SERGUEI KARAGANOV: “We will win. And then Ukrainians will become prorrusians, like Eastern Germans did in our external empire”

Serguei Karaganov is an informal adviser of Vladimir Putin, but never paid by the Kremlin: ”Nearly free as a bird, but I can’t fly, specially at the age of 70”. In his table, there is a book by Henry Kissinger: “He calls me profesor Karaganov, I call him Henry”.  Karaganov is a Russian political scientist who heads the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. 

-What is a ethnic Russian for you?

-A Soviet writer not well know, from de 20s. Yury Tynyanov: “The chancellor of the Russian Empire, was born from jewish mother and German father on a Portuguese ship travelling from London to Lisbon. We are a multi ethnic country, this is our main definition and strength of Russia. We have been very open culturally. My mother is jew, my father is a nordic slav. Karaganov means great hand. This is a Russian. And also Russian are warriors, living on the planes, surviving there, it was a constant struggle for survive. 

-You are the progenitor of the Karaganov Doctrine, which states that Moscow should be the defender of human rights of ethnic Russians living in the ‘near abroad’ for the purpose of gaining political influence in these regions.

-The whole Karaganov doctrine was a fake. Like always. Of course in the beginning of the 90s I said that Russians should defend Russians speakers abroad. Somebody put it into writing. 

-You worked with Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. And now your doctrine is more than words. 

-I never worked officially with any of them. I was a member of Presidential Council [of Human Rights], but is informal. Of course I asume they read what I said.  I help to lead our polices in the direction that I think is useful. In most cases the policies coincide with my views. 

-And you were one of the first to say that NATO expansion would led to war. 

-In 1997 wrote that if NATO expanses there will be a war. I never advocated for that. I warned or western friends and Russian people who thought it is not a threat. Unfortunately I was right. I worked very hard with my western colleagues in order to make them stop this extension which I believed that would inevitably lead to confrontation. 

-Do you think this war is justified? 

-It’s a defensive war, defensive methods are used. It’s a failure, also of myself, war is always a tragedy. Justification of war is senseless. Is a just war but war cannot be just. People are killed. 

-What should Moscow do? How far should Putin go in Ukraine? 

-I don’t know. We are in the fog of war, or in the fog of a conflict. It is called ‘special operation’ but it is war. And war is open ended. Always. I think that part of Ukraine will be Russian oriented, other part of Ukraine will be polish oriented, also some part will be eventually Romanian or Hungarian oriented.  Maybe, I hope, will be some core of Ukraine left. But I have been arguing for many years that taking all Ukraine or reunification with Ukraine is an unwise scenario. Because Ukraine is too expensive to control, is a huge burden. It’s a buffer, useful buffer. But also a burden during the Soviet Union, when it was heavily subsidized by Soviet Union.

-So Ukrainians live in a buffer. That’s it.  

-Ukraine use to be one of the most developed countries of the former Soviet Union, but has been ruled by an unspeakable elite, which was getting worst with every year. They depleted the country. Now is probably the poorest of Europe, despite being before the most developed part of Soviet Union. They haven’t been able to build a state-building elite. 

-Why this war happens now?

-We have too many unsolved problems. Elites in many countries were looking for an excuse. The COVID was used to cover the ineptitud to deal with the real problems. I have been warning about pre war situation for ten years because of build up of tensions. The main one, the fact that Europe and US are losing their dominant position. The unheard changing  of coalitions of the world. The arms control regime, thrown away by Americans. The hostility of parts of West. The mutual trust was zero or less towards Russia. Probably shared with Chinese but they are more cautious. I was expecting inevitable conflict unless we agree something with the west, like stop expanding the western alliances. I could happen 3 or 4 years from now. But it happened now. 

-What can Russia archieve in this conflict?

-It can’t be a clear victory. It is war. People are dying and the economic results will be negative. What could be archive? Avoid the worst, the buildup of Ukraine, which is becoming more and more nationalistic, pumped up by the west with new weaponry. Ukraine could become a spearhead in 3 or 4 years case of a conflict with Russia. Also demilitarization. And denazification, which means ending the tendency of building up in Ukraine an ultranationalist Russian regime. 

-How you see Russia after the war? 

-This conflict will change Russia. It will be a rough period, but will nationalize the Russian elite after the bandit capitalism of the 90.

-Now there is much nationalism in the media. 

-I do not see that. Russia national nationalism even if it is existed is marginal. Is surpassed. 

-Can we say that ethnic nationalism is not strong in Russia if Russia is developing again a war because of ethnic Russians living in neighbor country?

-Its not ethnic Russians. Its people who are speaking Russian and are part of Russian culture that has been suppressed. 

-Has been Zelensky suppressing himself, for example? He is a native Russian speaker. 

-I know. Is not about Zelensky. In Ukraine they are suppressing Russian language and schools. 

-But most of the Ukrainians who fight Russian army they speak Russian. 

-Let’s put in this way. Yes, so what? When we will win, most Ukrainians will acknowledge the victory and will become the most pro-rrusian group like the Eastern Germans did in our external empire. 

-But then they came back with Germany. 

-Because… Is great that they reunified and had a viable economic system. That was the real problem. 

-Ukraine stills getting weapons, now even from Germany. Is this a success for Russia?

-I asume it will be an agreement to stop the war, that is devastating Ukraine. It will limítate the number of Ukrainian army, and the type of weapons. What is happening is that Russian forces are devastating the military infrastructure. Of course the west will continue giving weapons. I’m very afraid of an escalation over the borders of Ukraine. This policy is  unreasonable.   

-You said there are nazis in the Ukrainian government. Can you name them? 

-No. Well. I mean. Zelensky is not a nazi. He used to be reasonable, put he had to integrate this ultranationalists army which are very strong, they are a growing minority. 

-But they are so unsuccessful in the elections. 

-Yes. Im not an specialist in Ukraine. I was. But I lost any interest. Because it was a mess. 

-Because if it is the case, France, Greece or Germany should be denazified first. Neofascism is strong there. Not in Ukraine, the only place where Russia worries about nazis.

-There are elements of this in many country. Neonazism is something different: violent chovinism. This is not a serious part of European social body. But it could be. This elements in Ukraine openly pro nazi were more or less supported by the west. They make heroes of nazi collaborators and those who committed genocide of poles and jews. 

-In the other side of the front I also have seen people with portraits of Stalin. He also committed this genocides like that. 

-Well. I am one of the leaders of the movements of the remembrance of Stalin repressions. Some people like Stalin but not a single official is allowed by law the rationalize the repressions of Stalin. 

-But in Donbas the proxies of Russia vindicate Stalin the same way others vindicate Bandera.

-They are not yet part of Russia. If they are part of Russia officials can not use it. 

-Ukraine also is also not part of Russia.

-But Bandera is an accomplice of Hitler. Stalin lead a victorious power which defeated Hitler. 

-What should Russia do with Donbas?

-They suffer constant bombardment from Kiev. One way or another we had to acknowledge their independence and sign a military alliance, which is done. And eventually incorporate them. But  some legal procedures are needed, like a referendum. But this is impossible under war conditions. 

-What is a victory for Russia en Ukraine? And what would be a defeat?

-This is an existencial war for Russia. Russia can not afford to lose it. We started, we have to win. Complete destruction of Ukrainian military machine. Assuring the inviolability of Donbas republics. Creation of prorrusian government in some part of Ukraine. And of course a peace deal. 

-Sounds like a the plans of US for Afghanistan.

-It’s an open question. I hope we will reach some kind of victory and reach a peace agreement. And have Chinese or others restore parts of Ukraine. The Afghanistan scenario is one of the worst that can happen. Negotiation must happen. But Americans are not interested. Like British, they want to fight until the last Ukrainian. Europeans are now in hysteria but they are relatively impotent. Americans wants Europeans to fight with each other until the last European. 

-Russia also wants to fight until the last Chechen. 

-By the way, nobody believed that Chechens would be the best fighters for Russia. 

-Is Putin isolated and bad informed as western media informed?

-He is probably the best informed leader in the world. But of course the people around him push always for their interest, that is normal in any bureaucracy. I understand most of the Putin motives. 

-It seems he thought the war would be easier.

-We are now in the fog of war. Nobody knows. Maybe the move towards Kiev was to divert attention from the real front. During the war the aims are changing. Of course I asume that Russians underestimated the Ukrainian armed forces. 

-Putin said NATO must come back to the positions of 1997. Will this be the demand that brings the Russian threat to Europe?

-It is on the table. And it will be in the table in foreseeable future. It was a negotiating position. Of course people could stay in NATO, despite I think is more a vulnerability than a defensive  alliance, because article 5 is nonsense. Countries can do what they want. But the military infrastructure, and arming Ukraine like mad… this is undoubtable. 

-So after Ukraine can be a second part.

-I don’t know. Why on earth should aim at Central Europe?

-To make them withdraw the ‘threat’. 

-Well. Yes. And we are openly saying that they have to withdraw defensive forces from there. It can escalate. The unthinkable is more thinkable unfortunately that it use to be several years ago. 

-This threat sounds like an escalation. 

-We have put in the table several demands for 20 years. Last time some months ago. I asume it will be a negotiation.  If we have a buffer, which Ukraine used to be, and we persuade NATO that their pushes have been ready dangerous to them, NATO probably they will change. 

-What is NATO for you?

-NATO used to be a holy alliance against leftist and communist. After Soviet Union collapsed, and the deterrence capability weakened,  NATO started to commit one aggression after another. I did not believe my eyes. And now is an aggressive alliance with a criminal record. It was not moral from our part to speak on equal terms with an aggressive alliance. But we all have to think. Europeans including Russians are the worst group of nations in the world. In one century they committed two world wars. We are dangerous.

-Even if you have a buffer in what is now sovereign Ukraine, you will still have the Baltics, in NATO, close to Saint Petersburg. 

-This was a mistake, and a mistake agreeing to that. I always said decades that signing founding act 1997 was a mistake. It legitimated NATO expansion. But we were too weak and too trusting. 

-Russia today is a great incentive to join NATO. Those in NATO —Baltics— have not been attacked. Those out of NATO —Ukraine, Georgia— have been attacked. 

-I tell to the Baltics: if you would not be in NATO you would be absolutely safe. Now you are not sleeping and NATO. Article 5 is a bluff. If the martians attack a NATO country nobody will defend them. Under no circumstances US will fight Russia in Europe. 

-But also the neighbors of Russia that are not in NATO are in even more trouble. So it seems that the problem is to be a neighbor of Russia. 

-There is another possibility. Be a friend of Russia. Countries that are friends of Russia are not afraid of Russia. 

-Like Mongolia. 

-Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan… 

-But is possible to be friend of Russia and a democracy the same time? 

-Of course.

-Say an example.

-Ah! [Thinks five seconds] Armenia. 

-Someone else. 

-Well. Formerly Kazakhstan. But it is a myth that we are ‘fighting democracy’. Democracy is one ways by which the oligarchs rule their countries. Is the weakest possible way of governance, they always die in times of crisis. Or become autocracies. They are not a threat. Those who say we are afraid of ‘democracy’ in Ukraine… actually it was a negative example of democracy. How not to be. 

-Russia is now more isolated on the west. But you say the future is in the east. 

-I advocated for turn to the east. Because is the future. And we have a unique competitive advantage, Siberia; is part of Asia and is close to the growing markets. 

-But is China sure about what kind of relationship wants to have with Russia?

-Everybody have made a decision. They understand that Russia is the biggest strategic asset. And Russia understand the same about China. So they will support us. Of course there is a challenge becoming too dependent, we need to be more competitive in the east, and for this we have to stabilize the western front. The peaceful means were exhausted and Russia had to start to use arms. 

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