The reasons for the Russian-Western antagonism and the problems of American leadership in an interview with the Expert were told by Chronicles international affairs columnist and Srdzha Trifkovich, a professor at the Banyaluki University.
The international lecture program "Russian readings" started by the Institute of Public Design (InOP) ten years ago. Within the framework of the program in our country many outstanding minds of our time gave lectures.
The peculiarity of the “Russian readings” is the high level of invited lecturers, often the irregularity of their positions with high argumentation and scientific quality. InOP aims to be a conductor of modern trends in world thought in the Russian intellectual and social environment. At the same time, the program showed that the humanitarian and social thought of the West does not offer any ready-made recipes to Russia or other countries. Today, it is especially important for Russia to actively participate in international intellectual and information exchange. And the program “Russian readings” continues its work in this direction.
This time, she offered the audience a lecture by Srji Trifkovic, a well-known Serbian political scientist, anti-globalist, editor of the foreign policy department of Chronicles magazine and columnist in the monthly print version of The American Interest. Despite his active work in Western scientific research institutions, Professor Trifkovic has been living in Serbia for several years now and has actively criticized the development paradigm in particular in the West and the current state of the system of international relations in general. He fully supported the referendum on independence of Crimea and was among the group of international observers who came to the peninsula.
At the Russian Readings, Professor Trifkovic spoke on the topic “A Multi-Polar World: Challenges Facing Russia.” During his lecture, he reviewed the geopolitical risks and foreign policy threats that Russia faces, and, most importantly, outlined its ability to confront them. In an interview with Expert magazine, the professor disclosed these risks and methods in detail.
- You have repeatedly said that the current crisis in relations between Russia and the West is not a consequence of the Crimean precedent, but is only of a systemic nature. What is its consistency?
- In my opinion, in relations between Russia and the West there are two key problems that have not disappeared after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the USSR and the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact.
The first lies in geopolitics and reflects the logic of the behavior of the great maritime powers, particularly Great Britain in the 19th century and the United States after World War II. It was explained by the great geopolitical thinkers - the Scottish geographer Helford Mackinder and the Dutch-American political scientist Nicholas Spykmen. They viewed the global geopolitical order as follows: there is some continental power in the world that controls the Eurasian Heartland and sea power that tries to take control of Rimland, the territory surrounding the Heartland. The “big game” between Russia and Great Britain in the second half of the 19th century and the containment policy during the Cold War (indicated by George Kennan in his famous “Long Telegram” sent in 1946 and expressed in Truman Doctrine in 1947) actually is a struggle for Rimland, later called the "anaconda strategy." The US is trying to control and, if possible, suffocate Heartland through the network of allied and vassal states along its borders. This, by the way, explains the logic of NATO expansion, contrary to the promise of Secretary of State James Baker. There is no other explanation - this is Spykmen’s “anaconda strategy”. The West even denies the very right of Russia to have legitimate interests in its immediate periphery.
The second reason is from the category of perception problems. The western political elite as a whole is experiencing a cultural antipathy towards Russia, although it views it as a civilized, but clearly not a European country. Even during the Crimean War in the middle of the XIX century, the British began to develop a narrative, in which Russia positioned itself as an evil, dark, dangerous colossus with a character more Asian than European, which needs to be restrained or, even better, added, displacing eastward, deep Eurasia. This narrative in its various forms was used throughout the 19th century, including the Russian-Turkish war of 1877 – 1878, when Russia's attempt to take control of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles and create Great Bulgaria led to a massive anti-Russian campaign in European media.
At the same time, it is interesting that Russophobic rhetoric was not so widespread in the period of communism as it is now.
- Because the apparatus of the Western media has always been full of supporters of left-wing convictions. And their correspondents in the Soviet Union in 1930, the first among them The New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty, convinced their own population that the trials of "enemies of the people" were a model of legality and transparency. When Arthur Koestler published the political novel Blinding Darkness, he was ostracized and criticized by intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic. It took them considerable time to understand that Stalin’s USSR was not the very leader of the progressive humanity that they were so desperately seeking. Some of them then turned to Mao, others to Ho Chi Minh, others to Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.
However, this process of insight took time, so a quasi-utopian search for an ideologically attractive alternative to mundane materialistic Western life in 1940, 1950, and partly in 1960, brought the USSR out of some kind of “prejudice discourse” and emotional negative stereotyping.
The current Russia, which is trying to rediscover its roots, identity and spirituality, is clearly unacceptable for the western leftist political and academic elite. The traditional values (family, religion, national culture) promoted by this Russia are truly conservative. It is no accident that Patrick Buchanan in the United States and a number of well-known conservative political scientists argue that from the point of view of Putin’s cultural and social policy, one can be called a greater conservative than many American politicians consider themselves to be such. Buchanan even published an article "Putin - is one of us?". In this regard, Russian conservatism is dangerous for the West, because it is far more attractive than the functioning nihilism of the modern United States and Europe.
The geopolitical factor and cultural antipathy created the “ideal storm” - a combination of motivation and justification of an aggressive policy to achieve what Zbigniew Brzezinski called “the desired model” in his “Great Chess Game”. It is not about the pacification of some ambitions of Russia and the emasculation of its foreign policy, but about a fundamental change in the country from the inside, implying a regime change in Moscow. It seemed that the Americans were able to achieve this goal in 1990, but in the end the project failed, and Russia successfully transforms its society. Yes, the country has problems with demography, modernization and diversification of the economy, but in general, Moscow has reason to look with optimism into the future, even more than the US and the EU.
- That is, the United States has now abandoned the policy of encouraging regime change?
- No, it was and remains the main goal of American foreign policy with regard to Russia. Washington adhered to it even during the "reset". For example, when former US ambassador Michael McFaul was leaving for his term in Moscow, he gave an interview to an American radio station and said that he wanted to contribute to the “deputinization” of Russia. This is a very strange statement for a diplomat who is sent to work in the country.
However, McFaul is just one of many so-called Russian experts who believed that any investment in the so-called democratic sector (non-governmental organizations, human rights arguments) would bring serious dividends. This belief has not been justified, but ambitions are still present. The entire segment of the Moscow intelligentsia, which hates its country and feels at home in London rather than in Moscow, also contributes to the preservation of such hopes. These people convince their Western interlocutors that if American sanctions lead to a serious economic crisis in the country, followed by the realization that Russia suffered a geopolitical defeat in Ukraine, then the situation may change. The Russians, they say, are not inclined to forgive their leaders for defeat: the same Nicholas I died a broken man, although ten years before the Crimean War, he seemed to be at the zenith of his power. Recall what happened to Nicholas II because of his defeats on the Eastern Front. Even Stalin had a nervous breakdown in the first weeks of the implementation of the Barbarossa plan - serious defeats for the Red Army could lead to a loss of control over the situation in the country. Khrushchev was replaced not only because of his agricultural policy, but partly because of his defeat in the Cuban adventure. Brezhnev had his Afghanistan, which caused a crisis of legitimacy of the Soviet leadership in the eyes of the population.
However, such thoughts, rather, are still wishful thinking. I doubt that the challenges that the West of Russia throws in connection with Ukraine may somehow magically translate into a scenario that the United States will arrange. If there is a further deterioration in relations, then not pro-Western liberals, but ardent Eurasians will benefit from this. Putin is not one of them. He is rather a “forced Eurasian” who is not a priori opposed to the EU and the West. However, it is possible that if the United States continues the current line, the Russian president will begin implementing such a strategy, which will exclude the phrase “our Western partners” from the lexicon of the Russian leaders for many years to come.
Price political correctness
- You talked about the policy of deterrence, which is carried out through the conflict between the tellurocratic and talassocratic powers. But can we say that China has become the heartland, and Russia has turned into Rimland, for which China and the maritime powers are fighting?
- It would be possible to say this if Russia continued the trend for weakening that existed during the reign of Boris Yeltsin. In this case, its ability to formulate goals and pursue a policy in accordance with a strategic plan would be weakened, and Russia would indeed become an object of competing US and Chinese policies. Fortunately, this did not happen, and there is an obvious synergy between Russia and China (similar would be possible between Russia and Germany, if Berlin could break out of the clutches of the Atlantic worldview). The combination of Russian resources and space, the Chinese population and economic power, as well as the Mackeyll-Byelist approach to cooperation between these countries, could for the first time in many decades give the Heartland the key importance in the world that Mackinder spoke about a hundred and ten years ago.
- But does the US lack the resources and tools to prevent such a scenario?
- Americans face overstrain. On the one hand, they are going to reorient their foreign policy to East Asia - Obama said this two years ago during a trip to the region. While on a visit to Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, he, to the surprise of many, supported the territorial claims of these countries to China. The long-term escalation of the Ukrainian crisis will simply lead to the fact that the United States does not have enough resources to save the Ukrainian economy, train and equip the Western Ukrainian population to return the country to New Russia and at the same time to wage an endless war in the Middle East and continue the containment policy of China. In the future, this may cause a serious conflict: for example, on the Korean Peninsula. It is obvious that the Chinese will not be indifferently watching the possible collapse of the North Korean regime and the integration of the country into South Korea (as the GDR had joined in Germany in its time).
Another problem in Washington is that it does not realize the impossibility of the existence of a global empire with such a degrading monetary policy. The situation with the current States is very similar to the decline of Spain under Philip the Second and his heirs at the end of the XVI - beginning of the XVII century. The influx of tons of gold and silver from South American mines has had a catastrophic effect on the Spanish economy and contributed to the development of manufactures, the manufacturing sector in Germany, the Netherlands and even in England. In Spain, it also caused inflation, which undermined the country's economy.
Yes, now the USA can continue to print money due to the status of the dollar as a reserve currency, but a country whose national debt is 18 trillions of dollars, and the total debt (if we take into account local authorities and administrations) reaches 100 trillions cannot last for a long time. Especially if other countries begin to sell US bonds, and the income from the sale of new bonds will be lower than the cost of servicing current debt.
- However, for the fall of Spain, Philip needs the growth of England Elizabeth. Is there such an England in this world and such Elizabeth who can challenge Spain?
“There are a lot of people in the world who are dissatisfied with American politics, since its ideological justification was taken from the new postmodern idea, dominated by“ the opinion of the international community, led by an exclusive nation. ” Strangely enough, it very much reminds the Brezhnev Soviet doctrine of limited sovereignty, applied in 1968 as an excuse for the occupation of Czechoslovakia. However, the difference is that the Brezhnev doctrine concerned only the socialist camp and its effect did not spread west of the Elbe. And the position of the US-led international community, united by common values, is in principle not limited to geographic boundaries, it is global in nature.
Therefore, dissatisfied are already united in a kind of "collective England". It is enough to recall the recent gas agreement between Russia and China, attempts by a number of powers to undermine the status of the dollar as a reserve currency through mutual trade in national currencies, the desire of the BRICS countries to at least begin replacing the international financial institutions associated with Washington (for example, by creating an analogue of the World Bank) . Thus, the counterbalance to American hegemony will not be one individual country, but a kind of broad loose coalition. Of course, one cannot talk about any formal military pact - India and China have a number of geopolitical contradictions associated with the border territories. Nevertheless, they will be able to develop a common approach to solving joint problems.
However, it must be remembered that the powers in decline are beginning to behave extremely dangerously. So, Spain launched the Armada and entered into a suicidal thirty-year war, after which it ranked fifth at best among the great powers of Europe. Similar история occurred with Austria-Hungary: having entered a period of decline, she went all-in, annexing Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, and also giving Serbia an ultimatum in 1914, after the famous murder in Sarajevo. So the American elite does not intend to silently agree with the diminishing role of the United States; it is ready to create and escalate crises throughout the world. Obviously, at least in the short term, they will get it - look, for example, at the Ukrainian scenario. They caught the Russian special services by surprise (I still can not understand how the Russians could miss the Maidan and repeat their mistakes of a decade ago). Washington also managed to undermine the economic ties between Europe and Russia without much harm to itself. They created a certain Russophobic narrative in Ukraine, which until today was the prerogative of Galicia and did not apply to Poltava and Dnepropetrovsk. The people who felt themselves Ukrainians there did not necessarily simultaneously identify themselves with the Neanderís discourse of the western part of the country. Finally, the United States has revived NATO, and now no one asks why an alliance is needed. Of course, to confront the big bad bear in the east!
However, the problem is that, along with the external challenges of American hegemony, there is an internal one, from which it is not so easy to dismiss. In recent years, there has been a break in historical and cultural ties in American society. The society is being atomized, turning into a set of racial and ethnic groups that live together, but not together. Despite the ideological rhetoric about “diversity” and “tolerance”, in reality this leads to a polarization of society, where the idea of common destiny and common values disappears.
- Why does she disappear?
- Because of the notorious political correctness. Until the end of 1960, when the old WASP elite controlled most of the institutions in the political, academic, and cultural life of the country, there was a clear and unconditional policy regarding immigrants: all immigrants who arrived in the US should be assimilated into society. The idea dominated in the States that newcomers should not only accept the concept of a “melting pot”, but also perceive it as something positive. But then fundamental changes took place. The civil rights struggle in the middle of 1960, the immigration reform launched by Lyndon Johnson, all boomeranged to the traditional American cultural heritage and the idea of a "melting pot".
The flowering of cultural Marxism in the leading institutions of the country also contributed to destructive social processes. The old formula for the existence of a society of "proletarians who have nothing to lose except their chains" and "owners of the means of production who expropriate the added value" was replaced by a division based on race, gender, and orientation. Thus, the proletarian was replaced by a one-legged African-American lesbian, and a plutocrat capitalist was replaced by a heterosexual white male. And in the end it turned out that the most important thing about the personality of Thomas Jefferson is not his ideas of federalism or the diplomatic mission to Paris, but the presence of his slaves. The idea that we should be ashamed of our past even penetrated the school, as a result of which the study of US history turned into a study of the history of slavery and the struggle of gay activists against their discrimination, as well as a study of the injustice of the authorities against the non-white population of the country. All of this dealt a serious blow to the idea that everyone should try to comply with the norms and achievements of Western civilization, extol it and live according to the laws established by it. At the same time, the dysfunctional nature of the Afro-American community manifested itself, which is chronically unable to break the vicious circle of the ghetto, despite all attempts by common forces within the community to cultivate a sense of equality, to rise above government subsidies and dependence on them. This disease eventually led African Americans to drug and alcohol abuse, as well as to a number of other dysfunctional behavioral norms. Finally, the influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central American countries finally finished the situation and began the process of a fundamental transformation of society. And not only in Los Angeles, but also in Illinois and Massachusetts, where twenty years ago the American society looked more or less complete and “American” in essence.
There are, of course, immigrants who manage to integrate. This is primarily about immigrants from East Asia. However, they are integrated only professionally and economically, and outside working time they prefer to live in their ethno-linguistic enclaves. In general, the problem of America is that it is extremely difficult to conduct a real discussion on racial and immigration issues - it is bound by the chains of political correctness.
- How should Moscow respond to the US policy to stimulate crises? In particular, in the Ukrainian question?
- Russia needs not to engage in some palliative steps, but to work on regime change in Kiev. In particular, by helping and financing those political forces that, although not pro-Russian, but at least not a priori anti-Russian (they are still in a latent state, they do not seek to express their position, fearing for their own survival).
Yes, this is a complicated policy, but Russia has no special options: having allowed the Maidan to happen, it now has to work out measures to reduce the damage, and for this you need to remove the insane from power in Kiev. These people act irrationally, they play in favor of building national identity (which does not consolidate the nation and is based on hostility towards Russia) and do not pay attention to economic recovery issues that require equal stability from the EU and Russia and social stability. As long as these people rule Ukraine, there will be neither stability nor freedom on the south-western frontier of Russia.
In addition to the policy of regime change, Russia has other ways of pressure. For example, economic, through which you can delegitimize and discredit the Kiev regime. So, after the signing of an association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, Moscow has the full right to impose import duties on Ukrainian goods and thereby protect its market from re-export of European goods. In addition to this, Russia must take a tough stance on the gas supply contract. Yes, this can lead to certain Ukrainian games that took place in the 2006 and 2009 years, but Europe knew very well who was responsible for these games. And it is time for the Russian energy policy to play in such a way that Europe puts pressure on Kiev and forces it to behave more responsibly. Perhaps this winter, which promises to be very cold, will cool some hot heads in Brussels and force them to pursue a more rational policy.
- The strategy you are talking about: regime change, support for rational forces is still too complex and ambiguous. Maybe just contribute to the collapse of the Ukrainian state? It is obvious that the national project of a mono-national state based on anti-Russian principles went bankrupt. If they do not want to change, then maybe they will allow them to break up into Western Ukraine and Novorossia?
- I am afraid that in such a scenario, Russia will lose not only Western Ukraine. Even if Moscow succeeds in expanding Novorossia and gaining access to the Crimea, it is obvious that the rest of Ukraine — both Western and Central — will join NATO. From the point of view of Russian national interests, it is better to have an unstable and disunited Ukraine, not part of NATO, than a significant part of this territory, stabilized on Bandera ideas and allowing the alliance to expand another five hundred kilometers to the east. NATO on the Dnieper will be a kind of knife aimed at the Russian underbelly. So the Russian authorities need to pursue a very delicate policy: on the one hand, to treat Ukraine as a de facto failed state, and on the other, not to allow the process to reach a logical end.
- And what should happen in order for the West to agree to the annexation of the Crimea to Russia?
- Theoretically, they should have recognized a long time ago, because the United States had already created a precedent for the occupation of Kosovo in 1999 and the subsequent recognition of the unilateral declaration of independence in the 2008 year. However, as Bill Crystal and Robert Kagan correctly noted in their article, the peculiarity of hegemony is the ability of the hegemon to decide what is precedent and what is not. And they say that Crimea is a completely different story. In some ways they are right, each case is unique, but the policy of double standards is obvious. Thus, devolution [the transfer by the central government of some of the powers to local governments - ed.] Is acceptable to Great Britain and Spain, since they remain in the United States orbit. At the same time, there should be centralization in Bosnia, since the Dayton agreements should be considered only as a temporary experiment, the country needs a well-functioning government. Devolution is a great idea for Serbia in the form of granting large rights to Vojvodina and Sandzak, but it is unacceptable for Eastern Ukraine. And the topic of Kosovo, as noted by Hillary Clinton, is already outdated.
Thus, it is obvious that the West will never recognize Crimea as part of Russia and will use this question as a kind of “ace in the hole” that can be pulled out at the right moment. At the same time, if the West can consolidate the position of the putsch government in Kiev, then Crimea can be a small consolation for the loss of the whole of Ukraine. This should not happen.