been dealing with European security for more than thirty years, as an activist
during the Cold War, as a journalist, and at think-tanks.
Russia is a revisionist power; It has the means to pursue its objectives; It is winning; and
Greater dangers lie ahead.
recommend that the United Kingdom and its allies:
Give up any hope of a return to business as
Boost the defence of the Baltic states and
Expose Russian corruption in the West;
Impose sweeping visa sanctions on the Russian
Help Ukraine; and
Reboot the Atlantic Alliance.
I am the
author of several books relevant to today’s session. The first
of these, ‘The New Cold War’, was
written in 2007, at a
time when most Westerners were still reluctant to face up to the threat the
Putin regime poses both to its own people, and to Russia’s neighbours. Many accused me of
scaremongering. Few do that now.
conventional thinking about Russia is stubbornly rooted. Many policymakers and
analysts in London and other Western capitals still believe that containing and
confronting Vladimir Putin’s Russia is dangerous and that seeking a diplomatic
accommodation, though difficult, is far more desirable. They blame the West for
provoking the crisis in Ukraine by ignoring Russia’s interests.
disagree profoundly. My views are based on my experiences over many years in
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Moldova,
Russia and other countries in the region. Our friends there have long been
warning us of the dangerous direction of events. We have not listened to them.
Instead, we have systematically patronised, belittled and ignored people who
understand the problem better than we do. Now they have been proved right. I
hope that my voice may be heard, where theirs, still, is not.
a revisionist power. Accommodating Russian interests is not about changing outcomes
within an existing set of rules. It is about accepting new rules dictated by
Russia. This is hard for many Westerners to understand, because we believe
implicitly that the European security order we have known for nearly 40 years
is fair, and therefore stable. Russia regards it as unfair and ripe for change.
wants to rewrite the rules in three ways. First, it does not believe that its
neighbours should make their own decisions about their geopolitical future.
Russia’s security, in short, depends on these countries’ insecurity. Russia
particularly begrudges the former captive nations of the Soviet empire their
freedom, their prosperity, and their independence. These pose an existential
challenge to the stagnant and autocratic model of government pioneered by the Putin
Kremlin also wants to end the two big institutional threats to its interests.
One is the Atlantic alliance. This provides a framework for what it regards as
American meddling in Europe. It also brings vestigial nuclear guarantee which
in theory outweighs the most powerful part of Russia military arsenal: usable
tactical nuclear weapons.
also wants to end the European Union’s role as a rule-setter, especially in
energy policy. The Kremlin regards this as confiscatory and a potentially
lethal threat to its most important export industries, and to its main source
of political influence in customer countries. Russia deeply resents the EU’s
‘Third Energy Package’ which prohibits country-by-country price discrimination,
and monopolies and cartels in gas distribution.
not changes Britain or its allies can accommodate. Russian-run satrapies in
eastern Europe would be poor, oppressive, ill-run and unstable: like Belarus if
we are lucky, like Moldova if we are not. A year ago, we faced the prospect of
Ukraine, one of the largest countries in Europe, embarking on reforms which
would have made a bigger market, better neighbour, and happier country. Now it
faces dismemberment into a Russian-run puppet state, and a resentful unviable
an appalling prospect for Ukrainians, and for us. For both moral and practical
reasons, we should not consign allies such as the Baltic states and Poland to
such a fate.
Atlantic alliance, for all its current woes, is the cornerstone of our security.
Without the United States’ military and economic weight, Europe would be far
more vulnerable to Russian pressure. And an open and transparent energy market
is a vital national security interest. It would be a disaster if Europe
returned to a world of murky long-term deals struck by political cronies, in
which money is siphoned off by influence-peddlers and distributed among
now has the means to pursue its revisionist approach.
It ruthlessly uses its energy weapon against European
countries, particularly in pipeline-delivered gas, where it has a
substantial monopoly in the eastern half of the continent. We see this
plainly in the promotion of the South Stream gas pipeline, which directly
challenges EU rules, but is supported by Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia,
Hungary, Italy, Serbia and Slovenia.
It uses money. It bolsters a self-interested
commercial and financial lobby which profits from doing business with
Russia and fears any cooling in political ties. Austrian banks, German
industrial exporters, French defence contractors, and a slew of companies,
banks and law firms here in the United Kingdom exemplify this. These
energy and financial ties constrain the Western response to Russian
It practises information warfare (propaganda)
with a level of sophistication and intensity not seen even during the Cold
War. This confuses and corrodes Western decision-making abilities.
Fourthly, as we have seen in Ukraine, it is prepared to threaten and use
winning. Russia has not only challenged the European security order and
seized another country’s territory – Crimea: it is now in the process of
seizing more, creating a puppet state called Novorossiya (New Russia). It has
already crippled the Ukrainian economy and threatens to turn Ukraine into a
failed state. The response from the West has been weak, late and disunited.
European countries have no appetite for confrontation with Russia. They take an
essentially pacifist stance, that military solutions never solve problems, and
that dialogue is under all circumstances better than confrontation. The United
States is distracted by multiple urgent problems elsewhere and many Americans
wonder why they should be borrowing money to pay for security in bigger, richer
gives Russia, with its bold decision-making and high tolerance for risk and
pain, free rein. Our feeble response has allowed Russia to wage war in Ukraine
with disastrous effect.
greater dangers lie ahead. The Ukrainian adventure has given a big boost
to the Putin regime, which showed some signs of declining popularity last year,
amid economic failure and growing discontent about corruption and poor public
services. Those who said that Russia would be content with Crimea (and that the
peninsula’s special status, and specific historical and ethnic mix made it an
anomaly of political geography) have been proved dramatically wrong.
our weakness over Ukraine (and before that, Georgia) has set the stage for
another, probably more serious challenge to European security, possibly in
Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia or Moldova, but most likely in the Baltic
states. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are loyal American allies and NATO
members. These are our frontline states: the future of the world we have taken
for granted since 1991 hangs on their fate. If they are successfully attacked
or humiliated, NATO will lose its credibility overnight: a huge victory for
is against them: the Baltic states form a thin, flat strip of land, lightly
populated and with no natural frontier and little strategic depth. Their
economies are liable to Russian pressure, especially in natural gas, where they
are largely dependent on Russian supplies (though Lithuania will have an
independent gas import terminal by the year-end). Estonia and Latvia are also
vulnerable to Russian interference because of their ethnic make-up (between a
quarter and a third of their populations self-identify as ‘Russian’ in some
sense). Lithuania is vulnerable to demands from Russia for a corridor across
its territory to the Kaliningrad exclave.
Berlin in cold war days, the military defence of the Baltic states is
difficult, especially against ‘hybrid warfare’ of the kind seen in Ukraine,
which uses a deliberately ambiguous mix of military and unconventional means.
Russia knows that. NATO has only a token presence in the region. We have no
hardened infrastructure, no pre-positioned armed forces, weapons or munitions.
We do not have proper plans to defend them. Russia knows that too. If we try to
remedy these gaps in our defence – as NATO is now proposing to do, belatedly
and partially, Russia will denounce these steps as a provocation, and threaten
countermeasures. On current form, we will quail and back down.
task is to see clearly what has happened. European security will not be fixed
with a few deft diplomatic touches and clever compromises. Coping with a
revisionist Russia requires a fundamental overhaul. Policymakers need to
explain to the public that the war in Ukraine was a game-changer. We have moved
into a new costly and uncomfortable era, but we will never go back to business
as usual. Anything else sends a message that the kleptocratic regime in the
Kremlin understands all too well: crime pays.
to rebut the phoney Realpolitik arguments, which advise us to make the best
of a bad job. We should accept the loss of Crimea, so the argument goes, do a
deal with Russia over the future of Ukraine, and get used to the new realities,
of a Russian droit de regard in neighbouring countries.
approach would be morally wrong and strategically stupid. Securing a Europe
whole and free after 1991 has been a magnificent achievement in which Britain
has played a huge part. True: we made mistakes. We tried too hard to pander to
Russia in the Yeltsin era, ignoring the growth of corruption, authoritarianism
and revanchism. We overlooked Russians’ resentment as their country drifted
from the European mainstream and our vulnerability to the steps they could take
in response. We neglected Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and the countries of the
Caucasus. The Blair government was bewitched by the Putin regime’s offer of
cooperation against Islamist terrorism in 2001. We have been frequently dazzled
by the spurious commercial prospects offered by Russia – in particular BP’s
decision to form an alliance with Rosneft, the main Russian oil company, was a
shameful example of greed and short-sightedness.
having made these mistakes is no reason to compound them now, by retreating
into a grubby defeatism.
Russia’s land-grab in Ukraine, and its attempted power-grab in the
neighbourhood, would fly in the face of historical justice. The Tatars—whose
suffering at Soviet hands is all but unmatched—are now under the rule of their
former tormentors. Are we really proposing that countries which paid the greatest price for the mistakes
of the 20th century (including many made by this country), and which
the past masters of the Kremlin occupied and despoiled, should be once again
subject to outside interference and oppression?
we should make it clear that our aim is simple. We will boost our security and
that of allies, and weaken our opponents. We do not want to be enemies with
Russia. But if the Putin regime treats us as an enemy, we help nobody by
far too weak to mount a conventional military attack on the West. But it does
not need to. It has more potent weapons, of the kind already seen in Ukraine –
the confusing and fast-changing combination of regular and irregular forces,
economic sanctions, energy blockades, political destabilisation, information
warfare, financial panics, and cyber-attacks. Traditional armed forces are not
equipped to deal with this. Britain’s own psychological-warfare capabilities
(both in offence and defence) have been severely downgraded in recent years;
neither we nor our allies have effective means of countering Russian
propaganda. We need new, sophisticated and resilient means of defending
ourselves against the Russian chimera, which blends military, criminal, intelligence,
business, diplomatic, media, cyber and political elements.
immediate priority is military. A security crisis in the Baltic region is the
single most dangerous threat facing the Atlantic alliance. Reckless behaviour
by Russia could face us with a choice between a full-scale military
confrontation (including the potential use of nuclear weapons), or surrender,
with the collapse of our most fundamental security arrangements. We must make
every effort to ensure that this does not happen.
means NATO allies must preposition military equipment and supplies in the
Baltic states. It means NATO creating a standing defence plan—one which assumes
that there is a real and present danger of attack. We need to put a major NATO
base in Poland, to reassure that country that it can safely deploy its forces
to the Baltics as reinforcements in the event of a crisis. We need to boost the
NATO presence in the Baltic states with rotating visits by naval vessels,
extended air-policing, and ground forces—initially on persistent rotation, but
as soon as possible on permanent deployment.
will complain vigorously about this. But the fact that the Kremlin is unhappy
when its neighbours are well-defended is telling. We should explain to the
Russian authorities and to our own public that when NATO expanded in 2004, we
did not even draw up contingency plans for the military defence of the new
members, because we assumed that Russia was a friend, not a threat. It is
Russia’s behaviour which has changed that. Russia attacked Georgia in 2008. It
rehearsed the invasion and occupation of the Baltic states a year later, in the
Zapad-09 exercise (which concluded with a dummy nuclear strike on Warsaw). It
has continued to menace the Baltic states ever since, with air-space
violations, propaganda and economic warfare, and state-sponsored subversion. We
take the step of securing our most vulnerable allies belatedly and reluctantly,
and solely as a result of Russian policy directed towards them.
vital military component of security in north-eastern Europe is the closest
possible integration of Sweden and Finland into NATO planning and capabilities.
These countries are not members of the alliance, so they cannot formally be
part of its command structure. But we should make every effort to maximise
cooperation in every respect. We cannot defend the Baltic states or Poland
without their help. Rich, well-run countries with serious military
capabilities, excellent intelligence services and strong strategic cultures are
in short supply in modern Europe. We should make the most of what we have.
need to consider how to help countries hit by Russian economic sanctions. I
commend Polish apples and Lithuanian cheese to this committee. Poland is one of
the world’s largest apple exporters. Half its production goes to Russia and has
been halted at the stroke of a pen, on arbitrary grounds. I do not believe that
taxpayers should pay for the imprudent decisions of exporters (for more than 20
years I have been warning companies not to depend heavily on the Russian
market). But as consumers we can do our part to help blunt the edge of Russian
clear that we are serious about helping our allies will make our attempts to help
our friends more credible. The top priority here is stabilising Ukraine. It is
hard to overstate how parlous the situation is. Ukraine is suffering a
world-class economic and financial crisis, which even in a stable and secure
country would be far worse than anything experienced elsewhere in Europe. The
economy is fundamentally uncompetitive. The main export market, Russia, is at
risk of closure at any moment. Public finances are in ruins. Foreign exchange
reserves are empty. Crippling debt repayments loom. The government subsists on
a hand-to-mouth basis, relying on ad-hoc donations from wealthy oligarchs for
even core spending requirements such as national defence. Even if everything
else goes well, simply fixing Ukraine’s economy will take five years. A
defeated Ukraine – embittered, traumatised and dismembered – will be even
harder to help.
outside world must respond generously and imaginatively. A new Marshall Plan
for Ukraine should involve not only direct financial support, but also the widest
possible relaxation of tariffs and quotas on Ukrainian products such as steel,
grain, textiles and agricultural products. The European Union has led the way
with the newly signed deep and comprehensive free trade agreement, but much
more remains to be done. In particular, European countries should accelerate
efforts to supply Ukraine with natural gas by reversing the flow of existing
Ukraine faces a political and constitutional crisis of a kind unseen since the
end of the wars in ex-Yugoslavia. Every political institution was degraded and
discredited under the previous Yanukovych regime. Decades of bad government,
corruption and abysmal public services have corroded public confidence in the
state—one reason for the initial public support enjoyed by the insurgents in
the poorest parts of eastern Ukraine. We should give the strongest possible
support to the parliamentary elections next month.
Ukraine faces defeat in its undeclared war with Russia. We need to offer
Ukraine military training, assistance, arms and equipment in order to defeat or
at least stall the separatist insurgents. We also – for Ukraine’s sake and for
our own – need to deter the Kremlin.
the hardest part of the task ahead. Russia is an integrated
part of the world economy and of international decision-making on everything
from space to sub-sea minerals. It cannot be simply isolated and ignored. But
that does not mean that we cannot raise the cost of doing business for the
particular, we should greatly extend the use of sanctions against individuals.
The furious Russian reaction to the American imposition of even a handful of
visa bans and asset freezes on those responsible for the death of the
whistle-blowing auditor Sergei Magnitsky shows the effectiveness of this
approach. Other countries, including this one, have shamefully failed to follow
suit. They should. The initiative of Bill Browder, the London-based financier
and activist who employed Mr Magnitsky and has championed his cause, deserves
special mention and credit.
of such sanctions should be widened to include hundreds or even thousands of
Russian decision-makers and policy-makers. It could include all members of the
legislature (Duma and Federation Council), all members of the General Staff,
military intelligence (GRU) domestic security (FSB), foreign intelligence
(SVR), the interior ministry (MVD) and other ‘power agencies’, the presidential
administration, and presidential property administration (and companies which
represent it abroad), companies run by personalities linked to the Putin
regime, and any banks or other commercial institutions involved in doing
business in occupied Crimea. Such visa bans and asset freezes could also be
extended to the parents, children and siblings of those involved.
would send a direct and powerful message to the Russian elite that their own
personal business in the West – where they and their families shop, study, save
and socialise – will not continue as usual. The more countries that adopt
sanctions, and the longer the list of those affected, the more pressure we are
putting on the Putin regime to back off and change course.
Britain we have another powerful weapon. We can also apply much tougher
money-laundering laws to keep corrupt Russian officials out of the Western
payments system and capital markets. We should intensify investigations of
Russian energy companies which have mysterious origins, shareholders or
business models. We can tighten rules on trust and company formation agents to
make it harder for corrupt Russian entities to exploit and abuse our system. It
is often said that offshore financial centres are beloved by the Russian elite.
But the shameful truth is that it is Britain and the United States which make
life easiest for them.
need to improve the West’s resilience and solidarity in the face of Russian
pressure. Lithuania has built its own floating LNG terminal, which will become
operational in December of this year, with the arrival of the aptly named
“Independence” a vessel constructed in South Korea. Already, Gazprom’s grip on
Lithuania’s natural gas market has slackened, and Lithuania has bene able to
negotiate a discount from the extortionate price – the highest in Europe –
which the Russian gas giant had been charging. As energy editor of the Economist,
I am sceptical of the idea that we will ever have a deep and liquid global
LNG market: the technology and costs involved hinder the development of the
needed supply chain. However at the margins, LNG does make a big difference,
blunting the edge of any artificial emergency that Russia may try to create
with selective supply interruptions.
can do much more. It can build more gas storage, and liberalise the rules
governing it, so that all parties have access to the facilities. It can
complete the north-south gas grid, making it impossible for Russia to use
supply interruptions on its four east-west export pipelines as a political
weapon. Most of all, the European Commission should proceed with its complaint
against Gazprom for systematic market-abuse and law-breaking. This move – in
effect a prosecution – is based on the seizure of huge numbers of documents
following raids on Gazprom offices and affiliates. The Commission had expected
to release this complaint – in effect a charge sheet – in March. Then it was
postponed until June. Nothing has been heard of it since. Many now wonder if it
has been permanently shelved.
British and American regulators are rightly concerned about the way in which
Russian companies operate in the world energy market. There are grave
suspicions of price-fixing, insider trading, money-laundering and other abusive
and illegal behaviour. My own researches suggest that these suspicions are
amply justified, though writing about them is hampered by the costs and risks
imposed by English libel law. In the course of researching the defence case in
a libel case involving a prominent Russian active in the energy sector, I met
several potential witnesses who were frightened for their physical safety if
they cooperated with us. The more that the our criminal justice systems can do,
through prosecution, witness protection and plea bargains, to deal with the
Russian gangster state, the safer the world will be.
we need to reboot the Atlantic Alliance. As memories fade of the Normandy
beaches, of the Berlin airlift and wall, and the sacrifice and loyalty of past
generations, our reservoir of shared sentiment is running dry. Without
economic, political and cultural commonality, the Kremlin’s games of divide and
rule will succeed. This will require renewed and extraordinary efforts on both
sides of the Atlantic. The revelations surrounding the secret material stolen
by Edward Snowden have stoked fears in Europe that America is an unaccountable
and intrusive global hegemon. This year I wrote a book – ‘The Snowden
Operation’ attacking the ‘Snowdenistas’, as I termed the NSA renegade’s
that our intelligence agencies as a rule function well, within the law, and to
the great benefit of our nations. But much damage has been done. At a time when
we need to be restoring transatlantic ties, they are withering before our eyes,
especially in the vital strategic relationship between America and Germany. The
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) offers a rare chance of a
big-picture, positive project which could help revive what sometimes looks like
a failing marriage.
A final footnote: whereas Russia once regarded the collapse of the
Soviet Union as a liberation from communism, the regime there now pushes the
line, with increasing success, that it was a humiliating geopolitical defeat.
That is not only factually false; it is also a tragedy for the Russian people.
They overthrew the Soviet Union, under which they had suffered more than anyone
else. But they have had the fruits of victory snatched away by the kleptocratic
ex-KGB regime. The bread and circuses it offers are little consolation for the
prize that Russians have lost: a country governed by law, freed from the
shadows of empire and totalitarianism, and at peace with itself and its
Edward Lucas is Senior Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Analysis (Washington, D.C.), and a Senior Editor at The Economist.