Interview with Diskin
Russia Today: What sort of response can be expected from Russia if the U.S. goes ahead with its missile defence system?
Iosif Diskin: Well, first of all it's necessary to continue to explain that the ABM [anti-ballistic missile] systems are not for intercepting missiles but for preserving Europe in the sphere of U.S. external defence policy. It's against independent Europe. Secondly, it is necessary to keep explaining to the U.S. that unilateral actions don't lead to greater security of the U.S. and Europe. And interests of all participants should be taken into account. Thirdly, if neither the first nor the second helps, and the threats increase, we should be able create means that would overcome ABM systems. And they are already being created. As it's known, Russia has test-fired such missiles.
RT: The UN's plan for Kosovo does not come close to Russia's vision. How strongly is Russia willing to fight against what essentially would be Kosovo's independence?
I.D.: Russia is not fighting against Kosovo's independence. This is not quite correct. Russia is only fighting against implementing upon Serbia the plan that does not suit it. President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov have said on many occasions that they would agree whatever Serbia would accept. But for this we should continue talks. Legally Kosovo is a part of Serbia. And we are against implanting the idea of separating Kosovo from Serbia. If Serbia accepts Kosovo's independence, Russia will be among the first ones to recognise its independence.
RT: There's been a lot of speculation Putin will seek a third term in office, despite him saying he won't. What else can be done to convince critics?
I.D.: Well, first of all who do we understand people? Russian citizens have overall accepted the fact that Putin is stepping down. Russian elites, pityingly, have also accepted that Putin is leaving. Nevertheless, all kind of speculations continue in the West. Well, it should be understood whether that is because of misunderstanding that Russia now is a democratic country that lives according to its constitution or because of political intrigue. Well, some people can not be convinced – these are professional. There is only one thing remaining to be done – to wait for another six months.
Earlier, Iosif Diskin commented on Russia Today on the latest developments of the political crisis in Ukraine, as demonstrators gather in front of the General Prosecutor’s office in Kiev.
Russia Today: What exactly is President Yushchenko trying to achieve by dismissing judges and the General Prosecutor?
Iosif Diskin: He is trying to achieve full political control of the country. If he does not manage to do this legally, he will have to resort to force. A person who once exceeded legal powers has no way back, he has to go forward. Otherwise, as soon as a legal ruling concerning his actions is made, he will face serious problems. After the dismissal of the Constitutional Court judges he has no other choice but to win, establishing dictatorship-style control over Ukraine. Otherwise, legal problems are inevitable.
RT: In his defence President Yushchenko could have said Prime Minister Yanukovich is trying to usurp power.
I.D.: Under the Constitution, the President has no power to dismiss the Prosecutor General. For this, he needs the approval of the parliament, the Supreme Rada. At first, the president stated he would accept any decision of the Constitutional Court. Now he is trying by all means to prevent the ruling to come into force – he discredits and dismiss the judges. In Russia, President Yeltsin, while ordering to fire on the parliament, did not touch the Constitutional Court. Performing the coup in Chile, General Pinochet did not challenge the authority of the Constitutional Court. Indeed, when such an institution is affected, then the one who is responsible for this, withdraws himself from the legal field. I’m surprised our Western counterparts are silent on the situation in Ukraine, thus demonstrating double standards.
RT: In fact, the whole crisis actually started on behalf of Viktor Yushchenko, trying to protect democracy and the Constitution…
I.D.: Pardon me, do you mean to say that the dissolution of the democratically elected parliament is the protection of the Constitution? Do you mean to say that the dismissal of the Constitutional Court judges has something to do with the protection of democracy? In this case, General Pinochet can be called the greatest democrat.
RT: Do you see any way out of the situation? Could it grow into another conflict?
I.D.: We have to understand what is really going on. Viktor Yushchenko is striving at one thing – to provoke the Party of Regions, Prime Minister Yanukovich and the coalition, to resort to force. This would give him the right to use force, too. Honestly speaking, he is provoking a civil war in Ukraine. What’s worse, he is provoking a situation when the south-western regions of the country come to realise that they have no common future with the West and that they cannot live together in one state. The historical responsibility Mr Yushchenko has assumed is the unhappy fate of unhappy Ukraine.
Earlier Mr Diskin gave RT his view on the current situation in Ukraine.
Russia Today:If Yushchenko decides to dissolve the Parliament, is he likely to benefit from the move?
Iosif Diskin: We have seen how people are responding to those who back the government. In my opinion he won’t benefit, but here we should distinguish between Yushchenko as a president and as a politician. As a president, he will certainly lose because it will destabilize the system, paralyze power in the country at it will also be regarded as a refusal to meet with the peoples’ demands. But as a politician he may benefit because his political rating is decreasing, people are more and more disappointed with his politics, so he tries to destabilize the political situation and thus gain some electorate’s support.
RT: Is calling early elections justified? Will it not just destabilize the country?
I.D.: Justified always deals with justice. And here I wonder whether the Ukraine’s Constitutional Court has exceeded these legal boundaries. The fact is that the Constitutional Court has not ruled anything out although the President had previously made several complaints to the court. No decision is made yet. But despite that, without any legal grounds, the President starts destabilizing the situation and threatens to dismiss the Rada. Surely, in terms of right, it is not justified. But the Presiden is aware that if the election is held after this summer, the result will be predictable – it will be the triumph of the opposition. So for Yushchenko this is a struggle to survive as a politician.
RT: What is motivating the defections from the Our Ukraine party?
I.D.: People are defecting not only from the Our Ukraine party, but from Yulia Timoshenko’s faction as well. Those who were elected to the Rada and wanted to serve the Ukrainian peoples’ interests don’t want now to be puppets in this political game. They want to discuss laws. They don’t want to be a part of a political force which has no other arguments but political performances. For instance, a former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Mr Kinykh, a very influential businessman from Dnepropetrovsk who backs his region’s interests, decided not to participate in this political theatre. In this situation, the President’s supporters have nothing left but to organize these demonstrations.
RT: Why is Ukrainian politics so chaotic and what can be done to end the political turmoil in Ukraine?
I.D.: First of all, I’m not inclined to dramatize the current situation. I think it is not about the disbandment of the parliament, it is a psychological test. President Yushchenko wants Viktor Yanukovich to give him guarantees that his political forces won’t be destroyed and that the ruling coalition will not aim at 300 seats in the parliament. Also the ruling coalition will not give up in this tug-of-war as it happened 3 years ago. And now returning to your question, Ukrainian politics is chaotic because people don’t want to acknowledge the rules of democracy. The ruling majority has the right to be in power until people remove their mandate at the elections. The Orange forces bear revolutionary ideas in their heads, and revolution is not a democratic way of solving problems. Until all sides acknowledge the legal rules of political struggle the situation won’t change dramatically.
Earlier, Iosif Diskin joined Russia Today to explain why yesterday's terrorism alert in Russia signified a new stage for the country's anti-terrorism programme.
Mr Diskin said the major alert announced in Russia on Wednesday had broken a long tradition of the special services' acting without any explanation to the public.
“It was the first time ever when the National Antiterrorism Committee announced a terrorism threat alert to the public, and the message was addressed not to the special services only, but to all Russian citizens in the first place. It was not a 'need-to-know' announcement – it was for all to know, which makes the event very important for Russian policy. The tradition to act behind the scenes was broken for the first time, and the public was urged to join the authorities in the fight against terrorism,” he suggested.
The success of such a policy “depends on whom the citizens support – the authorities or the terrorists,” RT's guest thinks. “Russian authorities have no doubt in the people's support, so they asked for people's help in preserving peace and security just like any civilised nation's authorities would in such situation. I think it's more then just good – it's wonderful, and I hope the practice will continue,” he said.
Then Mr Diskin revealed how the terrorism alert system works in Russia.
“In fact the alert level announced in Russia yesterday corresponds to the orange level alert in the U.S. In this regard we adopt the experience of other countries with a great record of fighting against terrorism and drawing the citizens' aid in this fight. So Russia now stands equal in the ranks of nations engaged in the great battle against international terrorism,” he said.
“Russia now acts in a very close co-operation with the western special services, so using a corresponding alert system in Russia is convenient form an organisational point of view,” the expert continued. “Thus, even though we didn't formally announce 'orange alert', the measures taken and the overall tone suggest that we had this very alert level. We acted yesterday in a way similar to say the United States, the Great Britain or Germany acting in an orange alert situation.”
Russian secret services claimed the alert was due to vital information provided by their foreign colleagues. Mr Diskin gave his opinion on who could be the source of this information.
“Well, no special service would ever give comments on such issue, of course. But the information I have is that in fighting against terrorism we have the closest ties with the U.S. special services. It's quite ironic that while the media tell so much about 'cold peace', about cooling relations between Russia and the U.S. and at the same time our special services work hand in hand: exchanging information, joint operations, joint training, etc. I think than never in the whole history, except for a few years after 1943 maybe, there was not such close and co-operative work by them. And it's a very positive example for everyone – the media included,” he suggested.
“The U.S. are at the avant-garde of the fight against terrorism, just like Russia is,” Mr Diskin argued. “They have a very formidable intelligence network covering those places where international terrorism flourishes, say Afghanistan and Iraq, and they certainly have enough sources to be aware of terrorists' plans and plots. I'd also say it's very obvious that the U.S. are much more successful in dealing with the terrorists' leaders now. So my guess is – the U.S. gave us the vital information.”
Russia has made great progress in combating terrorism recently, our guest believes, and now it is time to find a way to keep people from becoming terrorists, not simply fight them with armed force.
“Firstly, in the previous year Russia managed to track and destroy several leaders of major terrorist's bases in Russia's south. Secondly, now we have more reports of prevented acts of terrorism, not the committed ones. In general, we could say the military stage of fighting terrorism in the Caucuses is finished and now comes the time for economical and social measures, the time to fight for the people's minds, to draw them away from this terrible threat,” Mr Diskin said.
Earlier Mr Diskin, told RT about the struggle in the region to control Turkmenistan's gas flow and also to discuss the overall future of Turkmenistan.
“First of all, let me say that Turkmenistan is the second largest gas supplier of the former Soviet states. Turkmenistan mostly pumps gas through Russian gas pipelines. For Ukraine as well as for some other countries Turkmenistan is the first gas supplier so the Ukrainian economy is very much dependent on the situation in Turkmenistan. In one word the whole world is attentively keeping up with the development of the situation in this key region,” he said.
Mr Diskin speculated on whether the country is going to change its relations with strategic energy partners.
“It mostly depends on how the political situation there will develop. If power stays with the people who are currently in power they will preserve the current situation for several years more in order to get the opportunity to stabilise the situation inside the country. It is difficult to change both external and internal policy at the same time. So if they are able to keep the power they will continue the current policy,” the expert said.
“I think there is always an opportunity to switch to democracy. The question is how this can be carried out. The change should be pushed on by internal factors. This will bring prosperity to the people of Turkmenistan. The most damaging at the moment are external factors. If you remember in the early 1990s some people wanted to bring Afghanistan to democracy. The U.S., Russian and Uzbekistan leaders were against President Najibullah and eventually the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan. But let’s come back to Turkmenistan. We should beware of the fact that there are even more Turkmen living in Iran than in Turkmenistan itself. And Iranian Turkmen sincerely believing in Allah very much like to make their fellows more religious. So the situation in Turkmenistan will be a test for both Russia and the U.S. to see if they are able to co-operate and prevent destabilisation in the region. Russia and the U.S. should act hand in hand to control the possible democratic transition. Only then there is a chance for Turkmenistan to get to democracy,” Mr Diskin said.
Mr Diskin would like the political process in Turkmenistan to go in a constitutional way. What’s more, he thinks the exiled opposition leaders should take over political power in the country.
“We can see now some negative symptoms. Firstly, the Constitution of Turkmenistan has already been violated. According to it, the Head of the Parliament was supposed to take power. However it was the vice-premier who took power into his hands. This happened because the vice-premier has very good contact with the head of the personal security service of Niyazov. This means that some hidden coalitions are now developing. Secondly, the superpowers which play a role in the region, Russia, the U.S. – should slightly influence the leadership of Turkmenistan in order that exiled leaders could come back and take part in the evolution of power in the country. They should avoid, however, thinking about some revolutionary changes, but remain patient,” claimed the expert.
Later Iosif Diskin commented on the second and final day of the NATO leaders' summit in the Latvian capital, Riga.
Mr Diskin said that NATO’s announcement of a partnership with Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia is a positive sign.
“They tend to spread the roof of NATO over the countries where military operations have been held and to demonstrate that this operations turned into successful integrating into general security system of the European-Atlantic security of those countries where earlier the armed conflicts took place,” he said.
Mr Diskin said that Afghanistan was a vivid demonstration of NATO’s aim to turn into a world security group. “Afghanistan is meant to show that NATO is an affective instrument for the whole world’s security problem solving. And using this case of success, NATO wants to integrate in its structure even such countries as India,” he said.
“Some countries said that they should be more careful in taking responsibility in different corners of the world, taking into consideration the perspectives and the possibilities in solving this or those problems, the other, first of all the USA and those countries which are alliances of the US, kept insisting that NATO’s operation should be carried out to the victory point, that it is necessary to show that NATO is successful in solving those difficult problems and challenges that it faces. And for that aim, President Bush should be supported and more forces should be sent to Afghanistan. But in the situation, when many NATO member countries have already directed lots of armed forces to Iraq and have got back not only coffins, but also sharp political problems internally, everybody agreed that the operation in Afghanistan should be continued, but far less agreed to send additional forces,” Mr Diskin said.
Mr Diskin also spoke about how the NATO leaders' summit had possibly changed its security mission.
“It depends on the region. It is not perfectly clear, today, after the end of the cold war, for what this organisation exists. There is a point of view by NATO’s employees, who want to save their work places and the point of view of the ideologues, saying that NATO should be an umbrella of security all over the world, to become the global security system. That is the background of Bush’s appeal to establish a relationship with Australia, Japan, Korea, and India – to create a global system. And this global system is to solve problems in the key region. One such key regions is, of course, the Caucasus. That is why, President Bush was speaking about Georgia at the summit in Riga. I consider that NATO’s immoderate ambitions just lead to destabilisation. In some regions it does really help to solve the problems of security, in the countries which want to work together with NATO. But in the countries, where there are different points of view, it just foments the situation. The main thing is the policy of realism, especially for such a large organisation as NATO,” he said.
The co-chairman of the National Strategy Council, Iosif Diskin, told us how the UN resolution might affect relations between Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia:
“I believe this can help to ease the conflict, but any settlement of the conflict will take some time. Abkhazians and South Ossetians should forget about all the bloodshead. Only then, they will be able to talk peacefully with their Georgian partners and neighbors. Nonetheless, I don’t think a settlement will be found. It could have happened, for example 5 years ago, as the situation has become much more complex now.”