Ever since coming to power, Vladimir Putin has focused on using Russia’s assets for the good of himself and his plutocracy. He has justified this effort with the narrative that he is protecting Russia’s historical role as a regional power from a threat from the West. This has involved increasing repression at home and support of autocracy globally.

It has also included steadily increasing regional military operations, starting with an invasion of Georgia in 2008, support of breakaway provinces in Moldova, annexation of the Crimea, and promotion of Russian insurrection in the Donbas. The invasion of Ukraine is only the latest event in this growing challenge to global stability. Not since Hitler has one man so thoroughly controlled a major country and subordinated it to his own objectives.

The origin of this challenge lies in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and a very premature expectation of the “end of history,” which Francis Fukuyama described as “the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” This was immediately followed by a monumental and almost unrecognized strategic blunder: the failure to integrate Russia into the Industrialized World as had been done after World War II with Germany and Japan. With the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union came the disappearance of the basic rationale for NATO as a military alliance. But instead of a draw-down and despite earlier informal assurances, NATO initiated a totally unnecessary expansion, minimizing economic development in East Europe.

The Russian people had vague but optimistic hopes that the end of the Cold War would lead to a new era of peace and prosperity. But, as Bob Kuttner and Walter Shapiro have detailed, US and NATO governments stood by as former elites used Soviet practices and contacts to set up the Mafia-like structures, with corrupt practices facilitated by Western encouragement of privatization. When Vladimir Putin took charge at the end of the 1990s, he led the nation in an increasingly autocratic direction. NATO’s expansion posed no threat to Russia, but Putin used it to reinforce his claim that he was protecting Russia’s imperial legacy.

The West had initially hoped that it could develop positive relations with Putin’s regime. But these hopes steadily faded as his autocracy intensified and were totally crushed by the invasion of Ukraine. This brought a drastic reduction of economic ties between Russia and the West, breaking West Europe’s prior dependence on Russian energy. Sanctions pushed hundreds of Western firms to end or significantly curtail their operations with Russia. Most recently, Russia has intensified efforts to take control of remaining Western commercial assets, partly to provide continuing income to Putin’s plutocracy.

The war forced a focus on military operations, a general objective of ensuring that Ukraine wins and Russia loses. This, or course, only reinforces Putin’s claim of a threat from the West and energizes the global military industrial complex. And a stalemate on the ground promises only continuing death and destruction with no end in sight. Even within Western governments, there is increasing pressure to seek some kind of resolution. The broader international community has further increased pressure for some kind of ceasefire, at least a temporary end to the military confrontation that is impacting the global food supply.

A fundamental problem is the lack of a clear objective for the West. Putin’s challenge has transitioned from disruption in Europe to a challenge to global stability. But Western governments are reluctant to set his removal as a fundamental objective, to acknowledge that real peace is not possible without a change in the Russian government. Western sanctions have significantly impacted the Russian economy but were also put in place without specific objectives. The Russian opposition has put together a broad Declaration of Russian Democratic Forces, which outlines democratic principles but contains no specific vision of what sort of Russia should emerge or how it would integrate with the West. The thought of doing what we should have done 30 years ago, integrating Russia into the industrialized world, has long disappeared. Yet it remains the key to a peaceful and prosperous Europe.

The fundamental quest is not for territory in Ukraine, but for Ukraine’s territorial integrity as well as regional global stability. The West also has to set an objective of promoting the emergence of a progressive Russian government. The central battlefield is the minds of the Russian people. The West is losing that battle as it has totally failed to undermine Putin’s talk of a threat from the West, strongly based on Russian cultural traditions. The recent NATO discussions in Vilnius emphasized the need for military cooperation against Russia but gave zero attention to the long-term challenge of integrating Russia back into Europe. However, it would be challenging to say the least to integrate Russia as it is currently governed.

The West needs to take a number of actions making outreach to Russia a priority as well as incentivizing its turn back toward the West and away from colonizing territories on its periphery. First of all, the West has to vividly demonstrate how Putin’s medieval concept, now incorporated into standard history books, is simply a cover for widespread misappropriation of Russia’s assets for his own personal use and that of his plutocracy. This concept needs to be challenged with a vision of a New Europe incorporating a dynamic and democratic Russia. Such a vision has to be created by Russians but build on fundamental human values, describing a New Europe attractive to the international community and emphasizing the benefits to the Russian people.

The West has a significant interest in positive relations with a dynamic and developing Russia once sanctions can be lifted. Former economic ties could be reinvigorated with mutually beneficial results, including energy systems, resource trade, tourism, space and educational exchanges. Western economic, scholastic, and scientific organizations that were formerly active in Russia should be encouraged to renew discussions with Russian colleagues on the resumption of collaboration. These discussions should encourage Russian bureaucrats to consider opportunities for economic development, with the West supporting the expansion of Russian infrastructure, particularly in the area of clean energy.

Rebuilding the Ukrainian economy can provide a vivid example to Russians of what would be possible with a new Russian government. This could certainly be facilitated by a ceasefire which would dramatically minimize current casualties and destruction. The West would have to promote this not as freezing Putin’s territorial gains in place, but rather as shifting the confrontation from the military to the diplomatic and economic terrain.

The Russian diaspora can play a critical role in promoting the emergence of a new Russian government. Recent refugees from Putin’s repression are anxious to return to a new Russia and can strongly promote a vision of a New Europe in collaboration with long-term diaspora in the Baltic states, Finland, and elsewhere.

The central Western objective has to recognize that real peace is not possible without a new Russian government. As Max Bergmann has outlined in detail, the West needs to focus on achieving a democratic and prosperous world with a new and democratic Russia actively integrated in the industrialized world, as should have happened 30 years ago. Offering the Russian people a path out of their economic and diplomatic isolation is an essential element of such a transition.

Ed Corcoran is a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. He was a strategic analyst at the U.S. Army War College, where he chaired studies for the Office of the Deputy Chief of Operations.