The crisis in Ukraine, NATO leaders decided to use to build up their military presence on the Russian borders. It seems that in Washington and Brussels have long waited for a reason to move the army infrastructure to the East. And such an excuse they planted new Kiev authorities. Our military assesses the position of the NATO members whether they will continue to search for points of contact with Western generals or will expand the vector of cooperation in the other direction. These and other questions in an exclusive interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta were answered by Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov.
Anatoly Ivanovich, a conference on international security issues is to be held in Moscow at the end of May. Do you have any concerns that because of the events in Ukraine and the sanctions that the West is imposing against Russia, it will have to be canceled?
Anatoly Antonov: This question has recently been heard from representatives of academic circles and from colleagues from Europe and the USA. I answer: we will hold this conference under any circumstances. Let me remind you that the Ministry of Defense of Russia annually invites the leadership of foreign military departments and international organizations, as well as non-governmental experts to openly discuss international security issues. Now, when many platforms for such discussions, as they say, have sunk, this is especially necessary. As for the sanctions, they, of course, can interfere. But, rather, not to us, but to representatives of European countries and the USA. They will simply miss the chance to better understand the position of Russia and the leadership of the Ministry of Defense on the most important issues of regional and global security.
And these questions will not disappear from the agenda?
Anatoly Antonov: Pay attention to how we organize our conference. Every year we single out one or another aspect of international security, which, in our opinion, is currently the main one. For example, two years ago there was a lot of talk about missile defense issues. We discussed at the conference how they influence the situation in the world in general and in NATO countries in particular. Last year, the debate was about European security, as well as a possible future control mechanism for conventional armed forces in Europe. We set out our position, formulated specific proposals on how to improve the existing mechanisms. They are being studied in the West.
I think that this year it will be useful to talk about recent events in the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan. This, in particular, is important in terms of analyzing the negative political and economic consequences of the so-called Arab Spring. Be sure to touch and projects "color revolutions" in the former Soviet Union, including in Ukraine.
Ukrainians in Moscow, you also called?
Anatoly Antonov: We invited everyone. But not everyone will come. Americans have already refused. Probably, someone else will refuse to talk. But it is their choice. We did not make any "forbidden" lists, we did not cancel a single invitation. To date, more than 40 countries and international organizations have confirmed the participation of their delegates in the conference, including nine at the level of ministers of defense. A serious representation from the states of Asia and the Middle East is expected. We see considerable interest in the event from Russian and foreign non-governmental experts. The conference will be covered by more than 200 journalists - this is also evidence of high attention to the upcoming discussion.
You mentioned the situation in Afghanistan as one of the main topics of conversation. Could this be more detailed?
Anatoly Antonov: The problem of Afghanistan today is one of the key in terms of the security challenges of Russia and its allies in the CSTO. International security assistance forces are being withdrawn from the country. We are told: nine American bases will remain there. And immediately there are questions. For what purpose do they remain, on what basis will the agreements be located in Afghanistan? Today, the UN Security Council did not give anyone such a mandate, but it must be. Nine "points" will be located near the Russian border, next to the CSTO allies. Will they be placed in Afghanistan temporarily or permanently? We are told - temporarily. But let us turn to the recent past. On the eve of the collapse of the USSR, the West also promised not to create military bases in Eastern Europe and in the Baltic countries. And today, these oaths no one remembers.
But the situation with Afghanistan is different. We did not object to sending international security assistance forces there. And even assisted them.
Anatoly Antonov: I will add - by that they took upon themselves a certain responsibility for what is happening in this country. It’s impossible not to think about the development of events in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the international coalition’s forces solely on the grounds that it’s not Russia who has brewed all this “mess”. Because all this will push our borders, affect our allies. At the recent meeting of the defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, our head Sergei Shoigu brought very alarming statistics - about 60 thousands of people recently left the Afghan army, taking with them weapon. It is clear that they did not run away to dig potatoes. These people joined the forces of the armed opposition, which is still unknown how to act. Whether they recognize the new president of the country, the legitimacy of the elections is a big question. Including therefore we do not share the assessments of western countries regarding the level of security that will be established in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of international forces from there.
And what is this assessment?
Anatoly AntonovA: In my opinion, the United States and its allies show a slightly embellished picture inside Afghanistan. We, in turn, expect the situation to worsen there. We foresee that the pressure of the bandits, drug trafficking and all the negative things connected with it, on the southern underbelly of Russia will only increase. Our CSTO and SCO partners adhere to the same point of view. That is why at the recent meeting of Sergei Shoigu with the Minister of Defense of Tajikistan, among other things, they discussed the issue of increasing the combat readiness, combat effectiveness and efficiency of the armed forces of this republic. And, of course, strengthening our military base in Tajikistan.
We do not conceal that within the framework of military technical assistance we equip the Tajik army with compatible weapons. The same thing happens in Kyrgyzstan. Today, one of the main tasks is to make the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Forces ready to repel any threats to the security of our states.
NATO announced the termination of military and civilian cooperation with Russia. Moscow recalled its representative from Brussels. What does the West lose from such a confrontation and how does it threaten our country?
Anatoly Antonov: The Russia-NATO Council was created for an "all-weather" conversation that could be conducted even if relations between our countries were strained. What we encountered during the crisis in Ukraine showed that this site is not valid. Now in Brussels only one question is being discussed: what to “do” with Russia and how to “punish” it. Ukrainian events have confirmed that NATO members need us only when we are pursuing a convenient policy. Unfortunately, we did not succeed in building an equal partnership and mutually beneficial cooperation with the alliance. After all that has been positive in recent years, relations with NATO from the first shock collapsed like a house of cards.
In Brussels, they used to carry out a policy of containing Russia, but they tried to do it under the guise of a good uncle. Now it seems that there just found a reason for the implementation of far-reaching plans. See what the Western press writes. Everything is fixated on one thing: Moscow threatens the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe. NATO must respond immediately. We see that as a result, the alliance continues to progressively increase its military presence at our borders. Before, we were told about some training bases for the training of soldiers and officers before sending them to "hot" and "warm" points. Now, no one is hiding - it will be the permanent military units of NATO. No matter how they are called - bases, contingents, formations - the essence of this does not change. We are talking about the emergence of military potential at the Russian borders.
We have always treated NATO as an objective reality. The Alliance is an impressive military-political force in the Euro-Atlantic area, with which we reckoned, tried to build constructive, mutually beneficial relations. Cooperated on the principles of strict parity in those areas in which progress could be made in strengthening mutual security. This is the only possible principle of cooperation. But we never shared the political aspirations of those who tried to reshape our worldview, to force us to act in the interests of Western strategies.
NATO members with such aplomb speak about the termination of cooperation with Russia, as if they had once bestowed upon them.
Anatoly Antonov: In fact, Russia is just as interested in cooperation with NATO as the alliance is interested in interacting with our country. All successful cooperation projects that NATO members so fond of talking about were implemented because of their extremely mutually beneficial nature. The results were achieved thanks to a new level of trust and mutual understanding established between military experts. The results obtained met the interests of all partners in the Russia-NATO Council, and sometimes even to the greater extent the interests of NATO countries, as was the case with Afghanistan.
Another example. It concerns the safe transportation of chemical weapons from Syria. Our and Chinese sailors took to escort in the Mediterranean the American ship with dangerous cargo on board. In Brussels, this project was called almost epochal. They said that it demonstrates the importance of Russian-NATO cooperation in ensuring regional peace and solving the problems of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But events broke out in Ukraine, and the project collapsed overnight. Does the problem of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction no longer exist or has Russia imposed its assistance on NATO countries in ensuring the security of the American vessel? Nothing like that! It was a joint project. And if in Brussels and Washington they so easily rejected it, then I do not quite understand the meaning of the very cooperation between Russia and NATO. But every cloud has a silver lining. Now Russia has the opportunity to calmly analyze what was done right and what wasn't in former relations with the alliance. And try to find the answer to the main question: what results do we expect from interaction with NATO?
At least one answer lies on the surface - we want to trust each other and that it is realized in joint projects.
Anatoly Antonov: Want - does not mean we still have. For example, at one time, the leadership of NATO promised Russia not to hold "substantial combat forces" on the territory of the new countries - members of the alliance. And now, for more than 15 years, we can’t agree with NATO on what forces we should be talking about. "Essential" is how much: one battalion, one company? What battalion, what company? If this is a special forces, then in fact he can perform the task better than another brigade. Therefore, talking about "substantial combat forces," we realized that NATO simply did not want to solve this problem. Indeed, in the acute situation that we are seeing now, this gives them the opportunity to realize plans for the additional deployment of military contingents on the line of contact with Russia.
Moreover, some so-called youngonatovtsy just waiting for this.
Anatoly Antonov: Indeed, some representatives of the military departments of Eastern Europe and the Baltic States reiterate the "Russian threat", they require a review of the entire concept of NATO, including the anti-missile and nuclear component.
We, for example, noticed that in the countries of the alliance they again began to discuss the intensification of work on the joint management of nuclear forces. This, for example, when pilots of non-nuclear states, say, from the Netherlands or Germany, are taught to fly planes that in wartime carry nuclear weapons on board. In my opinion, there is a direct violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
It inspires optimism, perhaps, one moment. Not all in NATO advocate a hard line towards Russia. The crisis in Ukraine has confirmed this. From the side of NATO and European grandees, the opinion is heard that cooperation with our country should be approached carefully and not “chopped off the shoulder”. Too difficult, long and painfully created a platform for interaction. It is easy to destroy, and it will be difficult to restore. We think so too.
But if someone thinks that NATO will beckon Russia with a finger, and we will run into some of their projects, then this is a profound error. That is why it was decided to withdraw our military representative from Brussels. We will hold consultations with Colonel-General Yevnevich, find out his view on the mood at the headquarters of the alliance, and then, taking into account all the information received, we will decide how to build relations with NATO further.
But there, too, will not sit on their hands. Surely they will try to strengthen their positions in the same Ukraine, in Moldova and Georgia.
Anatoly AntonovA: Moreover, the alliance is trying to pursue its line even in the CSTO member states. There is moral pressure, an attempt to convince the population that the “Russians are bad”, therefore, one should focus on European democracy. They are talking about some kind of military-technical assistance, about sending advisers, about increasing the number of joint exercises. NATO has one task - to drive a wedge between Russia and the allies, to tear us apart.
In Ukraine today we see an attempt to implement the concept of "promoting democracy" or the so-called "color revolutions". The same "Arab Spring", transferred to the post-Soviet space. In general, I believe that the threat of "color revolutions", their negative political and economic impact on regional and global security are largely underestimated.
This problem needs to be paid more attention, look for the roots of this phenomenon, ways to counteract it. Figuratively speaking, the brushwood must be removed from the fire, where big politics are brewed according to the recipe of Western chefs. It is not necessary to wait until the lid from the pan flies up and another crisis begins, which someone will try to direct in one direction or another - depending on the specific goals. What are these goals and to whom they are beneficial, is well known from the previous "color revolutions".
The question is how to pull apart the brushwood?
Anatoly Antonov: The problem is really serious, and Russia needs to work on its resolution together with other countries, including our colleagues in the CSTO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. They, too, are interested in preventing this “contagion” from themselves. This topic will surely become one of the central ones in the framework of our chairmanship in the SCO in 2015.
Do you still have Russia open for cooperation with NATO?
Anatoly Antonov: You probably noticed that I have never said about the complete collapse of such an interaction. Those projects that the alliance decides to continue and which will be beneficial to Russia will be implemented. We had a fairly successful project of joint struggle against pirates, good practices in the field of military medicine, carrying out rescue operations, the fight against air terrorists. But if the NATO members decide not to do this anymore, we will not cry.
At the same time, I want no one to have any illusions that we had a large and multi-vector cooperation in missile defense and conventional weapons with NATO, and now we will lose it. This is nothing. There were only unsuccessful attempts to do something together. But we will continue to strictly fulfill our commitments in the field of arms control, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and disarmament regardless of whether we cooperate with NATO or not. Maybe, to solve this or that problem, more forces and means will be needed. I see nothing terrible here. In the world, in addition to NATO members, there are quite a few states that are ready to work with Russia to strengthen global and regional security. These are China, India, other countries of the Asia-Pacific region, states of the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America. We will develop cooperation with them in all directions.
We do not border on these states. And Ukraine, here it is - at hand. And along with NATO, it requires evidence that Russia is not preparing an invasion of the south-east of the country. In Kiev and Brussels, they are constantly talking about some kind of accumulation of our troops in the border areas, satellite images are shown.
Anatoly Antonov: We have established a regime of transparency and confidence in the field of conventional weapons with the Western countries - the Open Skies Treaty and the Vienna Document on Measures to Strengthen Confidence and Security of the 2011 of the Year. We strictly fulfill obligations under these agreements. Recently, eight inspection teams visited the territory of Russia. And twice our objects and areas of deployment of troops along the Russian-Ukrainian border were checked by the Ukrainian military. In addition, we received inspectors from the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland in our territory. Most of the inspection teams - seven missions - were interested in the regions adjacent to our border with Ukraine. They were given the opportunity to talk with the command of Russian units and subunits, to photograph the locations of personnel and military equipment, to control them on the routes of movement.
What did they end up with?
Anatoly Antonov: None of the inspectors later said or presented documentary evidence that the Russian Armed Forces are conducting some kind of threatening, excessive military activity there. Yes, we are conducting exercises in those areas. But in terms of the number of forces and assets involved, they do not go beyond the limits set by the Vienna Document and do not require an invitation from observers from foreign countries. We closely monitor that there are no violations.
Then the question arises: why do we need measures of trust and transparency, which refuse to take into account the states that have signed the Vienna Document and the Treaty on Open Skies? The answer is simple, it is hidden in the double standards applied in this case to Russia. With such an engagement, the test result is known in advance. In any case, it will be reduced to the statement that Russia conducts dangerous military activities near the borders with Ukraine. Require documentary evidence of such activities is useless.
Do you admit that Ukraine itself can take any military actions against Russia?
Anatoly Antonov: I do not believe that the Russians will fight the Ukrainians. But I can assure you that we will not allow any negative surprises regarding the security of Russia.
The leadership of the Ministry of Defense maintains contact with the Ukrainian military? Do I need to negotiate with them?
Anatoly AntonovA: This is better than looking at each other through the rifle scope. There are contacts with the Ukrainian military, in particular, on the transfer of weapons left behind in Crimea. We also solve the problem of returning home the inhabitants of the peninsula who are called up to serve in the Ukrainian army. In Crimea, for this are representatives of the armed forces of Ukraine. Of course, such contacts are kept to a minimum. But if you need to solve a specific issue, then this issue is solved. If there is a need for a telephone conversation, then call up. Personally, I have such conversations almost every day.
Anatoly Ivanovich Antonov was born on 15 May 1955, in Omsk. In the 1978 year he graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and in the 1983 year - full-time postgraduate studies at MGIMO.
For more than thirty years he worked in the system of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR and the Russian Federation, including the director of the Foreign Affairs Department for security and disarmament issues.
He was the leader of a number of Russian government delegations. In particular, in negotiations with the G8 countries, on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, on reviewing the operation of the conventions on inhuman weapons, on the prohibition of chemical weapons, on the prohibition of biological weapons, on multilateral export control mechanisms.
Antonov headed the delegation of our country in negotiations with the United States on a new Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms.
In February, 2011 was appointed Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation by presidential decree. The department deals with issues related to international military cooperation and the organization of contacts between the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and the military departments of foreign countries.
Anatoly Antonov was awarded four orders - "For Merit to the Fatherland" 4 degree, "For Military Merit" and two orders of Honor. He is the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador. Active State Counselor of the Russian Federation 1 class. Doctor of Political Sciences.