Russia's strategic view of US.
Interview with Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council
Rossiyskaya Gazeta, October 15, 2014
Cold War II: Interview with Nikolay Patrushev
by Ivan Yegorov
“The sobering up of the Ukrainians will be harsh and painful”
In an interview for Rossiyskaya Gazeta the secretary of the Russian Security Council explained how Russian analysts were predicting the development of the situation in Ukraine a year ago. And he also gave an assessment of the role of the United States and NATO in the events in eastern Ukraine, explained why these events are a continuation of Zbigniew Brzezinski's plan for the disintegration of the USSR and Russia, and assessed prospects for the development of the multipolar world and the possibility of a future struggle for hydrocarbon resources.
[Yegorov] Nikolay Platonovich, the realities of recent months are a coup d'etat in Ukraine, military operations by the Ukrainian authorities against the inhabitants of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and a frenzied anti-Russian course by Kiev. Would it have been possible to predict this turn of events only a year ago?
[Patrushev] Our specialists were warning of the high probability of an escalation of the situation in Ukraine in the context of political and economic instability, particularly under external influence. At the same time it should be acknowledged that the probability of an imminent instant seizure of power in Kiev with the support of militant groups of open Nazis was not considered at that time. Let me remind you that prior to the coup you mentioned, Moscow was implementing in full all its partnership commitments to Kiev.
We were constantly providing material and financial aid, without which Ukraine was in no condition to cope with economic difficulties that had become chronic in nature. To support our neighbours, material and financial resources amounting to tens of billions of dollars were mobilized. Unfortunately for many people in Ukraine this aid became, in time, so customary that its importance for the country's survival was simply forgotten.
As for longer-term predictions, the Ukraine crisis was an entirely expected outcome of systematic activity by the United States and its closest allies.
For the past quarter of a century this activity has been directed towards completely separating Ukraine and the other republics of the former USSR from Russia and totally reformatting the post-Soviet space to suit American interests. The conditions and pretexts were created for colour revolutions, supported by generous state funding.
Thus, Victoria Nuland, US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, has repeatedly stated that during the period 1991 through 2013 Washington spent 5bn dollars on "supporting the desire of the people of Ukraine for stronger, more democratic government". According to figures from open sources alone, for instance US Congress documents, the total amount of state funding for various American programmes of "aid" to Ukraine in the period 2001 through 2012 came to at least 2.4bn dollars. That is comparable with the annual budget of some small countries. The US Agency for International Development spent about 1.5bn dollars, the State Department nearly half a billion, and the Pentagon more than 370m dollars.
According to congressional records, organizations such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Peace Corps, and the Open World Centre took part in Ukrainian aid programmes, in addition to the well-known USAID and other departments. It is not hard to guess for whom and why American volunteers and staffers of diplomatic missions have been "opening the world" throughout the 23 years since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
[Yegorov] Maybe this money went to a good cause and helped to build a real "democratic" society in Ukraine, as the Americans understand it?
[Patrushev] I do not know what kind of a good cause that could be, if as a result of this activity in Ukraine an entire generation was raised that is completely poisoned with hatred of Russia and with the mythology of "European values". It has not yet realized that these values, even in the positive sense of the term, are not actually designed for Ukrainians. Nobody intends to set about boosting living standards in Ukraine or establishing these young people in Europe, which is itself having great difficulty coping with extremely serious challenges and threats.
I think the "sobering up" of the Ukrainians will be harsh and painful. It remains to be hoped that this will happen relatively quickly, and a whole string of objective factors could promote that. I would like to note another factor that is of fundamental significance. Irrespective of the subsequent development of events, the significance of the one for the other - Russia and Ukraine - will persist. Ukraine will simply not be able to develop successfully without Russia, whether anyone likes it or not.
Such is the objective interdependence of economic, logistical, and other links that has developed over the centuries. But whereas for Russia the total severance of these links would be a painful blow, for Ukraine it would be disastrous. It is no accident that current President Petro Poroshenko was obliged, in the wake of his ousted predecessor, to raise the question of postponing the implementation of economic section of the already signed association agreement between Ukraine and the EU. It is to be expected that the victory euphoria of other Kiev rulers will also give way to a more sober assessment of the real state of affairs.
[Yegorov] Some experts think the Ukraine crisis was only a pretext for a new deterioration in the West's relations with Russia. Is that so?
[Patrushev] It is true that if the catastrophe in Ukraine had not happened some other grounds would have been found to step up the policy of "containment" of our country. This course has been pursued unswervingly for many decades; only the forms and tactics of its implementation change.
As you know, after World War II the confrontation between the USSR and the West headed by the United States took the form of a "cold war". The military-political component of this standoff was entrusted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), formed on the initiative of the United States on 4 April 1949. An analysis of NATO's practical activity indicates that in creating the alliance the United States was pursuing two main objectives.
First, a military bloc directed against the USSR was formed under American leadership.
Second, Washington forestalled the emergence in Western Europe of an autonomous grouping of states that could have competed with the United States. It should be recalled that the territory of the United States itself, which essentially established unilateral military control over the allies, is not included in NATO's zone of responsibility.
After the breakup of the USSR and the termination of the Warsaw Pact, which united Europe's socialist countries and which by definition represented the main danger to NATO, not only was the bloc not disbanded, it began to expand even more in quantitative and military terms.
[Yegorov] But surely NATO was not the only factor that influenced the breakup of the Soviet Union?
[Patrushev] In the cold war period a whole string of ideological doctrines emerged in the West that served as justification for an anti-Soviet political course. One of the authors of this kind of research was Zbigniew Brzezinski, an American political scientist and statesman of Polish extraction. He established the so-called strategy of "vulnerabilities" in relation to the USSR, and under President Reagan this became the basis of American policy towards our country. The implementation of the strategy was guided by the National Security Council headed by the president of the United States. The identification and definition of "vulnerabilities" and the task of organizing ways of converting them into substantial problems for the USSR were entrusted to the US Central Intelligence Agency.
It is noteworthy that the then CIA Director William Casey decided to enlist prominent scholars in this work, first and foremost economists but also experts from the business world who had real experience of business wars with competitors. As a result of large-scale analytical work, the USSR's "vulnerabilities" in the political, economic, ideological, and other spheres were defined and systematically studied.
Our country's main "vulnerability," as defined by the CIA, was its economy. After detailed modelling, the American experts identified its "weakest link", namely the USSR budget's extremely high dependence on the export of energy resources. A strategy of provoking the financial and economic bankruptcy of the Soviet state was formulated, envisaging two interconnected objectives: the bringing about of a sharp reduction in revenue to the USSR's budget from foreign trade, combined with a substantial increase in expenditure on resolving problems created from outside.
A reduction in world oil prices was envisaged as the main measure for reducing the income side of the budget. This was successfully achieved by the mid-1980s when, as a result of US collusion with the rulers of a number of oil extracting countries, an artificial surplus of crude was created on the market and oil prices fell almost by a factor of four.
A growth in the Soviet Union's expenditure was provoked in several areas: the transition from the strategy of American opposition to the USSR in Afghanistan to the strategy of dragging it deeply into the Afghan war; the incitement of antigovernment demonstrations in Poland and other states in the socialist camp with a view to provoking Moscow into additional expenditures on stabilizing the situation in Eastern Europe; the whipping up of the arms race, among other things by introducing the SDI [Strategic Defence Initiative] bluff, and so forth.
It should be said that at that time the Americans succeeded in achieving their objectives. The outcome of their activity was a substantial excess in the USSR's expenditure over income, which ultimately provoked a profound economic crisis that extended into the political and ideological spheres. Shortsighted attempts by the Soviet leadership to alleviate the situation through foreign financial aid gave Washington additional levers of influence over Moscow. The "recovery" measures proposed by the West and implemented through the IMF and the World Bank to liberalize foreign trade without a smooth transition from the previous monopoly system led to the final collapse of the economy.
In the assessment of American experts, it was the strategy of "vulnerabilities", which demonstrated the colossal effectiveness of economic variety of cold war compared with "hot" war, that was decisive in promoting the elimination of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact.
[Yegorov] After the breakup of the USSR, could Russia still somehow have opposed the new redivision of the world, or was the surrender of its positions and its former allies, such as Yugoslavia, already predetermined?
[Patrushev] By the end of the 20th century a kind of sociopolitical "fault line" had formed in this region, standing out most clearly in the disintegration of the multiethnic and multifaith Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The leaders of the United States and the leading NATO countries exploited a military-political situation that was developing favourably for them in order to realize their long-term aims in Southeast Europe.
In the 1990s the Russian Federation, for well-known reasons of an internal and external nature, lost the dominant influence in the Balkans that the Soviet Union had enjoyed and embarked on the path of conciliation with the West. It was in the Balkans that the unilateral and totally uncompensated surrender by Russia of its positions in the international arena was manifested most distinctly. In 1991-1996 the bodies that shaped our country's foreign policy did not officially even have any such concept as "national interest". They nurtured groundless expectations of gratitude for obedience from the Western partners and some kind of special benefit for our country from close and unconditional cooperation with the United States. In practice our American partners almost immediately stopped taking us seriously and only gave us a condescending "slap on the shoulder", so to speak, from time to time.
The NATO bloc, under cover of peacekeeping and without encountering serious objections from our side, operated increasingly confidently outside its own zone of responsibility, sought the rights to lease strategic infrastructure facilities for lengthy periods, and effectively brought the organs of military command and control of a number of Balkan countries under its own control by various means. The Alliance's subunits became firmly established in the region. Other states taking part in peacekeeping missions, including Russia, set themselves no such objectives, having reconciled themselves to the role of junior partners and preferring not to see the self-evident fact: The war in the Balkans could perfectly well be regarded as a rehearsal and a prologue to larger-scale steps to redivide the world.
[Yegorov] Is it likely that it was these steps that led to the clash of interests between Western countries and Russia in the entire post-Soviet space?
[Patrushev] The United States has been behaving particularly assertively and shamelessly over the past 20 years in and around this space. Encouraged by the weakening and subsequent elimination of the USSR, American ruling circles did everything possible to ensure dominance over the major sources of raw materials resources in our country and in Central Asia, as well as the transit routes for their export. Washington planned to extend its sphere of direct influence to the regions of the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and the Caspian.
All these territories were named a US zone of strategic national interests. The only remaining obstacle to the realization of the Americans' plans to take complete control of the corresponding deposits and transport corridors was Russia, which preserved its military potential to inflict unacceptable damage on the United States.
American strategists saw the solution to this difficulty in the final collapse of the system of state power and the subsequent dismemberment of our country. The first region that was supposed to leave Russia was the North Caucasus.
Particular importance was attached to Chechnya, which declared its independence and was temporarily under the effective control of the West. Extremists and their supporters in Russia were offered support by the special services of Britain, the United States, and allies in Europe and the Islamic world.
In these conditions the Russian leadership adopted a firm, principled stance of defending the unity of the state. Ultimately, as a result of the firm political will displayed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and at the cost of enormous efforts, it proved possible to stop attempts to detach Chechnya from Russia and then to consolidate the Republic's place within the Federation.
After 11 September 2001 the world community recognized the terrorist threat as the main threat and a global threat, reaching the understanding that countering this threat requires common efforts. As a result there was, in particular, a slight weakening of the West's attacks on Russia because of its campaign against international terrorists in the Caucasus, while we did not object to the operation by the Americans and their allies in Afghanistan. The announcement of the formation of a broad antiterrorist coalition followed.
At that time Washington displayed a certain readiness to collaborate, although in actual fact it did not intend to abandon the policy of "containment" with regard to Russia. More and more new NATO facilities moved up to our borders. International law was supplanted by the law of force (let us recall the aforementioned dismemberment of Yugoslavia, followed by Serbia, the occupation of Iraq, and the invasion of Afghanistan by the so-called coalition forces).
After 7-8 August 2008, when the Georgian leadership, with US support, attempted to annihilate South Ossetia, the world once again changed substantially. For the first time in many decades Washington provided direct support to a foreign state that had perpetrated an attack on Russian citizens and peacekeepers.
Everything was staked on surprise. The Georgian dictator believed that a military incursion on the opening day of the international Olympic Games would put Russia in a difficult position, and the Georgians, taking advantage of this, would carry out their "blitzkrieg". However, the Russian leadership reacted promptly to the sharp deterioration in the situation and the necessary measures were adopted to halt the aggression.
[Yegorov] It was at that time that people started talking about the shaping of a new geopolitical reality - the multipolarity of the modern world. How did the United States react to this?
[Patrushev] After the August events in the Caucasus, Washington was clearly alarmed by Russia's obvious intention to take its place among the world powers of the 21st century and uphold the principle of equal opportunities and full autonomy in global politics. And also to convert the state's financial income from the exploitation of natural resources into real economic and defence potential and human capital.
The American leadership clearly also disliked the prospects of Russia's collaboration with China and India, the introduction of the practice of summits in the BRICS format, the successful activity of other organizations in which Russia occupies leading positions (the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization], the SCO [Shanghai Cooperation Organization], and the EAEC [Eurasian Economic Community]), and the formation of the Customs Union.
In the context of the growing world financial and economic crisis, major new players in the international arena such as the PRC, India, Brazil, and Iran as well as the growing economies of Southeast Asia and South Korea became increasingly significant factors for the United States. Hence, incidentally, the emergence of new conceptual principles such as the American-Chinese special partnership, the strategic collaboration between the United States and India, the establishment of direct dialogue between Washington and Iran, and so forth.
Indications of the need to resume the beneficial dialogue with Russia on a whole range of issues began to emerge from the new administration of President Barack Obama. This positive inclination on the part of the American authorities could only be welcomed.
However, it soon became clear that Washington is not inclined towards real cooperation. It confined itself to mere statements of friendliness and the devising of certain negotiation tracks from which the benefit to Russia, in the end, proved almost zero. After a while even totally nonbinding positive dialogues of this kind came to an end and the US attitude towards our country began once again to be reminiscent of cold war times.
[Yegorov] And the logical culmination of this policy was the Ukraine crisis?
[Patrushev] The coup d'etat in Kiev, accomplished with clear US support, followed the classical pattern tried and tested in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. But never before has such a scheme affected Russian interests so profoundly.
Analysis shows that by provoking Russia into retaliatory steps the Americans are pursuing the very same objectives as in the 1980s with regard to the USSR. Just like back then, they are trying to identify our country's "vulnerabilities". At the same time, incidentally, they are pursuing the objective of neutralizing European economic competitors who have, in Washington's opinion, grown excessively close to Moscow.
I would like to remind you that Washington has always sought to have levers of pressure on Russia. Thus, in 1974 the famous Jackson-Vanik Amendment was adopted, restricting trade relations with our country. It appeared to have completely lost its relevance immediately after the breakup of the USSR, but it was still in force right up to 2012, when the so-called "Magnitsky List" was promptly adopted in its place.
The current sanctions are in the same category. The US Administration's activity in the Ukrainian sphere is taking place within the framework of an updated White House foreign policy course aimed at holding on to American leadership in the world by means of the strategic containment of the growing influence of the Russian Federation and other centres of power. In this context Washington is actively making use, on its own terms, of NATO's potential, seeking to use political and economic pressure to prevent any vacillations on the part of its allies and partners.
[Yegorov] Why is the American elite clinging so stubbornly to the right to control other people's natural resources at a time when the Western expert community is declaring the importance of the development of alternative energy sources that are supposedly capable of taking the place of oil and gas in the near future?
[Patrushev] In actual fact, specialists are certain that no real substitute for hydrocarbons as the basis of power generation will emerge in the next few decades. Furthermore the understanding prevails in the West that the total capacity of nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, and other power stations will meet no more than one-fifth of world demand.
Nor should another important aspect be forgotten. In the modern world we can observe a steady growth in the shortage of food and drinking water for the growing population of the planet. The absence of the most elementary means of existence pushes desperate people into manifestations of extremism and involvement in terrorism, piracy, and crime. This is one reason for the acute conflicts between countries and regions and also for mass migration.
The shortage of water and irrigated land is not infrequently the cause of friction, for instance, between the Central Asian republics. The problem of water resources is acute in a number of other countries in Asia and particularly in Africa.
Many American experts, in particular former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, assert that there are vast territories "under Moscow's power" that it is incapable of exploiting and which therefore "do not serve the interests of all humanity". Assertions continue to be heard about the "unfair" distribution of natural resources and the need to ensure so-called "free access" to them for other states.
The Americans are convinced that people must be thinking in similar terms in many other states, particularly those neighbouring on Russia, and that in the future they will, as is nowadays the custom, form "coalitions" to support the corresponding claims on our country. As in the case of Ukraine, it is proposed to resolve problems at Russia's expense but without taking its interests into account.
Even during periods of a relative thaw in relations between Russia (the USSR) and the United States, our American partners have always remained true to such notions.
Therefore irrespective of the nuances in the behaviour of the Americans and their allies the Russian leadership still faces this task as a constant: To guarantee the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Motherland, to defend and multiply its riches, and to manage them correctly in the interests of the multiethnic people of the Russian Federation.