Staunton, February 20 – In 1917, the German general staff sent Lenin back to Russia by sealed train to spark a revolution and take his country out of the war. That strategy worked, and today, Peter Oleshuk of Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine should consider doing something similar, exploiting Russia’s internal divisions to force Moscow to sue for peace.
Given its own military difficulties and the failure of those whom it had hoped would provide it with the kind of weapons it needs to defeat the Russian invasion, Ukraine has no choice but to think about how it could exploit the enormous number of social and national “contradictions” in Russia (nv.ua/opinion/oleschuk/nam-nuzhno-razrushit-rossiyu-iznutri-35281.html).
Moscow has already regularly accused Ukraine of doing that, pointing to Ukrainian commentaries about the various “wedges” as Ukrainians refer to those places in the Russian Federation where many Ukrainians live such as the Zelenyi klin in the Russian Far East and to areas adjoining the current Russian-Ukrainian border.
But there is little evidence to support Moscow’s complaints or to suggest that Kyiv is prepared to go further in the ways that Oleshuk suggests. And indeed, it would be an extraordinarily high-risk strategy not only because Moscow would use it to mobilize Russians against Ukraine but because it would certainly try to discredit any Russian opposition by suggesting it consisted of “Ukrainian agents.”
Nevertheless, it is a measure both of the desperate situation some Ukrainians believe their country is now in and of the obviousness of the splits in Russian society, ethnic, class and otherwise, that Oleshuk has felt compelled to write an essay entitled “We must destroy Russia from the inside.”
The Kyiv scholar says he agrees with the idea that “any real peace would be good for Ukraine,” but he argues that everyone must recognize that “the conflict does not have a diplomatic solution.” Moscow isn’t interested in one, and it is using military force and the unrecognized republics to prevent one from happening.
“Russia will not be stopped until it is confronted with superior force,” he continues. And “Ukraine alone will not be able to mobilize them. We can inflict enormous losses, but present-day Russia is completely indifferent not only to the deaths of others but to the deaths of its own.” In sum, Ukraine alone can’t, and “the EU and the US don’t want to.”
Given that, he argues, “it is time” for Ukraine to stop thinking in an “Atlantic-centric way” viewing itself only as “an object of geopolitics.” Instead, “Ukraine must begin its own game, albeit a more local but at the same time carefully considered one.”
It can’t defeat Russia on the battlefield in Ukraine, but it can do something “on the territory of the Russian Federation.” The conflicts in the Caucasus, splits between Moscow and the provinces and divisions between the rich and the poor are all very much in evidence and all can be exploited.
“It isn’t necessary to describe them in detail,” he says. “Everyone knows this.” And he calls for a search for “’Lenins’ and separatists” and for supporting “all who want to struggle against the central power [of the Russian Federation]. This is serious and complicated work, but there is no other way.”
There may be some Russian forces prepared to cooperate or alternatively Moscow may see suggestions of that as being to its advantage: One Russian outlet reports that some supporters of Oleg Navalny have already asked Ukraine to send “experienced people” to instruct Russian opposition figures about how to organize a Maidan in Russia (in24.org/moscow/13296).