Three reasons led Nikita Khrushchev’s party comrades to dismiss him as leader of the Soviet Union in 1964: he had provoked a serious international security crisis – that of the Cuban missiles -, he had generated great internal chaos and he had accumulated too much power . This is how a veteran expert on Russia recalled it a few days ago, drawing a direct analogy with Vladimir Putin and pointing to one of the possible consequences of his catastrophic madness. It is inevitable -although not very realistic- to play with the desire that the Russians themselves be the ones to stop his president and his decision to devastate Ukraine.
Since this absurd and cruel war began, it has become more and more difficult to imagine how it will end. The speculations go through the most serious – the total conflagration -, for a long occupation and a corresponding resistance, for the implantation in Moscow of an already openly fascist government, for the implosion in the form of civil war… Meanwhile, to the credit of the Kremlin , several unforeseen achievements are added, such as the birth of the geopolitical EU, the strengthening of the transatlantic relationship or the consolidation of Ukrainian national sentiment.
Let’s imagine, for a minute, that Putin and his people lose power; that whoever replaces him represents that part of Russia that today, despite all that it implies, is taking to the streets to demand an end to the war; that feels an integral part of Europe. This scenario should also be considered, that of the reconstruction of relations whose deterioration, which already came from before, has accelerated since 2014.
When the Soviet Union collapsed and the euphoria of community enlargement arrived, Russia was left on the sidelines. I will always remember the poker face of a Russian official when asked if her country wanted to join the EU. It would be the year 2007. The issue was never on the table; instead, a strategic association that for the most part was no more than token.
No matter how many mistakes NATO and Western countries have made, the only one to blame for a totally unjustified drama is Putin. However, we would be wrong if we went back to ignoring the history from which we came. The great lesson of World War I was that the German humiliation only led to rearming the country and handing it over to Hitler (whose echoes also resonate a lot these days). A lesson that Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman and the rest of the founding fathers of what is now the European Union assimilated well: that peace in Europe would only be possible by including Germany, not cornering it again.
Let us think, even for a moment, how to recover a post-Putin Russia for Europe. Let us offer, however futile, a stage for those inside Russia who think another world is possible. As unlikely as it is.
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