Andrei Kozyrev says that there can be no return to normal business with Russia once the war ends
Russia’s former foreign minister argues that both Russia and Ukraine must reform instead
The strength of Ukraine’s resistance and the amount of Western support it receives will determine how Vladimir Putin’s war there ends. Negotiations should be left to Ukraine and Russia, without Western interference. Discussion should also commence on what post-war Europe will be like. One of my country’s, and indeed the world’s, great writers, Leo Tolstoy, believed that nations with higher moral resolve win in war. And so they do in peace. The end of the conflict, which will come through negotiation, will provide both Russia and Ukraine an opportunity to conduct needed reforms.
Such opportunities have been squandered in the past. After Ukrainians and Russians defeated Nazi Germany in the 1940s, Joseph Stalin managed to keep his grip on power. And now the Kremlin abuses the glorious and painful memories of that victory to support its current exploits. When Ukraine gained independence in 1990 from the Soviet Union, robust nation-building and commitments to join European institutions did not emerge—in contrast with other countries in eastern Europe.
Ukraine’s courageous fighting boosts its national identity and international standing. Volodymyr Zelensky has emerged as a great war leader. But that is no reason for complacency. Ukraine is not in the eu at this tragic hour in part because it could not meet Western standards on law and order and on anti-corruption measures. It should make a greater effort to reform after the war in order to open Europe’s doors.
The West must double its support to the country in turn as it rebuilds and recovers. A Marshall plan of sorts will be needed and encouragement from the eu about its possible future membership in order to inspire it. (Several states already have spoken in support of the application it made to join just days into the war.) Failing to do so could have dire consequences. A nation in the centre of Europe subdued to Mr Putin’s control would set a dangerous precedent.
The prospect of a westernising, democratic and prosperous Ukraine is the nightmare of the Putin regime because it will be a powerful motivation for Russians to follow suit. In order to change, however, the country must be recognized for what it is—a nation under a belligerent and ruthless dictatorship—and treated by the West accordingly.
Mr. Putin has stoked nationalism as a means of maintaining power. For years the Kremlin has cracked down on free speech and democracy, and proved its commitment to dominating Ukraine, undermining the West and protecting dictatorships as far away as Syria, Cuba and Venezuela. The West reacted with inadequate words and sluggish sanctions. (Dirty money has brought comfort to Russia’s elites and corruption to the West.) Mr. Putin demands that nato backtrack from eastern and central Europe. The cold war’s divisive lines are back in Europe and beyond, like it or not. For the situation to change, Russia must change.
America and its allies at last imposed tough sanctions on Russia in recent weeks because it again violated the civilised norms of behavior in Ukraine. Yet useful idiots or pseudo-experts on Russia who hold sympathies for autocratic leaders, such as Tucker Carlson on Fox News, are pushing for a prompt return to business as usual with Russia and its oligarchs. If they succeed, the sacrifices of Ukrainians and the discomfort of Western taxpayers will have been for nothing.
If the Kremlin gets away with this war, and business relations return to normal in its aftermath, the country’s aggression will continue to grow—with or without Mr Putin. The West should keep the bulk of its sanctions in place and maintain its military preparedness until the Kremlin respects the rights of its people, and of those in other countries, in line with international norms. Sadly, Russians will be badly affected by Western sanctions. But it will be impossible to hide the sanctions’ effects, even amid the mire of the Kremlin’s militarist propaganda. And only the country’s citizens can reform the regime.
If the West wants to save its zone of peace and prosperity it must welcome Ukraine in and keep Russia out. That means ending its treacherous dependence on Russian oil and gas. The present regime is too dangerous to carry on business with when the conflict eventually ends.
Andrei V. Kozyrev was Russia’s foreign minister between 1991 and 1996. He was twice elected as a member of the Duma, the Russian parliament. He has worked as a businessman since 2000 and has written two books: “The Firebird” (2019) and “The Caligula Curse” (2021).