Wednesday, April 17

Preparing for the postwar period, in Ukraine and in Russia

Whatever the outcome of Russian aggression in Ukraine today still very uncertain, everything is pointing to a ceasefire sooner rather than later. On the one hand, it is necessary to stop the brutal military intervention and minimize the victims and, on the other, the offensive and logistical limitations of the Russian army are becoming increasingly evident and the realization that Vladimir Putin has lost on all fronts. Therefore, you have to think about what to do next.

Regardless of whether Russia manages to conquer Odessa and establish a corridor between Crimea and Transnistria, cutting off Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea, it seems clear that land continuity between Donbas and Crimea is a reality, fully controlling the Sea of ​​Azov. On the other hand, it is not obvious that the siege of kyiv or Kharkov will end in the occupation, given the enormous cost that this would entail for the Russian army, not only due to its own casualties but also due to its inability to maintain employment for a long time.

At the moment, we can only speculate, even if we have to incorporate faits accomplis into the immediate future, which, unfortunately, Russia will want to keep. In any case, a Russian withdrawal hypothesis is not conceivable todayalthough it ended up limiting its occupation to Crimea, Donbas and the Sea of ​​Azov.

From an armistice, it will be necessary to establish some basic premises.

The first is that any decision affecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, corresponds exclusively to its legitimate government. This implies that the eventual neutrality of the country must be accepted and assumed by the Ukrainians and only by them, as well as any hypothesis about Crimea or Luhansk and Donetsk.

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The second is that as long as there is no agreement between Russia and Ukraine, and an illegal occupation is maintained, the position of the West must be maintained united and firm, including continued sanctions and military and political support to Ukraine, as well as the reinforcement of the deployment of the Atlantic Alliance. Without forgetting the reduction of energy dependence, which must be accelerated.

The third is that the only lasting way out of the conflict is through a substantive change in Russian policy, renouncing the use of force. That it can only happen if Putin disappears from the stage and is replaced by leaders willing to assume the rules of the game that, in their day, were set in the Helsinki Act, constitutive of the CSCE (later transformed into the OSCE, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), in 1975 , in the middle of the cold war.

The framework for coexistence exists and it cannot be other than revitalizing the OSCE, which functioned satisfactorily until 2008 (with the Russian intervention in Georgia) and which went into a coma as of 2014, with the illegal annexation of Crimea and the occupation of a part of Donbas.

Those responsible for the failure

At the same time, it should be remembered that the spirit of Helsinki promoted the implementation of the treaties limiting and reducing nuclear weapons and, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the USSR, the launch of the NATO-Russia Council for the political dialogue and mutual information on military and security issues.

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The will then was to incorporate Russia into the post-Soviet world, through common rules of the game and on the basis of mutual trust and transparency. That will included support for democratic institutionalization and the economic reforms that were carried out in Russia and that did not come to fruition. The responsibility for that failure did not lie with the West, but of some Russian leaders who favored the constitution of oligarchies stemming from opaque privatizations, in the time of Boris Yeltsin, and later by the concentration of power in Putin and his immediate circle, in a process of increasing authoritarianism which has crystallized into an autocracy with an unequivocally totalitarian vocation.

For years, it has also been observed revenge components, fed by an ultranationalism that vindicates the idea of ​​a great Slavic Russia (based on a falsified history) and a security perimeter typical of the tsarist and Soviet tradition, which does not recognize the full sovereignty of the affected States.

The alleged Russian ‘reasons’ are thus spurious, including the argument of an aggressive enlargement of NATO that did not respect the theoretical commitments made during the discussion on German reunification. Among other things, because NATO opened up to new countries from the old Russian orbit in response to its sovereign request, because they longed for something as elemental as their freedom.

However, it seems obvious and essential that any security framework on the European continent must include Russia. This is only plausible without Putin, whose destiny should be to end up tried for war crimes. Russia will be able to receive security guarantees on the basis of guaranteeing that of others.

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In this context, the debate on a stable security architecture in Europe is essential based on the principles of the OSCE and the spirit of the disarmament treaties, as well as the establishment of reciprocal concessions that guarantee relaxation and the consolidation of a shared space of peace and security.

All wars end in a postwar. And while the former may be won, the latter may be lost.

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