12/18/2014 09:51 am ET Updated Feb 16, 2015

Putin in a Headlock

Russia is in turmoil, and the Putin appeasers are scrambling to grab a last piece of the action, while they might still have a tiny chance of traction. They should hive up, they have done enough damage already.They are still urging the sanctions to be lifted, which of course would be silly and would only do Vladimir Putin, not Russia or us a favor. We need to stick to our principles and not fall for the siren song of those whose only desire is to prove themselves right. The Russian drama turned tragedy is self-inflicted. It is a result of the economic policy of Vladimir Putin, who failed to move the country to modernize. It is the result of being a man of coercion
but also total economic illiteracy.

The west owes it to the Russian people not to give up and keep pressing Vladimir Putin, until he changes course. He should by now have heard what his FSB generals keep mumbling: " We cannot count on the incompetence of the West forever". His perhaps talented, but in this context mainly useless diplomatic service must have sent the message home: the west might have weak leaders, but don't underestimate its strength and resilience.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, on television put on a brave face and suggested that this crisis "will make Russia stronger" and that "the country has faced worse situations and survived." No one questions that Russia will survive. I doubt however that it will come out stronger. Its big power status rests on two pillars only: its nuclear capability and its ability to use energy resources as a means of blackmail. Nuclear capability and a few commodities, however strategic, does not build roads, it does not turn scientific results into world class products, it will not make the country competitive in the global market place and does not increase the longevity of its people. It takes more to be a defining modern power in this era of fast paced changes and unstoppable globalization.

Our message should be loud and clear: we are not interested in Russia becoming a failed state. We want to see Russia succeed as a modern 21st Century power, as a country that is part of the solution and not the problem. With or without Putin, we want to see a Russia that extracts not just oil and gas, but the creative power of its people. But with that message comes a warning: "We cannot help you to turn into a modern state, if you are your own worst enemy; if you look to the past and not the future; and if you keep invading, harassing, intimidating and bribing, from the North to the South, the West and the East."

The appeasers have a good share of the blame for allowing the situation to get this bad and this far. They have managed to weaken our resolve and thus they share the responsibility for this mess. Had the appeasers put more blame on Vladimir Putin than on the west and consequently had we acted firmly at the very beginning of the year, we would not have to deal with a terrible situation at the end of it.

The Russian elite is every bit as well informed and sophisticated as elites of the most developed nations. They should not underestimate their own power and the west should appreciate it. This is their moment to step up to the challenge their country faces. They, among all Russians, need to understand and explain to the rest of the population why their country is in such a bad shape, why the failed policies and foreign adventures of Mr.Putin are the primary cause for this sad state of affairs, and not blame it on the world.We need a better way to communicate with them.

It is a bit late to get smart, but it is not too late. The unity of the west is critical and U.S. and German leadership central. Europeans should not get weak in their knees, and should understand what a disaster it would be to not to stay rock solid on sanctions now. This is the only way we can bring Mr.Putin and perhaps his admirers an followers to their senses. We are at a turning point. We need good nerves to endure. However if we do it right, we will help not just ourselves but Russia. This is a huge opportunity.

We should not miss it.