A ‘Morgenthau Plan’ for Russia: Avoiding Post-1991 Mistakes in Dealing With a Post-Putin Russia (Part Two)

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 19 Issue: 183

Read Part One here.

As was noted by retired US Lieutenant General Ben Hodges (24tv.ua, November 9) and thoroughly explored by Jamestown Foundation Senior Fellow Janusz Bugajski in his new book, Failed State: a Guide to Russia’s Rupture, Russia may well be on its way toward partial disintegration and the collapse of its current political regime, a process that has been further accelerated by Russia’s war of choice against Ukraine (Bugajski, Failed State, 2022). With the prospect of Russia’s military defeat in Ukraine quite real, provided that Ukraine receives enough of its requested weaponry, the historic chance to address the issue of Russian militarism is presenting itself. Thus, certain measures need to be implemented to mitigate and neutralize one of Russia’s main destructive forces: its historic drive toward militarism. To begin the process of Russia`s “normalization” through demilitarization, two conditions must be fulfilled.

First, for its own good and for the sake of its neighbors’ security, Russia must suffer a complete military defeat in its war of aggression against Ukraine. This might result in a collapse of the current political regime and the drastic reduction of Russia’s conventional military potential. For this, Ukrainian forces must be provided with all necessary equipment, including modern air defense systems, artillery systems, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, combat aircraft and anti-ship missiles in the demanded quantities (Twitter.com/oleksiireznikov, April 26). Additionally, Ukraine should be granted membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) right away without delay. Luckily, awareness is rising among Western leaders that any “diplomatic solution” aimed at “saving face” for Russia—initially backed by many European politicians (Delfi, June 4)—will not halt Russia`s militarism in the long run. This was recently underscored by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, among others (The Moscow Times, November 25).

On top of that, continued arms supplies must be accompanied by toughening the international isolation of Moscow’s current political regime until it is brought to collapse. Introduction of new (while maintaining previously announced) economic sanctions should be added to recognizing Russia, first and foremost, as a state sponsor of terrorism—a step that has already been taken by the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. This must be followed by the recognition of Russia as a terrorist state.

The second condition involves the need for a postwar Russia to go through a comprehensive and—this is of critical importance—internationally supervised demilitarization program consisting of the following four initiatives:

  1. The legal acknowledgement of Russia’s defeat must be clearly spelled out in any postwar peace treaty. A major international tribunal must be carried out to try war criminals, key propagandists, pro-war political elites, intellectuals and representatives of the military-industrial complex responsible for the instigation, outbreak and conducting of war crimes. This, however, will only be a partial measure without a massive lustration process, which is needed to tackle the broader layers of Russian society. In doing so, the international community should not be disturbed by the fear of “humiliating Russia.” Instead, failure in executing these steps will inevitably lead to Russian propaganda twisting the true nature, roots and results of the war, which could lead to the rebirth of revanchism, militarism and strengthening of anti-Western sentiments within the country. In this context, Jamestown Senior Fellow Paul Goble recently argued that the “West should provide ‘tough love’ rather than the ‘weak neglect’ it practiced after 1991. That means being very demanding in terms of what is politically acceptable, including requiring massive lustration and international supervision of elections, and supportive to a degree not seen since the Marshal Plan of the 1940s” (Author’s interview, November 22).
  2. Russia must be held economically liable for the postwar reconstruction of Ukraine. As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted back in early March 2022, Russia should start learning the meaning of the words “reparations” and “indemnities” (Korrespondent.net, March 3). In interviews with this author, Bugajski and prominent Russian expert and Jamestown analyst Stephen Blank fully agreed that Russia must be held responsible for the compensation of material losses suffered by Ukraine. In the case of a lack of financial compensation, Russia`s vast natural resources could be used as a substitute (Author’s interviews, November 19, 23).
  3. The international community must make sure that the ongoing indoctrination and mass militarization of Russian youth is stopped, and the results of this process need to be reversed. Initiated en masse after 2014, Russia`s aggressive push to militarize its youth both domestically and in the occupied areas of Ukraine (see EDM April 10, 2019; April 15, 2019; May 28, 2019; January 6, 2021) is seemingly reaching its zenith. Currently, the Russian authorities are hastily including “information” about the so-called “special military operation” in school textbooks, aiming to proliferate and strengthen anti-Ukrainian and anti-Western sentiment among young Russians on a grassroots level (Rosbalt.ru, November 26). Judging by the example of Russia’s (by and large unsuccessful) post-1991 transformation, at a time when the core of Russian society was comprised of Soviet-born and indoctrinated individuals, it is safe to say that indoctrinated young Russians have already been subjected to severe psychological trauma that will have a lasting impact on both the mindsets and outlooks of young Russians for many years to come. Therefore, it will be essential to launch a massive program of de-Sovietization, targeting the myths and delusions coming from the Soviet period of Russian history; factors that have heavily contributed to the outbreak of Moscow’s current war against Ukraine.
  4. Implementation of military-related measures are needed that would make the reemergence of aggressive Russian militarism and expansionism highly unlikely. In addition to a comprehensive demilitarization program—which ideally would culminate in the elimination of Russia’s nuclear weapons and the prohibition of their future development—a system of regional treaties and alliances should be established with the states of Central and Eastern Europe, in addition to those already in existence. As argued by Bugajski, “Poland and Ukraine can form the core of a regional initiative that will focus on common security, economic development, infrastructural connectivity and close coordination with the US and NATO. The exact security format will be decided by all states that seek inclusion (e.g., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Czechia, Slovakia and Romania). It can involve a regional version of mutual defense in case of attack based on the NATO model. Belarus, Moldova, Bulgaria and Hungary can also become involved in some of the regional formats. The purpose would not only be deterrence to potential Russian revanchism but also an effective format for enhancing regional cooperation and economic growth. Several existing initiatives, such as the Three Seas Initiative, can thereby be significantly developed” (Author’s interview, November 19).