Сергей Караганов

American Globalism Is a Disease. Meet the Doctor.

Why is even speaking of negotiations with Ukraine dangerous for us? Who should we talk with and on what terms? Who is better―Trump or Biden? Why is Europe worse than America? Will the United States remain a great power and how many such powers will there be when the unipolar system collapses? Why are we hated not only by the Western elites but also by a significant number of people in their countries? Is there a way to ward off civil strife in the world that is breaking free from Western oppression? What are the real goals of the special military operation (SMO)? Do we need Central and Western Ukraine? How can the use of nuclear weapons save the world from World War III? Sergei Karaganov, Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Academic Supervisor at the HSE Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs speaks with Argumenty Nedeli Editor-in-Chief Andrei Uglanov on this and many other topics.

The Romantic Period Is Over

Q: Given the latest events in the war zone in Ukraine, more and more people start talking about negotiations, including presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov. But how can there be any negotiations if the Ukrainians have forbidden themselves even from talking about them? And why do we need to negotiate now that we are making obvious progress on the battlefield?

A: We are not at war with Ukraine but with the collective West. And the West is beginning to realize that it can lose. This is why the Europeans and Americans are sending more and more signals about the need for negotiations. Even Zelensky, although he should not be taken seriously, has recently said that negotiations could be an option to consider. But in reality this is a very dangerous trap. Negotiations can only be about peace, which everyone seems to be striving for. Our position on this issue seems overly romantic to me. We have already made enough romantic and idealistic mistakes in the past. I would not like to see them repeated again. Of course, we favor negotiations. But we must clearly define their terms and goals. We haven’t done that so far. In my view, our terms should include, first of all, the return of NATO military structures to the 1997 borders; the payment of reparations to Russia for the economic damage it has sustained; and the demilitarization of the entire territory of Ukraine. The question of which part of Ukraine will go to Russia, which will go to other countries, and which will remain neutral can be the subject of negotiations. But the main point is the West’s surrender in Ukraine, as non-humiliating as possible. Having realized that it can encounter Russia’s nuclear response, the United States is slowly backing down. We can tell them that we will guarantee their relatively dignified retreat. They have given Ukraine the last $50 billion to be spent on the war. But if they see that this does not help either, they will try to quietly wind the program down and leave. We need to provide these conditions. But there should be no negotiations until the agenda is completely ours.

There Is No Good President in America

Q: The United States will hold elections in November. Who is preferable for us―Trump or Biden? For some reason, many Russian people and even politicians think that Trump is almost our guy.

A: This is a ridiculous misconception. Trump is a very flamboyant politician. But he is part of the present American elite, its most realistically-minded part. He is nationally-, not globally-, focused. But his hands are tied. And let me remind you that the first tough round of anti-Russian sanctions was initiated by Trump. Biden just followed his suit. The Americans would like to continue fighting us with Ukrainian hands, because it costs them almost nothing.

Q: Please elaborate.

A: We think that all these billions of dollars provided by the Americans to support Ukraine is a lot of money. In reality it is pocket change for them, but they force us to spend large resources on war and shed our blood, and they also tie our hands. Our task is to make this war clearly unprofitable for the United States. It is now impossible to come to any agreement with the Europeans because their brains have obviously been blown out. They are much more anti-Russian than even the Americans, some of whom are still capable of rational assessment, even though there are fewer and fewer of them. But there are practically no such people in Europe. Therefore, we should pin no hopes either on Trump or Biden. Someday, in ten or twenty years from now, if we avoid a big war, we can help America leave the position of global leader it got almost by accident after World War II and retire to the position of a normal “great power.”

Q: Fancy American transport ships leaving Le Havre and London to the “Farewell of Slavianka” military march!

A: There is no need for the Americans to leave completely. We blame them for everything, of course, but we must not forget that Europe has generated the biggest threats for humanity and appalling ideologies. Americans get drawn into this snakepit over and over again, but they sometimes acted quite commendably. In recent decades, especially after we had foolishly fallen apart, Americans received an injection of globalist imperialism and got the bit between their teeth. We need to cure them of this disease. And we are slowly doing it.

Q: What conditions should we create for the Americans to quietly crawl away from Ukraine?

A:  In many ways, this will be the result of internal changes in the United States itself, which we cannot influence. There is a generational change and a change of elites underway there. The best people in America already understand that the empire they have created over the past seventy, but particularly the last thirty, years costs them too much and puts them at a disadvantage. This is why they are beginning to look for a way out of the Ukraine crisis, but so far only among themselves because the pressure of globalist imperialism and triumphalism is still very strong. We will have to live with this for at least one or even two generations of Americans, or to be more precise, their elites. Twenty years for sure. And if they do not fall apart, then they may as well become one of the great powers and pillars of the world order, a normal great power.

Q: Just one of many?

A: I think there will be four or five great powers that take care of the world and their own interests.

Q: Can you name them?

A: Russia, China, the U.S., and India. Europe should not participate in this, because it cannot be great―it has degraded and is unlikely to be reborn. It is, of course, part of our civilization, but all of its greatness is in the past. The United States can still be reborn. For that to happen, certain conditions have to be created for their retreat, possibly without shame.

Q: And before they go, they are trying to siphon off more money. When you leave, you have to grab something of use to take away.

A: I am a man of even deeper imperial thinking than you. Without knowing it, by taking care of our security, not even fully understanding it, in the 1950-1960s at first and then after the temporary failure in the 1990s, having begun to restore our strategic power, we cut the foundation from under Western global dominance―military superiority they obtained five centuries ago, upon which they built their ideological, cultural, political, economic, and financial system that allowed them to siphon off world wealth. The collapse of this foundation is the main reason for the current tension and the hatred towards us not only among Western elites but also among some of the people who also benefited from this system. Collected apart, even if a small one of сolonial and neocolonial rent. Who wants to get poor, even if they used to get rich unfairly, by robbing others? They think we are to blame for that. And the second problem is the feeling of all-permissiveness they have developed, including due to our stupidity and idealism. We have to hurry to do away with it. And, once again, we should allow the Americans to leave the pedestal without plunging the planet into a nuclear disaster. But at the same time, there is one more important thing to remember. We have freed the world. We have given freedom to all civilizations that were previously suppressed by the West and are now rising before our eyes. And that’s great. But these civilizations will compete with each other. And we need to make sure that this competition does not turn into an acute military rivalry. In other words, we need to push back the West, prevent a long war it wants to impose on us, and create conditions for the peaceful development of humankind. Unfortunately, I see no other way to do this but by  rebuilding the credibility of nuclear deterrence.

Some of the SMO Goals Have Already Been Achieved

Q: You said there is a certain group that wants negotiations on Ukraine to begin as soon as possible. What kind of group is that?

A: The SMO had a lot of unannounced goals that have already been achieved.

Q: Like what?

A: For example, knocking traitors and Westernizers out of our society. Westernism remains, of course, which is quite understandable. But it is a ignominious disease under current circumstances. Though we are are a part of European culture. The second goal is destroying the comprador class that emerged in the 1990s because of our extremely unsuccessful reforms. A system was created that allowed and even pushed people to take their money to the West, thus forming a class that serviced Western capital. The third goal is refocusing our economy from hoping to fit into “value chains” to the national needs. It was an absolutely stupid liberal idea from the very beginning. It suggested participating in the international division of labor, selling what we had, buying finished products over there because it was profitable, and so on. Our goal was to integrate into this system. It was a profound intellectual mistake. It is true though that we were all like that at some point, because we did not know the real world and relied on the meager intellectual knowledge that we had at that time. Economic cooperation is essential. There will be no successful development without it. But it is not an end in itself. Now, thank God, we start to understand this world. But in society, especially in its upper economic strata, as well as among top-level intellectuals and the middle-class bourgeoisie, there is a desire to revert to the previous way of life, because they lived well back then, which is not a secret, although largely at the expense of the rest of the people. But now other strata are emerging, which live quite comfortably in the new conditions. Maybe they are not as affluent as the people now being pushed away from their sinecure lives of the 1990s, but they realize themselves successfully and earn well without stealing as the previous elites did. This stratum is quite strong in administrations of different levels. The “previous people” are a burden to our country. They need to be pushed back or re-educated. This is already happening, including due to the ongoing war and the grassroots movement. So under no circumstances should we begin these negotiations, because in that case the reformation of the elites will stop instantly.

Q: Following the failure of Ukraine’s offensive last year, Europeans have started talking about freezing the conflict, meaning that Russia keeps Crimea and other gains but stops where it is now, while what is left of Ukraine becomes part of NATO. What can all this lead to?

A: This would mean tearing a defeat from hands of victory, which would put a lot of strain on our people and claims tens of thousands of lives of our best and brave men who are fighting but also dying out there. This is why we must not do this regardless. But we can maneuver and talk. However there can be no freezing. We must simply understand that we are fighting in Ukraine but not against Ukraine. We are fighting against the West. And so negotiations can only be conducted with the West on the terms of its surrender or retreat. Otherwise we will lose. In a long conflict like this, the side that has greater demographic and economic potential normally wins. So far we have been working hard and well and winning in the short term. This can go on for another year or two. But we should not continue it after that. That is why I insist on strengthening the emphasis on nuclear deterrence. Moreover, the inevitable wave of conflicts in the world will lead to the Third World War unless the reliability and credibility of nuclear deterrence and the salutary fear of nuclear weapons are revived.

Q: Why has our leadership not yet named the ultimate goal of the SMO?

A: I have already named these goals. And I think it’s a mistake that we do not declare them publicly. Tactical targets like Chasov Yar should be designated because our guys die fighting for them. But there is also a less noticeable war, a war on the economic front, a war for the minds and aspirations of people, a war for ruining the West’s desire and readiness to fight us. And this is the main point.

Q: Sergei Lavrov has recently made it clear that Kharkov should be in the buffer zone. These are strategic, not tactical goals.

A: I think it’s a mistake that we have delayed announcing strategic, not tactical goals. A discussion is underway in our country and there are several options. Among such options some of my colleagues name the entire left bank of the Dnieper and the south of Ukraine, which certainly includes Odessa and Nikolaev. We must not stop fighting until these goals are achieved. There are disputes about a part of right-bank Ukraine and Kiev. Most of my colleagues think that we absolutely need not Central and Western Ukraine, backward both mentally and technologically, a hotbed of parochial anti-Russian ideology. These are deeply jealous regions. They never produced anything of value for Russia even when they were part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union. But, in any case, before talking about the creation of these zones, we first need to break the West’s will to support the war, and let it know that further support will have an exorbitant price for it. Unfortunately, we have not done this yet. This war is inflicting some loss on part of the Western bourgeoisie, but, in principle, it benefits the West. America is definitely benefiting from it. It is helping the European elites distract people from theirs disastrous failures. The war allows the elites to redirect part of the money to their military-industrial complex. America is riding the gravy train in this regard. The lion’s share of what they give in “support of Ukraine” actually flows directly into the U.S. economy. We should create a situation where the American “deep state” and its inner elites understand that it is no longer profitable for them, is causing losses and threatening their direct vital interests and their lives. At this point we are winning the war in Ukraine against Ukraine, but not against the West. This problem cannot be solved this way. We need to move to a higher level, set ourselves more ambitious goals, but these are the only possible goals as I mentioned above, and start using much more powerful tools to exert pressure.

Nuclear Cudgel Defending Global Peace

Q: Well, how can we pose a threat to Europe? All countries in Western Europe have an inferiority complex after the end of World War II. At that time, all of them, with just a few minor exceptions, were part of the Hitler coalition. All of them fought against us. We shook all of them out of their pants, including even our Slav brothers in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. There is no doubt they will never forgive us for that. So how can we threaten them so that they change their mind about avenging our freeing them from Hitler?

A: First off, I must make it clear that these are revanchist states that want to take revenge for the defeat of European imperialism, fascism, and Nazism. Let me remind you, apart from well-known examples, that the French soldiers who fought in Russia in Wehrmacht troops outnumbered the Maquis and even, possibly, General De Gaulle’s corps that fought the Germans in North Africa. The whole of Europe fought against us. They lost and are now out for revenge. Besides, their elites have a huge number of problems that they cannot or do not want to solve. They need a distraction from their failures.

Q: How can we sober them up?

A: This is a profound problem, because over the past seventy years strategic parasitism has swept the world, and Europe in particular. They have come to believe that there is no threat of war and replaced the real with the virtual. They have lost the fear not only of God but also of war, forgotten their own history. The only way to remind them of that is to show our readiness to use nuclear weapons. The nuclear deterrence escalation ladder has at least a dozen levels. In no case do I want to launch a nuclear strike, although it may become absolutely necessary. From a military point of view, the use of nuclear weapons is advantageous as it will break the Europeans’ will to resist. But this will mean colossal moral damage to us. We are the people who grew up on Tolstoy and Dostoevsky’s works. Tens or hundreds of thousands of European civilians killed in nuclear inferno will be a terrible shock to us. But there may be a situation where we will have to do it. First of all, in order to sober up Europeans and Americans. And secondly, in order to stop the world from sliding towards a world war. It hasn’t occurred so far because there was a built-in safety mechanism―fear of nuclear weapons. But this fear began to dissipate in the 1980s and was almost completely gone by the 2000s. Humanity, especially the West, has lost its sense of self-preservation. As other basic moral codes get changed, this makes the western part of humanity dangerous. This is why it needs a good shake-up. This is a very unpleasant story, and I understand how difficult it is even to discuss. But we must understand that we are faced not only with the task of ensuring the fundamental interests of Russian security, but also with the task of saving humanity both from the Western yoke and from a new and probably last world war. These tasks are inseparable from each other. This is the essence of the great mission of the Russian people―by saving ourselves we save the world.

Q: But they can reason the same way and think about where they can also use their nuclear weapons. Ukraine is the battlefield now. But for them, Ukraine is a completely alien territory not to be spared. Conversely, nuclear strikes on our doorstep on the territory we consider our own in many ways are absolutely unacceptable for us.

A: I know for sure that after the Soviet Union had obtained secure second strike capability, the United States never planned a nuclear strike against the USSR. They contemplated using these weapons on the territory of their own allies, primarily Germany, if invaded by Soviet troops, or at the very least against the Soviet Union’s allies. The German leaders were in full-blown panic mode when they faced that possibility. As for a retaliatory strike on Ukraine after our hypothetical nuclear attack on targets in NATO countries, this is a dangerous story. But the Americans are not considering it seriously so far. They are bluffing when they say that in response to a nuclear strike on targets in European countries that support NATO’s aggression in Ukraine, they will launch a massive conventional strike on Russia’s armed forces and territory. This is a total bluff because they are well aware that Russia will respond with a second wave of nuclear strikes, followed by a third and a fourth ones, on American bases around the world, including Europe, killing tens of thousands of American military personnel. This is absolutely unacceptable for them. Having spread their tentacles around the world, they have become qualitatively more vulnerable than we. So we need to play it straight and hard but carefully, of course, trying to convince the enemy to retreat before it suffers disastrous losses.

Q: So there is the option of our nuclear strike on Ukraine?

A: Such an option theoretically exists. But I am completely against it. People there have been deceived, but in many ways these are our people. However if we do not change our nuclear doctrine, then NATO can use nuclear weapons against Belarus, which is absolutely unacceptable to us. This is why we should quickly change our outdated, idealistic, and largely carefree doctrine regulating the use of nuclear weapons, which is based on the principles and postulates of the past. And we should also redeploy our armed forces. Some steps are already being made in this regard. Our doctrine states that we can only use nuclear weapons in the event of a mortal threat to our state and statehood. But we have already deployed our nuclear weapons in Belarus. It should be used there long before such a mortal threat arises. The enemy must know that we are ready to use nuclear weapons in response to any attack on our territory, including bombing. It is up to the President to make the final decision. But we need to untie our hands. We must understand that we and all of Europe are doomed to a long war unless we clearly change our policy in this area. And we will also be doomed to exhaustion and maybe even defeat. But most importantly, the world will be doomed to the Third World War. We must eliminate this threat. This is our national mission. And secondly, this is the mission of the Russian people as the savior of humankind, which we always have been.

Q: I understand that there will be no nuclear war with America. They love themselves too much. But anything is possible with Europe, which has completely gone off its rocker. In what order should we hit them? Poland, Germany, Great Britain, and the Czech Republic are obviously the first countries that come to mind. Well, France, too, of course.

A: I really would not like things to go that way. Yes, we will send them to hell. But by doing so we will pave the way for huge moral losses for ourselves. Nuclear weapons are God’s weapons. It’s a scary choice. But God punished Sodom and Gomorrah, which had got mired in madness and profligacy, with a rain of fire. I pray to God that we do not have to take such a step. But it’s about saving the country and the world. You correctly named Poland and Germany. The Baltic countries and Romania could be next. But, I repeat, God forbid!

Q: Why Romania?

A: Because a large flow of military cargoes goes to Ukraine through them. They have set up training centers. They host a large contingent of American troops. In addition, there are supply bases on their territory. And we must recall that the Romanian contingent was among the largest forces that invaded our country along with Nazi Germany. And they were no different from the latter in committing atrocities. As for the Germans, they must understand that our generous forgiveness of them for their monstrous crimes is not unlimited. We must ultimately make sure that Europe can never threaten us again. Well, someday we will cooperate with some European countries and even be friends with them. We do not reject the best European roots in ourselves, and we will take them with us along our main road to the South and the East, to Greater Eurasia.

Q: What about Great Britain?

A: It does not pose a direct military threat to us. They just habitually befoul, but that’s all.

Q: Much has been said about Russians and Ukrainians being one people. But you divide Ukraine into Southern, Eastern, Central, and Western, where people of completely different mindsets live. Are there those among them who are still one people with us?

A: Western Ukraine is the backward periphery of the backward periphery of Europe―Austria-Hungary and Poland. It happened to be part of our country by accident. Central Ukraine is a territory that was constantly crossed by the Polovtsy, the Poles, the Hungarians, the Turks, the Krymchaks, the Lithuanians, and the Swedes. There was no statehood there for eight centuries, and they have long forgotten about Kievan Rus, of which they were part in the distant past. There are also Eastern and Southern Ukraine, which are part of Russia, but which were partly infected with fascism. However, part of that Ukraine has been bravely fighting alongside us and for us for the past ten years. All these territories should return to Russia, but after a  period of reforming. As for Central Ukraine, let them live by themselves, and even more so Western Ukraine. Most importantly, we should not repeat the mistakes of the Soviet government. Let me remind you that after the Great Patriotic War, life in the Bryansk and Smolensk regions was much harder than in the neighboring regions of Ukraine. Ukrainian regions were rebuilt on a priority basis. This must not be done again. We can start helping them when they join us. Until then, we should treat them as the people who fought against us, just like the Germans in the GDR, naturally excluding those who share our spirit and who are our allies. But they must prove this by deeds, not words. When someone talks about one people, I want to ask him: Were the Vlasovites one people with us? They were Russian and Ukrainian by ethnic origin, but they were our enemies. So we must get rid of this illusion too, although we are very close both in terms of genetics and partly in terms of culture. But we will have to eradicate the virus of fascism there, even surgically, if need be.

// The interview was originally published in Russian in “Argumenty Nedeli”
newspaper (№17(914), May 3, 2024).