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

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 19 Issue: 187

(Source: Vida Press)

Click here to read Part One and Part Two.

In Part Two, specific steps and initiatives were discussed that would constrain Russia’s military potential and mitigate militarism (see Part Two). Here, two other essential issues will be addressed: how to constrain Russian imperialism and how to transform Moscow’s resource-based and deeply corrupt economy.

To begin with, in terms of constraining Russia’s imperial drive, two primary goals should be pursued. The first, maximalist goal is the complete decolonization and partition of the Russian Federation along ethno-religious lines. To some extent, this scenario is comparable with the 1944 Suggested Post-Surrender Program for Germany, better known as the Morgenthau Plan. As was theorized by long-time Eurasia expert and Jamestown Foundation analyst Paul Goble, in the case that Russia begins to fragment, “we will also have to make distinctions among the parts that emerge … trying to hold it together not only will not work but will also alienate people on the ground. Many forget that there are those still angry that the United States was 37th to recognize the recovery of de facto Baltic independence and that the US spoke against Ukrainian independence in August only to try to take credit for everything in December. … I believe that regionalism will be the nationalism of the next Russian revolutionary collapse. I suspect there will emerge a variety of entities, more than half of which will be in areas now labeled ‘predominantly Russian.’ Some will form confederacies, or even federations, but disintegration must precede reintegration. Promoting reintegration now is a recipe for an even more chaotic future” (Author’s interview, November 22).

In this same vein, Jamestown Senior Fellow Janusz Bugajski added that “only the residents of the 83 federal units can decide on the status of their administrative territories. Western governments cannot break up Russia, they can only help to make the process as peaceful as possible by offering diplomatic and economic assistance or offering mediation where conflicts materialize between certain regions or republics. Washington and Brussels should also coordinate closely with all countries bordering Russia that will be affected by its impending rupture, whether through conflict spillovers, refugee outflows, protection of ethnic or religious kindred or managing latent territorial or resource claims. Planning should begin now to establish an international coordinating committee to manage Russia’s dissolution by setting an agenda for all envisaged scenarios and minimizing the risks of armed conflict” (Author’s interview, November 19). That said, however, successful accomplishment of such a plan is highly unlikely. As the war against Ukraine, among other international crimes committed by Russia, has vividly demonstrated, the Kremlin still has some prominent apologists and tacit supporters in Western political-intellectual circles.

The second, minimalist goal—if Russia does not fragment or disintegrate completely—would be to ensure a looser, confederation-type administrative political structure in Russia. In this scenario, the federal center would not be able to exercise unlimited and unconditional control over other border and ethnically non-Russian regions. As noted by Bugajski, “Supporting genuine federalism and decentralization inside Russia and the rights of national republics as well as for sovereign regions to secede and establish international relations” should be ensured (Author’s interview, November 19). From his side, Jamestown President Glen Howard noted that “the US should monitor the situation and assess what new states may emerge, if any at all, as fragmentation is becoming increasingly unavoidable if a rupture occurs inside Russia preventing Moscow from exerting control over the periphery. Regions like Dagestan and the North Caucasus may become new independent statelets or become part of a North Caucasus Federation similar to 1919–1920” (Author’s interview, December 5).

Within this minimalist goal, three additional initiatives must be completed. First, Russia`s western border regions, stretching from the north in Murmansk Oblast to the south in Krasnodar Krai, must be completely demilitarized. Additionally, prohibition of re-militarization in any form must be imposed on Russia. Perhaps, it would be prudent to establish a permanent military monitoring mission that could supervise the implementation of this goal. Second, the Arctic region, and the Northern Sea Route in particular, must be turned into a completely demilitarized, de-nuclearized and internationally accessible area. Third, in addition to the illegally annexed parts of Ukraine, as well as Georgia and Moldavia, Kaliningrad Oblast must be taken away from Russia to ensure the impossibility of the re-emergence of a Russian military bastion at the center of Europe. As noted by Goble, “[Kaliningrad Oblast] will have to be divided up between Lithuania and Poland. Restoring German influence would be counterproductive in the extreme” (Author’s interview, November 22).

On a different note, regarding the oblast’s future, Bugajski stipulated that “residents of Kaliningrad will need to decide whether their interests are best served by remaining a province of a declining and unstable Russian state or whether sovereignty and independence together with closer ties with the European Union would better ensure their security and economic growth. Western governments should underscore that Kaliningrad and all Russian regions face a stark choice between international isolation or cooperation and that sanctions can be avoided by distancing themselves from Moscow and its imperial wars and anti-Western policies” (Author’s interview, November 19).

Regarding Russia in the economic domain, the following steps should be taken, which aim to reduce the Kremlin’s current ability to wage war against Ukraine and allow the country to re-build its postwar economy while avoiding the prospect of being trapped into strategic dependency on raw materials.

  • A price cap on Russia’s natural resources in general, and non-renewable energy in particular, would be one of the most effective solutions and must be introduced. In this regard, Poland and the Baltic states have already proposed a price cap of $30 per barrel on petroleum (ru, November 24). Ideally, a full ban on Russian energy resources should be imposed. Meanwhile, other oil and gas producers should strengthen their efforts in replacing Russia as a primary supplier (The Moscow Times, November 25).
  • The international community must ensure that “parallel imports” channels are severed (The Moscow Times, November 21). Harsher economic sanctions against violators must also be introduced.
  • Supplies of micro-electronics and other sensitive technologies to Russia must be cut off until the end of war and only resume provided they are not used for military purposes (ru, November 11). In general, scientific collaboration, especially in high-tech and sensitive industries, must be limited to civilian purposes only, with such collaboration resuming only after the end of the war and the implementation of all previously named conditions.

Following the end of the war in Ukraine and the fulfillment of all key conditions, Russia, in whatever territorial form it takes, must be given a chance to re-embark on a path toward normalization. For this to succeed, Russian society must combine adoption of the rule of law with free-market capitalism, both of which are unthinkable without a strong class of property and business owners, as well as entrepreneurs who have abandoned the ideas of collectivism and blind reliance on the Russian state.