I'm pretty sympathetic to most of erstwhile oligarch Khodorkovsky's arguments about Western-Russian relations. Even regarding the harm of economic sanctions. Yet the sad truth is that, barring sanctions, the West has no real way to influence the Kremlin besides military force.
Sanctions that hurt the Russian people, who could be looked upon as captives of an authoritarian Putin regime, are a kind of evil, let's not deny that. But they are a lesser evil than: 1) doing nothing, i.e. appeasing the use of military conquest in Europe, and the scary consequences that unopposed aggression could bring, or 2) open military conflict, up to and including World War III.
The most hopeful statement in Khodorkhovsky's piece is his prediction that Putin's regime won't last more than 10 more years. But what kind of regime will follow it? Unfortunately, the czarist-Stalinist-Putinist template has worked in Russian history, and no other template has. A peaceful, Western-integrated Russia would have to establish a new paradigm, and that would be very difficult without some kind of political or societal revolution in Russia. And revolutions are scary, unpredictable things, especially in a psychologically scarred, brain-drained, isolated and economically depressed country like Russia.
By Mikhail Khodorkovsky
December 11, 2014 | Huffington Post