“Getting Clear About Russia Is the Key for a Realistic Russia Policy”

“Lietuvos Respub­likos Seimas”

The Center for Liberal Modernity’s Expert Network Russia kicked off last week with a one-day meeting in Vilnius. In his opening remarks, Ralf Fücks reminded everyone why we need to Rethink Russia.

Dear Mrs Andrikiené, dear Zygmantas, Ladies & Gentlemen, dear friends,

Good morning and welcome to all who are joining us today in Vilnius — and also to those who follow our meeting online. We are very happy to meet so many good friends and partners — and also some new partic­i­pants who are very welcome.

This meeting is a contin­u­a­tion of the confer­ences we have organized in Berlin in recent years under the title “Russia and the West” — among many other events, seminars and online discus­sions dealing with domestic devel­op­ments as well as Western policy towards Russia.

At the same time, this gathering is a premiere: it is the start of a new project, expanding and deepening our inter­na­tional network of experts on Russia. In the future, we want to meet at least twice a year for a working confer­ence, accom­pa­nied by ad-hoc meetings on current events. We want to provide a platform for a contin­uous exchange of knowledge from different perspec­tives and we invite all of you to actively take part in this project.

In this way, we want to deepen the European and transat­lantic discourse on Russia and contribute to the overdue reori­en­ta­tion of the West’s Russia policy. This should not remain a purely academic exercise: Our aim is to combine sound analysis with political recom­men­da­tions for action addressed to our govern­ments and parliaments.

At the same time, inter­ven­tions in the public debate should also emerge from this circle, be it in the form of articles or joint statements.

I guess that each of us feels that Russia’s renewed attack on Ukraine marks a historic turning point. This war already has profound impli­ca­tions for inter­na­tional relations far beyond Europe.

At stake is not only the future of Ukraine, but the future of the inter­na­tional order: does inter­na­tional law still apply? We just held an inter­na­tional confer­ence in Berlin which specif­i­cally addressed the question to which extent Russian warfare meets key criteria of the United Nations Genocide Conven­tion — and there is little doubt that it does.

At the same time, Ukraine is a litmus test if democ­ra­cies success­fully can defend them­selves against the challenge by author­i­tarian powers. The outcome will determine if the EU and NATO emerge stronger from this war or if they will plunge into a deep crisis.

Every­thing depends on whether the West summons the deter­mi­na­tion to support Ukraine on such a massive scale that it can success­fully defend its terri­to­rial integrity and political sover­eignty. This effort has to include the constant supply of modern weapons of all kinds as well as financial assis­tance and emergency aid to keep the Ukrainian energy system and public services running in spite of the large-scale Russian air strikes.

This war is also key to Russia’s future devel­op­ment. Only a military defeat in Ukraine can open the way for a painful farewell to the demons of Russian impe­ri­alism, Great Russia fantasies and unre­stricted violence.

Even those who had no illusions about the character of the Russian regime must rethink their image of Russia in view of the wide­spread support (or at least the indif­fer­ence) towards this brutal war in the Russian society. This will also be a topic of our confer­ence. Getting clear about Russia is the key for a realistic Russia policy.

Before we enter into our first round of discus­sions, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all those who have made this meeting possible, espe­cially to:

- The Lithuanian Parlia­ment for its hospi­tality and political support, namely our friend Zygi­mantas Pavil­ionis and his staff (thank you for constantly pushing us to come to Vilnius)

- The Open Society Foun­da­tions and the German Foreign Office for supporting this project;

- Last but not least to our Russia Team, who prepared this confer­ence, for their great job!

I wish us all a produc­tive confer­ence with new insights and look forward to further cooperation.

Thank you very much!



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