Michail Chodorkowski Warum die Nato Putin schon in der Ukraine stoppen muss

Ex-Oligarch Michail Chodorkowski saß in Russland 10 Jahre in Haft und lebt jetzt im Exil. In diesem Gastbeitrag warnt er den Westen: Wenn Putins Angriffskrieg nicht durch ein Flugverbot über der Ukraine gestoppt wird, dann sind bald Polen und das Baltikum in Gefahr.
Ein Gastbeitrag von Michail Chodorkowski für den "Economist"
Michail Chodorkowski (Archiv): "Jedes Zeichen von Schwäche gegenüber Putin ist ein großer Fehler"

Michail Chodorkowski (Archiv): "Jedes Zeichen von Schwäche gegenüber Putin ist ein großer Fehler"

Foto: Hannibal Hanschke/ dpa

The great leap backward

Mikhail Khodorkovsky on how to deal with the "bandit" in the Kremlin

A former oil mogul and political prisoner warns the West it must face down Vladimir now or prepare for something worse

I have been fighting a personal war with Vladimir Putin for nearly 20 years. It led to my being jailed in Russia for ten years and then expelled, with a warning that life imprisonment awaited me if I ever returned. Do I know the man who did all this to me? I think I do. That is why I look with despair at the defeatist approach of Western leaders, such as Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron and Naftali Bennett.

It is difficult for me to judge how their actions are seen by their electorates. However, I know well how they are perceived by Mr Putin, sitting at the end of his long table. They fly to Moscow, call him, ask him to stop, but assure him that they will not interfere and do not want him to perceive certain movements as a provocation. The president sees all of this as weakness, and that is extremely dangerous.

Part of the problem is that the current leaders of Western countries have never dealt with thugs. Their experience and education relate to interactions between statesmen. The principle of these people’s behaviour is that both sides concede to each other in the interests of their electorate or subjects. War is evil to them, and the use of force is a last resort.

Politicians are dealing with a thug by nature

This is not the case with Vladimir Putin. He was raised in the KGB, an organisation that relied on force and disregard for the law. While working at St Petersburg City Hall in the early 1990s, he was responsible for the informal interaction of the law-enforcement agencies with gangsters. St Petersburg at that time was perceived in Russia just as Chicago was seen during prohibition. Instead of smuggled whisky, the gangsters were selling drugs and oil.

Times changed but his ways of solving issues remained. Some of the conversations between his confidants and known criminals, made public after an investigation by Spanish prosecutors, help us to understand how the murder of Alexander Litvinenko and the poisoning of Alexey Navalny and the Skripals came at the nod of the ringleader. Such acts are the norm within the president’s circles, because he is a thug by nature.

Even after more than 20 years in power, having acquired a strongman image and self-confidence, a bandit will always remain a bandit in terms of his perception among those around him. It is a drastic mistake when he is seen as a normal statesman. Russia’s foreign partners fail to understand who he really is.

The most dangerous thing is to show any weakness or uncertainty

I have plenty of experience of dealing with bandits. After spending ten years in Russian prisons, I can say that the most dangerous thing is to show them any weakness or uncertainty. Any step towards their demands, without a clear demonstration of strength, will be perceived as weakness. Following their logic, if Western countries say they will not give up Ukraine and yet they do exactly that, it means that they are weak. And that makes it likely that Mr Putin will look towards other neighbours, such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, who were also previously part of the Russian Empire.

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