Global Review had again the honor of interviewing Prof. Alexander Rahr, expert on Russian affairs, political scientist, member of the Valdai Club, Putin advisor for Gazprom to the EU. Alexander Rahr is an honorary professor at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations and School of Economics. He studied at the State University of Munich, worked 1980-1994 for the Research Institute for Radio Free Europe, the Federal Institute for Eastern European and International Studies. He was a consultant to the RAND Corporation, USA. From 1994 to 2012 he headed the Russian / Eurasian Center at the German Council for Foreign Relations. He then consulted Wintershall Holding and later Gazprom Brussels on European affairs. Furthermore, he was also a frequent guest of Putin as a conversation partner. Since 2012 he has been program director at the German-Russian Forum. He is a member of the Petersburg Dialogue, the Valdai Club, the Yalta European Strategy Network, author of several books on Russia.
Global Review; Dr. Rahr, in your book you said that Russian people admire the Prussian and German discipline, order and logic. Is this still true as the Germans can´t built an Berlin airport in time, the trains are not in time, you have gendertheories all the time? Is Germany still a place for admiration for Russian people or not a historical-nostalgic space you remember? And what about Russia? Is Russia tsil the same as it was a decade before?
Dr. Rahr: Mistakes happen to every author. Yes, I wrote in my recently published book that German efficiency, order and technological ingenuity serve as a great example for many Russians, especially young people. The catastrophic mistakes in coping with the pandemic that were made in Germany, the backwardness in digitization – are things that do not remain hidden from the outside world. Germany is losing its image as a technological model country, gradually also with the Russians. A Germanophile Russian recently said to me: Your beautiful concept of the service provider is changing for the worse. We Russians understood it to mean that hard work was always rewarded in Germany; hardworking citizens made the state strong and successful. Today we notice that the German concept of the top performer is eroding strongly – towards social service providers. As for Russia, like China, the country is well on its way out of the pandemic. Russia has many COVID deaths, the excess mortality rate is 300,000, but the economy was not so badly affected because the lockdown last year was short.
Global Review: Russia is deploying troops on the border of Ukraine while China is pushing its military deployments in the South China Sea and around Taiwan .Are this coordinated actions? Is this just a demonstration of a Sino-Russian strategic cooperation to threaten the USA at its Asian and European front?
Dr. Rahr: I refuse to speak of a one-sided escalation on the part of Russia and China. The Russian troop deployment on the Donbas border can also be understood as a reaction to the strengthening of NATO’s military infrastructure in the Baltic States and on the Black Sea. The USA is massively increasing its military activities on the Chinese borders, where a US missile defense system is being set up. The world power USA declares Russia and China enemies and wages trade wars against them. At the same time, it cannot be denied that China intends to use force to take over (annex) the island of Taiwan, which in the complicated international legal dispute, like Hong Kong, belongs to China in the near future. Just like Russia did with Crimea. It is also clear that Russia will not give up Crimea, as the West is demanding. After seven years of civil war, Russia will not return the Donbas to Ukraine either. A fragmented Ukraine cannot become a member of NATO. The main goal of Russian policy is to hold back the further eastward expansion of NATO to former Russian core areas; Moscow is otherwise not planning any conquests. You ask whether Moscow and Beijing are acting in a coordinated manner and are thus massively challenging the West? My answer wouldn’t be no.
Global Review: Russia is deploying mass troops at the border r of Ukraine. Western experts say that this will become a decisive battle to make Ukraine a vassal state of Russia. You said that Ukraine got 60 millions from the USA a military aid, but isn´t that a joke as it can´t prevent a Russian invasion?
Dr. Rahr: I don’t see any Russian plans to reconquer Ukraine, as the Red Army did 100 years ago. As German experts and think tankers, I always find it difficult to contradict Western risk assessments. But I see Ukraine trying to subdue the US in its efforts to contain Russia. Ukraine believes that a turning point has occurred with Joe Biden’s election victory. Trump ignored the conflict over Ukraine. Biden seems to be willing to solve it in the interests of Kiev and to put immense pressure on Russia. He called Putin a killer and promised to punish Russia harshly as soon as possible. Ukraine is deeply disappointed with the mediators Germany and France because the Minsk Process did not lead to the return of the Crimea and the Donbas. Now Kiev is relying on a new armed conflict against Russia with massive US military aid. It is normal for the Russians to be attributed aggressive intentions in the West at this point in time. It was no different in the West during preparations for war against Iraq in 2002. At that time there was talk of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that had to be destroyed. After the US invasion, they were looked for in vain. Why should Putin attack Ukraine today and risk war with the West? Russia is in the process of making friends with the Europeans again via Sputnik V. The Kremlin re-opens entry to Russia for EU citizens.
Global Review: Is a New East Policy possible which transforms Ukraine into a neutral state and as bridge state between the EU and the EAEU and not a vassal state of Russia?
Dr. Rahr: Ukraine is not an artificial state, as the Russians claim. This beautiful country has been on the European map for 30 years. But the population is still divided into two parts, between total supporters of western integration in the West of the country and a traditionally pro-Russian population in the East of the country. Unilateral NATO membership or Eurasian membership would tear the country apart. That is why I think Ukraine’s neutrality is the right way to re-stabilize the European security order. Germany and France should revive the idea of a common European area from the Atlantic to the Urals. In this room there should be indivisible security for EVERYONE. Unfortunately, because of its global geopolitical interests, the US is against such a space. The Chinese are in favor – and are now thinking this area with their Silk Road strategy from the East.
Global Review: In your book you said that a big mistake of the German government would be that it is preoccupied with Poland, the Baltic states and Eastern Europe, but should push its own German-Russian policy. However, the policy of Germany as a part of the EU never can be to ignore these states, but on the other side a coalition within he EU without these states as a own lobby group which makes compomises with them could be an alternative. What do you think about this?
Dr. Rahr: I would like the European Union to come to a unified opinion about Russia. Germans and old Europeans had reconciled with Russia after the fall of the Wall, and the idea of Russia joining NATO and the EU made the rounds. Then the former Warsaw Pact countries joined NATO and the EU and carried their aversions to Russia into the western alliance. However, it is not true that all former Eastern Bloc countries feel hatred towards Russia. In the current pandemic, we can see how close the cooperation between Sputnik V and Russia is in most Central and Eastern European countries. It is actually only the three Baltic countries and Poland that want Russia out of Europe with all their might. It has to be said that these are the states that were attacked by Stalin in 1939 and therefore see themselves more as victims of communism than victims of National Socialism, although we all know that Hitler’s fascism and not the Soviet Union were responsible for the atrocities of the Second World War was responsible. I wish, and I also wrote that in my book, that a similar successful reconciliation process can work in Eastern Europe as in Western Europe immediately after 1945. Germany could initiate it.
Global Review: As the West-Russian conflict escalates, is t still possible to come to other areas of cooperation as a New Green Deal or armaments reduction or other areas of cooperation?
Dr. Rahr: Global Review in particular has considered a Green Deal between Russia and the EU in several articles and interviews. You are all correct. The real dangers and challenges we face are climate and environmental changes that we must fight together. If the Greens in Germany were to provide the Chancellor, they might come to this rethinking of the potential for global conflict. The Amazon forests we are so concerned about are on the other side of the globe. Russia and its Siberian forests, the problems with the thawing of the North Pole – these are direct European problems that we must solve peacefully and amicably. The East-West conflict is a thing of the past.
Global Revièw: Which advice would you give Biden to come to a compromise with Putin-Russia?
Dr. Rahr: I advise Biden to hold a summit with Putin and Xi Jinping as soon as possible in order to constructively resolve rivalries in the emerging multipolar order, through compromise and not struggle. The world is facing another upheaval, the West will lose its former strength, Asia will gain strength. We in Europe find these realities difficult to grasp, but the process of rethinking should take place more quickly. Biden’s alliance of democrats against tyrants of the world will not work without relaxation.
Global Review: In your book you speak of the “Russian question”. The West hadn’t given any thought to how Russia could be integrated into Europe. But weren’t there any ideas from a common European home to a common economic area from Lisbon to Vancouver? Does the younger generation still have any relation to Russia at all or is not a generation dying out with the war and post-war generation, for whom the importance of relations with Russia was still a concern? Conversely, a survey at the NATO Youth Summit showed that Russia is not seen as the main enemy, but more generally climate change and cyber threats. How does that fit with the Russian question?
Dr. Rahr: The younger generation of our politicians will have to tackle the challenges of the 21st century and quickly leave the outdated thinking of the 20th century. I therefore hope that representatives of the younger generation will come to power as quickly as possible in all countries of the world and show the generation of fathers and grandfathers who are still ruling that they can do better.