Interview with Dmitry Rogozin
Dmitry Rogozin: I was a State Duma deputy for 11 years. I know very well the work of parliamentarians in the West. In the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I was the leader of a political group. What is going on in the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO is something quite uncommon and not customary for western parliamentarianism. Usually, they try to invite both sides to discussions, even if it’s just for the sake of appearances. They might have concealed some aspects while emphasizing others, but flatly declining the presence of an official Russian representative at a discussion with Saakashvili on a matter they call the “Russian-Georgian conflict” is just plain wrong. This is why I considered it impossible to accept the invitation to attend the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Valencia. In turn, I invited leaders of national delegations to the Assembly to our mission in Brussels. We’ll talk there.
Sometimes I get the impression that we and they live on different planets. At first, even before the dust had settled after the bombing of Tskhinval, we heard “It does not matter who attacked whom”. I wish they had tried to tell the same to the U.S. after 9/11.
A while later, when human rights activists such as Human Rights Watch started reporting military crimes, our Western counterparts slowly began to change their point of view. But even that is admitted only in their internal discussions, while they keep telling us that Russia’s intrusion in Georgia is unacceptable, as is Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
It’s a Biblical situation: they are looking at a splinter in our eye while refusing to notice the log in theirs.
Frankly, I don’t believe it. We’ve discussed it repeatedly with many influential European politicians, and the picture looks as follows: Europe is a neighbor of Ukraine, Russia, and Georgia. Imagine that you live in an apartment next to a Ukrainian flat, where a girl called Yulia is running back and forth, yelling and shouting, between two men named Viktor. It’s a Brazilian soap opera, the several-hundredth episode of it.
In another apartment, an insane maniac is running around with a knife, threatening to stab everyone he sees. That’s the Georgian apartment. Hearing all this racket from behind a wall is one thing; breaking down the wall between apartments and inviting everyone to your place is quite different. There are different people in Europe, but they are not crazy, especially the politicians. I doubt they will take any such steps.
It is clear that neither Albania, nor Croatia, nor Macedonia, nor Bosnia and Herzegovina, nor Ukraine, nor Georgia can be considered powers in a military sense. Their military potential is zero. It’s even lower than that, I would say. So it’s not about acquiring valuable military allies, it’s purely a political matter. As the westerners themselves admit, it’s a matter of a new political identity for the newly admitted countries. And this is the anti-Russian thing. This is why, when anybody in the Ukraine tries to change identity, to change Ukraine’s historical choice, or, to put it simply, to tear Ukraine away from Russia, we are anxious. How else should we feel when there are so many ties with Russia? 40% of Russian families have immediate relatives in Ukraine, and 80% of Ukrainian families have relatives in Russia. This connection is impossible to break up. This is why such plans should be viewed as breakaway and aimed against Russia.
The same is true about Georgia. You see, guys like Saakashvili come and go, but there is still a history of relationships between our two countries, and it is far richer than what has happened over the last few years. Again, this breaking away from Russia is a strange attempt to legalise Georgia’s territorial gains in the form of Abkhazia and Ossetia, which were never part of the state of Georgia. I think that all this is just an attempt to isolate the Russian bear, to force it into its lair. There is one problem, though, and every hunter knows that. You can hunt a bear down, you can badger it, but it’s dangerous to come close to it. Therefore, NATO closing in on Russia is dangerous: any hunter can tell you that.
The chances are pretty low so far. It’s due to the inertia of the Cold War mentality. In general, what Russia is suggesting is very good. We suggest principles that are really hard to object to. Who is going to deny that security should be equal, indispensable and indivisible for all? Who could be against demilitarizing the entire centre of the European continent using military force solely to defend our common borders in the Pacific area? Who could be against ruling out military planning, especially nuclear planning, against each other? These things are totally reasonable; it’s a new world outlook. It’s a new vision of collective security for everyone. Therefore, what Medvedev is offering is hardly questionable.
The problem is a different matter altogether. The problem is that employees of all international organizations think, “What’s going to happen to me personally?” I refer to employees of the NATO Secretariat, employees of the European Commission, and employees of the OSCE headquarters in Vienna – they all think this. “Will I keep getting my several-thousand-euro paycheck if that Medvedev guy realizes his concept?” They are afraid that a moment will come when people will simply sweep those lardy European bureaucrats out of their cozy seats. It’s that selfish, small-minded, paltry psychology of Euro-Atlantic bureaucrats that can ruin such a great initiative. Well, I still believe this concept will win through sooner or later.
For example, what they are discussing now is the unacceptability of Russia’s plan to deploy its Iskander missile systems in the Kaliningrad Region. As for the fact that the U.S. has already began deploying its launch systems in Poland and is about to press the Czechs into approving the deployment of a radar station there, nobody in Europe seems to care about that. Everybody would rather believe the fairy-tales of bad Iranian guys or some Bin Laden having snatched a missile somewhere and running around with it, preparing to fire it at the civilized European world. This is rubbish. Nobody can steal a strategic missile. No Bin Laden can do that. But nevertheless, since this myth is being touted by America, Europe prefers to stay silent. That flaccid, spineless reaction of Europe to America’s actions and to Russia’s responses to them only proves one thing: Europe still doesn’t have its own political face. It’s wealthy, but politically spineless. It’s like a big, thick, but very flexible, pencil.
Let’s just hope Russia’s deployment of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad will influence Europe’s attitude towards America’s missile defence plans. For us, it is important to have the military means to counterbalance those plans, which indeed threaten our security. You see, the thing is that the American missiles to be deployed in Poland can be used in several ways. They can not only shoot down descending ballistic missiles, but they can also engage surface targets. That is, they can be fired at Moscow from Poland, and they are so quick and accurate that a missile can get to Moscow in just four minutes and fly into Russian Prime Minister’s office through the window! I am not joking! This is a destabilising, misbalancing, and totally provocative weapon.
How can we stand for that? Of course, we will find an adequate military response. That is, unless we find a political response first. Well, we so hope that they are sensible enough to realise that we are not like we used to be. If we are offended, we can hit back, and do it more than once.
Until things get really tough, they are going to keep pretending that Russia is their opponent. I think that in the XXI century, the real threat is posed by a certain bunch of people who think that you and I are second-class people. Those close-minded people simply don’t recognize our right to live. They don’t care who they are dealing with – Russians, Jews, Tatars, French, or British, or whoever, – they are all the same to them. To them, we are just a worthless civilization that must be destroyed. Let’s hope our Western counterparts realise that those guys threaten us all in equal measure and that this plague advancing on the European continent will engulf us while we are all arguing. Today, we talk about existing threats such as terrorism, extremism (political or religious), drug trafficking, and piracy.
As for piracy, there are pirates rampant in Somalia, and tomorrow, I think, the entire African coast will be swarming with pirates, and there will not be enough warships to keep them at bay. There is an enormous distance between Europe and the Third World. There is a new civilization emerging in the Third World that thinks that the white, northern hemisphere has always oppressed it and must therefore fall at its feet now. This is very serious
If the northern civilization wants to protect itself, it must be united: America, the European Union, and Russia. If they are not together, they will be defeated one by one.
Of course, the resumption of the work of the Russia-NATO council is possible. It will surely happen, because there are too many bureaucrats in NATO who are responsible for contact with Russia. They are afraid of losing their jobs after the freezing of the Russia-NATO council, so they are among the most zealous lobbyists for resuming our good relationship. Well, kidding aside, the scope of strategic matters that unites us is so vast that we can pretend as long as we want that we don’t communicate, but we can’t help communicating. In Brussels, I have regular meetings with the leaders of the NATO secretariat, political leaders, ambassadors, and so on. It’s just that they are afraid of meeting with me in what is called the Russia-NATO council. It will happen this December at the earliest, or next March at the latest. This is my forecast, and you will see that I am right.