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…