Alexander CHALY – Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine. Honorary lawyer of Ukraine, Ph.D. in law. President of Grant Thornton Ukraine. Member of top-level international commission «Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative», member of Supervisory Board of United World International Fund and co-chairman of Working group of National Convention on the EU in Ukraine.
After the meetings of the US and Russian delegations in Geneva, as well as within the framework of NATO and the OSCE, the logic of agreements between the US and Russia on a new global security architecture began to emerge.
Putin's main demand is assurances from the US and its allies that NATO will not expand to the East and deploy weapons systems that Russia considers a threat. So far, the West has answered “no” to all of Moscow's key demands. Does this mean that the threat of a large-scale war between Russia and Ukraine has increased?
The well-known Ukrainian diplomat Alexander Chaly’s confident answer is “no”. In a new conversation with Yuri Romanenko, he identified two basic and two extreme scenarios. Alexander Chaly is sure that Joseph Biden and Vladimir Putin are close to a compromise. He outlined the key interests of the United States, Russia and China in the global confrontation and the place of Ukraine in the event of the implementation of one of the basic scenarios in world architecture.
Hello friends! We are going to discuss the context of a nighttime statement of Joe Biden, Antony Blinken’s visit, flights of British planes with various weapons. There are already 5 or 6 flights to Kyiv, Russia is making formidable statements. At night I watched Sergey Ryabkov's Valdai Club, there was also an interesting statement about NATO. That NATO has disappeared and now there is US+ instead of NATO.
In short, on the one hand, there is such an escalation, forcing, moreover, in specific forms: the Russians are transferring military equipment, Iskanders and everything else. On the other hand, it is clear that both the Russians and the Americans have not completely closed the gates, and maneuvers are underway to still find some common ground.
How do you see the development of this situation? What are the main trends in these complex negotiations between Moscow and Washington?
Thank you very much for the invitation. I accepted it with great pleasure. If you remember, last time my forecast was that until mid-January, at least, everything would be calm, the Ukrainian people would peacefully celebrate the New Year and nothing extraordinary would happen. And so, it happened.
I want to answer your question about the new forecast figuratively: in the next 2-3 months, relations between the United States and the Russian Federation will develop in the context of the ongoing cold winter. We all in Ukraine should expect that our country may be covered by very serious geopolitical frosts and blizzards. The situation in and around Ukraine will be extremely unstable and turbulent.
But in general, it smells like spring. My outlook for the medium term is more positive than negative. I am sure that there is no reason to expect a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in the next 2-3 months.
Last time, if you remember, I said: if you want to understand how Russia operates, you need to listen to what Putin says, what his repeaters broadcast, I mean Lavrov, Ryabkov. And what they say, they are likely to do. After all, what we see now is Russia's show for the collective West of the fundamental conditions for building a new architecture of European – meaning global - security.
From the Russians' point of view, European security must be indivisible and equal if we are to recreate it on solid foundations. At the same time, they clearly stated that if the United States does not enter into real negotiations and agreements in the context of building European security on the principles of equal and indivisible security, then they will create an equal strategic vulnerability for the United States. In other words, if the US does not want equal security with the Russian Federation, it will receive equal danger.
Now let's think logically. From the point of view of the Russian Federation, if they create a deep crisis situation in Ukraine, if they allow a full-scale invasion, do they achieve this goal? On the contrary, they will create a hotbed of geopolitical instability near their doorstep, near their borders. That is, they will create a danger for themselves, and not for the United States.
They are deepening, I would even say - there is already a hearth.
Yes. But not for the US. The United States can, as our people say, fight for Ukraine to the last Ukrainian on the territory of Ukraine. Therefore, the Russian Federation, if there is a complete failure of their negotiations with the United States and the collective West (I mean NATO, the OSCE), in the first place, it will seek to create pockets of danger near the United States.
First of all, it is Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua. I want to say that during our previous broadcast I predicted this. At that time, no one had made such predictions. Moreover, my American friends from Washington, with whom I discussed this scenario, told me that this is basically impossible. But you know, the Russians have already said that they are considering such scenarios. And there was a very strong reaction from Sullivan, Biden's national security adviser, that in that case the US would be ready for a very serious response.
Secondly, Russia will create sources of danger around the EU. That is the deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus, medium-range missiles and possible elements of nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad. The card of Serbia has not yet been played. The card of Bosnia and Herzegovina has not yet been played. By the way, it is interesting today that Carl Bild published an article that while everyone is concentrating on Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina is burning and disintegrating.
That is, the Russians have a lot of options on how to create danger for NATO countries near these countries and, first of all, how to create danger near the United States.
That is why the Russians have made their ultimatum proposals on European security public, because they want to discuss these strategic issues in public, not only with the Western ruling elites, but also with the society of the Western countries.
They want Western public opinion to know about the logic of their behavior, and when the US refuses to accept Russian proposals at the official level, the Russian Federation will create a danger, for example, near the US coast or near Germany, France, Great Britain, so that the public in these countries has the appropriate pressure on their governments. Since it is obvious that if the centers of danger arise near the United States or near the political centers of Western Europe, voters in these countries will perceive such a development of events very negatively.
That is, Russia, already at the start of its geopolitical confrontation with the United States, wants to involve the public opinion of Western countries in this struggle. At the same time, it is well known that in the context of the internal political struggle between conservatives and neoliberals, Russia has a certain support among conservative and right-wing conservative circles in the West. The strategic calculation of the Russian Federation is based on it.
In general, in my opinion, only if a decision is made that tomorrow Ukraine joins NATO, this will be the “red line”, after which Russia will actually go on a large-scale aggression against Ukraine and will seek to occupy as much territory of Ukraine as it can.
Look, in fact, both the States and Europe are real, they practically all say with one voice that they are not going to accept Ukraine. Yes, they can consider the opportunity, and NATO answered that countries who want to join the alliance should decide it by themselves. But at the moment it is not on the agenda.
Moreover, Biden said at night, in black and white, that the States today do not have any obligations regarding the defense of Ukraine. Yes, we will defend NATO allies, but we will not defend Ukraine - he actually said it out loud.
Moreover, Biden said tonight that he is not considering the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO in the short term. He specifically emphasized this. And already in the afternoon, the Hungarian Foreign Minister said that Hungary would block Ukraine's accession to NATO and the EU until Ukraine resolves the issue of national minorities on its territory.
Everything has been clear with Hungary for a long time already.
Yes. I want to say that the Hungarians are very stubborn in relation to the policy on national minorities. I was an ambassador to Romania when the same problem was between the Hungarians and the Romanians.
And there is a large minority, by the way. There are about one and a half million Hungarians in Romania.
Over two million. So, until the Romanians accepted what the Hungarians demanded, the path to NATO and the EU was closed to them. The Hungarians on this issue will stand to the end, and hardly anyone can break them. Therefore, in my opinion, you correctly stressed that since NATO membership does not threaten us, insofar as I see no motive for full-scale Russian aggression in the near future.
Except if there is some kind of provocation that can be realized by some third force, not necessarily of a state nature, or if a real clash begins on the line of demarcation in the Donbas, which can develop into a full-scale clash between the two armies. But in my opinion, this is a very unlikely scenario, no more than 5% out of 100% probability that a full-scale Russian aggression against Ukraine may occur in the near future.
Last time we predicted that there are four possible scenarios for the development of events around Ukraine.
First, a full-scale war with the Russian Federation. It is extremely unlikely.
Second, the Cold War is a confrontation with the Russian Federation and its intensification.
The third, cold peace is the achievement of a temporary or permanent truce between the United States and the Russian Federation regarding the geopolitical status of Ukraine.
Fourth, peace, when the overwhelming majority of Russian demands will be accepted and accepted by the West.
The scenario of peace, like the scenario of war, is unlikely. After three rounds of negotiations, which took place in different formats, the collective West said a fundamental "no" to all key Russian proposals. Biden also repeated in the evening that there are no real results that would lead to real agreements between the US and Russia today.
Accordingly, the two scenarios of war and peace are not realistic today.
More realistic, in my opinion, is the scenario of the Cold War, that is, the further intensification of confrontation between the Russian Federation and the United States; RF-Ukraine; RF-NATO.
There are chances, I am sure, for the cold world scenario, especially after the “geopolitical winter” ends and the “geopolitical spring” smells. This scenario essentially does not imply the achievement of a sustainable peace and the conclusion of any long-term legally binding agreements between the warring parties. It is rather the achievement of a temporary or permanent truce, which can be achieved through the conclusion of a series of temporary political agreements that establish partial red lines in the relationship between the collective West and the Russian Federation regarding the new European security architecture and Ukraine's place in it.
So, in my opinion, it is most likely (60%) that in the next 2 months the Cold War scenario will be realized, i.e. intensification of confrontation between the Russian Federation and the United States. The situation around Ukraine will remain tense, but not critical. At the same time, it cannot be ruled out with a probability (25-30%) that, nevertheless, in the next two months it will be possible to reach the cold peace formula, i.e. to conclude political agreements that will fix a truce between the US and Russia regarding Ukraine.
It is also important for our readers to understand that today we are living in a period of radical change in the previous geopolitical architecture of the world, especially with regard to the European security system. We always talk about two world wars. But there was also a zero world war, it is called the Napoleonic Wars.
So, following the results of the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna was held, which proclaimed the geopolitical model of the “concert” of states, which practically worked until the start of the First World War. After the First World War, this whole model was rebuilt on the principles of the Treaty of Versailles. As a result of World War II, the geopolitical model of the world was rebuilt on the principles of the Yalta agreements.
Yes, you are right. But, almost always in the world, a change in the geopolitical paradigm took place through war. But the presence of nuclear weapons and the rules that were developed in the relationship between the Great States after the Caribbean crisis of 1962 led to the fact that the next change in the geopolitical paradigm, the transition from a bipolar world to a unipolar one in 1990-1991, occurred peacefully.
The unipolar world is now complete. We talked with you that the United States over the past 20 years has suffered a certain fiasco in Iran, Iraq, Libya, and partly in Pakistan. Afghanistan was the last chord. Even in their very near abroad, they cannot influence countries that choose a path of development that does not quite coincide with the principles of the Washington Consensus (Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba).
Therefore, after the events in Afghanistan, 2021 became a milestone year, when it became clear to everyone that the unipolar world is a thing of the past. And today we are witnessing the formation of the geopolitical structure of a multipolar world.
And in this regard, the key question now is whether this transition will take place peacefully or through war. Most likely peaceful, because, as I mentioned above, there is already a precedent for such a peaceful transition, and insofar as the transition to a multipolar world affects the relationship of countries with nuclear weapons. First of all, the relationship between the US and the Russian Federation - countries that have the potential No. 1 and No. 2 of nuclear weapons in the world.
It is important that only these two countries are capable of completely destroying each other with the help of nuclear weapons. You may not know, but China's nuclear potential today does not allow to completely destroy the United States.
You had an amazing strategic conversation with Sergey Datsyuk , where he made it very clear that the relationship between states and their sovereignty should be understood based on the logic of the nuclear age. And this logic boils down to the fact that those countries that have a key nuclear potential build their relations on key issues of war and peace only on a bilateral basis, and at critical moments for their relations, dictate policy and strategic decisions in relation to all other states of the world.
Therefore, in my opinion, there is every chance that geopolitical uncertainty, geopolitical instability, geopolitical earthquakes around Ukraine and European security in the next 2-3 months will not cross the red line, beyond which they could lead to a direct clash of nuclear countries.
And in this regard, this logic of the nuclear age, which you spoke about with Sergei Datsyuk, must be constantly recognized and taken into account. Since this logic objectively sets completely different models of behavior for Russia, and for the United States, and for NATO, and for Ukraine. And also for NATO countries that are on the first line of contact with Russia (the Baltic countries, Poland, Romania, etc.).
Therefore, I practically exclude the most terrible scenario of a full-scale invasion - Russian aggression in Ukraine. It seems to me that the very fact that the Russian Federation has begun strategic negotiations with the United States makes such a scenario unlikely.
By the way, the most interesting thing is that Biden said last night that he does not believe that Putin will launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. He draws his conclusion from his conversations with Putin. By the way, this is a big dissonance with the conclusions of American intelligence, because, according to their conclusions, this process is about to begin.
They give 90%.
It is interesting to observe how sometimes there are differences in the position of the President of the United States and his entourage. Yesterday Biden also made an interesting statement, which by the morning his press secretary Psaki tried to interpret in her own way. Biden said diabolical sanctions on Russia would be taken in the event of a full-scale Russian invasion. But if this invasion is insignificant, then one should think about what sanctions, to what extent, will be applied.
This statement caused a storm of emotions. CNN made critical comments. And already in the morning, the White House press secretary clarified that Biden meant that any crossing of the state border of Ukraine by Russian troops would be considered as a full-scale invasion.
But this is a very broad interpretation. Because, in international law, especially in relations between countries with nuclear weapons, the principle of proportionality operates. That is, if there is some kind of threat, or some kind of incident, then the response to this should be proportional.
In practice, there have been incidents with military aircraft, causing significant damage to US or Soviet naval ships. But the parties in such situations found the possibility that their response to such incidents was equally proportionate. At least, and in this regard, a very balanced policy, in my opinion, is being pursued by the top leadership of Ukraine. Yesterday I was proud of the President of Ukraine, who had the dignity and courage to joke with his counterpart, the US Secretary of State, when he said that “yes”, American intelligence is the best in the world, but we are closer to Russia here, and we can probably see better.
We must remember that there was a fact in our diplomatic history when American intelligence made a mistake in accusing Ukraine of having supplied Kolchuga to Iraq. By the way, no one apologized to us for this later. British and American intelligence were also wrong when they said that there were chemical weapons in Iraq.
Even nuclear weapons.
Chemical, not nuclear. As we remember, Tony Blair even apologized for the fact that he made a decision on Iraq based on an erroneous intelligence conclusion. Look at the forecasts of an American intelligence and what really happened after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. These examples show that intelligence may not be accurate.
I was also shocked by the article in New York Times, which announced the evacuation of the diplomatic staff of the Russian embassy from Ukraine, citing an unnamed source. By the standards of the Western press, such a respectable newspaper would have to cite several sources and give an alternative point of view. Almost immediately, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation denied this information.
But as a pro, it’s clear to me that it was very easy to establish whether the withdrawal of Russian diplomatic personnel from Ukraine began or not. It was just necessary to request the Ukrainian Border Service, which could promptly and unambiguously confirm or deny the relevant information. In the situation that has developed around Ukraine today, the press could, in my opinion, show some restraint and double-check this or that information.
And in this regard, I support the position of the Ukrainian leadership, which did not succumb to panic and took a balanced responsible position, since the panic itself could have provoked certain actions on the Russian side.
I would like to be wrong, but unfortunately there is enough evidence that both in the United States and in the world there are influential forces with huge financial and power resources that would be interested in starting a full-scale war between Ukraine and Russia. Because in this case, the scenario that defends these forces is realized.
There are now two forces present in the global collective West. The first one advocates a dialogue with Russia, and without any preconditions, since it considers it necessary to achieve such a state that Russia, at least in the geopolitical rivalry between the US and China, takes a neutral position.
The second very influential group takes the opposite position. They believe that the Russian Federation remains a "colossus with feet of clay", that the period of transit of power in the Russian Federation is not far off. This will cause significant instability. So, you need to do everything possible and impossible to deliver the final blow to the Russian Federation and repeat the scenario of the disintegration of the USSR 2.0.
And therefore, for them, the very fact that the Russian Federation could go on a full-scale aggression against Ukraine is positive. In this case, the Russian Federation is likely to overstrain economically, and the war in Ukraine will be very unpopular within Russia. And besides, Russian aggression will cause real armed resistance from the majority of the Ukrainian people.
Moreover, there are certain financial and economic calculations behind this. The situation with the dollar today is extremely uncertain. Any major military-political crisis in Europe or in some other part of the world will lead to the fact that all key financial flows will again flow into the United States as a safe haven.
It happened in the First World War, it happened in the Second World War, it happens whenever there is tension in Europe or around Europe, or there is tension in Asia. This is understandable and natural. Because in these situations, the US is the most secure and most powerful geopolitical country in the world.
That is why, in my opinion, the Ukrainian leadership and we in Ukraine need to live our own minds and be very careful, very sober, so that no one draws us against our will into a full-scale conflict with the Russian Federation.
I know Yuri that you are very interested in how the First World War began. And you remember that at that time everyone seemed to say in words that they didn’t want it. But due to a series of illogical actions, or rather illogical reactions to the steps taken by the Great Powers of that era, the First World War became real.
In my opinion, we just need to avoid this trap of the First World War, in relation to the situation that is now developing around Ukraine and in connection with the geopolitical rivalry between Russia, the USA, China and the EU for leading positions in the new world order. Unfortunately or fortunately, history will show that Ukraine is at the epicenter of these strategic geopolitical bargaining of the 21st century.
Now a few judgments and the following questions so that we give people a better understanding of all these processes. So, the first judgment, I'll start from the end. Regarding the second group in the collective West, which wants the destruction of Russia. But such a decision can only be made if there is a clear understanding in the collective West that Russia is finally playing with China.
Because if Russia is destroyed just like that, because of the conflict between it and the West, then China is the beneficiary of this situation in essence. And the States, first of all, lose because of this, because then China becomes stronger, it gets even greater access to the economic resources of Siberia and Russia.
First, who will be the beneficiary of this situation is an open question. When we talk about the possible disintegration of Russia, this means that a number of states may appear on the territories of the Russian Federation - two, three, four states. And in this case, such a very strong geopolitical player as the United States, together with the EU, can take control of most of these new states that can be formed on the territory of the Russian Federation.
Second, you look at these processes strategically. But many geopolitical players look at them based on their medium-term goals. In particular, why now there is a need for a geopolitical restructuring of the world. Because the geo-economic spaces for the further expansion of modern capitalism have practically disappeared.
Except Africa. Africa is still such a space.
Africa today is already 80 percent under China. Only now the West is waking up and starting to work more closely in Africa. China quietly took Africa under its control very seriously. Accordingly, either a new territory will be found, in relation to which the West will have the possibility of geo-economic expansion and the development of which will take the next 20-30 years, or it is necessary to negotiate, or it is necessary to fight.
Look, if the disintegration of the USSR had not occurred, history would have taken a completely different path. Because the disintegration of the USSR made it possible for 30 years to carry out the expansion of the capitalist model, which dominates in the West, to the entire post-Soviet space.
China and India are involved.
And Eastern Europe. This is the moment of truth today.
In addition, I want to emphasize that the Anglo-Saxon world is developing its own concept of the future of globalism, in which it is not excluded that, in principle, it is possible to negotiate with China. There is even an opinion that, unlike Russia and Europe, the Anglo-Saxon civilization with China has always been able to coexist. Every large Anglo-Saxon city has its own Chinatown. What can not be said about most European and Russian cities.
Trump's formula of globalism is fundamentally different from Biden's formula of globalism. Despite the fact that Trump launched a geopolitical rivalry with China and Biden continues this policy to a certain extent, a significant part of Western neoliberal forces believe that it is possible to find a strategic modus vivendi with China, especially if Russia ceases to play a significant geopolitical role.
In my opinion, this is a dangerous and erroneous theory. Because Russia today is more stable than ever. Russia has a single challenge - the transformation of power. Moreover, regardless of how it will be held, in a regulated or unregulated manner.
Any transformation of power for Russia is a very serious challenge, it is essentially a black swan. But on the whole, Russia today, according to many indicators, economic, in terms of debt, accumulated foreign exchange reserves, is relatively stable.
At the same time, the domestic political situation in America is extremely difficult. Paradoxically, in recent months there has been only one issue on the domestic agenda in Washington on which both Democrats and Republicans are roughly united - the Ukrainian issue. On all other issues they have a very tough ideological rivalry. Therefore, there is an objective temptation to keep the issue of a possible full-scale aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine as long as possible in the focus of American foreign policy.
But you have to give President Biden credit. And this, probably, is a big plus for Ukraine, that today he is the President of the United States. Imagine for a moment if Trump were the President of the United States. He could make some very quick, emotional decision. President Biden, as a very experienced politician and diplomat, nevertheless persistently seeks to find a formula of mutual understanding with the Russian Federation through a tough dialogue.
In this regard, I liked the statement of Nuland, who said a couple of days ago that yes, we started talking with Russia, yes, we have not agreed on anything yet, but we have begun to hear each other. From Nuland, this phrase is worth a lot.
It seems to me that we here in Kyiv should begin to understand and take into account this new fundamental geopolitical trend in US foreign policy.
And fundamental trends are those that last up to 50 years. Therefore, I still believe that in the United States, those political forces that will strive to find a new formula for sustainable peaceful coexistence between the collective West and Russia will eventually win. At least in order for Russia to take a neutral and positive position in the rivalry between the US and China in the future.
And it gives a chance. There is a chance that the world will not slide into a full-scale regional European war, that the world will stop before the threat of a new nuclear war.
Even then, a few judgments in the development of this idea, and then we will jump to Ukraine. Look, in this context, regarding this US-Russia-China triangle, I think that the meeting between Putin and Xi Jinping at the opening of the Olympic Games will be very important.
Many Russian and Chinese people and analysts are waiting for some kind of collective statement by Putin and Xi Jinping on global politics. Many are waiting, including the fact that Putin and Xing Jinping can outline some kind of architecture for a possible alliance between China and Russia.
If we look at Xi Jinping's statements over the past month, we can recall how there were two very interesting messages regarding the fact that China is eyeing the CSTO structures as one of the elements of the global political architecture, and about the fact that Russia and China can launch some kind of common financial system in order to counteract the blocking of SWIFT and everything else if the collective West decides to take such measures. And those were very serious messages. This is the first component.
The second component. About the fact that there is a group of elites in the West that sees China as a closer partner. Well, you can recall the statements of deceased Brzezinski about the G 2, etc. But in China, at the same time, there is a very clear attitude that the same West, the same Anglo-Saxons, starting from the period of the Opium Wars, were actually the reason that China collapsed, and against the background of its internal decline, it sank very seriously, and in fact fell out of big world politics for a century, being somewhere in the backyard as a punching bag.
And Xi Jinping is pursuing just the line of restoring their historical justice. Xi Jinping clearly points out that China is the No. 1 power, which should occupy its corresponding place in the world, that China is concerned about the problem of all mankind. And thus, such a warlike spirit, a nationalist line towards Japan, the countries of Southeast Asia is generally being strengthened in China.
If you look at what is happening around the islands in the South China Sea, there is generally something that is not emphasized in our discourse at all. And the key issue is also being resolved there, because control over the South China Sea means control over key communications from the Gulf, from Europe not only to China, but also to Japan, to South Korea, which are the key strategic partners of the United States in the region.
And that’s why the States are fighting very hard to prevent China from establishing such control over the South China Sea. So, that's why I think that the United States still looks at China as its main competitor. Economically, China is more powerful, in military-political terms it is growing very quickly, its budget already exceeds Russia's budget by 4 times - $ 228 billion. And this is what is known, they also have shadow resources.
Therefore, I think that it is the architecture within this triangle that will begin to clear up after the Beijing Olympics.
Yuri, you are absolutely right to put the question. Yes, Putin will visit China. This was confirmed yesterday as there were concerns that due to Covid -19 the visit might be delayed.
In my opinion, the West went to a very unreasonable policy in connection with the boycott of the Olympics. Moreover, what I heard is that a number of top officials in Western countries, including a fairly large US delegation, are planning to take part in the opening of the Olympics. Therefore, Putin's visit is very important. He shows that Russia does not approve this boycott.
In my opinion, during this visit, China will support Russian initiatives to guarantee the security of the Russian Federation within the framework of the new European security system. China may soon put forward something similar for Asia.
At the same time, the Russian Federation, as a rather ambitious geopolitical entity with vast historical experience, in my opinion, will not agree to conclude a formal full-scale union with China for two reasons.
Once in Moscow, when I asked why you are not joining NATO, the answer was given that Russia is a Great country, and such countries either create an alliance around themselves, or if they enter into someone else’s alliance, they cease to be a Great country.
I also think that Russia understands that, in the military-political dimension, it will be the main rival of the United States for a long period of time. Therefore, I do not agree with your assessment that China is now the No. 1 enemy of the United States in all directions. It is No. 1 in the economic dimension, but in the military dimension, Russia was, is and remains enemy No. 1 for the United States...
Because of nuclear weapons.
Yes, not only because of nuclear weapons. Because it can get more military-technological tools from the United States than China. You look at what has been happening in the Russian nuclear submarine fleet lately. Submarines of a new category, they are unique. Look at what is happening in the modern aircraft industry, or in the radio engineering troops. Here Russia is No. 1 in the world in many positions.
You can argue about aviation, because ...
At least it is a very real contender.
The fact that it is a real contender is undeniable. That it has been upgraded. And the fact that we somehow did not pay attention to this is indisputable. But in terms of parity, the Chinese are now rapidly approaching the United States.
Approaching. Especially in the navy.
Yes, like Germany and Great Britain before 1913.
However, they need at least ten years.
Yes, 10 years.
But there is another point that is very important. There is one rule in geopolitics. If there are two greats (USA and China) and you in between (RF), and you join one of the greats against the other, then you will most likely be divided between them. That is, Russia, if it goes for a very tough and formal military-political alliance with China, it greatly increases risks that the United States and the entire collective West will do everything possible and impossible to “blow up” Russia from the inside.
Therefore, from the point of view of geopolitical balancing, it is important for Russia to strategically move closer to China, but still keep a distance in order to be able to maintain normal relations with the collective West. And this, in general, is the essence and main stratagem of the Russian foreign policy of the 21st century.
At the same time, and this is my next forecast, I fully admit that Russia can start the military-technological and military-technical development of the spaces closest to the United States in Latin America together with China. First of all, China can support Russia in this financially, which will have the effect of an exploding bomb.
And the last. Look, despite the fact that I agree with you that China in the strategic dimension will be the main geopolitical and geo-economic rival of the United States in the 21st century, for the last 25 years I have always been amazed that Washington did not notice and did not predict this.
I repeatedly spoke, when I was in office and when I was out of office, at various foreign policy forums in Washington, trying to attract my American colleagues to this idea, but they always grinned. They believed that China was a purely economic phenomenon, and they would manage to keep China, so to speak, on an exclusively economic leash.
Today, even when the geopolitical role of China for the United States has become obvious, in their strategic doctrines Russia is still defined as an adversary (enemy), and China is a rival.
Intelligence also called them China No. 1, Russia No. 2 ...
Yes, Yes, Yes. But, there is such a country as Great Britain, which has recently dramatically increased its influence on geopolitical processes in the world, clearly defines Russia as its opponent (enemy) No. 1, and China is not even actually a rival, since in some cases the UK has taken the position of continuing cooperation with China in sensitive military-technical areas. That is, the UK is pursuing its own policy.
Moreover, I will even say that Great Britain entered into such financial agreements with China, which horrified the Americans. When the aggravation between the USA and China was already beginning, the Britons suddenly took the lead.
And I will tell you more that they not only concluded them, but now they are not leaving them. Or at least resist US pressure to get out. I mean, it's very, very difficult...
But we understand the fundamental trends. If in the days of my youth we were taught that the main contradiction of the 20th century is the contradiction between capitalism and socialism, and specifically between the USSR and the USA. Today it is obvious that the main geopolitical contradiction of the 21st century is the contradiction between the US and China. And ideologically, as the US itself claims, this is a contradiction between democracies and authoritarian regimes.
The question is how to structure all this so that the resolution of this fundamental geopolitical contradiction of the 21st century takes place in regulated forms, does not lead to a new nuclear war and does not provoke significant regional wars.
Now back to Ukraine. I keep these questions on the air, but I have not forgotten them.
Look, even based on the four scenarios that you voiced. We discard the extreme ones, as you said. We leave two middle ones - the cold war and the cold peace, the ratio is 60/30. The key issue for us, for Ukraine, is our status in these scenarios.
When negotiations began between Russia and the United States Putin rolled out these ultimatums, or as they are called, and then the Russian Foreign Ministry further strengthened these signals, when both Lavrov and Ryabkov said one interesting thing that they want Ukraine not only to reject joining NATO, but also limit its relations with Europe and with the States in the area of security, first of all.
And this was reminiscent, relatively speaking, of what was happening in relations between the Muscovite kingdom then and the Hetmanate in the second half of the 17th century and in the first half of the 18th century, it limited foreign policy in every possible way, since it looked at Ukraine as its own underground.
In this situation, in the scenario of the cold peace and the cold war, what place does Ukraine occupy? That is, it is a buffer state. Let's take the situation of the Cold War. It is most likely that Ukraine is not in the zone of influence of Russia... Belarus already clearly influences, there are ...
And based on this status, this little definition that came out in Biden's words can actually have very big consequences. This is about this “minor invasion”, “minor conflict”.
It seems to me that the "minor invasion" may be a game with ORDLO - what appeared yesterday in the media. First, the bill of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation on Russia recognizing the independence of ORDLO, and providing some kind of assistance accordingly. In this context, it is absolutely no coincidence that Yanukovych jumped out, who said that he was a legitimate president, he was trying to sue something in the courts.
Because, according to sources from ORDLO, they say that they began to wait for the return of Yanukovych. And then such a quasi-legitimate bundle appears that will allow this whole thing to be launched.
Yuri, I'll start with the second one, because you are absolutely right. Today, the Donbas, the problem of its reintegration into Ukraine, or the problem of the implementation of the Minsk agreements, or the problem of at least effectively freezing this conflict, is becoming one of the central ones in the search for agreements between the Russian Federation and the United States on the issue of building a new European security system.
Moreover, it is the United States that is just trying to pedal this issue. Russia is opposite in this strategic dialogue with the United States, it is trying first to resolve the most fundamental issues, i.e. go from the general to the particular. The United States, on the contrary, wants more specific issues to be settled first, i.e. build a strategic dialogue with the Russian Federation from the particular to the general.
Yesterday, during Blinken's visit to Ukraine, in my opinion, his most shocking statement, which the Ukrainians did not seem to notice (at least today I did not see the corresponding comments in the morning press), was his answer to a question from the Voice of America correspondent Yaroslava Gongadze: “Does he see the need to change the Minsk agreements”?
To this question, the US Secretary of State gave a clear answer – ‘no’, they do not need to be changed. They have everything that is necessary - they must be fulfilled. Ukraine has fulfilled part of the Minsk agreements, but not part. That is, the Americans gave a clear message to Moscow before the meeting in Geneva, that they officially and publicly announced their position in Kyiv, that the Minsk agreements must be implemented. This is 100% consistent with the position and expectations of Moscow.
And this essentially contradicts the position of President Zelensky, who, in my opinion, very boldly and honestly raised the issue of the need to adapt or change part of the Minsk agreements, because the fundamental circumstances under which they were concluded have changed.
It was also said yesterday, during a closed meeting of Yermak with the press, and it seems to me that few people noticed this either, that in the near future there can be worked out a formula that will create the institution of an arbiter on the line of demarcation in the Donbas. And in another place, also there was information that negotiations are currently underway to involve Germany and France and their capabilities in monitoring the implementation of the first three points of the Minsk Agreement: the withdrawal of troops, a ceasefire and the exchange of of prisoners of war.
This is the idea that I discussed with you a year ago, and which I have always supported. That is, real progress has begun, and it is to implement this idea that a meeting of foreign policy advisers will be held in Paris by the end of January and, I think, they will discuss this particular issue.
And it is no coincidence that Blinken said yesterday that Minsk must be executed, since in recent days the situation in Donbas has stabilized and the exchange of fire has ceased. That is, he is aware of this idea about the possible introduction of an international controlling mechanism on the line of contact.
This is a completely new approach that can lead to a full-scale disengagement of troops, with clear control, with clear responsibility for a ceasefire. If today the OSCE only monitors the ceasefire process, then there is a chance that in the near future an international mechanism for strict control over this process may be established.
In his interview, Blinken also said that, in my opinion, it is fundamentally important that today Ukraine itself must decide how to proceed further and that it bears a huge responsibility for what will happen. That is, he gave a very clear signal that the Ukrainian leadership must take a number of very fundamental decisions.
So there is no longer chance to dodge as they used to.
Yes, you are right. Now for two scenarios: cold war and cold peace. Your question is: "What is the possible geopolitical status of Ukraine in these two scenarios"?
I will start with an easier and better cold peace scenario for Ukraine. Look, I've always said for the last 15 years that the Cold War didn't formally end in 1991. It can only end when the collective West, primarily the US and Russia, agree on their positions regarding Ukraine's geopolitical status in the security system in Europe. That is, until they make peace with Ukraine, the Cold War in Europe will continue.
That is, if there is a cold peace, Ukraine will receive its geopolitical status and this status can be neutrality in two forms.
Or according to the Austrian formula. I am a supporter of the Austrian formula, because it gives us great opportunities and allows us to transform the Budapest Memorandum into a more binding, more specific international legal agreement. Or according to the Finnish formula.
And then we get a clear geopolitical status. And then from the gray zone, from the buffer zone, we turn into a geopolitical entity with a generally recognized geopolitical status.
As long as there is no such status, we are a gray zone, we are a frontier. But as soon as we receive this status (and I believe that in a cold peace only the status of neutrality is possible), we receive international legal recognition in one form or another of our new geopolitical position.
Regarding the Cold War scenario. This is the tragedy, that in this case we have no geopolitical status, and a geopolitical struggle without rules between the collective West and the Russian Federation continues for us.
And this is a very dangerous scenario. It can lead to the fragmentation of Ukraine according to the FRG/GDR formula. That is, that Ukraine will be divided between the collective West and the Russian Federation. This process has already begun. We are already partially fragmented (Crimea/Donbas). But this fragmentation can go further. And we risk losing our unity.
The paradox of the situation is that we can really sacrifice our unity in the name of the illusory prospects of our membership in NATO. We, with our desire to join NATO at any cost, in conditions where Russia has drawn the appropriate red lines, thereby put our security at real risk.
Within the framework of the cold peace, it is necessary to pursue a foreign policy focused not only on containing Russia, but also on reaching agreements with Russia, while clearly understanding what we really can and what we specifically want to achieve in our relations with the Russian Federation. In this case, we have a chance to reach a generally recognized status in Europe, as Austria did.
Not the worst option. But history never gives guarantees.
Yes, there will be no guarantees if we do not change the paradigm of our foreign policy, while realizing that for Europe and for the global world, Ukraine today has become a geopolitical fault without overcoming which it is impossible to achieve sustainable European security. If the Ukrainian problem is not resolved, there will be no need to talk about any strategic, geopolitical agreements between the United States and Russia.
Yes, Yes. And we can be the trigger, so to speak, of very tragic events. Therefore, answering your question again, in essence, we have only one chance to gain a stable, stable, as they say in Ukrainian “steel geopolitical status”, if we work on a cold peace scenario.
I can't help but ask the last question. Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia, wrote an interesting tweet yesterday that Putin doesn't care about Ukraine's hypothetical entry into NATO - what matters to him is the very existence of a democratic Ukraine. How would you comment on this in this context? If we proceed from this message, then in principle for Putin the very existence of such a state at hand, with a democratic form of government, it will be a challenge that will need to be closed somehow.
Can I ask you?
Did the Soviet Union put up with a democratic pro-European Austria?
It had to.
Well, it had to. Well, half the trouble, Austria was far away and small. Well, did it put up with Finland, pro-democratic and pro-European?
It had to.
Moreover, it even withdrew troops, because Finland was partially occupied. Russia has quite a lot of geopolitical challenges both in the east and in the west, both in the north and in the south. Yes, Ukraine for them is a special challenge and a historical issue. But I am absolutely sure that the Russian Federation is seeking one thing - Ukraine should not become an anti-Russian project. If it becomes a pro-European, economically successful state, Russia, as they say, will endure it. Moreover, because of this, Russia may have certain advantages of its own.
I would like to give such an interesting example. In 2002, when I became Secretary of State for European Integration, I went to Moscow for consultations to understand Russia's strategic position on European integration. In the Russian Foreign Ministry, when I asked about the Baltic countries joining NATO and the EU, they told me: Alexander, you know, in principle, we had a big discussion here, but we decided to let them go. Why? Because now they are very unpredictable. If they become members of the EU and NATO, they will have to comply with European norms and standards. They will no longer have the phobia that we will attack them tomorrow because NATO will give them a security umbrella.
But what happened. It turned out very interesting. If you read Lithuanian, Estonian, Polish newspapers, the impression is that, having joined NATO, joined the EU, joined all other Western unions, they are now more concerned about their own security than we Ukrainians.
In general, it seems to me that despite the fact that the Russian Federation is an aggressor country, with the help of our strategic partners in the West, it is possible to negotiate with Russia ... At the same time, economic rivalry will continue, ideological rivalry, historical rivalry, diplomatic struggle for the return of Crimea and the reintegration of Donbas will continue. But it can continue in normal, civilized forms.
After all, Russia and we have such experience when my generation of diplomats led the foreign policy of Ukraine. There were such difficult times. Take 1991, take 1994-1995, Crimea. Take Tuzla 2003. Take gas wars. We could normally negotiate with Russia, conclude agreements. Yes, we fought, and there were very crisis situations, but there was always an understanding that the main thing was to agree. Therefore, I do not accept the thesis that Russia sleeps and sees that there is no Ukraine and it is impossible to agree with the Russians.
After the collapse of the USSR, I always believed that we are no longer a great country, and therefore we must build relations with the Russian Federation on an asymmetric basis. That is, yes, legally we are equal to them, but geopolitically we are not them. And we must find a formula for coexistence with them, as Canada found with the States.
Subsequently, my friend and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ohryzko, put forward the idea that we are equal with the Russians in everything, and therefore demanded a Ukrainian-Russian interpreter in negotiations with the Russian Federation. This was the beginning of a crisis in our relations.
Well, now we have complete confidence in a part of society that we are much higher, we are Europeans, we are protecting Europe from barbarians from the east, and if not us, then Europe will fall under the yoke of Russian barbarians.
It seems to me that until we squeeze this pride out of ourselves, we will not be able to find a normal formula for coexistence with Russia.
Russia is the aggressor. We must do everything possible and impossible so that we do not legally lose our rights to those territories of ours that Russia controls today. This is not discussed. But this does not mean that we cannot achieve a sustainable formula for a truce with Russia. We cannot end the war with them, just as the war between Japan and Russia has not ended, just as the war between North and South Korea has not ended. But nevertheless, Japan and Russia have a fairly stable peaceful coexistence between them. And even South and North Korea are not at war today, and at least partially interact with each other.
Since 2014, the paradigm that President Poroshenko has laid in our relations with the Russian Federation has been very simple - Carthage must be destroyed. We are the vanguard of the struggle of the collective West to punish Russia, to force it to peace on our terms. Barbarians must be punished.
Only the West did not fight.
No, the West signed up for this, by the way. And the West said - containment and dialogue, but only after the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. And President Poroshenko has always stressed that there is no alternative to the Minsk agreements.
Now everything has turned upside down. Now Russia is saying yes, dialogue is possible in the Normandy format only if the Minsk agreements are implemented. And we are already saying “no”, it cannot be fully implemented. But I'm not talking about that.
I mean that over the years the West has entered into a strategic dialogue with Russia. And the most important thing that happened in the last 6 weeks is that Russia's strategic proposal for European security began to be discussed by the US and the West. Moreover, they say that they are beginning to hear each other.
This is a new fundamental trend. The West realized that, at least in the nearest period of historical time, they would not be able to disintegrate Russia, and that it was necessary to negotiate with it.
Ukraine therefore must change the paradigm of its foreign policy. If we do not fit into this new trend, key geopolitical decisions will be made for us.
And in this regard, we all must help the President of Ukraine in developing Zelensky's new foreign policy doctrine. We need a nationwide, open, inclusive dialogue on Ukraine's new foreign policy. Because the world is changing and we must change our foreign policy. It's time to abandon the old dogmas that no longer work. Either we will refuse them and fit into the new emerging geopolitical megatrends in the name of our Unity, Wealth and Independence, or if we do not fit in, geopolitical faults will pass through our territory and fragment our country.