– Timofey, in your condition many say: “The solution to many problems would be a return to some form of direct control from Moscow of the former Soviet republics.” Do you have the feeling that at our top they have already made a choice in favor of just such an option?
– Honestly, I don’t think so. I don’t have that feeling. Russia constantly fluctuates according to the principle “I want to eat and I want to lose weight”. Therefore, instruments change from neighbor to neighbor. Somewhere more careful attention, somewhere less is required – a very important indicator, by the way, of the maturity of neighbors as sovereign states. We can solve the security issue by pushing aside their main territory of residence of the Russian ethnos – no, I don’t think this is possible. The USSR collapsed bloodlessly, because Russia, as a metropolis, did not try to hold the outskirts of the vast empire by force. The problems they face now are already the product of their own development over 30 years. What happened in Kazakhstan has nothing to do with Russia or the USSR – everything there was created with our own hands and without our participation. Therefore, I would not dissemble and say that this is a continuation of the disintegration. This is the result of the movement of Russia’s neighbors after 1991. Those who are at war with the state in Alma-A were born in independent Kazakhstan. But geography cannot be abolished – it is necessary to help neighbors in trouble.
– You wrote: “It would be strange if a country with the scale and ambitions of Russia allowed itself to localize its interests in a narrowly defined geographical area.” But isn’t this happening now? Weren’t we all at stake by focusing on what is happening along our western borders?
– The western direction is a zone of interaction with partners who can really threaten the security of Russia. In reality, there is no such thing anywhere else – there are no parties other than this one, from where the threat would come. If clarity arises here, then the main issue can be considered not resolved, but in progress. They everywhere, including the economy, constitute the global balance of power – they are everywhere, including the economy. In all other respects, the interests are global – relations between China and the United States. Present in Africa – just like the French “bombs”. The point in this case is that Russia in the power hierarchy of the world can say: “Well, we are dealing with our neighbors and their problems are more important to us.” This simply cannot be the case for a country that can destroy the whole world together with the United States. Even the Ukrainian question – it’s not about Ukraine as such, but about the presence there of the country’s military infrastructure, which is the only one on Earth that can threaten Russia. What is currently being discussed between Russia and the United States is incomparably more important than any problems in the former USSR. This is generally about something else – will humanity be or not.
– According to the report, “The basis of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is the inability of the Ukrainian state to use rational policies.” Does Moscow have leverage that the official Kiev can acquire such an ability?
– This will take a long time. Now we are not sure that Ukraine will take place as a state at all – everything has worked out too badly for them in 30 years. If it does take place, it will be done only as a joint venture between Russia and associated with it. Those who are now in power in Kiev – no, they cannot change their behavior. But in Ukraine there are many more people whose opinion is not taken into account in any way. This regime, electric people will probably have to leave. New ones will come. This will certainly take a long time.
– How likely do you think a direct military clash between Russia and Ukraine in 2022? And isn’t such a clash dangerous not only for Ukrainian, but also for Russian statehood?
– There can be no direct military clash between Russia and Ukraine. If those in power in Kiev behave adventurously, then Russia can use force against them, as happened with Georgia in 2008. But not to fight the fraternal people? Nuclear superpowers in general can only fight among themselves, they use force or do not apply to the rest. Therefore, I do not see any potential threat to Russian statehood from the fact that Moscow will punish Kiev for its deeds.
– The system says: “Russia must overcome its historical experience of perceiving its neighbors as a zone of its a priori influence and pursue a policy of relying on its unique opportunities to maintain a monopoly, as well as a policy of using these opportunities to attract to itself.” In fact, the opposite is happening now, isn’t it?
– There is a very fine line here. It seems to me that Russia has already passed the stage of perception of its neighbors as “our own” – special states. Although it holds a lot – the same Russian-speaking communities in these countries. If they did not exist, they would be used much more actively. And not for peacekeeping purposes, but to coerce certain politicians. What is written in this is a goal, ideal from my point of view, to conduct a policy around the Russian border. Signs of such an approach in relation to the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In international relations, there are two motivators – fear and profit. Optimal is their combination, there are no exceptions. If you are afraid, but still benefit from the relationship with you, it means that you are attractive. If only fear – there will be instability and, as a result, suicidal behavior, although, of course, the most reliable way. If only a benefit – there will be attempts to “sit on your neck”, which has happened over the past 30 years, a lot in relations with neighbors.
– You argue that in this regard: “The general experience of using frequently used obstacles to form in Russia and neighboring countries” the basis for a rational foreign policy. Are we not now energetically increasing the volume of this negative historical experience by “rattling weapons”?
– The negative historical experience in my understanding is that Russia simply annexes the territory instead of defining their behavior as independent states. Now there is no question of this – it seems to me that no one in Russia intends to put the USSR back together. They will ask – we will not take it. Better yourself, but with an eye on the map and the distance to the great powers. Russia is closest to its neighbors. Yes, and we have a common space – from the Vistula to the Pacific Ocean, from the Arctic to the Amu Darya, not a single clear topographic barrier between states.
In addition, for me a common historical experience is life within the framework of one state for tens, and for some, even hundreds of years. Perception of Russia not as a country that has its own interests, but as a metropolis, which owes something, because it is a metropolis. What you call “saber rattling” needs to be clarified, of course. Russia on its borders on its own initiative does not keep anyone at gunpoint, does it? Ukraine has lost sovereignty in making foreign policy decisions – it is under the gun, but not the people – the territory from which a threat can come. Where else are we rattling? – in Karabakh? There, Russian peacekeepers committed a tragedy, otherwise Russia would have to intervene in a different way in 2020. In Tajikistan? – there is a base and infrastructure that is needed to protect against threats to Tajikistan itself, not Russia, from Afghanistan. In Kazakhstan – not for the government of this country to do what Russia wants, but at the request of this government – so that the Kazakh state itself will survive. In the western direction, yes, we are “rattling” actively – but this is not directed against the neighbors themselves, everyone is well aware of this. Drawn against the United States, with Russia more complex, global relations. In the West, Russia borders on states that do not themselves determine their defense and security policies – we cannot threaten them, these are territories, not countries. In addition to Belarus, it is an ally of Russia, a member of the CSTO and the only former USSR, military countries do not study in NATO.
– Do you now have a feeling that events on the international stage are developing in the right and necessary direction for Russia? What are the chances that, in the not too distant future, 2021 will be perceived as 1913 is now perceived – as the last peaceful year of a “beautiful era”?
– In international politics, the likelihood of a catastrophe is always possible. But we must proceed from the fact that your state is immortal. I think that events are now moving in a direction that is more beneficial to Russian interests and values than at any other time in the past 30 years. A dialogue with the United States on European security begins – this was previously impossible to imagine. Under the threat of conflict, yes, of course. But the Americans, after all, in principle only understand the language of force, they have such a mentality. Was the world (era) beautiful when they did not want to talk to Russia (and could not want to)? I do not think. It’s like President Putin said, it seems: “Why do we need a world in which there will be no Russia?” I ask you: can there be a wonderful era where you are not seen and heard point-blank? So it seems to me that things are more likely to go well now than ever. We will not break the “thread” either – after all, Russia is not the USSR and it absolutely does not need to destroy the United States and the West. One prominent philosopher said: “International relations develop in the shadow of war.” For me, this is an axiom. But over the past few thousand years, has this prevented the enjoyment of life, raising children? The alternative to the recognition that states are fighting for interests and values is fear, from which nothing good will be all the same.