op_michnik4_SERGEI SUPINSKYAFP via Getty Images_ukrainewar Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

Putin Must Not Win

Russia must not gain a victory in a war that politically, economically, and, increasingly, militarily, it has already lost. The situation in Europe and globally would have been a very different situation today if Vladimir Putin had been able to implement his plan to take Kyiv in five days, like in Crimea, and install a proxy ruler.

Irena Grudzińska Gross: After Vladimir Putin’s speech declaring the annexation of Ukrainian territories, you wrote a commentary calling for the “denazification” of the Kremlin. You ended with a variation of a Shakespeare line: “Let’s do what we must and come what may.” What did you have in mind?

Adam Michnik: [laughs] I was using the nineteenth-century motto of a Polish émigré group in Paris called Hôtel Lambert, which sounds like, “Do what it takes, and what will be will be.” Of course, we don’t know what will happen, we are unable to influence directly the course of the Russian invasion, but one thing is certain – it is our own decision how to act. Will we “balance” what Russians are doing with “Ukrainians are not so saintly after all,” like Amnesty International did recently? Or like Noam Chomsky, who seems to condemn the invasion, but in the same breath mentions Iraq? It does not mean that I’ve changed my opinion about the American action in Iraq, which I think was a mistake, but to equate Iraq with Ukraine…

IGG: Chomsky does not equate Iraq with Ukraine, he compares the actions of the United States to those of Russia.

AM: Yes, but they are not on the same level!

IGG: I read that Shakespearean line, especially “come what may,” as your acceptance of an incalculable risk – Putin’s growing nuclear threats – though you did not mention it in your commentary.

AM: Let’s look at the matter calmly. Can Putin use nuclear arms? Yes, he has them. Will Putin use nuclear arms? We don’t know. Yet one thing is clear. He depends now on not using them but having results as if he did. We cannot agree to that. Because then what remains to us is to raise our hands in surrender and be marched to the Gulag.