In politics, as in any human activity, private or public, it is essential not to rely on immediate emotions, not to give in to a frenzy, to think carefully about the long-term consequences of all our decisions before taking them, to speculate several moves in advance before moving any pawn on the chessboard of life.
For example, refusing to allow any Russian to open a bank account today, cutting off scholarships for Russian students, boycotting Russian restaurants, banning symphony orchestras from playing Russian music, theatres from staging Russian plays, selling off the assets of our companies in Russia – these are among the most idiotic and counterproductive decisions that the current crisis is inspiring in European and American leaders right now.
Whatever contempt, anger, indignation and rage we may feel at the Kremlin’s current decisions, and whatever our desire to help the victims of this criminal policy, to support them in their fight against the monsters who are attacking them, we must be aware that not all Russians are guilty of the Kremlin’s crimes. The magnificent Ukrainian people have understood this, and are holding out their hand, under the bombs, to their aggressors, without giving them an inch of ground.
The lessons of the past are not lacking to remind us of this: regretting having humiliated Germany in the Treaty of Versailles, which created the conditions for the birth of the monster, a few too few democracies were able to welcome those who fled the Nazi regime and prepare the best for the future. For their greatest benefit. And I have warned enough for decades that humiliating Russia is the worst policy, to repeat here and now that it is crucial not to humiliate those Russians who are fleeing the monsters ruling the Kremlin today.
For what is being played out now is not the beginning of a new dark period. It is the last scoriae of the Cold War of the previous century, and the last threats of a planetary suicide, which we have been able to avoid until now.
It is by keeping our cool that we will avoid the worst. And that we will turn this crisis into a moment of renewal, which will finally bring together all the peoples of Europe in the same democratic ideal. To the great displeasure of those who need an enemy to justify their power and finance their military industry.
Treating the Russians as if they were all oligarchs, war criminals and Kremlin supporters is as absurd as calling all Iraqis terrorists, all Afghans perpetrators of feminicide, all Americans imperialists. Particularly when it comes to people fleeing a regime that you want to make representatives of.
It is even worse than absurd, because it is alienating people who only want to be our allies; and it is sending those who have voluntarily left the camp of the devil back into it.
Of course, we must not be naïve; and we must not welcome (or at least monitor) all those who could harm our interests, or the morale of our fellow citizens, by siding with the regime they claim to have fled. And in particular, we must, with sadness, keep the great Russian artists off our stages for a while, and the great athletes off our stadiums, who refuse to denounce the criminal policies of their leaders.
But it is in our interest to strengthen the camp of those in Russia who oppose the Kremlin’s policies. We must strengthen their desire to be Europeans. We have an interest in receiving them well, in reminding them that they too are Europeans. And that we are happy to welcome them into the common home, to give all possible signals to the Russian citizens who have remained in their country, so that they understand that we are not confusing them with their tyrants. And that we are ready to start working with them on a future of peace and democracy. I therefore recommend that we welcome with the same enthusiasm the Ukrainians who are fleeing the place of their martyrdom and the Russians who are fleeing the place of their imprisonment. Both are victims. And it is even by helping them together that we will create the conditions for their reunion.