War in Europe
War, Words, Weapons
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom has asked Solomon Passy who has served as Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister from 2001 to 2005 and who was instrumental in guiding his nation to NATO membership in 2004 to write down his own assessment of Russia’s war against Ukraine. The views expressed are the author’s alone and do not represent the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom position in any way.
I was born 11 years after the end of WWII. I grew up with the War memories of my family. The gravest of them is the destiny of my cousin Isaac Nissim Passy who in 1943 was detained in France by the Nazis, deported to Sobibor Concentration Camp to be killed 5 days later. I was grown up with the duty to tell this story on any occasion when it could help stopping manifestations of Nazism and fascism. The war against Ukraine is such an occasion.
Until 1989, I lived for 33 years under communist dictatorship and was a modest part — as many of us — of the freedom fighters movements against it. Since then I pretend I know the dictators, I met many more of them in my further professional capacities. I well remember the wind of change created by the Helsinki Process. The West had reliable leaders at that time who also knew the dictators.
This was not the case in the 1930s. The Münich Agreement of 1938 proved that the West was naïve enough to give advantages to Hitler which — opposite to what was intended — did not satisfy but only sharpened his appetite for further territorial aggressions. Less than a year later, in 1939, he and the Kremlin divided and occupied Poland whose freedom was restored only in 1989, together with fall of the Berlin Wall.
Putin wants the whole Ukraine
Today, in 2022, the Kremlin does not have and does not need an ally like Hitler to invade and divide Ukraine: Putin wants the whole of it, and for the rest of his ruling. The de facto neutrality of the West in 2008 and 2014 vis-a-vis the Russian aggressions against Georgia, Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk were those to fuel Kremlin’s appetite to continue this “Drang nach Westen”.
We, the West, did a grave mistake by not inviting Ukraine and Georgia to NATO immediately after the Big Bang enlargement of 2004. And we, the West, never posed the question: “Who were the European leaders who made such a misjudgment, why and how not to repeat it in future?” We prefer our Western guilt to remain collective and anonymous.
As we witness today, the argument “not to irritate Russia” was wrong, frequently false and at the end of the day 100% counterproductive. Exactly as this argument did not work with Hitler. The psychology of the dictators is different from ours: their nature is shaped to invade. They do not need reason for that, it is their instinct, their genes, their blood. Dictators are different social species! For the sake of face saving they sometimes offer shallow excuses (like “denazification”) which is not difficult to fabricate ad hoc.
“Attack by one is attack by all”
“NATO’s borders approaching Russia’s” is not a reason for this war, it is an excuse. NATO has common and ever extending borders with USSR, the Warsaw Pact or Russia ever since NATO’s foundation in 1949 and later with the accessions of Turkey, Greece, GDR, 1999, 2004 etc. Mongolia, too, became NATO’s partner one day! (Not even mentioning the US—Russia border which Alaska created back in the 19th c.) The existence of such borders has never caused whatever attack or threat of attack from NATO against the Kremlin-ruled territories.
Moreover, NATO’s enlargement has never been a threat to any third country, it is just a deterrence, insurance and protection of its own members against potential outside aggression. Article 5 says “Attack on one is attack on all.” Russia reads it as the Satan reads the Bible: “Attack by one is attack by all”. Therefore, when Russia said “We are threatened by NATO’s enlargement” they imply “We feel threatened because you want to protect yourselves.” We cannot buy this!
The threat, the fear, the total propaganda and repeated lies are among the fundaments of the Kremlin’s toolkit ever since 1917, at least. Dictators rely on the fact that we believe they are the same like us, their social species rely on mimicry and camouflage. (For younger readers: see the 1946 long telegram of George Kennan — things haven’t changed much, if at all!)
The top four mass killers in Europe since 20th c. are Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Putin. Three of them are inhabitants of the Kremlin. This deeply rooted tradition of Moscow cannot be U-turned overnight. Even over a decade... The Gorbachev—Yeltsin short brake was needed for the survival of the ruining Empire which today has resiliently returned to its genetic modus operandi with its typical leaders.
We cannot peacefully change these leaders. But we must peacefully stop them before the fall of their next victim — be it Kazakhstan, Moldova or even a NATO member — from the Baltics or again from around the Black Sea. Moreover, we should not exclude the worst case scenario, that — on purpose or by accident — the suicidal gambling of Putin evolves into a nuclear or Third World War. Our fear of this scenario and our prays will not prevent it, we need actions to do so!
How to stop Putin’s next aggression — three tips
Si Vis Pacem para Bellum! Starting with enhanced scale of NATO/EU military presence and infrastructure in and around the Black Sea, first of all. Ideally, part of the nuclear arsenal of NATO should be moved Eastwards (we wrote about this back in 1999!). All other economic measures and sanctions would not work in the absence of overwhelming defense capabilities. Quoting Margaret Thatcher, diplomacy without weapons is like orchestra without instruments. Pick the instruments!
Diplomacy comes next: brake the taboos or the taboos will break us.
- We should develop the status of non-voting member for both NATO and EU and offer it to both Ukraine and Georgia ASAP, but to Moldova as well.
- We, as NATO and EU should move to a new orbit our cooperation and EU should not admit new members, before they become NATO members. This is especially valid for the Balkans where Serbia is Putin’s unhidden Trojan’s Horse.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to be given the chance for evolution free of the burden of Republika Srpska, exactly as Cyprus joined EU before the unification with Northern Cyprus. Dayton must be upgraded!
- North Macedonia’s road to EU (which means Albania’s as well!), currently blocked by Russia’s special operations, should be immediately opened.
- Kosovo should be admitted to NATO without delay — four of our Allies hold the key to this — and fresh EU perspective should be given to Kosovo as well.
Last, but also first, and here is the big role of Germany. We, the West should invest adequate resources in approaching and uniting — on a daily base — the European public opinion, divided by the Kremlin trolls. Our public opinion has always been under brainwashing attacks by the Kremlin (and other enemies of democracy) and Brexit was one of their major recent victims.
There is no stronger Ally to democracy than the public opinion and this has been the lesson drawn by the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, established 32 years ago, when Bulgaria was still part of the Warsaw Pact. Each € invested in informing the wide public decreases chances for the war to start and the aggressor to win it.
In order to launch a massive pan-European information campaign to counter this and prevent next Kremlin’s aggressions we shall need the concerted efforts of our Governments and entire NGO’s ecosystem, Friedrich Naumann Foundation included. Such a campaign has to be headquartered in countries like Bulgaria whose publics for number of historical reasons are most vulnerable to Kremlin’s propaganda.
The parallels between Putin and Hitler are deep and numerous, even Putin’s symbol “Z” — the half swastika is among them. Therefore, the lessons from the WWII and the Holocaust should be repeated on a daily base as a measure against their repetition. And we must first stop the Göbels’ propaganda of the Kremlin. But much more than that…
Seemingly smaller but not less impactful measures are also urgent: Europe should ban its Chancellors, PMs, Presidents and other high officials even to dream for future jobs at Gazprom and likewise offsprings of the Empire of Evil. We need to develop zero tolerance towards serving the Evil: Now!
Until few weeks ago the West naïvely believed the end of the Cold War had shut the door for Third Word War. Today we are soberer and recognize we cannot be that optimistic. At least until the mummy and spirit of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin continue to occupy the Kremlin and its rulers.
Si Vis Pacem para Bellum!
Dr. Solomon Passy
Founding President of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, Minister of Foreign Affairs (2001–2005)
Solomon was an initiator as MP in 1990 — and signatory as Minister — to NATO and EU Accessions of Bulgaria. He chaired the UN Security Council and OSCE and the Parliamentary Defense / Foreign Affairs Committees.