- Alexey Konstantinovich, this year your PostScript program will be 15 years old. This is a long time, especially for a political program. How has your life changed after coming to the State Duma? Do not you miss the corridors of the native television?
- Yes, I have to go there less often. But on television, the main thing is not the corridors, but the broadcast and the quality of the television product. Therefore, the main thing for me is that “Postscript” continues to go out and maintains its audience. Moreover: in the last six months there has been a steady increase in the rating. We made a turn towards internal political and social topics, highlighting issues of social injustice, fighting corruption, and poor performance of a number of government agencies. Very popular heading "By pages stories". We build it around the fate of famous political figures. We show the recent history through Yeltsin, Berezovsky, and the more distant - through “fiery revolutionaries”, such as Trotsky, Blumkin, Kotovsky, who were not heroes at all, but adventurers and notorious bastards.
The political weight of the program is very important. Only in Moscow about a million people constantly watch it, and in the country - several million, and this is not comparable with anything. MPs individually cover such a number of voters is unthinkable.
In addition, what I am doing now in the State Duma is much closer to my profession. I am not a journalist by training, but a diplomat and a historian. I defended my thesis on the history of US foreign policy. And the first 14 work years worked by profession - at the UN, then in Czechoslovakia, in the International Department of the CPSU Central Committee. The media went away due to circumstances beyond my control - the destruction of the Soviet state system in 1991. Frankly speaking, I could not imagine myself in the Yeltsin's state bodies. Although the then Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev twice invited me to the Foreign Ministry to lead the work. Later, Yevgeny Primakov suggested that I head the Foreign Policy Planning Department at the Foreign Ministry. So, everything, in general, is logical: I went back to where I started, what I know well and what I did for a long time.
- Just about the State Duma. To her, to put it mildly, a lot of complaints. Their sometimes hysterical reaction to appearances in the press does not add respect for the deputies (although our colleagues are also not always elegant and ethical) ...
- Yes, frankly, not always ...
- ... their income statements. But 450 deputies. People are different ... I myself know worthy, honest, who are usually in the shadows ... How do you feel in this situation, especially since you are not a poor man too?
- Absolutely calm. I have two main sources of income. This is work in the State Duma and work in television - under a contract with the TV Center channel. I don’t have any securities, stocks, foreign real estate, so I don’t have to worry.
- What about the atmosphere in parliament?
- There is a lot of politics and hypocrisy in the general atmosphere, especially around the Duma itself. In those days, when the State Duma consisted of such people as Gaidar, Nemtsov, Ryzhkov, Khakamada, I don’t remember to look so closely at their fortunes, who earned much or not, and who owns what and what. I do not remember that the media, especially of the liberal direction, peered into the incomes of the leaders of right-liberal forces, for example, Anatoly Chubais and the people associated with it.
In the 90s, when the Yeltsin Family and right-wing liberal figures implicated in gigantic frauds, from wild privatization to mortgage auctions, ruled the liberal press for some reason did not examine their incomes. Therefore, now, when the same newspapers and radio stations, exaggerating, denounce and resent, the question arises: why did not you guys see corruption then? Perhaps because your people were in power and you opened the doors to their offices with your feet and engaged in their ideological service, for which you received your share of the corruption pie?
We already had such “idealists” - Boris Yeltsin and his liberal reformers. They allegedly began with the struggle against "party privileges", and created such a monstrous system of new privileges and total corruption through the plundering of state property, which the party officials of the Soviet era did not dream of.
At the same time, I am in favor of the people leaving the Duma, for whom the main thing is money. And not because these people are certainly bad. You just need to make a personal choice, which is more important to you - money or work in parliament. If money - it is better to leave, because such a deputy is vulnerable. After all, deputies are always in sight - more than officials or government officials. The State Duma is the most transparent part of the power system.
I also think that it is time for us to move to professional parliamentarism. Not in the sense that parliamentarians must initially be professionals in the field of lawmaking - this is impossible. And in the sense that they should perceive parliamentary activity as the main purpose of their efforts.
- Professionalism is not enough everywhere. In the government, shoemakers sometimes bake pies too. But they say that before the Duma was not a place for discussion, but now it is simply obedient to the Kremlin ...
- Yes, in the former Duma of life there was little. But recent elections have created a different situation. There is a real opposition - the Communists, "Fair Russia". In United Russia, the range of opinions has become much broader, now the deputies from the ER often criticize representatives of the executive branch, for example, the Minister of Education of Livanov or deputy prime ministers, which was not there before.
Another thing - and this is natural - that the party, which has the majority, is associated with the leadership of the country. The same connection exists, for example, in the FRG or in France, where deputies from the social party in parliament vote as the socialist president considers correct. Lovers of boundless democracy who criticize the “ER” faction are cunning. This is the only way in real politics.
- Tell us about your committee. What bills is preparing? What is the specific work?
- The International Affairs Committee - and this is its specificity - does not prepare bills. He is preparing the ratification of international agreements. And over the past year and a half, we have prepared 25 for such ratifications, including an adoption agreement with the United States, which the American authorities, alas, did not comply with, which was why it was decided to terminate it.
An important task of the committee is to ensure international relations of the State Duma. A special part of the work is participation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. This allows us to be part of Greater Europe: 47 countries are represented in PACE - much more than in the EU, which includes 27 states.
The committee holds hearings on important topics, participates in the preparation and justification of laws (as is the case with Dima Yakovlev's law), prepares State Duma statements reflecting our reaction to major international events or conflicts like Syria, as well as violations of the rights of our compatriots abroad. Hearings on human rights violations by the United States and in the European Union - the first in the history of the State Duma, have attracted much attention, including in Western countries and in the Western media.
- Tell me about the situation of the Russian-speaking population in Latvia, where Russians with bitter irony call themselves aliens. Is something changing?
- While not changing. Some deputies, especially from among the communists and fair traders, suggest switching to sanctions against Latvia. But it is a two-edged weapon. It is possible to cause damage to the state to which they are addressed, but at the same time a blow will be dealt to their own business, to trade, to those enterprises that are oriented towards interaction with Estonia or Latvia. We must ask ourselves: what will the sanctions lead to, what will they change, will the authorities of these countries force them to reconsider the policy regarding “non-citizens”? I doubt it.
Of course, there is always the temptation to solve questions radically. For example, at one time in one fell swoop to remove the problem of Cuba offered to John F. Kennedy. He refused, because he understood that this would drag America into a war she did not need. The United States has resorted to the strategy of isolating Cuba, severe sanctions are still in effect - in the United States you will not buy Cuban cigars. But, despite the sanctions, for more than 50 years, Cuba exists alongside the USA as an independent state.
So, apparently, you need to think not about sanctions, but about how to more effectively influence these states, so that they realize the disadvantage of such a policy for themselves. But both in Riga and Tallinn, nationalistic, and in many ways irrational motives prevail.
- Recently, the United States again served in the form of our strategic rival, and even almost the enemy. But there were challenges that no one country - neither the United States, nor China, nor United Europe - can adequately answer alone. Do you agree?
- Of course. But it would be good if they seriously agreed with this in the USA. One cannot sincerely offer cooperation to someone who first decides that he can do everything himself, and then he says: well, we cooperate, but on our terms.
Under Bush Jr., the United States believed that they would cope with everything — they would be crushed with Iraq, North Korea, and the Taliban. And they do not need Russia. Under Obama, the tonality has changed - Russia seems to be needed, they want to interact with us, but again, only on their own terms. Yes, the USA is still the number one power. And in terms of GDP, and technological power, and military strength. But in their politics, what the US Senator Alan Cranston called “the arrogance of power” back in the 1970-s is manifested again and again.
Cranston wrote a book under this title when the United States lost the Vietnam War. He was convinced that it was the “arrogance of power” that was the cause ... To this day, the American political class is struck, as a virus, by this “arrogance of power”. There are exceptions, but they are few. Among them, it seems, President Obama. But in the American system of coordinates, he is like a stranger, for the most part the American political class thinks differently.
At the end of last year, Obama was subjected to concentrated pressure from the top officials of the CIA, the State Department, the Ministry of Defense and the Chiefs of Staff Committee in order to induce him to begin direct supplies of weapons to Syrian "rebels". Obama, however, found the strength to say no. But in general, the American political class remains a conductor of an established approach; it is still inherent in the "arrogance of power." From here - four wars for the last 15 years: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. Now they want to overthrow Assad in Syria. Common logic changes little.
And while this is so, it is difficult for us to be friends with the Americans - because instead of an open hand, we are offered either a fist or a palm turned with the back side.
- And sometimes the index finger in the right direction ...
- It happens. In the US, many are used to this. Hillary Clinton was especially notable for this: tough, instructive, prone to diktat. Replaced her, John Kerry, as well as the new Minister of Defense Chuck Hagel seem to be aware: this is the wrong way. It seems they understand that the Iranian problem cannot be solved alone. And the problem of North Korea, too. Mysterious Kim Jong-un has already frightened half the world, turned into a political superstar, albeit with a minus sign. And what about the Americans? They pretend that they do not take it seriously, but they cannot do anything. Kim Jong-un showed that the United States, with all its might, cannot, without war, make the impoverished North Korea abandon its nuclear program. I think Americans should draw conclusions from this, and not just pretend that we don’t bind to patients. The world has become more complex, many have access to nuclear technology, and American dominance is not overwhelming.
- Let's dream. How do you see Russia in the developing world in 20 years?
- In the general context, with one big “if” - if Russia does not abandon the course of asserting itself as an independent center of power and international influence, I see our country as one of the most important poles of the world around which several states of the Eurasian Union will be grouped. I see a country that will be at the center of integration processes in Europe and Asia. From the point of view of the standard of living of people, Russia may not reach the level of Germany or Luxembourg, but it can at the level of decent Central European countries.
I hope that a more balanced model of socio-economic development will be established, since the model, when the billionaire in the 163 country and their number — a crisis, not a crisis — grows every year by 20 percent, exhausts itself. You can't be on 2 – 3-m place in the world by the number of billionaires and on 70-m - by the general standard of living. This imbalance must be corrected, creating a fairer, more social state.
Now there is a fight for Russia, for its orientation, for its either independent or subordinate course. The subordinate course is lobbied by the United States and the European Union. This, of course, is not about war, not about occupation. This is about something else - the establishment of a certain system of Russia's dependence on external centers of power, which they have already tried to implement in the 90s, and quite successfully. Methods use different.
Here, for example, lobbying for unimpeded work in Russia of NGOs financed from abroad. Such activities on their territory would never have been allowed by the United States (and China, of course, does not allow it), but the United States and the European Union consider it to be normal in Russia. Although it is clear: a significant part of NPOs are engaged in political activities, influencing the development of attitudes, psychology, mentality, trying, together with pro-Western media, to form independent-minded elites in Russia.
However, Russia can be preserved as a state only under the conditions of a strong, not a weak center, and only functioning as an independent center of gravity. If Moscow is not a magnet for other countries, it will eventually cease to be a magnet for its own remote territories.
It is necessary to avoid such a scenario. It seems to me that many of those who declare themselves intellectuals and liberals do not understand his risks. But one can remember how Yugoslavia fell apart: millions of refugees, hundreds of thousands of victims, ethnic cleansing ... And this is in a small multinational country. We have a gigantic country. The consequences can be much worse.
- As I understand it, you are skeptical about the possibility of creating or recreating the new USSR in the new, of course, conditions?
- I think there are no conditions for this. Former Soviet republics are still being formed as national states. And they will not delegate greater authority beyond their capitals. None of the ruling elites, including the Belarusian one, will want to sacrifice a new independent status, a special position. And this attitude is likely to find support among the population.
Here are some hotheads saying that in a few years there will be a single currency within the Eurasian Union! But let's create such a union first. It took 40 years to introduce the EU single currency! Only when our neighbors are established as nation-states, when they do not argue there that Russia is only dreaming to infringe upon someone’s sovereignty, will it be possible to think about a different union quality.
The United States, by the way, is not even afraid that a new Soviet Union will arise, they are afraid that Russia will increase. It is a big, if not the main prize in the geopolitical game of the XXI century. The Americans want to get Russia as an ally before they enter into a serious geopolitical clinch with China. Where Russia will be in a fight between the Anglo-Saxons and the Chinese is a key issue. This both Americans and Chinese understand well. That is why any ideology whose goal is to strengthen Russia as an independent center of influence is perceived negatively in the United States.
- Just a question about China. You were born in Beijing, in the family of a diplomat and translator from Chinese. Do you speak Chinese? Will the Chinese die of our Far East?
- I lived in China for up to three years, I had a Chinese nanny, she taught me Chinese. But two or three phrases and my Chinese children's nickname remained in my memory. After all, in three years I was brought to Moscow, and three years later my father was sent to work in France. There, my French language completely supplanted Chinese.
As for the fate of our Far East, then, in my opinion, it depends not on China, but on ourselves. The main problem of the Far East is the effectiveness of economic development. In the USSR, this region was intensively developed. People who went there to work were quickly given housing, in the summer they were provided with vouchers for holidays in Sochi or the Crimea. There were special salary increments, air tickets were not so expensive, etc. Therefore, people traveled to the Far East and worked there. Over the past 20, the region’s population has declined by about five million people. In Soviet times, Vladivostok was a million city, now there are 620 thousands of people. Depopulation is the result of the lack of a targeted, effective policy to preserve the population and develop the regional economy.
Now we finally started to do something - they began to subsidize air tickets, and then the flight to the mainland was more expensive than the flight to the USA! Began to build large objects. This is a big resource base! We need to create a strong economic outpost there. As far as I know, Beijing has no conscious policy of settling the area with Chinese. Anyway - bye. Relocation of people, mixed marriages - yes, but it happens everywhere. In the US with Mexico, for example.
Further, I repeat, depends on ourselves. The Chinese will play there according to our rules, if we are strong.
- For almost four years you have been in the group of Mikhail Gorbachev's speechwriters. What lessons from his reign would be worth considering?
- You can not start the reform process, without having control over them and a clear goal. In foreign policy, one should proceed from the assumption that your counterparties pursue their own interests first and foremost. Any promises, declarations are worth nothing. Gorbachev believed the promises of Western countries not to expand NATO, not to include the former Eastern bloc countries in the alliance. What came of it? Moscow does not believe in tears, should not believe in promises. But Gorbachev believed or pretended to believe.
Inside the country, he began reforms, poorly understanding what they would lead to. It seems that he lived in the world of his ideas and illusions. The tumultuous stream of change, which he started, and carried him away. As a result, he gave power. And to whom? Yeltsin.
- Our leaders, our president take this into account?
- I think, yes, if only because the conclusions, as they say, are striking. Another is embarrassing - part of our elite is still in irresponsible liberal positions. They consist in the fact that supposedly enough to “quarrel with the West” and complicate relations with the United States. But we must agree with them on everything and not pay attention to anything — neither Libya, nor Syria, nor the “Magnitsky law”, nor the plans to create a European missile defense system. This is an irresponsible approach. The elite who propose not to pay attention to actions directed against the interests of their country, unable to protect them, become comprador. She is looking for ways to subjugate the country to another center of power. Assuming, apparently, that later she will be given the opportunity to steer a little bit as a country as compensation.
Unfortunately, in a number of areas we have not yet emerged from the Yeltsin era. But it is encouraging that in recent years there has been a tendency towards the creation of a normal state, which sees the interests of its own country and its inhabitants as national priorities, and not the interests of other states.