Interview with Stanislav Belkovsky
Russia Today: Russia Today has learned from an official who was an eyewitness to these talks that Russia's initiative on this common missile defence system can only go ahead if the U.S. drops its plans for Eastern Europe and Poland. I mean Putin wants the Gabala radar in Azerbaijan to replace Poland and the Czech Republic, not simply to be an additional base. Is that realistic? And are we seeing an attempt to redraw among the lines of strategic balance and strategic partnership?
Stanislav Belkovsky: In my opinion it is quite unrealistic and both Mr Putin and his team members understand that American radars in Czech Republic and Poland are inescapable.
RT: You do not think it is realistic?
S.B.: Yes, it is unrealistic to demand Gabala to replace radars in Czech Republic and Poland. You know, American strategy to place the anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe would never be altered, never be changed and Russia has no trumps in this game. And Putin understands this but certainly Putin should protect his reputation as a hardline leader capable to protect Russian national interests. Certainly he would play this game understanding that American radars in Europe are inevitable and it would depend mainly not on Russia's position but it would depend on the willingness of Poland and the Czech Republic to get America as a senior geopolitical partner. That is a key point. But certainly Putin does not want to be to the side of this process. Putin wants to be involved in the process and that is why he is trying to create the new framework of joint work.
RT: This new framework, is Putin now saying to the U.S.: let's have the joint forces and work together against any common concerns or risks, is he trying to redraw the political balance?
S.B.: Yes, to a really considerable extent. But certainly this announcement that the Gabala radar could replace anti-missile systems in the Czech Republic and Poland has nothing to do with realism, in my opinion.
RT: A lot of effort was made to bring this informal summit to cultivate a fairly informal and relaxed atmosphere. Do you feel it ushered a new era in Russia-U.S. relations?
S.B.: No, it would be too rapid to talk about the new era because the basic question for Putin at this Kennebunkport summit was the question of power transition in Russia and a shortlist of Putin's successors. Putin wants to be appreciated and understood as a democratic leader, he wants to be considered as an outgoing democratic leader rather than a dictator or kleptocrat. He wants to get some guarantees from George W. Bush and I think that in this regard the summit proved to be very successful for both sides and certainly this cannot be considered as a new era because a new era will be connected with the new Russian President to replace Putin next spring.
RT: If not a new era, a new stage, perhaps, to get things going?
S.B.: It is the last stage of Putin's power and Putin will do his best not to spoil the relationship with America as anymore would in his last ten months in power.
RT: Observers say that Russia is increasingly taking a hard line on advocating its interests on the world stage. Can we expect more to come?
S.B.: No, I do not think so because the hard line is rather more rhetoric than real politics. Russia has no trumps to be a global superpower. Russia has lost, I believe, 50% of its positions as a regional superpower during Putin seven years in power. And everybody in the Kremlin understands this but certainly this hard line, this tough stance on America is rather a means of domestic politics for Putin, a means to maintain his popularity. This should not be considered too seriously and not strategically.