For a long time the city of Troy was under siege,
Has remained an unapproachable stronghold.
Hut the people of Troy did not believe Cassandra –
Maybe Troy would have existed to this day.
(by Vladimir Vysotsky; translated by Nathan Mer)
Russia has come to a stage when an actual open war with Ukraine might break out. Not only is it a crime but it also contradicts Russia’s national interests as well as crosses out any foreseeable future.
The roots of the problem are the incessant attempts of Moscow to control Kiev and limit the sovereignty of the neighbouring state, imperialistic ambitions of the Russian government, chauvinism of the so called “elite”, refusal to acknowledge Ukraine as an equal, refusals to acknowledge that Ukraine, the same way as Russia, has the right to define its national identity. However, the main and fundamental problem of the Kremlin is that they completely lack understanding of the modern life and world order, and have no adequate vision of the future. Their behaviour reminds of a teenage inferiority complex of the puberal growth stage when proving one’s “tough-guy-ism” and supremacy is a necessity. This [attitude] has already been expressed in the treacherous annexation of Crimea and in a criminal war in the Donbass organised and sponsored [by the Russian government].
So, it was no the recent “border conflict” in the Kerch Strait that has put our country on the verge of war with our closest neighbour. It is not possible to solve the problem in this context. What is more, it is hard even to call it a “border” incident because no one has acknowledged that these are Russia’s borders in that area. It is a known fact that after the annexation of Crimea Russia is a country with unrecognised borders. This is the reason why the UN Security Council refused to consider the issue of “the violation of Russia’s territorial waters”. It is nonsense from the point of view of the global community and the international law. Quite the contrary, the world rightfully sees it as another step of Russia towards annexing the Sea of Azov, towards further blocking the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol that are important for Ukraine’s economy. In addition, Russia’s actions violate the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 and bilateral agreements between Russia and Ukraine on Cooperation in the Use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait of 2003 and 2012. Russia ignores international laws and agreements before the eyes of the global community and at the same time believes that it can place “red lines” for its neighbours unilaterally, using the rule of force.
But today there are no more objective “red lines”, “statuses quo”, internationally recognised borders that Russia could count on. The foreign policies of the Russian government, including the relations with the neighbouring countries, are arbitrary and developed as the [government] sees fit. No one has acknowledged these policies and never will. If the world continues ignoring inadequate subjective “red lines”, this has to do with both the situation all over the world in general and the Russia-Ukraine crisis, this will be a way to nowhere, to stagnation, to war.
Putin’s policy of confrontation in foreign affairs has put our country beyond the acceptable lines when the decision on the arbitrary unileteral revision of borders with Ukraine in favour of Russia was made. This decision was not recognised by the global community. It has no and will probably never have support in the world. Because of this decision it is possible to build relations neither with the neighbouring state nor with the rest of the world. If Russia continues with this policy, a confrontation with the global community, neighbours, Europe, the US and the whole world will increase. There will be more sanctions and more isolation. As a result Russia will lag behind other countries in economic development and science and technology, and there will be a collapse.
Today Russia does not have allies in the world. Instead we have situational partners who have their own prevailing interests. Though when it comes to the annexation of Crimea we don’t have any partners at all. It is not a coincident that it was Turkish President Recep Erdogan whom Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked to raise the issue with the incident in the Kerch Strait at the G20 Summit (this happened despite the fact that 10 years ago Putin went to Turkey to strengthen partnership with the Turkish colleague).
The current elite’s culture of political thinking and the level of understanding are very low. There will not see a catastrophe coming because they put immediate interests and behind-the-scenes struggle in the first place. It might be the case that the regime could provoke a big war to cowardly avoid the dead-lock situation.
However, there is still hope that things might take a different turn. The first exceptionally important thing that should be done is to give up the policy of absolute supremacy over Ukraine, drop the idea of that our country’s stance is absolutely correct in every situation when international law is being violated, stop insisting on the inavailability of the illegal annexation of Crimea. Instead, Russia should hold an international conference on the status of the peninsula.
Second, it is impossible to have any discussion on the settlement of the conflict with Ukraine and continue supporting and fuelling the war in the Donbass. They need to make clear realistic steps to find a peaceful solution.
This should be done as soon as possible as the world goes on. What should be brought to life now might turn out to be inaccessible or even inefficient in the near future.
The developments that could hardly be imagined before are added to today’s context of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. For instance, reconsidering the decisions made in the 17th century (The 1686 Act on the Transfer of Jurisdiction over the Metropolia of Kiev to the Patriarchate of Moscow). It is a mistake to believe that this has to do only with some specific features of the religious sphere. The policy of “freezing” problems in the hope that time works miracles and everyone will finally accept the state of affairs that was forced on them does not work. As time passes the number of positive solutions of the issue reduces.
At the same time, even if Russia embraces the necessity of truly ending the war in the Donbass and holding a conference on the status of Crimea under the pressure of circumstances, this will not be enough to finally overcome the absurd confrontation between Russia and Ukraine.
A strategic solution is completely different. It is well-known – we have to repeat it once again.
Russia, as well as Ukraine and Belarus, are part of the European civilisation from the point of view of culture and history. Heading towards Europe is the only realistic direction for these countries. If they want to preserve their statehood in the 21st century, there is no other alternative for them.
In order to overcome nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialism we need a future within the European family where human rights and freedoms are more important than borders. An area like this that was based on this principle already exists. This is the EU. Both Russia and Ukraine should aim towards the EU. Only the policy of cooperation with the EU for both countries will allow for peace and development.
The attempt to move in a different direction contradicts natural historical development. It is similar to the Bolsheviks’ experiment on establishing socialism and communism. However, this time the rustles will be even more destructive for the states that decide to engage in the experiment.
When I speak about aiming for the EU, I am not referring to the bureaucratic procedures and the system of governance in Brussels. I am speaking about a way of life where individuals, their lives and dignity are the key priority on which the system is based. Russia is being deprived of any reasonable dream of prospects. Instead Eurasian phantoms and dim-witted fantasies, that can only frighten people with any common sense, are imposed. They are deliberately mixing up the issue of choosing European values for Russia with trade polices and pipelines. However, the European path and way of life is not an alternative to trade with China, Asian countries and the whole world. The European path is in the first place a line of domestic policy and an individual course of development in society. No economic, political or geopolitical strategy will work without restructuring the government’s policy in favour of cooperation with the general public. The main obstacle for the European path has nothing to do with the current problems in Europe or economic growth in Eurasia. The problem is that the European path does not agree with the interests of the Russian authorities, who are endlessly focused on self-preservation and are based on the principle of the mafia system of margarin power, property, and business.
A realistic prospect, which agrees with Russia’s history and culture, that can interest people rather than scare them away, can only be about cooperation with our neighbours based on the European values. These are no empty words or a figure of speech. It is a significant, efficient, and only practical alternative to a deadlock of the stable decay our society has found itself in.
For Europe (including Russia and Ukraine as its integral parts) its self-identification as the European Union and its consistent economic, political, military, and strategic policies are the only way to survive in the global politics and economic competition with North America and South-Eastern Asia in the 21st century. Alone, Europe and especially an anti-Western Eurasian Russia, which considers the West the root of all danger, would never be able to participate in the inevitable world economic globalisation.
It is clear that it is hard to believe in it in the current situation. However, “hard” does not mean “impossible”. This is the only source of hope. The reason for this is that the future of both Ukraine and Russia are in the common European home from Lisbon to Vladivostok without nationalism or non-transparent borders.