Opinions 2014 03 24
G. Kirkilas: What Russia needs is the Value Revolution
How to preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine? That is one of the major issues, unfortunately, of our daily life now.
Lithuanians love Ukraine dearly. However, in many ways the situation that has developed in this unique and beautiful country and especially in Ukraine’s Crimea, it is so much about its ‘big sister’ Russia, giving the entire international (and regional) situation.
If we can influence or, at best, change Russia for better, i.e., making the country truly democratic, then we can change the entire atmosphere in Eastern Europe and, consequently, make the life of Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians better.
What Russia and, naturally, all together the entire Europe, need is the Russia’s revolution of values, which are democracy and human rights. That is a historical question, the historical puzzle, which Russia has to solve in a favour of democracy.
We should not forget that, despite the socioeconomic backwardness, before the Bolshevik coup of October 1917, Russia for ages had been the undeniable member of European elite club of countries. All of them, sadly except of Russia, became the mature democracies and prosperous countries - France, the United Kingdom, Italy and, ultimately, Germany. Russia gave a shot at democracy at least twice - in February Revolution 1917 and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the Russian political elite have chosen more to stick to the values of 1917 October “Revolution”.
Therefore, the major task of the transatlantic community is to bring back Russia to aspiring democracy and human rights. The problem is that in Russia, not a human being, not a citizen, not an individuality is a prime virtue, - but that it is the state. The genuine understanding of human rights has not hit Mr Putin’s mind yet.
Therefore, I believe, if Russia, and first of all, the political elite of the country, switch the priorities, the world we live in would become so much better, safer, cosier place.
Today we don’t know yet if Russia wants the full-scale war with Ukraine, because it seems that it only could be war for war. Ultimately, for Russia it would be a losing game, unless it decides to play a game - nothing to lose.
However, in some way, Russia’s political elite, out of desperation and arrogance, can go for “nothing to lose”, and for the same reason - they don’t’ see the human being as a virtue, so they wouldn’t worry for the lives lost too much.
Nevertheless, Kremlin is not occupied by the madmen. Most likely, the act against Crimea, however painful and damaging for Ukraine, has been an effort of self-assertion – “we still believe we are powerful, we still play the grand game”.
The selective historical memory has played the important part - the key political elite of Russia apparently live with the short-term history, i.e., the Soviet Union, on their mind. Forgetting and ignoring that historically Russia was a part of the European Concert, where several countries tried to find balance and secure the peace, and which was successful.
Still, the fact that ultimately the Putin’s Russia allowed the Baltic countries - which have been like litmus test of the Russian state of mind - to become the members of NATO 10 years ago, revealed that Russia is not schizophrenic country.
So why bother now occupying the Baltic countries? Instead, Russia needs to re-establish itself in the European elite club, but today the Russian political elite do it in the wrong way.
Europe should help Russia, because Russia has been culturally (value-wise) isolated. One of the primary tasks is to change mind of Putin and the rest - convincing them, that they should not look at the Bolshevik ‘revolution’ and its aftermath like a grand legend, but they should look more carefully into the Russian history before and also the Russian efforts (like the rest of Europe at the time) to become democracy, where a human being, an individual, is a virtue…
Will the reaction of the West (sanctions, political isolation, and diplomatic pressure) stop the Kremlin? Today, sadly, we have to think about the right set of measures, which should be effective.
Nevertheless, I sincerely believe that the solution to the “Russia’s problem” (and naturally the way to secure peace in the Ukrainian region and to solve the Crimea dilemma as well as the others in Georgia or Moldova) is to find means of seducing Russia in bringing back its democratic aspirations.
That is a hard task, which was jeopardised pretty soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The West has some part of responsibility of what and why the wrong things happened in Ukraine. The West has in some way abandoned Russia culturally, i.e., value sense.
However, democratic values should ultimately find their way to Russia, its people and elite. And this is what should we do helping Russia. That is the long-term solution, but we should start it right now.
Gediminas Kirkilas, Seimas Vice-Speaker, Chair of Committee on European Affairs, Socialdemocratic Party
Photo: Tomaus Dapkaus