“To say that a war cannot start on the basis of rational calculations means to incline to the fact that it can flare up due to lack of reasonableness,” political scientist Oskar Kreici said in an interview with Prvnizpravy.cz.
Prvnizpravy.cz: On Thursday at the conference “Geopolitics of Russia”, which was held in Bratislava, you stated that “this world is not the best possible world, but we will not improve it with war”. Do you think that there is a threat of war?
Oscar Kreici: We must distinguish between small and large wars, sometimes even world wars. Small wars do not threaten - they are already underway. The Heidelberg Institute for the Study of International Conflicts in its annual report with the characteristic name “Conflict Barometer” last year counted limited wars in the world of 19 wars and 24 ...
- Not the best numbers!
- In fact, the situation is the same as in 2014. But I repeat again: these are the so-called small wars. We can call big wars between the central powers, such as the world war that ended 71 a year ago. There are currently no such wars.
- Well, is there, in your opinion, the threat of a big war?
- Of course. We need to warn against war, when people are threatened with war.
- Now you answered as a political activist. And could you go back to the political analysis?
- The military capabilities of the powers to wage a big war are growing and modernizing. However, a strategic balance was reached between those powers that most criticize each other, and between which there is tension. And this means that a rational calculation of the expediency of war says that there will be no war.
- And what is, in your opinion, rational calculation?
- Comparison of costs and acquisitions. Cold counting how much a possible big war will cost you, and what you will get from it. A big war, for example, between Russia and the United States has a large negative profit - this is the road to suicide, not only of these powers, but of all mankind.
- So you are convinced that there is no threat of a big war? You just said that there is a threat ...
- To say that a war cannot begin on the basis of rational calculations means to incline to the fact that it can flare up due to lack of rationality. Any war in stories humanity was the result of human error of the mind: people did not agree as intelligent beings about the division of certain lands and therefore began to behave like predators. War is an irrational atavism.
The big war is in the nature of a geopolitical break. It happens when private problems accumulate, which together cause a synergistic effect. Someone made the wrong calculation: let's say he thinks that he gained impunity thanks to antimissile defense - and he attacks. Or he comes to the conclusion that, apart from the war, there is no other solution. That a war should be started, because the one who attacks first gains an advantage that the defender cannot compensate. Probably, this was the reason for the start of the First World War, when incorrect calculations of the military led politicians to a decision that many of them did not want.
The world that relies on the idea that politicians are always rational is a world standing in the sand. Remember how recently Obama admitted the fallacy of the decision to attack Libya. He stated that on the second day after the start of the operation he realized that it was a mistake. But even on the first day after the start, it is too late. Scary late. Irreversibly late.
- Similarly, the Second World War can serve as an example of irrationality in politics. Russian analyst and publicist Nikolai Starikov, for example, at the above-mentioned Bratislava conference, being a guest of her student part, spoke about Hitler’s irrationality, which attacked the Soviet Union despite the principles of geopolitics.
- Hitler is, first of all, an example of the limitedness of rationality in politics. John Marshamer, a professor at the University of Chicago and probably the most prominent figure in modern American theory of international politics, uses the coefficient called “economically fit for war” in his analyzes. According to this author, in 1920, the German share in the European economy suitable for war was 38%, and in 20 years - 36%. But at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the potential of the occupied countries, for example 9% of France, should also be considered. In the case of the Soviet Union, we see an increase from 2% in 1920 to 28% in 1940. By these numbers, the incredible tension of the Soviet Union is understandable, creating enormous potential to resist an attack, but still, it seems, insufficient. In addition, it is necessary to take into account the fact that a large part of the territory, where most of the industry of the Soviet Union was located, was occupied by German Nazis in the first months. According to Marshamer, by the end of 1941, the Soviet Union had lost 41% of its railways, 42% of electricity production, 71% of iron ore sources, 63% of coal and 58% of steel production. In 1942, Nazi Germany had an economic advantage over the Soviet Union in the ratio of 3: 1.
And despite this, the Red Army men hoisted the Victory flag in Berlin. Hitler and his generals calculated the soldiers, motorized units, aircraft, made plans tank wedges and destruction of airfields. This was all true, and therefore they practically managed to defeat the Red Army. But they did not calculate the determination of the people and the mind of the Soviet leadership. And it managed to transfer a significant part of the economy fit for war to the Urals and organize the Red Army in a new way. This required both the incredible determination of the people of the Soviet Union and the extraordinary organizational skills of Soviet civilian and military leaders.
“But if you look at the streets and television screens, it seems that the American troops won the war.” Do you overestimate the role of Russia, or rather of the Soviet Union?
- Let us leave aside today the figures that tell how many Soviet soldiers died in World War II and the liberation of Czechoslovakia, and how many are American. Let us pay tribute to the fallen Red Army soldiers by trying to understand how it turned out that the Soviet Union did not lose the war, although all possible advantages were on the side of Nazi Germany.
First of all, I will say: Russia is a Phoenix, it can rise from the ashes. Five times in history, Eastern Slavs created the state: Kievan Rus, which was destroyed by the Mongol yoke. Then came the Muscovite Russia, which was devastated by the unrest and the Polish-Swedish troops. Then - the Russian Empire, which buried the revolutionary 1917 year. The Soviet Union, another state entity, destroyed perestroika. Now a new Russian Federation has risen from the ashes. The Russians are the people who managed to overcome the difficulties that destroyed other civilizations.
- And again you find yourself in a situation where someone can accuse you of uncritical admiration for Russia.
“Maybe, but what I’m talking about is finding ways to understand these amazing cycles.” It is enough to think about this comparison of Russia with the magic Phoenix. The phoenix rises from the ashes, which occurs after the bird burns. And it burns with internal fire, and not because someone burns it. In the collapse of the statehood of Russia, the Russian political elite has always played a crucial role. Rurikovich quarreled, the tragedy in the family of Ivan the Terrible, the inability of the royal court to resist in the First World War. Many of us remember perfectly well the absurd behavior of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, who buried not only the Soviet Union, but also Russia.
The Russian land is able to give birth to both brilliant and incredibly incompetent statesmen. Russia is also full of both outstanding intellectuals and intellectuals possessed by demons of hypercriticism, in the words of Dostoevsky. Just look at the Russian Internet or on the shelves of a Russian bookstore. If we add pressure from the West to this, primarily in the form of NATO expansion, then only you will understand the fears of many Russians.
“During his visit to Europe, Barack Obama, in a speech delivered in Hanover, spoke of“ Russian aggression, which obviously violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an independent European state of Ukraine, which makes our allies in Eastern Europe worry ”. Russia allegedly "threatens the progress that was made after the end of the Cold War."
- It was interesting to follow the audience in that big hall in Hanover. Listeners interrupted President Obama several times with applause. But when he spoke about Russia, a cold audience listened to his words. Anyone who thinks at least a little bit knows how many mistakes have been made since the end of the Cold War. I recall, for example, the war in Yugoslavia fueled from abroad, the expansion of the alliance to the East, the coup in Kiev and counterproductive sanctions. And the list goes on. By this I do not claim that Moscow made no mistakes. But it seems to me that what Washington considers progress, all the others are simply obliged to consider it as such. In my opinion, the period after the Cold War is, above all, a period of missed chances.
- I noticed that you are considering the topic of tidal and ebb waves in relations between the West and Russia in the new edition of your book “The Geopolitics of the Central European Space”, which came out this week. But back to Obama's speech. In the aforementioned speech in Hannover, he praised Europe’s contribution to the treasury of freedom and humanism. Perhaps it is this motive that we must remember in his speech.
- First of all, someone should explain to the President that Europe does not end at the borders of NATO / EU. Geographically, Europe ends in the Urals, and culturally, somewhere in the Vladivostok area. It is impossible to abuse such a valuable concept as “Europe” to separate us and them. Russia is a part of Europe. If Europe has made some progress, Russia will surely play its role in this. And not just NATO / EU.
But you are right, there were a lot of good thoughts in Obama's speech. However, they raise the question, why for nearly eight years, Obama, in the role of the most influential person in the world, did not bring them to life? Who, if not him? Is the world better today than it was on the day Obama came to the White House? It was possible to settle the diplomatic relations of the United States with Iran and Cuba. Good. However, wars in Libya and Syria were added to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the prisoners in Guantamo grew old for another eight years. Instead of resetting relations with Russia, we had a united West against Russia, the situation on the Korean Peninsula deteriorated rather than improved. Everyone arms race, and about a world without nuclear weaponswhich Obama described so well in his speech on Hradchanskaya Square, we can forget. Many of us pinned on Barack Obama the hope that he will bring change for the better, and “we” in this case includes the committee for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. Now it seems that the “Obama era” was only a chain of unfulfilled hopes.
- It sounds very hostile and, I would say, too personally.
- I do not dispute Obama's good intentions. But his fate reaffirmed that to make a political career and to be able to fulfill your intentions on your accomplished post are two different things.