Sergei Karaganov is the honorary chairman of the influential Council on Foreign and Defence Policy which advises the President of the Russian Federation. Therefore when he speaks, at least someone in the (post)Western media in the form of Germany's Der Spiegel magazine takes notice.
Although Der Spiegel may exaggerate with what a Reddit translator calls a 'clickbait headline' in declaring that Karaganov 'threatens NATO openly', the reality as acknowledged by many on both sides is that the 'tripwire force' of four battalions the Alliance is deploying to the Baltic states is sufficient to anger Moscow and provide scary footage for the Russian television narrative of (post)Western aggression. 'Kremlin TV' can now honestly tell the Russian people that the same American soldiers who invaded Iraq and a few left around who occupied the Russians' Serbian Orthodox 'brothers' in Kosovo are at Mother Russia's doorstep. Paradoxically, four battalions consisting of barely more than 4,000 men remains far too small a contingent to avoid getting crushed quickly in an actual war with Russia -- and U.S. generals and the RAND Corporation admit it.
(See related RogueMoney post from July 10, 2016: "Russian Warnings")
Just look at the numbers below -- Russia is hopelessly outspent and outnumbered by the U.S. and its NATO allies -- on paper. As my friend The Saker admits Russia has no equivalent when it comes to American carrier battle group 'power projection' aka showing the flag and intimidating small or weak country capabilities. Nor is there any evidence that Russia has the will much less the manpower and military might to dominate Central Europe like the old Soviet Union did after rolling back the Nazi Wehrmacht in 1944-45. But when it comes to Russia's immediate neighborhood, the Americans are clearly not ready to fight a technologically peer-level competitor fighting with the morale and logistical advantages of battling close to home.
This is something NATO planners and think tank prognosticators don't like to get into for obvious reasons after the failed American campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan; the question of whether Americans would be willing to bleed and die in large numbers for the NATO protected city of Narva -- much less Kiev or Chisinau, which aren't formally under NATO's security 'umbrella'. Considering how few Americans, whether you call them mercenaries or 'volunteers', have been willing to bleed or die in the Donbass for Kiev compared to Russian, Serbian or even and Latin American volunteers on the Novorossiya side, it's not hard to see why Atlanticist think tanks avoid the subject of unequal WILL in any U.S.-Russian military confrontation close to Russian territory.
Or if you prefer, watch this video posted by a retired U.S. Marine with the quote from Army Gen. Mark Milley's testimony to the House Armed Services Committee from April 2016 about American forces at Russia's borders being 'outnumbered, outranged and outgunned' in any conventional fight that doesn't immediately go nuclear:
Nonetheless, the logic of a 'tripwire' force, as with the longstanding out-manned American contingent along the DMZ in South Korea is supposed to be deterrence. The new tripwire in the Baltics is supposed to be a flesh and blood guarantee that if an aggressor attacks, reluctant NATO members led by Germany would have to fall in behind Uncle Sam rather than choosing negotiations over fighting Moscow. But when an Atlanticist media outlet like Politico Europe admits that barely 9% of Germans polled support sending the Bundeswehr to Russia's Baltics border with Lithuania, you know the prospect of Germany basically saying 'nein' to if not refusing the use of German soil for a direct confrontation with the Russians keeps Pentagon planners up at night.
“BERLIN — When NATO’s faithful gather to discuss the Alliance’s latest challenge, a flurry of adjectives fills the air — mercurial, unpredictable, self-righteous.
The object of the frustration isn’t the bloc’s longtime nemesis to the east, however. It’s Germany.
As many Alliance members become increasingly nervous over Russia’s incursions into neighboring territories and demand a harsher tone with Moscow, powerful voices in Berlin have pushed in the opposite direction.
“What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further with loud saber-rattling and warmongering,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Germany’s Bild last month. “Anyone who believes that a symbolic tank parade on the Alliance’s Eastern frontier will create security is mistaken.”
As NATO leaders convene in Warsaw this weekend for a summit to debate the Alliance’s stance on Russia, Germany’s increasingly dovish position is frustrating efforts to present a united front.
While Western sanctions and efforts to bolster NATO’s presence in the Baltics and Poland enjoy support across most of Europe, in Germany the measures are subject of constant criticism at the highest levels of government. Given Germany’s political clout in Europe and status as a pillar of NATO, its internal squabbling on Russia has unnerved many of the countries that are counting on its help.
“They’re not a reliable ally,” said John Kornblum, a former U.S. undersecretary of state for Europe and ambassador to Germany. “You can’t really count on them.””
Looking beyond reluctant NATO allies like Germany or France (whose government under a Marie Le Pen presidency could repeat De Gaulle's feat of leaving the Alliance in 2018), there are at least two if not many more serious problems with Washington and NATO's tripwire 'logic':
1) The United States nearly fought a nuclear war with the Soviet Union over a nuclear-tipped, hopelessly outgunned and outnumbered Soviet 'tripwire' force 90 miles from Miami in 1962. Thus there's no reason to assume if Russian SAMs and a battalion of VDV paratroopers were deployed to Venezuela tomorrow (complete with TU-95 Bear-H bombers dropping dummy mines in the Straits of Florida like the U.S. B-52s simulating the same in the Baltic) Washington would react to the shoe being on the other foot with anything less than full blown hysteria and war threats. I mean seriously, do we even have to imagine how Sens. McCain, Graham and Cotton would react to the permanent stationing of a single Russian motor rifle battalion outside Managua or Caracas?
2) The very act of so-called reassurance measures for Eastern European states with a perpetual sense of victim-hood and paranoia towards their former 'Muscovy' oppressor puts big fat missile targets on the backs of these countries bordering Russia, where none previously existed. It would be akin in some respects to the former Sandanista leader Daniel Ortega inviting Russian or Chinese troops into Nicaragua, one the grounds that the CIA might arm the Contras again to overthrow him as Langley did in the 1980s. But 'shoe on the other foot' or 'Monroe-ski Doctrine' arguments aside, even accepting the neocon/neo-liberal position that 'any moral equivalence between the U.S. liberal democracy and Putin's evil dictatorship is preposterous', there's another big problem even many Kremlin haters have acknowledged.
NATO's Drang Nach Osten -- especially the historically charged deployment of iron-cross bearing German tanks in Lithuania -- confirms in the eyes of many Russians the Kremlin's Narrative of the aggressive West once again encircling the Motherland and massing for a new Barbarossa. Although this time around the methods of Western aggression and the risks it would pose to the entire planet are very different than in 1941. The name of the game now is hybrid warfare (meaning using officially disavowed methods like trained snipers on the Maidan) and proxy wars (Ukraine, Syria) fought for geo-economic rather than ideological purposes.
As Karaganov makes clear in the July 7, 2016 interview with Der Spiegel, Russia is capable not only of overrunning the Baltic states in three days or less as the RAND Corporation has admitted, but more relevantly (as he maintains Moscow has zero interest in occupying the Baltic territories or several millions pissed off Balts) the Russians could annihilate the pre-positioned equipment in the borderland region with missiles. Naturally such strikes in a wartime scenario would kill several score to hundreds of NATO troops adjoining the equipment they were sent to the region alongside. These 'threats' from Karaganov of course are heavily qualified with many caveats, as well as his insistence that NATO allegations about evil Russians plotting to invade the Baltic states are 'idiotic'.
Even pinko globalist Putin haters admit that the Kremlin has basically nothing to gain and everything to lose from such an act of aggression that would confirm Washington's Narrative and cement NATO's death grip on the Continent for another generation. And that's assuming a war for Estonia or Latvia wouldn't quickly escalate to a nuclear exchange after NATO fires tactical nukes to stop the humiliating rout of the U.S. Army.
What Karaganov emphasizes is the real risk of the Americans, perhaps led by a neocon-advised and crazed Hillary Clinton Administration miscalculating and pushing the Russians way too far. Because American aggression in Iraq War 2.0 or against little Serbia or the rape of Gaddafi's Libya are all treated as a series of isolated unfortunate events. They are never discussed as part of a pattern of viciously expansionist Empire. That way the Pinko Globalist Hipster™ Jim Kovpak and the Russia Analyst's other detractors don't have to even consider much less defend the likelihood that POTUS Hillary! and the Kagan/Nuland neocon war crime family will eagerly send American boys to die for Donetsk or Tiraspol. Or get the U.S. into a shooting war with Russia when American Tomahawk missiles 'accidentally' kill Russians alongside the Syrian Arab Army units and air forces targeted by supposedly risk free 'stand off' strikes to impose a 'no bomb zone' on Assad and save Washington's jihadist proxies from defeat.
Karaganov also resolves the apparent contradiction between stating that NATO is not ready for an actual hot war with Russia with Moscow's insistence that the Alliance poses a serious threat to its sovereignty and security, by pointing to the Atlanticists using the bloc as a cover for hybrid warfare and attempts at 'regime change' in Moscow along the same lines as the Maidan coup d'etat in Kiev. This is the heart of the matter, and why Karaganov is issuing such warnings; to convey that Putin's advisers believe NATO is perfectly capable under a sufficiently hubris-fueled Hillary Clinton Administration of doing something incredibly stupid and provocative to elicit a violent Russian response. A response which can then be used to legitimize several more decades of U.S. occupation of Europe and exploitation of its shrinking economies via the TIPP and other scams to prop up a failing globalist/fiat central banking system.
Such moves as we've written in multiple posts here at RogueMoney could include overtly sending American or at least Polish and Baltic NATO member troops to fight alongside a a renewed Ukrainian offensive against the breakaway Donbass republics, or a joint American-Romanian occupation of Moldova to blockade the Russian-held internationally unrecognized exclave of Transnistria. In which case, as with Hillary's prospective aides debating the logic of firing cruise missiles at Russian troops in Syria, Moscow would be presented with a fight or flight choice it cannot finesse or avoid, as it has through proxies in eastern Ukraine. This is essentially what Karaganov is getting at. The Russians warning is this: even before an all out war, the neocons and neo-liberal interventionists may finally get their wish of cornering the Russian Bear -- only to act shocked when they get the full teeth and claw reaction and American special forces or private military contractors die alongside their U.S. proxy charges.
Nonetheless, the biggest risk in the eyes of the neocons may not be a nuclear war, since they assume they and their families in the greater Washington D.C. and New York City areas will be 'taken care of' and evacuated to big bunkers somewhere. For the neocons, the greatest fear isn't the total war they often behave as if they would welcome, but the collapse of the EU followed by the unraveling of NATO when Germans, French, Italians, Greeks, Hungarians, Bulgarians and Slovaks mutiny and refuse to die in a war D.C. starts with Moscow.
If one reads between the lines of the Financial Times newspaper or Vice News' dispatches from the recent NATO Summit in Warsaw, NATO going the way of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact and the EU turning into the EUSSR is in fact what terrifies the neocons far more it seems than the mere trifle of thermonuclear war. On the other side of the coin, if one reads what the Russian national security elites are actually saying about making damn sure Washington understands starting a war on Russia's doorstep means bases in the American homeland get hit with first conventional, and then nuclear super/hypersonic missile strikes via the Arctic, then it becomes crystal clear that these Russians view their task as deterring and, in Karaganov's words, 'containing' an aggressive but ultimately doomed Anglo-American empire. And it's very likely Russia's newfangled ally China, faced with the American 'pivot to Asia' and what it regards as a U.S.-rigged verdict at The Hague against its historically-rooted claims in the South China Sea, views Washington the same way.
That is, until that day when what the Saker calls the 'Anglo-Zionist Empire' can ultimately accept its own dissolution the way the Soviet Union did in 1991, and become a 'normal' if Continent-sized country like Russia or Brazil. Getting post-Western elites to accept that USA is no longer going to be able to make other countries its 'b-tches' by bribing or bullying their elites and mass media makers into saying or doing whatever Washington wants is the hard part, of course. Speaking of which, here are my friend The Saker's thoughts on last week's NATO summit in Warsaw -- JWS
“AngloZionists love to “send messages” and here several messages were sent loud and clear.
Message to Russia: you dared to oppose us and you thought that being in the right might help you. Well, Russia, screw you Russia, and screw reality! You either are with us (i.e. under our control), or you will be treated like a pariah.
Message to the European people: lest any of you consider defying us, we are showing you a united front. A united front of the parasitic superstructure ruling the EU on behalf of the local 1%er comprador elites of Russia and on behalf of the AngloZionist Empire. So don’t even think of being independent, free or any other such nonsense. We run the planet and you obey.
Message to the rest of the planet: don’t even think of joining or even supporting Russia because if you do, we will snap you like a twig. We run the planet and we make and break anybody.
Last but not least,
Message to themselves: we are in control, we will prevail, the Russians will have to back down, we are invulnerable.
I would submit that this last message might be the most important of them all. Because, of course, the AngloZionist leaders are afraid. Afraid mainly of Russia, of course, but even more by what Russia represents.
They are afraid of a Dollar which is sustained by nothing, not oil and not even USN aircraft carriers. They are afraid by the growing realization that less and less people out there are afraid of them. They are afraid by countries such as Russia, Iran or China daring to openly declare that they will follow another economic and civilizational model. But more than anything else they are terrified by the growing realization that “their own people” (at least theoretically) hate and despise them.
The most pathetic thing about all this is how the AngloZionists are misreading the Russians. From a Russian cultural point of view, everything the West and NATO has been doing are signs of weakness. Why would a strong alliance need to engage in meaningless threats (NATO battalions or ABM systems)? Why would a strong alliance seek safety in numbers? Why would a strong alliance act is if reality did not exist? From a Russian point of view all that saber-rattling and grandstanding amount to a gigantic admission weakness and they are totally unimpressed. And they are not shy about expressing their contempt for what they see as a pathetic display of incompetence by a clueless western leadership.
That is not to say that the Russians are not worried. They are. Very. Because they also understand that for all their pathetic lack of political vision and even basic professionalism, the AngloZionists are still very dangerous. It does not take a great deal of intelligence to trigger a nuclear war. So while the Russians are now openly contemptuous of the Empire, they still realize that it is precisely the lack of competence of the West which will require a tremendous amount of caution and patience from the Russian leadership to “softly land” the Empire without triggering a planetary nuclear war.
You could say that Russia fears the US/NATO/EU weakness a great deal more than she fear the US/NATO/EU strength.”
Interview with Sergei Karaganov: Putin advisor threatens destruction of NATO weapons
The relationship between Russia and the West? It is as bad as the late seventies, says Kremlin adviser Sergei Karaganov in the SPIEGEL interview. He threatens NATO openly. By Christian Neef
This weekend the NATO summit will be held in Warsaw. At the core of the debate: how to deal with Russia. Because Poland and the Baltic states feel threatened by Moscow, NATO wants to deploy four battalions with a total of 4,000 soldiers on its eastern flank. Russia calls that a "provocation".
The "talk" that Russia would attack the Baltics was "idiotic", the influential Putin adviser Sergei Karaganov says in an interview with SPIEGEL. "In the event of a crisis exactly these weapons will be destroyed." Russia will never again fight on its own territory" He adds: "If NATO starts an aggression - against a nuclear power like us - it will be punished"
He emphasized that [the failing EU(SSR) led - JWS] Europe would be "no model for Russia" for the next [several] decades. It should not [probably better translated from German as 'won't' - JWS] be able to adapt to the challenges of the new world. Russia was "smarter, stronger and more determined." [than an increasingly decadant and falling apart European Union slavishly subordinate to Washington's demands - JWS]
SPIEGEL: Sergei Alexandrovich, NATO wants to get more involved militarily in Eastern Europe - in response to Russia's actions. Western politicians warn that both sides could slide into a situation that leads to war. Is this an exaggeration?
Karaganov: I have eight years ago already spoken about a prewar situation.
SPIEGEL: ... as the Georgia war broke out.
Karaganov: Already back then the trust of the great powers in each other tended to zero; Russia began the rearmament of its army. Since then the situation has extremely deteriorated. We warned, not to approach the borders of Ukraine, as this would create an unacceptable situation for us. The advance of the West in this direction was stopped by Russia, in the medium term hopefully, the risk of a major war in Europe is dispelled. But the propaganda which now runs, is reminiscent of the time before a new war.
SPIEGEL: I hope you refer that also to Russia?
Karaganov: The Russian media are more restrained than the Western ones. Although you have to understand: In Russia there is a very strong awareness for defense. We must be prepared for anything. Therefore, this sometimes massive propaganda. But what does the West? Nothing but demonizing Russia anymore, it believes, we threaten with an aggression. The situation is similar to the crisis of the late seventies, early eighties.
SPIEGEL: You mean the stationing of Soviet medium-range missiles and the American response?
Karaganov: Europe felt weak back then and feared, the Americans would leave the continent. The Soviet Union, however, although already completely rotten inside, military felt strong and committed the stupidity to deploy the SS-20 missiles. Thus began a completely senseless crisis. Now the situation is reversed. Now Eastern European countries such as Poland, Lithuania or Latvia are reassured by the fact that NATO stationed weapons in them.. But that doesn't them, we judge this as a provocation. In the event of a crisis, it'll be exactly these weapons which will be destroyed. Russia will never fight again on its own territory ...
SPIEGEL: ... but if I understand you correctly, run forward defense.
Karaganov: NATO is now 800 km closer to the Russian borders, the weapons are quite different, the strategic stability in Europe is changing. Everything is far worse than 30 or 40 years ago.
SPIEGEL: Russian politicians, President Putin included, are trying to convince their own people that the West wants a war - to dismember Russia. That's absurd.
Karaganov: Certainly that's an exaggeration. But American politicians tell openly, that the sanctions should bring about a regime change in Russia. This is aggressive enough.
SPIEGEL: The evening news on Russian television seem further from the reality. Even a Moscow newspaper wrote these days about a "Phantom of the external threat".
Karaganov: The political elites in Russia do not want reforms in the interior, they are not prepared. A threat from outside comes in quite handy for them. You must consider: Russia is based on two national ideas - the defense and sovereignty. In Russia we treat safety issues far reverent than in other countries.
SPIEGEL: Even Russian experts see no real threat to Russia. in the enlargement of NATO. NATO was up until the Crimean annexation a paper tiger.
Karaganov: It's extension was seen as betrayal of Russia.
SPIEGEL: Your Council submitted theses on Foreign and Defense policy. You talk there of the recovery of leadership in the world. Russia does not want to lose power, the message is becoming clear. But which proposals does it make?
Karaganov: We want to prevent a further destabilization of the world. And we want the status of a great power. We can not do without it, unfortunately - this state has become in the past 300 years a part of our DNA. We want to be the center of a large Eurasia, a zone of peace and cooperation. To this Eurasia also the subcontinent Europe will belong.
SPIEGEL: The Europeans perceive the current Russian policy as ambiguous. The intentions of the Moscow leadership are not clear to them.
Karaganov: We are now in a position, in which we do not trust you in the least, after all the disappointments of recent years. Thus the according reaction. There is such a thing as the means of tactical surprise. You should know, that we are smarter, stronger and more determined.
SPIEGEL: A surprise was, for example, the Russian partial withdrawal from Syria. They have left the West deliberately in the dark, about how many troops are withdrawn and if you secretly bring back parts of them. This is not a tactic to gain trust.
Karaganov: That was a masterpiece, that was great. We use our superiority in this field. The Russians are weak traders, they do not like to deal with economics. But they are excellent fighters. You in Europe have a different political system. It is one, that can not adapt to the challenges of the new world. The German chancellor has said, our president lives in another world. I think he lives in a very real one.
SPIEGEL: The Russian Schadenfreude about the problems that Europe is facing now are unmissable. Why?
Karaganov: A lot of my colleagues look with scorn on our European partners, I beseech always, not to be presumptuous and arrogant. Sections of the European elites have searched for the confrontation with us. So we won't help Europe now, even though we could in the refugees crisis. A joint closure of the borders would be urgently needed. In this regard, the Russians would be ten times more effective than the Europeans. But they are trying to make deal with Turkey, which is a shame. We have, taking into regard our problems with Turkey, pursued a clear, tough political line, with success.
SPIEGEL: You say you are disappointed by Europe, it had betrayed his Christian ideals. Russia had wanted to Europe in the nineties, but to the Europe of Adenauer and de Gaulle.
Karaganov: But the majority of Europeans wants this Europe also. Europe will no longer be a model for Russia for the coming decades.
SPIEGEL: In its theses your council urges the use of military force if "important interests of the country are obviously" threatened. Ukraine was such an example?
Karaganov: Yes. Or a troop concentration, which we consider a threat of war.
SPIEGEL: The stationing of NATO battalions in the Baltics is still not enough?
Karaganov: The talk that we want to attack the Baltics, is idiotic. Why does NATO take weapons and equipment there? Imagine what happens to those in a crisis situations. The help of NATO is not symbolic aid for the Baltic states, it is a provocation. When NATO starts an aggression - against a nuclear power like us - it'll will be punished.
SPIEGEL: On Wednesday for the second time since the annexation of Crimea the NATO-Russia Council will meet. You also don't believe in a resumption of this dialogue?
Karaganov: It is not a legitimate body more. In addition, NATO has become a qualitatively different alliance. When we started the dialogue with NATO, it was a defensive alliance of democratic forces. But then the NATO-Russia relations served to cover up and legalize the NATO expansion. When we really needed it - 2008 and 2014 - it was not there.
SPIEGEL: You mean the Georgian- and the Ukraine War. In your papers, concepts as national dignity, courage and honor emerge Are these political categories?
Karaganov: These are crucial values f Russia. In Putin's and my world, it is simply unthinkable that women are harassed and raped in public.
SPIEGEL: Are you alluding to the New Year's Eve in Cologne?
Karaganov: Men who would do such a thing in Russia would be killed. The error is that German and Russians have not seriously talked in the past 25 years about their own values - or didn't want to understand each other in this matter. Also, we have maintained during the Soviet era, there were only universal values, as the West does now. I am scared, when Europeans are increasingly demanding democracy. That sounds like earlier with us, when more and more socialism was demanded.
SPIEGEL: Where do you see errors in the Russian foreign policy?
Karaganov: In the recent years, we had no political strategy related to our immediate neighbors, the other former Soviet republics. We did not understand what really happened there. The only thing we did was to subsidize these countries and buy their elites - with money that was stolen, presumably together. With that, it also failed to prevent the conflict in Ukraine. The second problem: Our policy has been too long focused on a correction of the past, the correction of the nineties.
SPIEGEL: In the Russian press there are suspicions that Russia would send signals of relaxation after the parliamentary elections in September. Are they justified?
Karaganov: We believe that Russia is morally in the right, the won't be fundamental concessions from our side. Mentally Russia has become a Eurasian power - I was one of the intellectual fathers of the approach to the East. But now I have the opinion, that we should not turn away from Europe. We must seek ways to revive our relations.
"U.S. Must Be Contained as Firmly as Possible"published at Southfront.org
Original by Sergey Karaganov published by globalaffairs.ru; excerpt translation by J.Hawk
The recently achieved foreign policy successes, the strengthening of Russia’s strategic position and her security, Russia’s return to the status of first-rank great power, which are sought by the majority of Russian elites and masses, allow, while both new and old challenges, including the long-term confrontation with the West–urgently demand the state’s attention to be shifted to the task of internal economic development, and the preservation and development of human capital.” This is the main conclusion of the report titled “Strategy XXI. Russian Foreign Policy: late 2010s–early 2020s”, prepared by a team of experts from the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. Lenta.ru discussed some of the theses advanced by this document with its editor, the Dean of the World Politics and Economy department at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Sergey Karaganov.
Why was there a need to write Strategy XXI? Does Russia lack a foreign strategy? Or is it inadequate?
The foreign strategy will now be rewritten because the old one became outdated. Our report was prepared by authors who don’t occupy official positions (those who do did so as private individuals) and is intended to give a push in the direction of forming a new state foreign policy strategy. On the one hand, we were compelled to write these theses because the world is rapidly changing, there are few people who understand what’s happening, and there is a massive flood of lies and disinformation. So mistakes can be made. We hope our document will avert them and facilitate a creative discussion in Russia–not, obviously, who the traitors are and who aren’t, but about what’s really happening and what is to be done. Both USSR, and the West, and Russia, allowed many mistakes because they did not hold such discussions.
You said that today few understand global processes. This applies to the professionals, and especially ordinary people. Here’s an example: when you or some of your colleagues said that Russian foreign policy in recent years was highly successful, it outrages many. “How’s that? We got into a quarrel with the West, we are isolated, our turn to the East had stalled! That’s success?” How would you answer them?
People read things, acquire information, but on the whole can’t process it properly. Only professionals can do it. Moreover, much of the information that’s being dumped on ordinary people are either lies or half-truths. It’s laughable to hear about Russia’s isolation! Yes, relations with the West have worsened and yes, the West wants to isolate us. But it turned out exactly the other way. We have poor relations with Western institutions, but in every other respect we are more active. So many people want to talk to me under these conditions of “isolations” that I’m about to go crazy!
Now, about our victories. We have been retreating for a long time, hoping the West will love us for it. But that did not happen. It eventually came to the possibility of Ukraine being drawn into Western alliances, including military ones, which for us would have been casus belli, no two ways about it. Therefore Russia stopped retreating and finally struck. Naturally, the West was angered by it, all the more so since it suffered many setbacks over the last decade and wanted to take a revanche. That’s our current situation. But it’s much better than what we had before. We are teaching our Western colleagues to behave decently and respect our interests. This process is yielding results. Just look what was happening 18 months ago, compared to now, both in terms of actual contacts and of realpolitik.
Concerning China, we are drawing closer, though not as quickly as we’d want. But we do sometimes think this is a case of a gin from a bottle granting three wishes. In reality, it takes hard and prolonged effort–only then will there be results. Indeed, we already have them. 5-6 years ago, 56% of Russia’s foreign trade was with Europe, now it’s only 46%. Which means Asia’s share has grown by 10%. That’s a healthier balance of foreign economic relations. And what’s surprising in that the Chinese don’t want to invest in Russia? If we don’t want to address our economic development ourselves, why should others save us? Only those people believed that China will shower us with money who also thought the West would help us. The Chinese, naturally, have a far more positive and respectful attitude toward Russia, but they want to see concrete projects and a developed economy, which so far we don’t have.
Russia traditionally advocates respecting international law. We, by pointing out the West’s violations, including the bombing of Yugoslavia, retained the moral high ground. Is that approach still appropriate after Crimea’s reunification? The West officially calls it annexation.
One can interpret the Crimean unification in many ways. But here’s what’s important. USSR maintained a policy of legitimism during its final decades. Russia had done likewise for the last 20 years, advocating non-intervention in internal politics and so forth. But then we decided: “Since you are not playing by the rules, we’ll show you the consequences. We will also violate these rules, but we’ll do it more intelligently and firmly.” I think that’s an appropriate reaction to what the West had been doing for the last 20 years, when it had a free hand. For example, the bombardment of Yugoslavia, which had a democratically elected government–that was a crime deserving a Nuremberg. Can we return to a higher level of respect for international law? Yes, it’s possible. It would be good if Russia were to call on everyone to do so. Will it happen? I don’t know.
Can Russia accept the role of a “security provider”, as your text proposes, considering that many countries fear us?
Everyone is afraid of everyone else. We are so brave, but there are plenty of people here who fear China or NATO. NATO, incidentally, will continue to do God knows what, like it did in Libya or Yugoslavia, unless it has a gun held to its knee. Therefore we can become security providers, particularly in Central Asia, by supporting existing regimes and striking at radicals. And, of course, no matter how harsh it may sound, now that we have stopped NATO expansion with a blow of our fist, we did in fact operate as a security provider, since otherwise we’d have a big war in Europe. Ukraine’s entry into NATO would have provoked such a conflict, guaranteed.
There hasn’t been a big war due to the deterring power of nuclear weapons. Will that antidote continue being effective?
I am very worried that antidote is wearing out. I am even more worried that nuclear weapons may be used somewhere, and then people will realize it’s not the end of the world. The whole military-political culture that came into being after WW2 is based on non-use of nuclear weapons due to guaranteed escalation. But if today someone uses them and there’s no escalation, it will deal a massive blow to the whole system of international security. Therefore one should do everything possible to avert nuclear weapons use, which means minimizing the use of other weapons which might trigger the escalation.
Moreover, in spite of all the shouts and protests, nuclear weapons continue to spread. In addition to the five official nuclear club members, they are possessed by India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel. Iran’s program was stopped, but I don’t know if forever.
In your theses, you speak about EU’s ineffectiveness. What is wrong with it, what explains its many failures?
The current European political system was formed in conditions of absence of any major threats or shocks. They lost the ability to use their brains and make strategic decisions. Behind the scenes, Europeans themselves acknowledge it. Europe is a victim of own success–its level of democracy prevents it from reacting appropriately to today’s threats.
Europe turned out to be in greenhouse conditions, since its security was provided by the US. But what awaits the US? Do you believe in Trump’s victory?
Once upon a time I was a professional Americanist and excelled at it by never trying to predict the outcome of a presidential election. That saved me a lot of time. No matter who is elected, America’s future course is obvious. Trump, of course, can bring some merry uncertainty, but Hillary also is capable of it. US elite is split as never before.
One can be of different minds toward the US, and even admire its economy or culture. But right now America is becoming more dangerous. Therefore our strategic conclusion is this: in the long term, one should pursue friendship with the US, but in the meantime the US has to be contained as firmly as possible, because right now the Americans are still adapting to the conditions of the changing world, and nobody knows what to expect of them.