Russian-American relations are at their lowest level since the end of the Cold War. The already tense situation was further exacerbated after an interview with US President Joe Biden, in which he made a sharp attack on his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev told Kommersant’s correspondent Yelena Chernenko on what conditions Moscow is ready to cooperate with Washington in the future.
– Let me start with Ukraine. In recent days, the situation in Donbass has seriously aggravated . Does Russia have any “red lines”, upon crossing which it is ready to openly intervene in the conflict in Ukraine?
– We are not hatching such plans, no. But we are closely monitoring the situation. Based on its development, specific measures will be taken.
– And what, from your point of view, is connected with the current aggravation of the situation in Donbass?
– I am convinced that this is a consequence of serious internal problems in Ukraine, the attention from which the authorities are trying to divert in this way. They solve their problems at the expense of Donbass, while capital from the country has long been flowing abroad, the economy is still supported only by onerous foreign loans, the debt on which is growing, and those remnants of the industry that were able to stay afloat, Kiev is selling foreigners, as they say now, at democratic prices. Even the famous Ukrainian black soil and forest are transported abroad by railroad trains, depriving the country of this asset as well. And in return – only the very pies that the Americans handed out on the Maidan.
– About the Americans: how serious a blow to the already tense relations between Moscow and Washington was the scandalous interview of US President Joe Biden, in which he answered affirmatively to a journalist’s question whether his Russian counterpart was a “killer”?
– I would not like to draw parallels, but exactly 75 years ago, in March 1946, Churchill delivered the famous Fulton speech in the presence of President Truman , in which he declared our country, his recent ally in the anti-Hitler coalition, an enemy. This marked the beginning of the Cold War.
– Do you mean to say that a new era of prolonged confrontation on the brink of war is coming now?
– We would really not want that.
The Russian and American peoples today have no grounds for enmity, we are not divided, as before, by ideology. But the field for cooperation is vast.
The demand for our interaction is growing in view of the pandemic, against the background of which the challenges and threats to global stability are intensifying. There is an escalation of military and political tensions in a number of regions, an increase in international terrorism and extremism, an exacerbation of interstate contradictions, poverty, hunger, a difficult ecological situation … The list can be continued for a long time, and each of these problems poses a direct threat to humanity.
The political situation today is really unfavorable, relations between the two countries are at their lowest level since the end of the Cold War. However, the long history of relations between Russia and the United States shows that at decisive moments our states have demonstrated the ability to forge cooperation despite differences.
Therefore, we nevertheless believe that common sense will prevail in Washington and a substantive Russian-American dialogue on issues that, in principle, cannot be effectively resolved without constructive interaction between our countries.
– That is, there is a readiness for dialogue on the Russian side? What questions could be discussed in the first place?
– First of all, this is the sphere of strategic stability and arms control. There is already a positive example here. It is our common decision to extend the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms (DSNV.- “b” ), which was certainly not easy for the US administration. Such an achievement gives some hope for the establishment of normal interaction, despite the fact that the problems are very complex in themselves and our interests do not always coincide.
– With the administration of the previous US President Donald Trump, it was not possible to agree on this in four years.
– They tried to put pressure on us, to impose solutions that would be beneficial to only one of the parties – the United States. We could not agree to this, although we showed a willingness to compromise. But that was not enough, Washington wanted to dictate its terms to us.
We managed to come to an agreement with the new START administration quite quickly, and on the terms that the Russian side put forward from the very beginning.
– In what areas is cooperation still possible?
– There is a certain potential for joint work on such issues as the fight against international terrorism and extremism, organized crime and other challenges and threats, as well as on a number of regional topics, including Syria, the Middle East settlement, the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula, the Joint Comprehensive Plan actions (in relation to Iran . – “Kommersant” ).
There is a demand for cooperation on acute humanitarian problems, such as hunger, environmental pollution, and the fight against climate change. We must not forget about the destabilizing effect of the pandemic, which can also be overcome by working together.
It is long overdue to discuss cybersecurity issues, especially in view of Russia’s concerns and the accusations that have been brought forward to us for several years now.
– Vladimir Putin last year sent a comprehensive proposal for cooperation in cyberspace to the White House. Has the new administration shown an interest in him?
– They do not want to cooperate with us in this area, absolutely groundlessly accusing us of cyberattacks on their resources. They do not present any evidence of the involvement of the Russian authorities in these incidents, either to us or to the general public, but they portray Russia as almost the main aggressor in cyberspace.
– The American authorities suspect Russia that its special services are behind the hacking of the SolarWinds software, as a result of which tens of thousands of devices in the public and private sector in the United States were allegedly compromised.
– This is another indiscriminate accusation against us. Our state has nothing to do with this hacking. We do not exclude that hackers, including those living in Russia or having Russian citizenship, may participate in certain computer sabotage, but the state has nothing to do with it. We told the Americans many times: if you have any suspicions, send us specific information, we will figure it out. Do not give.
– Are you planning to continue contacts with the United States through the Security Council of the Russian Federation?
– They continue. At the end of March, in particular, I had a telephone conversation with the Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Mr. Sullivan …
– On whose initiative did the conversation take place?
– American. By the way, it was held in a calm, businesslike atmosphere, we communicated quite thoroughly and constructively. Such contacts are taking place both through our deputies and at the expert level.
Another thing is that the dialogue should not be limited to formal negotiations. There is also the so-called second track diplomacy, and its potential is very solid. I mean contacts between the scientific communities of the two countries, in the field of culture, art, humanitarian cooperation.
These areas of partnership are often undeservedly relegated to the background. But it is at this level that the foundations of mutual respect and trust are laid, the deficit of which is observed today in relations between Russia and the United States.
– Returning to Joe Biden’s interview. Still, I would very much like to understand how this statement, after which the Russian ambassador to the United States was even recalled to Moscow, will affect bilateral relations. Is it unprecedented?
– I find it difficult to recall something like that, even if we take into account the times of the confrontation between the USSR and the United States. Our country’s most fanatical opponents, such as Truman or Reagan, have tried to be more restrained in their public statements. Although today, when the American archives are gradually opening and the personal papers of their associates are being published, we understand how frenzied Russophobia they preached behind closed doors. But still, they understood that politics has its own boundaries and they should be respected. True, it cannot be ruled out that the American president was deliberately provoked to such a statement by circles interested in the growing tension in bilateral relations …
– And after that, are there any other top-level meetings possible?
– We would not want this incident to undermine such prospects. Nevertheless, as I said, it is unprecedented. We hope that Washington also understands the situation that has developed.
– Now what? Are they expecting an apology in the Kremlin?
– No. As practice shows, Americans, in principle, are not able to admit their guilt under any circumstances …
Even Bush Sr. publicly announced that America would never apologize to anyone. For the American elite, it is easier for any mistake to bring a sophisticated theory explaining why it was necessary to do so. I would call it Hiroshima Syndrome.
After all, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan completely unnecessarily, although they knew perfectly well that the Red Army was starting hostilities against the Japanese group in Manchuria, they knew that Tokyo was ready to surrender. And the Japanese, and indeed the whole world, have been told for three quarters of a century that atomic strikes were inevitable. They even expose it as a kind of punishment from above. Remember what Obama said in his speech at the Hiroshima mourning event? “Death fell from heaven.” And he did not want to say that this death fell from an American plane on the orders of the American president. We are witnessing the rewriting of history. It is not surprising that Japanese children already have a poor idea of which country destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Someone even thinks that the USSR.
– Returning to the present. What does Moscow expect from Washington? Conciliatory gestures?
– Assessing the prospects for Russian-American dialogue today, we need to take a sober view of things.
It is high time to admit that for the American establishment, relations with our country are not decisive. Russia is viewed exclusively through the prism of the internal political struggle.
And given the unprecedentedly difficult nature of the domestic situation in the United States today, the forecasts for the further development of relations can hardly be called encouraging. Nevertheless, as I said, we are committed to dialogue in areas of mutual interest and hope that the United States will show the same interest.
– The US authorities call Russia a “threat” to their security. Does Russia also see the United States as a “threat”?
– We now see the main threat in a pandemic. For the USA, by the way, it turned out to be the moment of truth. The problems that American politicians were hiding from their fellow citizens became obvious, including by diverting their attention to the legends of “aggressive Russia.”
It turned out that the main threat to the lives of Americans is not at all malicious Moscow. In the United States, the death toll from the epidemic exceeded 560 thousand people – this is, after all, more than their losses in both world wars combined. Roughly the same number died during the bloodiest conflict in US history, the Civil War of 1861-1865. And it all happened clearly through no fault of Russia.
At the same time, America considers itself entitled to dictate rules to the whole world, to determine the fate of mankind. However, the question arises: does a country have such a right, which was unable to protect the lives of more than half a million of its citizens from illness?
– In Russia, the official numbers of deaths from coronavirus are five times less – at the level of 100 thousand, but Rosstat reports that, in general, the excess mortality in comparison with the pre-pandemic year reaches the same 500 thousand. Does this not mean that in Russia with coronavirus is still as sad as in the United States?
– We have official statistics on deaths from coronavirus, and there is no reason not to trust it. Indeed, we were not ready for the fact that everything would develop in this way and so rapidly, no one was ready, but we managed. And now we are actively helping others, unlike the United States, which is selfish. Meanwhile, today it is in our power to stop the spread of the virus across the planet and save not thousands, but millions of lives. Including thanks to vaccines developed by Russian scientists. In the first place, of course, we have the vaccination of our population, but at the same time we have an increasing opportunity and willingness to share them with everyone, regardless of their political course or place on the world stage. Russia has never played political games at the expense of people’s lives and health, we have always looked at humanity as a single global community that cannot be divided according to nationality, race, religious beliefs. “Black Lives Matter” (“Black Lives Matter”) or “White Lives Matter” (“White Lives Matter”) – let them decide in the West. For our country, the only correct slogan is “All Lives Matter” (“All lives matter”). Our vaccines are further proof of this.
– The mission of the World Health Organization (WHO) found no traces of the artificial origin of the virus. Nevertheless, the version is still widespread that China deliberately provoked the pandemic.
– I suggest you pay attention to the fact that more and more biological laboratories under US control are growing by leaps and bounds in the world. And by a strange coincidence – mainly at the Russian and Chinese borders. They are assured that these are research centers where Americans help local scientists develop new ways to combat dangerous diseases. True, the authorities of the countries where these objects are located have no real idea of what is happening within their walls.
Of course, we and our Chinese partners have questions. We are told that there are peaceful sanitary and epidemiological stations near our borders, but for some reason they are more reminiscent of Fort Detrick in Maryland, where Americans have been working in the field of military biology for decades. By the way, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that outbreaks of diseases uncharacteristic for these regions are recorded in the adjacent areas.
– Are you saying that the Americans are developing biological weapons there?
– We have good reason to believe that this is exactly the case.
– And what do the Russian authorities intend to do about this?
– We will work with our partners, primarily in the post-Soviet space. Conclude agreements with them on cooperation in the field of biological safety.
I want to remind you that the Americans are also not doing well with chemical weapons. At the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW – “b” ) in The Hague, not a day goes by that the Americans and their allies do not come up with another chapter of the anti-Russian chemical dossier.
– Yes, they accuse Russia of developing and using chemical weapons, including against Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, as well as Alexei Navalny.
– But there is zero evidence, there is no argumentation either, only speculation, and not even withstand an elementary test. I recall the classic question: who are the judges? Russia, in accordance with the OPCW, destroyed all its stocks of chemical weapons, and even in record time. And what about the USA? Initially, they had less chemical weapons than Russia, by about a third, but we no longer have it, and they still have it in their warehouses. They are destroying it, of course, but without enthusiasm, the terms were extended until 2023. The OPCW is not very worried about this situation; Washington is not asked unnecessary questions.
But when chemical incidents occurred in Syria, conclusions were drawn instantly, and based on the information of the notorious “White Helmets”. The organization worked so “well” that it sometimes published its reports even before the incidents themselves. True, the date and place of the incident changed, and the conclusions were all a blueprint, everywhere Bashar al-Assad and Russia. It is already known what incomes from these provocations, under the guise of donations, were received by the leaders of the White Helmets.
– On the eve of the pandemic, Russia called on the West to temporarily abandon sanctions against Syria, Venezuela and other states in dire humanitarian situations. But the initiative did not find a wide response. Why do you think?
– It’s all about the geopolitical strategy that the United States and its allies are implementing, ruining the whole world and defending their own hegemony as the only acceptable variant of the world order. As General de Gaulle once said with irony: follow America in a column of two, otherwise it will be bad.
Human rights, the rule of law, a free market, respect for sovereignty – these are the values that Westerners shout at every corner. But vaunted Western liberalism is for the elite. But with those countries that the United States and Europe do not consider democratic, the conversation is completely different. Here you can create whatever you want. Any sanctions under the most insignificant pretexts, the imposition of enslaving loans, blackmail, confiscation of assets, shameless interference in internal affairs … I’m not talking about the hunt for citizens of sovereign states launched by the American justice. Here, in general, there is no question of any legitimacy, these are some kind of gangster methods that have nothing to do with international law.
If an individual or many states are unlucky enough to cross the path of Western elites, you can be sure that no international immunity treaties or progressive laws on inviolability of property and bank secrecy will save him. What happened to Libyan assets after the assassination of Gaddafi? Where did Venezuela’s reserves go after the attempt to overthrow Maduro? In the West, it seems, has already become a habit to live, including at the expense of the ruin of other countries. It seems that the colonial regimes have long since fallen, but the habits have remained. The Americans have probably forgotten that they were once a colony and that they themselves were ruined by the British …
– Well, the US does not always take into account the interests of its Western partners either. At least that’s how it was under Trump. Biden promised to rectify the situation and is already taking steps in this direction.
– In the preference there is such a term – “American aid”. The player allegedly receives some help, but in reality loses significantly. God forbid any country to live to see such help.
But it all started not under Trump, but under another president, Woodrow Wilson. If you remember, at the end of World War I, he sent troops to Europe to help Britain and France. How much later did not only the defeated Germans pay for this, but also the British themselves with the French? It was only when Hitler announced that he was preparing to march to the East that Germany’s debts were written off.
How did Washington behave towards its allies during World War II? At the beginning of our conversation, we remembered Churchill, let’s cite his other statement, this time about the Americans. “We thought that they would skin us off, and they would also remove the meat from the bones.” He exclaimed this when the United States forced him to exchange a dozen military bases in the colonies for fifty rusty destroyers, which were already going to be cut for scrap. So much for Atlantic solidarity.
– But that was a long time ago, nevertheless, now the Americans have a different model of relations with their allies, even though it was seriously tested under Trump.
– The model is still the same. It is no longer a secret for anyone that joining NATO for states, especially small ones, is tantamount to losing part of their sovereignty. Some of our partners from Europe confidentially admit that they perfectly understand the futility of the anti-Russian course imposed on them, but they cannot do anything – Washington and Brussels decide everything for them.
It is argued that the alliance must contain Russia. Let’s see who NATO is actually holding back. It would seem that at the time of the crisis, you can stop the saber rattling and take on more pressing tasks. Nothing like this. NATO expenditures in the same year increased, calls were again made to bring them to 2%, and as a result, the total budget of the alliance is already 24 times higher than the military budget of our country.
– But this is in absolute numbers. If you look at the real difference in potentials, then it is not so significant.
– You can’t argue with absolute numbers. The question arises: who is holding whom? Are Washington and Brussels holding back Russia, or is it their task to hold back the development of Germany, France, Italy and other European states?
On the whole, NATO can hardly be called a military-political bloc. Remember how in the days of feudalism the vassals were obliged to appear to him with their army at the first request of the master? Only today they still have to buy weapons from the patron, and regardless of their financial situation, otherwise questions about their loyalty will arise. All NATO candidates, including those who participate in programs such as Partnership for Peace, should keep this in mind. The goal of all these initiatives is the same – to prevent sovereign players from raising their heads and pursuing pragmatic policies aimed at their own development.
– Since we are talking about Europe, I would like to ask about the recent visit of the head of the EU’s foreign policy service, Josep Borrell, to Moscow. Upon his return, he immediately fell under a flurry of criticism – they say, he gave up in front of the Russians and failed his mission. Following this, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a statement that Russia was ready to make a complete break with Europe. Is this a real scenario?
– I support the words of Sergei Viktorovich. We will not knock on closed doors, but we are ready for cooperation.
Engaging with Europe is important. But being together with Europe at any cost is not a fix for Russian geopolitics. Nevertheless, we keep the doors open, because we understand perfectly well: there is a momentary situation that Western politicians are guided by, and at the same time there are historical ties that have been developing between Russians and Europeans for centuries. It would be unwise to tear them apart just because the conjuncture has changed. We are ready to see European partners at the same table with us in solving key regional problems. We are ready to cooperate in a wide range of areas in the economic sphere, in the field of science, culture and technology. Today, in the midst of a pandemic, this is especially important. Now Europe needs help, many European countries are asking us to share vaccines to save the lives of their citizens. And if our help is needed, then we are ready to provide it.
– In your opinion, cooperation with the United States and the European Union will sooner or later be normalized?
—Each country determines its national priorities and builds a line on the world stage as it sees fit. Dialogue for the sake of dialogue, and even more so for the exchange of mutual reproaches, I think, is of no interest to anyone.
And yet, we proceed from the premise that in the current difficult international situation, the scenario of normalizing relations would be optimal. It would correspond not only to the interests of Moscow and Washington. It would be best for all of humanity. Let me emphasize once again what we started our conversation with. There are a number of problems in the world today that, in principle, cannot be resolved without normal cooperation between the world’s leading players – Russia, the USA, the EU, China, India.
We are no longer in the era when a strong army and navy was enough for global leadership.
In the modern world, in the long term, only those countries benefit that promote and implement a positive agenda aimed not at creating dividing lines, but at uniting the efforts of humanity for the sake of universal development and prosperity. Russia proposes such an agenda and is ready for its joint implementation.
Patrushev Nikolay Platonovich
Was born on July 11, 1951 in Leningrad. Graduated from the Leningrad Shipbuilding Institute with a degree in mechanical engineer (1974), higher courses of the KGB in Minsk (1975).
Since 1975 he worked in the counterintelligence units of the KGB of the USSR in the Leningrad region. In 1992 he was appointed Minister of Security of the Republic of Karelia. Since 1994 – the head of a number of departments of the Federal Counterintelligence Service, later – the FSB.
In 1998, he was appointed deputy head of the presidential administration of Russia – head of the main control department, since October 1998 he worked as deputy director of the FSB, head of the department of economic security. From 1999 to 2008 – Director of the FSB. In 2001-2003, he led counter-terrorist operations in the North Caucasus.
Since May 12, 2008 – Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. Chairman of the interdepartmental commission of the Security Council on strategic planning and the scientific council at the department. Head of the Supervisory Board of the All-Russian Volleyball Federation.
Army General. Hero of Russia. Full Cavalier of the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, awarded the Order of Alexander Nevsky, Courage, Honor, Military Merit, and Naval Merit. Doctor of Law. He is married, has two sons: Dmitry is the Minister of Agriculture of Russia, Andrey is an entrepreneur.