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The “7D Plan” for a post-Putin Russia to ensure global security

The ongoing war in Ukraine has focused minds in the West with regards to helping Kyiv achieve a military victory. However, little has been said in relation to a post-war Russia. The new “7D Plan” offers a model through which a reformed Russia could once again be integrated into the international community.

March 17, 2022 - Andrii Dligach Mychailo Wynnyckyj Valerii Pekar - Articles and Commentary

St. Petersburg, Russia, February 27, 2022: violent dispersal of demonstrators at an anti-war meeting for peace in Ukraine. Photo: Aleksey Dushutin / Shutterstock

The Past: prerequisites

The Russian Federation has not always had aggressive designs on Ukraine. Although the breakup of the USSR was interpreted by many Russian nationalists as a setback for the country’s pride (in Putin’s words “a catastrophe”), this view was held by a minority throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Indeed, during the early post-Soviet years, Yeltsin seemed prepared to accommodate Ukrainians’ aspirations for self-determination. Overall, talk and incidents of irredentism were rare.

Russian tolerance of Ukraine’s independence disappeared with the rise of Vladimir Putin. At the turn of the millennium, when Ukrainian President Kuchma made inroads towards NATO membership, the Russian government launched a covert operation to discredit him in the eyes of the West (“Kolchuga-gate”). In 2004, Putin’s interference in Ukraine became more overt. For example, he openly backed Viktor Yanukovych (a pro-Russian candidate) in the presidential election. After street protests that came to be known as the Orange Revolution, the pro-western candidate Viktor Yushchenko was declared the winner. However, his term was plagued by persistent Kremlin-sponsored media campaigns aimed at discrediting both him and Ukraine’s pro-EU policies. When Yushchenko’s rival Yanukovych was finally elected to the presidency in 2010, Ukraine gradually shifted towards closer ties with Russia. This pivot was ultimately overturned by street protests and the overthrow of Yanukovych in 2014. As a result, Putin shifted from covert to overt methods to establish control over Ukraine. He is now using outright war, attrition, and economic pressure (including the weaponisation of gas and oil) to put pressure on the country.

Putin’s fascination with Ukraine is purely ideological. Economics and geopolitics are instruments through which his (twisted) ideas are to be realised, not the other way round. Over the past two decades, this fact seems to have been completely overlooked by western analysts of Kremlin policy. Economic issues were mistakenly understood to be central to Putin’s control over Russia. His lengthy and often incoherent “historical” lectures were said to be mere chatter and a mask for the president’s true economic and geopolitical (security) motivations. These declarations were supposedly meant to justify actions that were aimed at realising more tangible aims. This interpretation of Putin was wrong.

Vladimir Putin is an ideologue. He sees himself as the “gatherer of the Imperial lands” and, in fact, all the territories of other nations that gained independence from Moscow in 1918 and/or 1991. He is fascinated by the radical philosophies of Alexander Dugin and historical nationalist writers such as Ivan Ilyin, whose remains he had returned to Russia almost 60 years after his death. Whereas many in the West were confused by the July 2021 publication of Putin’s article “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, the piece represented his true feelings. The same could also be said about his hour-long rant on February 21st just before the “recognition” of the fake breakaway “republics” in Donbas. The Russian president actually believes that it is his historical destiny to “reinstate” Russia’s imperial borders. The economic, political and human costs of this project are irrelevant.

Putin’s preposterous (essentially “fascist”) ideal has permeated the Russian establishment and all aspects of education, the media and the public sphere. As evidenced in the Russian president’s increased approval rating during the first days of the invasion (and subsequent announcement of western sanctions), ordinary Russians identify Putin as the embodiment of Russia and have been brainwashed into supporting his policies.

Putin increased both the budget and size of Russia’s armed forces in the years immediately preceding the invasion of Ukraine. He created a massive system of state propaganda for war (both inside and outside Russia), popularised a distorted version of history, disseminated ideas espousing Russia’s supposed former imperial greatness, and venerated Stalin and similar characters from the past. 

Putin’s power rests on imperial centralisation, the Russification of national minorities and the suppression of free speech and human rights. This is all supported by a system of state-run companies controlled by his associates. All of this together makes up Russia’s war machine, which has been developed to realise Putin’s expansionist delusions.

The Present: a step away from the brink

Russia has invaded Ukraine for no rational reason. Ideological goals cannot justify the massacre of civilians and destruction of non-military infrastructure. The Russian population has been poisoned by a hatred of Ukrainians (falsely portrayed as “Nazis”) and deceived by a fabricated picture of the world. According to the Kremlin, the West (and Ukraine as its “puppet”) is poised to destroy the Russian Federation at any moment. The Russian military is suffering heavy defeats on the battlefield against its Ukrainian counterpart, which is defending its land. The risk of escalation, whereby Russia would threaten (blackmail) the world with the use of chemical or nuclear weapons, is increasing by the day. The Russian economy is suffering heavy losses due to sanctions. 

In spite of the dire situation surrounding the country’s military losses and growing economic hardship, we believe the likelihood of mass protest in Russia to be low. Russian society is atomised and ideologically brainwashed by state-controlled media. The risk of a social explosion in Russia is growing but regime change is unlikely to be the result. Putin has an iron grip on power in the Kremlin and his carefully fabricated nationalist myth has consolidated Russians around his persona. He has either physically destroyed, or isolated himself from, any potential opponents.

Nevertheless, Putin is not immortal and his regime will eventually fall. It is important now to understand what future lies in store for a resurgent post-Putin Russia. Without such a vision, it is unlikely that any potential opposition will be able to organise against the current regime. Furthermore, without an alternative vision of Russia, Putin is likely to be replaced by a clone who will only continue his belligerent policies.

The Future: the “7D Plan” for Russia

Vision is a key instrument for planning. Russia’s defeat in Ukraine will remain a mere dream without a plan (vision) for what happens to the country after the conflict.

Ending the war in Ukraine, though a noble objective, will prove a temporary measure without extensive political and socio-economic reforms within the Russian Federation. The return of Russia to the international community of nations will necessarily entail the removal of Putin and his entourage from power. However, this must also be followed by fundamental change in the way Russia is governed. With regards to states like Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova, history has proven that independence can only truly exist when the existential threat posed by Russia is removed.

The removal of Putin himself and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine are both clear and necessary conditions for Kyiv’s victory. Despite this, they will not be sufficient to ensure regional and global security.

We propose the following seven-point plan for bringing Russia back into the global family of nations:

  1. Demilitarisation

Russia’s armed forces in the European part of the country must be reduced to a minimum. Demilitarised zones along Russia’s borders with the EU, Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia should also be created. Military spending in the consolidated Russian budget should be limited to no more than two per cent of GDP (NATO standard).

  1. Denuclearisation

The Kremlin must decommission its nuclear weapons and allow international supervision in relation to nuclear power plants and military research centres. The International Atomic Energy Agency, alongside other relevant groups, should be key actors in this endeavour.

  1. Decentralisation

Russia’s constitutional political system must return to a truly federal system and restore the linguistic rights of the 21 national republics (more than 20 per cent of the population of the Russian Federation are non-Russians). This should be supported by a more local approach to the national budget (rather than the current Moscow-centred redistribution system).

  1. Democratisation

Free elections under international supervision with international standards must be conducted in the country. Anyone who attempts to suppress opposition and/or dissenting political voices should face severe punishment. Moscow should also release all political prisoners and create a public broadcaster that ensures balanced representation for independent media, NGOs and political parties.

  1. Decommunisation

The crimes of the communist regime must be condemned and equated with the crimes of the Nazi regime. The state should prohibit symbols related to communism and various far-right nationalist movements that supported Putin.

  1. De-Stalinisation

The cult surrounding Stalin, military power and expansion must end in Russia. Narratives, holidays and heroes associated with previous wars should be reviewed in line with a new school curriculum and associated textbooks. The “greatness of Russia” should be decoupled from military power and aggressive policies. The government must also encourage the study of war crimes committed by various historical administrations centred on Moscow.

  1. “Deputinisation”

Various state holdings should be privatised as they form the basis of Putin’s authoritarian rule. Key figures in the Putin regime must also be subject to lustration. The FSB and other security agencies should effectively be “rebooted” and an organisation similar to the FBI should be created to deal solely with criminal investigations. Moscow should publicly denounce the catastrophic heritage of the Putin regime and all individuals associated with it.

The above 7D Plan outlines the main requirements for Russia’s transformation into a peaceful and accepted member of the international community. Without ideological and institutional change within Russia, the Kremlin will continue to periodically threaten its neighbours and the world. 

Implementing this plan is also in Russia’s interests because the alternative involves effectively following the model of North Korea. Moscow would experience complete isolation from global markets and international political structures. Given the Russian economy’s dependence on resource exports, such isolation will entail pervasive poverty, endemic internal strife, and continued risk for world peace.

The eventual transformation of Russia will strengthen the security of the world and particularly that of states such as Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and those in the Baltics. These countries have suffered for many years from the threat of Russian aggression and/or blackmail. 

Risk and investment will be required to make this vision a reality. Before we can even embark on launching these reforms, however, the world must first face down the Russian dictator. He will inevitably attempt nuclear blackmail as a last resort. The world must resist such blackmail as it will only fuel his aggressive aspirations.

Quashing Putin’s appalling military adventurism in Ukraine is (obviously) the immediate goal. Russian troops must be forced to withdraw from the sovereign territory that they have invaded and Russia must compensate Ukraine for the destruction (human and material) it has caused. However, a military victory and restitution of Ukraine’s territorial integrity will not ensure the maintenance of peace and security in Europe and throughout the world. Russia itself must change.

In the end, this will be a global task as the deep democratic political transformation of Russia is in the interests of the entire global community. Its implementation will neither be easy nor risk-free. However, without such fundamental change, the world will continue to periodically be held hostage to the Kremlin’s nuclear threats. The region will also remain constantly at risk of further violence, economic and military blackmail, and war.

Valerii Pekar is a co-founder of the Nova Kraina Civic Platform, a lecturer at the Kyiv-Mohyla Business School and a former member of the National Reform Council.

Mychailo Wynnyckyj is an Associate Professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and Ukrainian Catholic University. He is also the author of “Ukraine’s Maidan. Russia’s War. A Chronicle and Analysis of the Revolution of Dignity” (Ibidem, 2019).

Andrii Dligach is the Head of Advanter Group, Doctor of Economics, strategist, futurologist and visionary; founder of the Board business community, co-founder of the Center for Economic Recovery, SingularityU Kyiv, FreeGen, Investudio. Investor and ideologist of ecosystems and technology startups.

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