Anne Appleabaum: “We have to get Russian money and influence out of our political system” | International

American historian and journalist Anne Applebaum has written, among other books, a monumental study of Stalin’s policies that led to more than three million starvation deaths in Ukraine between 1931 and 1933. red hunger (Debate) and essays on the newly formed autocracy Twilight of democracy (Debate). Resident in Poland and analyst at the magazine Atlanticvia email Applebaum offered five keys to placing Putin’s attack on Ukraine.

1. Why did Russia attack Ukraine?

Putin had invaded Ukraine because the country’s determination to become a democracy was a real challenge to the nostalgic project of imperial politics he proposed, namely, the creation of an autocratic kleptocracy, in which he exercised full power, in something akin to the old one. Soviet empire. Ukraine undermines this project simply by its existence as an independent country, and by fighting for something better, for freedom and prosperity. Ukraine’s “revolution for dignity” in 2014 — when a corrupt and lawless president fled the country — was the kind of revolution Putin feared. He knows that if Ukraine is to succeed in its democratic push and integration into the EU, Russia may be asking itself, why can’t we too?

2. Why did diplomacy fail?

We imagine that Putin is a political leader like ours, that he seeks the best for his fellow citizens. But not. Putin’s goal is not a prosperous, prosperous and peaceful Russia, but a Russia for which he remains in charge. He didn’t care if the Russians were poor, he only cared that they were obedient. Nor does he care about sanctions, as they do not threaten his position, power, or personal wealth. More importantly, his previous experience with Western sanctions has left him skeptical.

3. Are sanctions useless?

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Despite everything we say, no one is seriously trying to end, but rather limit, Russian money laundering in the West, or Russian political and financial influence in our region. No one took seriously the idea that Germany should be free from Russian gas, or that France should ban political parties from accepting Russian money, or that Britain and the US should prevent Russian oligarchs from buying property in London or Miami. . There is nothing to suggest that the appropriate response to Putin’s information war against our political system should be an information war against it.

4. How far did your attack go?

This is not just an attack on Ukraine, but on the post-World War II world order, on the agreement that in Europe at least the borders are not changed by force. Putin already did this in 2014, but we mistakenly thought his ambitions were limited. Now we see that they are infinite. They can extend to Poland, the Baltic countries or even to Germany. Several years ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Munich Security Conference that German reunification was “illegal.” Everyone laughs. I don’t think he’s joking. Putin recalls that when the Soviet Union had a large presence in East Germany, he was a part of it. You may reminisce about that time, just as you reminisce about the rest of the Soviet empire.

5. What should the West do?

This is a time when Europe and the United States should really rethink our strategy towards Russia. We need to get Russian money and influence out of our political system, sanction all the oligarchs around Putin, confiscate their property in the West, and stop them doing business in our country again. Germany and the rest must end their dependence on Russian gas. There is no going back to commercial “normality” with Russia during the occupation of Ukraine.

We need to rethink the location of NATO troops, and take the defense of Eastern Europe and Germany more seriously and prepare public opinion for increased military spending and a possible Russian attack. We need a new and different strategy. How can we reach the average Russian population? How can we support the opposition and the media? Where else inside and outside Russia can we put pressure on Putin and his cronies? How can we make it react to us and not the other way around?

Lastly, Europe needs a common foreign policy. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has failed in its talks with Russia, and it is also the failure of European capitals to support it. Unless Europe manages to speak with one voice, it will be divided and further weakened by this crisis.

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Elena Eland

"Web specialist. Incurable twitteraholic. Explorer. Organizer. Internet nerd. Avid student."

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