
And now we see in 2022 that the West again wants to foster transformations in our economy, but this time negative changes. Adopting package after package of anti-Russian sanctions, they expect to inflict a devastating blow on the Russian regime. However, here they will fail utterly.
That is why there is no point hoping that the West will engineer regime change on our behalf and will build democracy for us. It goes without saying that we need to maintain the friendliest possible relations with Western countries. However, we need to live as we think fit and rely only on ourselves.
The deterioration in the quality of politics and political discourse is a problem that is not confined to Russia: it is global. Starting from the 1990s politics has been wrenched away more and more from values, beliefs, knowledge and an understanding of history, an understanding of the present. Contemporary politicians are driven only by election results, and not the substance of their political agenda. All the factors which led to 24 February 2022 — not only in Russia, but also in the world as a whole — remain unchanged. However, the situation has simply deteriorated in some areas. And that is why we are compelled to rely only on ourselves.
Accordingly, we must resolve two priority objectives:
— achieve a ceasefire and try to stop the bloodshed in Ukraine;
— explain why this happened.
In order to prevent the preservation of the current situation and avoid the emergence of new similar tragedies and disasters in future, it is essential that people understand the underlying causes. We must draw lessons and analyse the key errors of the reforms implemented in the 1990s. In the current tragic and unpredictable circumstances, a serious and professional strategy and political position must be developed and proposed to society, based on an understanding of the lessons of the past, analysis of the errors that were made and an accurate and uncompromising assessment of the present. In the current environment, this is the only political activity that will enable us to underpin the historical future of the country.
And this will not be “perestroika” (restructuring) and will not mean the reform of the existing system. Restructuring is the past. The existing system has no future. We should be talking here about the re-establishment or rebirth of Russia, and not about reforms. No reforms will change the fundamental principles of the regime – we need to re-establish the state.
Such a re-establishment or rebirth is of principled importance and is the only tool that will guarantee Russia’s steadfast adherence towards a peaceful European future. And only one scenario will guarantee a peaceful European future – when Moscow, Kyiv and Minsk move in unison towards a reformed European Union. It is only then that we can bring an end to the war. Any other options merely offer temporary respite, frozen or simmering conflicts.
The quicker we come to realise that this is the only path, the quicker peace will come. If we seek instead any other solutions for another 100 years, then we will also end up fighting for another 100 years. And it in this environment that Yabloko’s position is unique. Our party is the only political party in Russia to publicly articulate an anti-military position, notwithstanding the risks involved in adopting such a stance, and consistently advocates the European path of development. And this is the significance of our work and our role. Yes, we have come up short during the 30 years of the existence of our party. We also accept our part of the blame for everything happening today. However, we are committed to trying again. This is our responsibility on the eve of possible total war. This is our moral choice.
On 20 October 2022 the Federal Political Committee of the Yabloko Party spelled out its position on developments during the “special military operation” and defined the objectives facing the party today. You can study the texts of our decisions by clicking on the link.