Global Review had the opportunity to have an interview with political scientist Alexander Rahr about Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Turkey and the multipolar world order.
Alexander Rahr is an internationally renowned political scientist, political and business consultant, journalist and book author.
Born on March 2, 1959 in Taipei / Taiwan, married with two children.
Grew up in Tokyo, Eschborn im Taunus, Munich. Lives in Berlin since 1999.
1980 – 88 studies at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich (history, Slavic studies, politics)
1977 – 90 project staff, Federal Institute for Eastern and International Studies, Cologne
1982 – 94 research assistant at the research institute of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Munich
1989 – 91 research stays at RAND Corporation (USA), Soviet Parliament (USSR), East-West Institute (USA)
1994-12 Research Associate, Program Director Russia / Eurasia Center (Berthold-Beitz Center) at the DGAP Research Institute, Bonn / Berlin
2012 – Project manager (Editor-in-Chief Russlandkontrovers.de) at the German-Russian Forum, Berlin
2012 – 15 Senior Advisor Russia, Wintershall Holding, Kassel
2015 – Senior Advisor, Gazprom Brussels (Advisor for Germany and EU Affairs)
Co-founder of the Petersburg Dialogue, Valdai Club, Yalta European Strategy, Berlin Eurasian Club, Association of Russian Business in Germany
Bearer of the Federal Cross of Merit
Honorary professor at the Moscow Diplomatic College MGIMO
Honorary Professor at the Moscow School of Economics
“Alexander Rahr was invited to dinner with Vladimir Putin and has excellent contacts in the Kremlin. The historian and Russia expert is now also working as a lobbyist for Gazprom: a dual role that often brings him criticism.
Alexander Rahr is considered to be an “Putin understander” – not least because the historian, political advisor and lobbyist has already written two biographies about the Russian president. Last autumn, he also published his first novel, the title of which referred to the strong man in the Kremlin: “2054. Putin decodes. ”“ Putin understanders ”- this ascription is usually not necessarily meant positively. But Rahr has no problem at all: “I see myself as a person who knows Russia and who understands Putin,” he said on Deutschlandfunk Kultur: “But in a good way.”
Dr. Alexander Rahr mit Lukaschenko Foto: Copyrights Alexander Rahr
Global Review: Dr. Rahr, the EU tries to come to a compromise with Russia in Ukraine, but Russia seems to systematically undermine the Minsk process. While Merkel and Macron excluded the Crimea issue in the negotiations in order o come to a stabilization oft he Eastern Ukraine, Russia built a bridge to Crimea, enlargens the annexation of Crimea, broke the armistice in Eastern Ukraine and issues Russian passports to Ukrainians. The German think tank SWP wrote in his new study by Fabian Burkhardt Russia’s “Passportisation” of the Donbas -The Mass Naturalisation of Ukrainians Is More Than a Foreign Policy Tool in SWP Comment 2020/C 41, August 2020 : „Russia has so far issued almost 200,000 Russian passports to Ukrainians from the “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk. This undermines the Minsk peace process. The passportisation of the Donbas is part of a tried and tested set of foreign policy instruments. Russia is deliberately making it more difficult to resolve territorial conflicts in the post-Soviet space by creating controlled instability. This demonstrative intervention in state sovereignty exerts pressure on the Ukrainian central government in Kyiv. Domestically, Russia’s goal is to counteract its own natural population decline through immigration.“
Do you agree with this analysis and is a New East Policy still possible if Russia doesn´t care about the Minsk process anymore? What could be the political measures to counter this trend?
Alexander Rahr: In the Minsk process, everyone involved is talking about the bush. The focus is on morality. Russia has broken international law and attacked Europe’s liberal value system. That would have to be atoned for. Russia refers to violations of international law by the West. Borders are constantly being shifted, be it with the collapse of the USSR, Yugoslavia, or the Middle East. Russia thinks in terms of pure power categories that military non-interference by other powers applies to the post-Soviet space – like the old Monroe Doctrine on the American continent, which in fact still applies. Russia compares NATO bases in Ukraine to the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba. The USA defended their backyard at that time, the Soviets withdrew. From Moscow’s point of view, Ukraine is Russian Cuba. What does Russia want in Ukraine? Russia wants Ukraine to transform itself into a federation. Then the regions of eastern Ukraine, whose people historically have an affinity for Russia, would have the opportunity, as they did before the events of 2014, to work closely with Russia. Russia will support the separatists in Donbas until the Kiev central government grants autonomy to the non-recognized separatist republics. A federal Ukraine would meet the wishes of many Ukrainians, who are still not a homogeneous people. For Russia, a federal Ukraine would also be a security policy guarantee that its largest western neighbor would not become a member of NATO. A NATO eastward expansion to Ukraine would probably be a reason for war for Russia; in any case, Russia and the West would then slide into a long new Cold War. Moscow knows very well: as long as the Ukrainian state association remains fragile, Ukraine will not receive an invitation to NATO. In order to persuade the central government in Kiev to apply the autonomy solution for the separatist areas more quickly, Moscow is putting pressure on Kiev – among other things by issuing Russian passports to the local population. Moscow suggests that it could increase the pressure, for example, to proclaim a new state Novo-Rossija (New Russia) in the regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by the separatists. According to the Russian way of thinking, the majority of the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine is part of Russia’s cultural heritage.
It should be noted here that the autonomy solution for the Donbas is an integral part of the Minsk Agreement! It would be unfair to blame Russia alone for failing to meet the agreement. Ukraine co-signed this agreement, so it is fully legal. But Ukraine never thought of granting the Donbas full autonomy. Ukraine does not recognize the separatists as negotiators and does not want a separatist representative to be elected governor in the breakaway regions. Kiev does not want any progress in the implementation of the Minsk Agreement because, according to agreements with Germany and France, progress should automatically be followed by a gradual reduction in EU sanctions against Russia. However, Ukraine wants the West not to end the sanctions against Russia, but to steadily tighten them. Kiev wants the Western sanctions to damage the Russian economy so massively that Russia will return Crimea and eastern Ukraine to Ukraine without compromise. Incidentally, the Ukrainians are supported by the USA in this endeavor. Germany and France have understood, however, that tough sanctions cannot bring down Russia. In the meantime, people in Berlin and Paris are also annoyed that Ukraine is constantly using the conflict with Russia as an excuse not to implement democratic reforms in their own country. The Majdan was six years ago, but in many ways the Ukraine has remained as unchanged today as it was under the old, corrupt regime. Then on to Germany and France: these two guarantors of the Minsk process could also work harder to bring eastern Ukraine closer to a lasting peace solution. Berlin and Paris have to be honest brokers in this extremely dangerous conflict, not just to support Ukraine. The annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine had a history in which the EU was not uninvolved. At that time Ukraine should not have had to face the ultimate decision either EU or Eurasian Economic Union. Geopolitically, the EU played miserably in Ukraine. Crimea is now lost to Ukraine, like Kosovo to the Serbs, Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan or the Golan Heights to the Syrians. But even worse would be a bloody Slavic war in Eastern Europe, at the end of which NATO would get into a military conflict with the nuclear power Russia
Global Review: Brzezinski wrote in his book Chessboard that Ukraine is a highly sensitive country for Russia, but that it would get used to EU and NATO membership of Ukraine, especially since this would also end all ambitions to form an Eurasian power. But things turned out differently .
Ukraine and Belarus are ex-Soviet republics that border directly on Russia, especially since Russia also has the Black Sea fleet in the Crimea – unlike the Visegrad states. In addition, the question is whether Putin would like to have them as buffer states or at best bridge states between the Eurasian Economic Union and the EU or not both as members of the Eurasian Economic Union. What role do Ukraine and Belarus play for Putin?
Alexander Rahr: Zbig Brzezinski wrote his book on global geopolitics right after the end of the Cold War. It was a completely different time. The Soviet empire, which had ruled half the world for almost half a century, dissolved. The Yalta world order was replaced by the Paris Charter. Everyone spoke of the end of history, that is, of the absolute victory of the liberal idea without any alternative. The world became unipolar – with the superpower USA as the only creative power on earth. Western Europe and East Central Europe united, Europe was rebuilt exclusively on NATO and the EU, the USA and the West became “godfathers” of new democratic states, even on the territory of the former Soviet Union. China played no role at all back then. And Russia, under Boris Yeltsin, considered whether it should join NATO and the EU. When I was picked up from the airport with Brzinski in Moscow in 2010 to go to a meeting with the then President Medvedev, I asked him in the car about his worldview. I got the impression that he was accepting the new multipolar world order – with a newly strengthened Russia. He accepted Samuel Huntington’s view of the world of the “eternal border” between West Rome and East Rome in Europe. To the great annoyance of the West, the Eurasian Empire came back under Russian supremacy. It wasn’t a surprise.
In the 1990s, the West was naive when it believed that it could integrate Central Asia, the Caucasus and states such as Belarus or Ukraine into NATO as it did with the East Central Europeans. Ultimately, the West lacked the strength, the political will and the attraction that it had exercised on all the successor states of the Soviet Union, including Russia, shortly after the collapse of the USSR. In addition, Vladimir Putin, a politician, took the stage who rigorously wanted to assert the national and historical interests of Russia, no matter what the cost. Perhaps the collective West should have acted as the USA did after the Second World War and developed a gigantic Marshal plan for the entire area from the Oder / Neisse to the Pacific. Perhaps he should have brought Russia into NATO right away, then the old enmity would never have broken out. But that’s all history. Global Review asks what Putin plans to do with Ukraine and Belarus. Well, Russia will try to further expand the Eurasian Union with or after Putin, whereby, according to Russian self-image, the three East Slavic peoples Russians-Ukrainians-Belarusians should be integrated into the Eurasian Union, which should ideally become a counterpart for the EU in the east. At least they should never belong to different military alliances. I don’t know how future generations of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians will think and act. But in the current post-Soviet populations in all three countries there is greater sympathy for such coexistence, albeit on an equal basis, not on a Russian dictate. Since the EU will concentrate more on its own consolidation than on further enlargements in the coming decades, I do not see any major barriers to the development of the Eurasian Union.
Global Review: It remains unclear what will come of the protests in Belarus. In my opinion, the EU will initially only impose personal and symbolic sanctions in order not to drive Lukachenkov too much into the arms of Russia and to prevent the collapse of the economy. At the same time, it also has a conflict with Erdogan over Greece, which could escalate to a military conflict between the NATO states Turkey and Greece, a NATO crisis and new refugee flows in the worst case. It is also interesting that Trump and the EU are holding back in the Belarus protests, that Western politicians are not jumping around in the front line like Mc Cain or Westerwelle in Minsk on the Maidan or the German Bundestag and the Chancellor appearing in a symbolic demonstration orange of the Ukrainian opposition triggering Pavlovian reflexes of Russia While Orban acts on the side of Putin and Lukashenko, the agitators are more likely to be seen in Poland and the Baltic States, which have now been upgraded by the USA, while the rest of the EU – above all Germany and France – will enforce a more moderate middle line. Do you think the West has learnt its Ukrainian lesson?
Alexander Rahr: The situation in Belarus changes every day. Large parts of the population are more angry than ever before against Alexander Lukashenko. Never before in his 26-year presidency has the Lukashenko chair wobbled as it does today. There were protests against him in the past, and what we are seeing in Belarus today could turn into a popular uprising. The brutality with which Lukashenko had the protests dispersed was unbeatable. I don’t think the people will ever forgive him for that. Then Lukashenko will have to either call his army against his own population for help or make confessions. The revolt against Lukashenko could follow the pattern of the Ukrainian revolutions of 2005 and 2014, but it doesn’t have to. In the end, Lukashenko could be chased away, or he would not be able to stay in power for some time with the help of Russia. Belarus is not Ukraine. Belarus is a military ally of Russia, the western influence on the country is insignificant compared to that of Russia. However, I do not see a suppression of the “Belarusian summer” like the “Prague Spring” in 1968. Not yet. A fall of the egocentric and erratic Lukashenko, who has always been an unpredictable partner for Russia, might not be so inconvenient for Moscow. The West shouldn’t think that an alternative to Lukashenko would necessarily be a pro-Western politician. Not at all – there are politicians in the opposition who know very well that Belarus cannot survive economically without Russia. And what kind of real assistance could be expected from the EU? Many Belarusians fear that their economy will be sold out to rich Western corporations in the event of privatization. As far as Moscow is concerned, the red line would be – as in the case of Ukraine – NATO expansion to include Belarus. Russia will do all it can to prevent Belarus from moving to the West in terms of security policy. I hope that Western politicians who are fueling the Belarusian protests against Lukashenko today are very well aware of this hyper-danger. Accordingly, the EU sanctions against Lukashenko were also mild. The West does not want to drive the last dictatorship of Europe into Putin’s arms.
Global Review: Nevertheless, the movement has a dynamic of its own that can also trigger undesirable reactions from Moscow and Lukasheko: Putin has now relocated troops to the EU’s western border, Lukashenko sent parachute units against the opposition, while there are NATO maneuvers in the Baltic States and previously the largest Russian maneuver since the end of the Cold War.Trump seems to be holding back (still), while Pompeo issued tougher notes on his European tour and wants to talk to the EU . Ewhich role do you thinkl the USA and the USA will play in this scenario?
Alexander Rahr: The US is so involved in internal disputes and election campaigns that it does not want to deal with the Belarus problem. They know that they can hardly gain anything geopolitically in Belarus. They will of course take part in the western sanctions against Lukashenko. But if the Americans see that Belarus gives them an opportunity to weaken Russia geopolitically, they will seize it. The US will also back the Balts, who insist on a tough approach towards Belarus within the EU. The West will warn Russia not to interfere in the internal affairs of Belarus. Russia will not adopt this warning. The maneuvers by NATO and Russia along the Belarusian western and eastern borders are, of course, intended to add fuel to the fire. I hope all sides are acting sensibly, given the circumstances. I think that pressure on Lukashenko to respect human rights must be built up. At the same time, the Balts and Poles, who already see themselves as frontline states in the conflict with Russia, must be whistled back. The Belarus problem can be solved through diplomatic channels.
Global Review: The demonstrations in Belaru continue, the interesting thing is that the workers are now threatening to go on strike. Could this worker movement become a Belarusian Solidarnosc? What would a general strike bring? Or can Lukashenkow, who now wants to visit factories and talk to the workers, convince them that a strike or even a general strike could lead to the collapse of the Covid-damaged economy and would therefore not be in their own and the national interests? Lukashenko won´t agree to hold new elections.. It is questionable what perspective the opposition has with their demonstrations. Is it hoping for the military to change sides? Is that realistic? Would a Belarusian Jaruzelski be conceivable? Perhaps in a row with a round table or is the situation in Belarus different than it was in Poland ? Or would Lukascheko himself anticipate such a development and impose martial law?
Alexander Rahr:. Lukashenko has his back to the wall. He is deeply surprised by this. He can’t believe it. He believed all those 26 years as president that the absolute majority of his “subjects” followed him in everything. From his worldview he is a socialist monarchist. Now he loses all sense of reality. The authoritarian ruler sees his people and the land as his property. This is how kings ruled in the Middle Ages, but not in Europe today. Lukashenko lost his people. The question is how long his camarilla will last with him. There are also reasonable people there, like Foreign Minister Vladimir Makai. Lukashenko is now trying to initiate a constitutional reform, to share power – in order to survive politically. It slowly dawns on him that if he leaves, he could end up in front of the tribunal. He promises to strengthen parliament and accept alternative parties. But the nerves are on edge. Everyone around him feared for their careers. Lukashenko hears advice to give up everything and accept Putin’s proposal for reunification with Russia. But how will the Belarusians behave in such a case? Is the rebellion getting bigger? The country is more likely to be split. In any case, if Lukashenko wants to save his skin, he cannot avoid a round table with the opposition and civil society. What he can do is to keep Western influence away from this round table, otherwise – he knows that – the fate of Yamukovich threatens him. Prejudiced Balts and Poles do not have to act as mediators in the conflict, because they only fuel the overthrow of Lukashenko. Rather, a neutral country like Moldova, which has problems similar to Belarus, should mediate. In any case, a repetition of the development in Kiev should be avoided in 2014, when the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland mediated in Kiev during the Maidan revolution and negotiated new elections with President Yanukovych and the opposition, but on the same night for a coup d’état in which Yanukovych became victim.
Global Review: And what could be Putin’s reaction? Does Lukashenkov allow him to deploy Russian troops or Green men in Belarus or does he not trust Putin as this would that be too dangerous for himself? In the case of Belarus, does a kind of new Brezhnev doctrine apply to Russia, perhaps when calls for help from Slavic Union brothers in an emergency reach Moscov? Or would Putin rather use hybrid warfare and subtle means, fearing that Russia could sink into a swamp if he intervened? Lukashenkov has continued to signal his willingness to talk to the EU despite Putin’s call. Can he continue to play strategic balancing between the EU and Russia as he has done in recent decades or does it no longer work as it did in earlier times?
Alexander Rahr: Putin knows that he must not lose the people of Belarus. He must therefore not take sides unilaterally for Lukashenko. On the other hand, Putin doesn’t trust the West. He knows how the West takes its opponents by surprise. If you as a Westerner talk to representatives of the Russian elite about Belarus today, you are confronted with the accusation of double standards. Why is Merkel complaining about the demos in Belarus, but not about the brutality of the French police in breaking up the yellow vests protests? Why was Spain not pilloried for violence against protesters in Catalonia? How can it be that the EU constantly demands election observers for Belarus, but does not itself invite election observers from Russia and Belarus to its own elections? Why does the West allow itself to proclaim the Belarusian opposition candidate Svetlana Tichanovskaja as the election winner and to revoke Lukashenko’s victory? What if the Eurasian Union declared an election in an EU country to be illegitimate and supported a national populist there? Why is Russia being criticized and sanctioned for its alleged interference in elections in the EU – and the West allowing itself to stick around in the Belarusian elections? Putin, too, is tired of the West seeing itself as a representative of greater morality and becoming the protector of liberal forces in the former Soviet republics. Western politicians are trying to explain reality to Putin: the Soviet regime was totalitarian, the western regime brought freedom. The USSR lost, the West won. All people from Lisbon to Vladivostok must live in freedom, according to the Paris Charter, which all OSCE states signed 30 years ago. This law is binding for everyone, which is why the liberal West has the right to assert itself against dictatorships, to intervene where human rights are trampled underfoot. Putin calls this attitude Western neocolonialism. Freedom is not the greatest good. Human dignity can only be protected in a well-functioning state. Putin will counter the supposed moral strength of the West with the military strength of Russia.
Global Review: At the same time, the protests against Putin in Khabarovsk continue. So far Putin has been able to prevent a spillover to the West of the Urals, but he no longer seems to have everything under control and could also fear the Belarus virus spreading to Russia?How stable is Putin´s rule as there ist he fall oft he oilprices and the Covid crisis?
Putin certainly has to do with a decline in popularity in his own country. Like Lukashenko and the Central Asian presidents, he too regards himself as the father of the nation. Putin is convinced that in the Slavic, Orthodox and historically differently shaped Eastern Europe, different laws apply than in the West. Where the western politician has to maintain his authority with compromises with political opponents, power balances, persuasion and understanding for the needs of the population, the motto for an Eastern European ruler is not to show any weakness, because weakness would immediately lead to a loss of authority in the eyes of the population to lead. In the “other Europe” of the East, because there has never been an Enlightenment there like in the West, there will be no liberal democracy. At least not in the near future. Even politicians who come to power there under a liberal flag – see the examples in Ukraine or in Russia under Yeltsin – later behave anything but democratic. They are corrupt, do not believe in the separation of powers and also little in the freedom of the press. The demonstrations in Khabarovsk in the Far East are not without risk for Putin because they do not take place under liberal slogans. Basic democratic values are not what Russians are ready to protest en masse for. In Khabarovsk, people are demonstrating for a deposed governor who had cracked down on corruption. Incidentally, this governor is a leading member of Vladimir Zhurinovski’s ultra-nationalist party. This governor used to be a seedy entrepreneur who is now accused of murdering his competitors. But skeletons in the closet can now be found in all Russian decision-makers who were active in the 1990s, when Russia was partly ruled by the Mafia. If we look closely at the situation in Khabarovsk, we will see that a possible political alternative to Putin lies not in the democratic but in the nationalist camp. These are the laws and rules in Eastern Europe, whether the Western observer understands it or not. Law and order are closer to the hearts of a large part of the population than freedom and individual self-realization. We don’t even have to go to Belarus and Russia to see this. A look at Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania would be helpful for general understanding.
Global Review: Erdogan is pushing his neo Ottoman Empire in Northern Syria, Lybia, Sudan, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Erdogan advances in establishing his Neo-Ottoman Empire. The list is long: after supporting the Muslim Brothers everywhere in the Greater Middle East, equipping Islamist homicide militias from Syria to Libya, he becomes partly responsible for these civil wars and refugee flows, now portrays himself hypocritically as saviors of refugees and human rights, and is silencing the EU through the refugee deal, which he now wants to expand to Libya. After establishing a military base in Sudan, now marching into northern Syria and moving Turkish troops to Libya and also seeing his claims to gas deposits in the Mediterranean and the latter as his Mare Nostrum, building a second Bosporus channel, refusing NATO ships to pass through the Bosporus to the Black Sea, procuring S 400 rockets from Russia despite all NATO protests, as well as Russian nuclear power plants and, with Putin, sees itself as a new regulatory force in the MENA region, he is now reaching out to Pakistan and Central Asia. We probably could have two Islamist belts. one from the Sahel to Nigeria with the Islamic State and a second from North Africa to Syria with Erdogan-backed Muslim Brothers and the FIS in Algeria. The best thing would be if they fought over each other. Whether Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan would remain stable remains to be seen The whole thing is also fueled by Palestine and Jerusalem. And there is also the US- Iranian conflict on the top, and it remains to be seen whether the PLO can still hold power and is not taken over by Hamas or even more radical forces.Do you think that Russia will ally with Erdogan and create spheres of interests in these regions or will Russia come in a confrontation with Erdogan-Turkey in the mid and long term? Is a Neo Ottoman Empire in the interest of Russia or the West or the EU or USA?
Alexander Rahr: I may be wrong, but in the medium term – unlike most Western experts – I see Russia and Turkey as two neo-great powers that are more tactical allies than opponents. Russia does not have to fear any military pressure on its borders from Turkey. Turkey does not support Tatar separatism in Crimea. Like his predecessors, Erdogan still supports Islamist rebels in the North Caucasus. On the issue of control over the Black Sea region, Moscow and Ankara are close. Both do not want a strategic presence of NATO in their “inland sea”. Turkey does not participate in Western sanctions against Russia. Ankara has de facto recognized Abkhazia as a state because it invests there. Turkey is part of a tactical alliance Moscow-Ankara-Tehran in the Near and Middle East. Turkey falls out on many issues with the US and the EU – and since NATO is Russia’s main adversary today, this brings strategic advantages for Russia. Russia and Turkey are united in a gas alliance in the Black Sea region, which is currently suspended because Turkey is demanding lower gas prices from Russia. Moscow and Ankara will come to an agreement in Syria, and in the end Putin will persuade the Syrian ruler Assad to accept a Turkish protectorate in the north of the country. In Libya, too, the Russians prefer Turkey to be an active creative power than NATO. Putin and Erdogan have a close relationship, they are talking to each other in order to prevent another incident, such as the shooting down of a Russian fighter plane in Syria, which put both countries in the face of a military conflict.
Global Review: Azerbaijan and Amernia have a conflict about a region which it the lifeline for oil- and gas pipelines and a transit hub.Lukanshenko also imported oil and gas from Azerbyijan to counter high Russian oil prices for Belarus. It seems that the Caucasus region becomes another hot spot between Russia and Turkey.On July 29, Azerbaijan and Turkey launched a two-week long round of joint military exercises with the participation of ground and air forces from both countries. The military drills involving land forces were held from August 1 to 5, in Baku and Nakhchivan; while the exercises with the participation of military aviation occurred between July 29 and August 10, in Baku, Nakhchivan, Ganja, Kurdamir and Yevlakh The Azerbaijani-Turkish drills caused considerable anxiety in Armenia. Meeting with the ambassadors of France and Russia as well as Iran’s newly appointed envoy to Yerevan, Armenia’s Defense Minister David Tonoyan said that his government would be monitoring the scheduled military drills by Turkey and Azerbaijan (Asbarez, July 29). While praising the military partnership between Armenia and Russia and organizing joint military exercises with the Russian army, Tonoyan described Azerbaijan’s military drills with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member Turkey as “destabilizing” for the region
https://jamestown.org/program/azerbaijan-turkey-hold-large-scale-military-drills-amidst-escalation-of-tensions-with-armenia/ Do you think we will see the next conflict in the Caucasus? What could this mean geopolitically and economically?
. Alexander Rahr: The Nagorno-Karabakh problem has existed for over 30 years. The war for this region occurred before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia, as the main successor state of the former Soviet Union, has taken on the role of the superordinate mediator in all disputes on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Of course, Russia has its own interests here. Russia is primarily interested in moving the ex-Soviet republics to reintegrate step by step. Moscow also does not want to tolerate any foreign military alliances on the territory of the defunct Soviet Union. As for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it will remain a typically frozen conflict. For years to come. Apart from Azerbaijan, nobody in the international community is interested in a violent reconquest of the breakaway republic, although most of the states in the international community consider Nagorno-Karabakh to be part of Azerbaijan under international law. But Armenia, the patron saint of the breakaway region now inhabited by Armenians, also has powerful friends in Western politics, especially in the United States and France. In the event of a Turkish alliance with Azerbaijan, or a possible military strike by Ankara and Baku against the Armenian-occupied territory, Armenia, which is a member of the Eurasian collective defense alliance, will ask Moscow for help – and get support from the nuclear power. Due to the globally recognized accusation of genocide against the former Ottoman Empire, when the Turks slaughtered their Armenian minority 100 years ago, today’s Turks have to hold back in a possible conflict with Armenia in order not to have the entire world public against them
Global Review: A cooperation between the USA, the EU and Russia should not be value-based or on the basis of some vague idea of a common Christian heritage, but mainly on interests. What are the interests? Climate change. Arments controll and peace,trade, Covid and the rise of China and Islamism. At the moment Russia and China seem to have very close contacts, bilateral, by the BRICS, the SCO and energy exports, joint drills in the Pacific and even the Mediterean Sea. Russia uses China as counterbalance against Western expansion. And as the West still has sanctions against Russia and is in confrontation with it, nobody could think of a situation that in the future Russia might change ist attitude. Most Russian elites are still European and Russian strategist Karaganov wants to create an Asian pivot as the new world economic and geopolitical center was Asian and mostly Chinese, hopes that many Russian will settle to the Far East and revitalize this underpopulated, economically weak area as he also thinks that pro-Asian elites could replace the old Moscow pro-European establishment and that Russia could become a „global supplier for international security“, especially as nuclear power which can balance between the USA and China. Russia therefore could become an independent world power balancing between the two poles of a coming multipolar world. However, John Mearsheimer predicts that China will become so strong militarily and economically, that Russia is in danger to become a neo-colony and appendix of China. As China rejects New Start and would raise ist ICBMs there was no role for Russia to be a nuclear balancer between the USA and China. Economically China would grow, but Russia becomes more and more dependent from China, if the West is not changing its policy. The Far East and Siberia would be occupied by China, not by troops, but by economic infiltration and become another economic and political center against Moscow. Therefore Mearsheimer predicts that Russia´s friendly attitude towards China could change if there was a Western alternative for it. Mearsheimer predicts that Russia had 3 options: To become a Chinese appendix and to submit itself under Chinese domination, to stay neutral and try to keep its independent role by strategic balancing or to become an ally of the West and the USA if they would be willing to accept Russia as a global player.Do you think Mearsheimer is correct and realistic?
Alexander Rahr: Allow me a little self-promotion. In my factual novel “2054: Putin decoded” I try to describe the world order of the middle of the 21st century. I have come to the conclusion that by 2054 the world will be divided into three parts. There are parallels to Orwell’s novel 1984. The transatlantic bloc will continue to exist even if relations between the US and Europe weaken and NATO is reformed by then. However, the bloc will pull itself together in an emergency because other parts of the world will gain strength in the coming multipolar world order and will massively challenge the West. China will lead the second global bloc of the world order and integrate Russia into it. Russia will oppose colonization by the Chinese, but will ultimately have to place itself under the second superpower – China, because Russia will not receive any strategic support from the West. Unfortunately, the EU will not switch to an interest-based Russia policy and will continue to pursue the current value-oriented policy towards Moscow. The EU’s ruling elite simply cannot do otherwise. Europe will lose Russia without need. The third bloc, or pole of the new world order, will be an alliance of Islamist states from Mali to Afghanistan. This development still seems very utopian to many, but I think it will come. China and Russia will – something Orwell sounded like in the novel – enter into an alliance with the Orientals in the Arab world. Now any political scientist can figure out the global challenges ahead. The danger of a local nuclear war will preoccupy our next generations of politicians much more than they do today. My appeal to Europe: let’s forget the East-West conflict, please. Belarus is not worth starting a new Cold War in Europe with Russia. The real dangers for us are in the south. The north-south conflict has long been there and is a challenge. Do we not see then that Africa and the Arab world are in the greatest change in their history? Where is our prevention? In the north-south conflict, Russia must be on our side. That is the task of our and Russian diplomacy.
Global Review: Lawrow said at the Munich Secuirity Confernece that the key to a soultion in Ukraine and other hot spots of conflicts between the West and Russia were not local solutions, but a new international security architecture in a multipolar world. However the USA would also be the decisive factor for such a scenario? Which development will the US-Russian and the EU-Russiian relations have if Trump or Biden is elected? What scenarios do you think are likely?
Alexander Rahr: Russia wants to establish the new multipolar world order. The old Yalta order of 1945 is dead. The world order that should be based on the Paris Charter is also on the wane. The multilateral institutions that have brought us peace and stability over the past 30 years have become unusable. Trump destroyed many of these institutions. Putin has proposed that the heads of the permanent member states of the UN Security Council meet and conceive the new world order. If Trump is re-elected, he will agree. The French President has agreed. Xi Jinping is interested because in the new world order he wants to claim superpower status for himself. The future German Chancellor needs a period of familiarization with international issues, but Germany will certainly formally occupy a more leading place in the new world order than it has today. The world needs a new multilateralism. The G7 is out of date, without China and Russia, but with Italy and Japan as members, it seems paralyzed. The Americans have ruined the WTO, the globalization of the world economy is giving way to regionalization. Disarmament is no longer taking place at all, not because the USA and Russia are modernizing their arsenals, but because China and other new nuclear powers have no desire to reduce their nuclear capacity. The Paris climate agreement is more important for the future of the planet than nuclear disarmament today, but it is only supported by the EU. We have already talked about the end of the East-West conflict and the coming North-South conflict. Either we all slide further into chaos and the new multipolar world becomes warlike again, as it did before 1945. Or reason wins and the world experiences a just readjustment. In order to achieve the latter, all actors involved must be ready to give up power, not just to fight for themselves. I would like America not to take the America-First path, but to put its diplomacy at the service of a new polycentric world, that is, to set the necessary example that others then follow.