Global Review again had the honor of interviewing Dr. Alexander Rahr, Russia expert, political scientist, member of the Valdai Club, and a former Putin advisor and Putin´s Gazprom advisor to the EU, about the Ukraine war and related issues. Alexander Rahr is an honorary professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and Business School. He studied at Ludwigs-Maximilians University in Munich, worked for the Research Institute for Free Europe, the Federal Institute for Eastern European and International Studies from 1980-1994. He was a consultant to the RAND Corporation, USA. From 1994 to 2012 he headed the Russian-Eurasian Center at the German Council on Foreign Relations. He then advised Wintershall Holding and later Gazprom Brussels on European affairs. In addition, he was a frequent interlocutor with Putin. Since 2012, he has been program director of the German-Russian Forum. He was a member of the now defunct Petersburg Dialogue, the Valdai Club, the Yalta European Strategy Network and author of several books on Russia.
However, Dr. Rahr´s reputation suffered since the Russian Crimea invasion as a Youtube video by a Ukrainian propaganda organisation Underdog Ukrainians (logo: pitbull with steel helmet and a bone in his mouth) makes clear.
Global Review: Mr. Rahr, in our first interview with you, we asked whether Putin’s goals and those of the U.S. were conducive or antagonistic to the European peace order, and we also feared war because of the basic constellation of the conflict. At that time, we both hoped for a mutual détente by balancing both interests, perhaps with a little less imperial posturing and, conversely, regime change-value liberalism. But the present development shows that this did not happen – despite our efforts. Here again, quoting the first question from our first interview with you:
„Global Review: Mr. Rahr, in his 2001 speech to the Bundestag, Putin outlined not only the creation of a free trade zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok, but also very fundamentally his ideas about the EU’s relationship with Russia:
“Nobody doubts the great value of Europe to the United States. But I believe that in the long run Europe will consolidate a reputation as a powerful and independent center of world politics only if it unites its own capabilities with Russia’s human, territorial, and mineral resources, as well as its economic, cultural, and defense potentials.“
This sounds like Putin was counting on the EU breaking away from NATO in the medium and long term and forming a European security architecture with Russia, perhaps a Eurasian bloc, which Brzezinski explicitly warned against in his book Chessboard. Gorbachev had the idea of a „common European house,“ the Left Party advocated a „European security order,“ AfD Chairman Gauland invoked Bismarck’s Russia policy, still advocated German NATO membership, but only with the specific goal of achieving a European peace order and security architecture with Russia. How realistic are these proposals and are they not seen by the U.S., NATO, and the transatlanticists as a threat that might even result in war?“
We further asked you whether NATO enlargement to include Ukraine, Georgia, and Belarus was really a military threat to Moscow, since, after all, the entry of the first NATO soldier into Russian territory would likely be met with an immediate and massive Russian nuclear response. Is it not in essence a question of which Russia one wants to have: a nuclear power, which may or may not be democratic, but would not attack other states, perhaps would also remain neutral in the Sino-American dispute, instead of relying on a multipolar world like Putin and XI. In this multipolar world, Russia and China want to push the US out of Europe and the Indo-Pacific/Asia region and create a new world order under their gusto. Ben Hodges believes Crimea will be retaken in 2024, the Donbas andienen Ukraine will recede, and then Putin will fall. The U.S. general described U.S. expectations about Russia to us like this:
„RUSSIA SHOULD LEARN TO LIVE WITHIN ITS OWN BORDERS IAW THE UN CHARTER AND RESPECT THE BORDERS OF OTHER NATIONS. HOLDING RUSSIA ACCOUNTABLE FOR ITS WAR CRIMES AND OTHER VIOLATIONS AGAINST THE INTERNATIONAL RULES-BASED ORDER. I THINK THE WEST IS GOING TO LOOK MUCH MORE STRATEGICALLY TOWARDS THE GREATER BLACK SEA REGION…THE US JUST PASSED A LAW REQUIRING IT TO DEVELOP A STRATEGY FOR THE REGION…AND THAT WOULD INCLUDE UKRAINE OF COURSE. I WANT TO SEE UKRAINE JOIN NATO, AND THE EU, BUT THE PRIORITY SHOULD BE FOR THE US TO STRENGTHEN OUR BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP WITH UKRAINE, TO NORMALIZE IT, IN TERMS OF TRADE, DIPLOMACY, ECONOMIC INVESTMENT ETC…NOT JUST MILITARY. I’M NOT IN FAVOR OF A NEW IRON CURTAIN…I’M IN FAVOR OF ALL OF US FULFILLING OUR OBLIGATIONS UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW AND TREATIES AND PROTOCOLS. AND I’M IN FAVOR OF ALL FREE NATIONS MAKING THEIR OWN DECISIONS ABOUT THEIR FUTURE VS THE BIG COUNTRIES MAKING THOSE DECISIONS FOR THEM.”
Now the question to you: Under Putin, what was said is probably not acceptable, but what do you think of these demands? Could there be a Russia that sort of stays out of the Sino-American conflict, builds new relations with Europe, and who could do that? Is a Russia conceivable that ends the Ukraine war, also pays reparations, perhaps also in a joint reconstruction program, and then sets signs of goodwill and simply refrains from its imperial ambitions?
Alexander Rahr: I would like to thank you for the renewed opportunity to have an interesting and, above all, strategic discussion with Global Review. At the outset, I clearly distance myself from the war in Ukraine: it is terrible, thousands of soldiers are dying, many young people in their prime. The Ukraine conflict should have been resolved diplomatically, through the Minsk Agreement. Putin should have been more persistent in his diplomacy, but the West is also partly to blame. It should have been more responsive to Russian security concerns or interests after Putin’s speech at the Munich Security Conference 15 years ago. A common peace order in Europe was within the realm of possibility; it was slept through. But how could completely different interests have been reconciled? What did Russia demand: a say in the European security architecture, as a major power in the concert of European powers? What did the West demand? That Russia renounce its great power ambitions forever; the prevention of a new Russian empire in Eastern Europe became the main component of the European security order. Now both sides seek to resolve the conflict by force. Russia is trying to divide Europe and is fighting Europe’s liberal canon of values. The West sees only one goal: Russia’s surrender. The Ukrainian and Russian soldiers on the front lines are for the most part no longer born in the Soviet Union, but – this concerns the Russians – they have to die for the violent resurrection of the empire that fell in 1991. And no one asks ordinary Ukrainians whether they are really ready for territories where a population with a pro-Russian mentality lived to actually be forcibly reincorporated into the Ukrainian state. Nobody I know probably predicted this terrible war. Now, a year later, I think the decision to invade Ukraine was solely in the character trait of the Russian president. He felt rejected by the West, he saw Russia as a great power constantly humiliated by the West, but he overestimated the economic and military power of his empire. But I am here to answer their questions, not to lament over what has happened. And your questions are really demanding.
If Putin remains in power after 2024, I expect a new Cold War to last longer. New Russia in eastern Ukraine and the Azov Sea will become a new North Korea, sealed off from the outside world but economically reconstructed by Russia. Let’s not forget: this region is home to 40 percent of Ukraine’s total mineral resources. For this reason alone, Russia will not give up this territory. Ukraine will become a protectorate of the EU. Ukraine will become part of the West, faster than the Western Balkans. This will cost Europe a huge amount of money, but this is the way Ukraine will be compensated for the probably final loss of Crimea and the Donbas. Perhaps, in time, Ukraine will become a South Korea. Brussels will set up a Marshal plan for Ukraine, Western companies will colonize the Ukrainian market. The Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, 70 years of its activity focused on Russia, will address the concerns of Ukrainian reconstruction. However, Brussels must ensure that Ukraine reforms, liberalizes and democratizes itself after the war, especially with regard to the legal system and the old oligarch rule. From today’s perspective, I see only two winners in this terrible conflict, which has heralded the turning of the tide: the U.S. and China, which have been able to expand their influence in the world order. Russia, the EU, the Middle East, Africa – these are all currently the losers, because they are economically weakened as a result of the conflict. Russia will lose Europe as a traditional modernization partner, Europe will painfully feel its own raw material poverty – and dependence, in the Arab world and Africa, the end of globalization and the creation of new egoistic „regional economic blocs“ will lead to major crises. From there, masses of unemployed, starving people will flee to the North. But let’s turn the tables. Let’s play through another option.
Let us imagine that in the Kremlin pragmatic forces gain the upper hand over the nationalists. They will say: we must never lose Europe, because Russia is an immovable part of Europe. The energy infrastructure to the west alone has cost Russia billions; it must not simply be disposed of overnight. The Baltic Sea pipelines must be restored. Moscow will begin to distrust China because Beijing is driving its very own agenda, not making promised investments in Russia, locating oil and gas for dumping prices, and showing little regard for global Russian interests, as Putin had hoped in the beginning. One will weep for the economic globalization that Russia benefited from after the fall of communism in 1991 by becoming involved in international trade. One will find it increasingly difficult to live under the sanctions pressure of the West. The younger generation of educated Russians wants to continue to think of themselves as citizens of the world, as they did in the past 20 years, when it was possible to travel, marry and study anywhere in the world. Why would future Russians want to live in a kind of North Korea? I am sure that also in Russia, not only in the West, many people hope for an early end of the war. Although one can also observe a broad patriotic-nationalist basic mood in Russia, coupled with approval for Putin and the war in Ukraine.
Global Review: The question is also: A European or world political peace order with or without Russia. And which Russia. There are essentially two factions: Some say that Russia can still develop for the better and then also become part of a new European peace order or even world order. The others say that Russian value-free and undemocratic authoritarianism and imperialism is a constant in the Russian elites and also in large parts of the population, ineradicable, not changeable, especially since one tried to tame imperialism already in the 90s – without success. Even a Henry Kissinger always spoke of imperial Russia, although he now takes a very accommodating position in the Ukraine war. But does Russia have this imperial zealot gene, which could not be eradicated, because no US occupation and reeeductaion power could initiate this as with the Germans after 1945, but we will see a new Weimar, perhaps first with a fragile democracy and then again imperialist and authoritarian orientation. From there the logic: No second try, no second Yeltsin, Nawalny and Khodorkovsky or also any other option hopeless or only a short foreseeable intermezzo like Yeltsin and new Weimar, therefore one needs a European peace order and also world order without Russia, isolation and military deterrence because of this assumed incorrigibility. How do you see that, especially since you also said that Russian value conservatism is opposed to the value liberalism of the West and that one should agree on real political interests? But what would that mean in concrete terms?
Alexander Rahr: For years, I have been accused in Germany of being a Putin sympathizer because I tried to explain the internal situation in Russia soberly and in terms of realpolitik. I was invited to talk shows, not to propagate the Russian point of view, but to explain it and describe it in an understandable way. I have always argued in a scientifically sound way, but today people don’t want to hear all that. One thing is certain for me: the West cannot change Russia from the outside, nor can it defeat it. A defeat of Russia by the West, like the defeat of Germany in 1945, which, by the way, would not have been possible without the victory of the Soviet Union over Hitler, is unrealistic. Changes in Russia can only come about through the Russian people.
Today, however, Putin has managed to capture the Russian people for his war. Over half of Russians support the war, not because it wants to conquer Ukrainian territory, but out of a belief that the collective West has conspired against Russia and Russia must fight back. For many Russians, the war is not a war of aggression, but just the opposite. Russians are beside themselves that the very Germany that invaded Russia in 1941 is supplying tanks to Ukraine that are killing Russian soldiers. In the Kremlin, they say that Germany, which has a special historical responsibility toward Russia, should have stayed out of Ukraine. The fact that Russia invaded Ukraine and has been bombing the Ukrainian population for a year is hardly seen that way in Russia. The Ukrainian leadership has oppressed Russian minorities in the east for years, they say, and should now be held accountable. Moreover, Ukraine’s eastern territories have historically belonged to Russia; Ukraine proper is confined to the western part of the country. The West, they say, initiated the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and must be held accountable for that as well. Russian elites are euphoric that war can finally erase the ignominy of the lost empire. Ukraine, they say, has always been Russia’s sphere of influence and the West has no business there.
You see – the conflict is real, inexorable, unsolvable. Someone will have to lose – either Russia or the West. Each of the two sides is now convinced of its own victory. To answer concretely to your many additional questions: yes, the West will probably have to come to terms with Russia, which will claim its own sphere of influence for security in a European security architecture. Or the West will have to spend large sums of money on isolating Russia, on containment and on armament against Russia. A Europe against Russia – what does that mean in concrete terms? Will we all live in a permanent state of war? The European populations will be affected by this, hardly anyone dares to say today how expensive a new Cold War could become. Moscow hopes that Europe will change in Russia’s favor, that the states of Europe will find their way back to national sovereignty and shake off the dominance of the USA. However, this will be a Europe where strong states once again rule over weak ones. Europe will not be able to afford this historic step backward. The question remains, what will then become of Russia: can it survive the eternal confrontation, even escalation, with the West at all? Won’t Russia ruin itself financially? Moscow sees itself on the side of good against evil. The war in Ukraine will soon be declared the third Patriotic „holy“ war. The diabolical post-modernism of the West will eventually be discarded by the European peoples, they say in Russia, and they will return to true Western Christian values. The European elites think the opposite way, as you put it as an interviewer: Russia must be defeated in Ukraine so that it stops harming Europe. I have to repeat myself. European elites are prepared to accept a prolonged war with Russia – until capitulation and a regime change in Moscow – to achieve this. That’s the sober state of affairs; I hope I’ve been entertaining.
Global Review: Let’s go through the options: First, there is the hope that a Kudrin or Dmitry Patrushev, son of the head of the siloviki, will come to power. So-called representatives of the Resource Empire as you or Patrushev by means of his functions at Gazprombank and Agrobank. But would this satisfy Western demands for a break with the Resource Empire and siloviki rule, or not be seen as an advanced civilian fig leaf? So far, Navalny seems to be only denouncing corruption and still aligning himself with the disastrous Yabloko economic program of the Yeltsin era and has not let anything else be known so far. Khodorkovsky is in favor of a more centralized solution, but one that abandons Karaganov’s hoped-for eastern and rural territorial gains,wants to urbanizes more, and also does not want industrialization ala China, but rather a „leapfrogging“ that will see Russia leap from a backward resource empire into a high-tech nation and IT society. like Rwanda. Overall, not a glorious outlook for Russia – apparently whichever option you take. What other options are there, and which would you recommend or consider worth considering?
Alexander Rahr: Russia will always remain an energy and resource empire; since Ivan the Terrible, Russia has been supplying Europe with raw materials. This has been going on for 500 years now and is unlikely to change. Unless the West destroys all these trade links and looks for new suppliers of raw materials in the USA, Canada and Australia. Russia will not become poor because of this, however; it will sell its energy sources and mineral resources to Asia. The geo-economic turning point is becoming real, the world is reorganizing itself, Asia and Europe are becoming competitors, European dependencies on America are increasing, the USA and the EU are establishing a free trade zone, democracies are fighting against authoritarian states. This is the world of tomorrow. Today, however, the Russian state is stable. The sanctions do little harm to Russia for the time being. The siloviki are building the regulatory state and determining domestic policy. But the government remains under the control of the economic liberals, who oppose a protectionist economy. Together, they are trying to transform the country from a backward ressouce empire to an advanced all-self-producing country in the shortest possible time. Russia wants to use the sanctions imposed by the West to build up its own production. This goal will not be easy to achieve, given the rampant corruption in the top echelons of the economy. But does Russia have any other choice? At best, it could become China’s gas station.
To modernize its economy, Russia needs human capital, the initiative of its middle class, a radical reduction of bureaucracy, and foreign investment and capital. Will the Chinese, Indians, Turks and Arabs help? With the oligarchs and siloviki now in power, this endeavor will not succeed. Switching to a war economy may bring short-term success, but in the long run it is poison for the market economy. I do not see a return to communism and a planned economy in Russia. By the way, I have high hopes for the current prime minister, Mishustin, and for the young governors in the many provinces. Serious candidates for future positions of power are the above-mentioned Minister of Agriculture, Dmitry Patrushev, and the governor of Tula, Alexei Djumin. Both are close to Putin and will become leaders of the siloviki faction. We will certainly come back to these people in the course of the in-depth interview.
Global Review: Is the Russian opposition and opposition in exile at all ready to organize a democratic and stable Russia, since so far they can only agree on the slogan „Putin gone!“ or at best „No Wagner or Kadyrov“, but have not yet produced a Vision Russia 2030 as their own program. Here still in addition our GR-idea of a vision 2030 Russia
What do you think about it?
Alexander Rahr: The Global Review analysis mentioned above contains the essentials. As is well known, I myself grew up in anti-Bolshevik Russian émigré circles in Frankfurt and Munich, and I myself worked at the U.S. radio station Radio Liberty. I knew and know the different levels of the Russian diaspora not only from hearsay. The emigration was always united in its rejection of the regime in Moscow. But as far as the program for future politics was concerned, there were always huge differences. Today, the opposition in exile stands for the end of the Putin regime, but I do not see an organization like that of the Bolsheviks in exile before 1917 or the White Guards in Western Europe during the Cold War. First of all, the exiled Russians are hopelessly divided among themselves over the question of power. Which of them should become president in the future – Navalny, Khodorkovsky, one of the fugitive oligarchs? Among today’s exiled Russians there are many good publicists, artists, scientists – but no exceptional strategic head. I am not surprised at all, because this development reminds me too much of the impotence of the previous exiled Russians. Everyone is jealous of each other, there is a fair of vanities, above all everyone fights for their own funding from the West. The previous emigrants were happy to hand out posts in an imaginary future government, but had no concept or vision for their homeland. And one thing should not be forgotten. Among the broad Russian population, exiled Russians who launch attacks on their homeland from abroad count as traitors. General Vlasov, who tried to pander to Hitler in World War II, was such a traitor in the eyes of the Russians.
Global Review: Could Trump make a „deal“ with Putin? Or a De Santis, Ted Cruz, or other America First Republican? Something like: You get Crimea and Donbass, no NATO membership for Ukraine, and you distance yourself from XI Jinping and our Sino-American conflict. Would Trump or a similar Republican politician see Europe as secondary, especially if they don’t meet their NATO benchmarks and the U.S. just goes for the Asian Pivot and leaves the Europeans to Putin-Russia in shaping a post-war European order? Would Putin respond to such a „European gain“ by breaking off an alliance with Xi and joining the U.S. front, or be emboldened by it to pursue all the more a multipolar world order that would ally China and Russia-and still push the new world order contrary to this U.S. expectation?
Alexander Rahr: I would not completely rule out the hypothetical development you describe. That Donald Trump, if he comes back to power in 2024, could seriously propose to the Russians the deal „Crimea and Donbas in exchange for a renunciation of China’s support“ is, in my view, quite realistic. After all, the overriding goal of U.S. policy remains the prevention of China’s global rise. The U.S. sees China as the greatest challenge to its global hegemony and to the coming world order. In the eyes of the U.S., the EU is strategically far too weak to contain China from the West, as the Americans intend to do with all their might. However, if Russia were to join NATO (under a pro-Western president after a change of power in the Kremlin), as envisioned in the 1990s by the then Yeltsin government, the Americans would turn Russia, as a quasi-ally, into a bulwark against China from the north. Whether De Santis or other Republicans think similarly to Trump, I don’t know, it is possible. They are first and foremost realists, not values fanatics like the Democrats. Either way, the U.S. will be weary of financial support for Ukraine in 2024. It is true that in sacrificially supporting Ukraine, the Biden administration is pursuing the „sacred cause,“ as it did during World War 2 and the Cold War, of saving Europe from Russian tyranny.
By supporting Ukraine, the U.S. also defends Western liberal values, human rights and democracy. But what if, due to internal conflicts and social problems in the U.S. itself, the American population is gripped by a broad Ukraine fatigue? Republicans will seize on this sentiment to bring down Biden. Is that so inconceivable? Can America forever come to Ukraine’s aid, does America really want to stand by Ukraine in earnest as Ukraine slides into state bankruptcy (due to the devastation of war)? Presumably, Ukraine is „too big to fail“ but at the same time „too big to be rescued.“ No, the US will put the responsibility for Ukraine’s reforms and reconstruction in the hands of the EU. And demand from the EU that Kiev be accepted into the EU in no uncertain terms. And one more thing we should consider: if Russia gets stuck in the war in Ukraine, gets into a long positional battle that could last for years – and ultimately loses its great power status: wouldn’t the U.S. lose all the more its interest in the weakened geopolitical rival Russia and turn to the security problems in Asia, focus on the creation of the AUCIS – instead of pushing through an eastward NATO expansion to non-reformed countries in the post-Soviet space, which nobody but the Central Eastern Europeans wants? But what the U.S. will prevent at all costs is an alliance of Germany and France with a post-Putin Russia, which would weaken the American position in Europe. Moscow, Paris and Berlin must be junior partners of the Americans – that is the geostrategic formula in Washington. An autonomous Europe seeking its own paths to Moscow would be a nightmare for the United States. From today’s perspective, however, my analysis is a pipe dream. Putin wants to create the multipolar world with Xi Jinping, in which both are to be on an equal footing and on par with the USA.
Global Review: But what if Putin does not step down at all and is not overthrown, nor has the cancer and death long propagated by Ukrainian and British intelligence, but continues to exist. Yes, for several more years. Is it possible to come to a conclusion with him that his expansion ambitions regarding the USA and Europe will be neutralized, his axis and goal of a multipolar world against the USA with Xi will be shattered and he will only be able to maintain his own power? Especially since he may have perpetuated his rule through constitutional reform (like Xi), but he could then choose a successor if he believes he can no longer credibly embody Russian power. Even Putin is not likely to take Wagner and Kadyrov voluntarily, but rather Medvedev, who was once considered a liberal hope and reformer in the West, but is now trying to overcompensate for this flaw with radical demands and statements. In short: Will Putin fall at all and who could be his successor?
Alexander Rahr: Although numerous leaders have been toppled in recent Russian history – I mention here Tsar Nicholas II, Kerensky, Trotsky, Beriya, Khrushchev, Gorbachev – I do not see Putin’s power as endangered today. On the contrary, he has managed to make his country’s ruling elite an ally in the war against Ukraine and the West. If he were to be toppled anyway, it would certainly not be by a regime change from the outside. Such a change has taken place only once in Russian history – in 1605, when Poland occupied Moscow. It is conceivable, however, that Putin’s power would be weakened and that a collective leadership would be established, as it existed in the post-Stalin period. Putin would become chairman of the State Council, while a younger politician, but with the same pedigree, could rise to become the country’s president. It is always said that there are no alternatives to Putin in Russia, and if there are, the name of Nawalny is mentioned in the West. I think this is nonsense. Navalny would never be supported by the military and the siloviki, besides, he would not find a majority even in free elections. A purely pro-Western politician has no chance in Russia. No, once the succession to Putin comes up, which could happen in the second half of 2023, other names will come into play: Dmitry Patrushev, Alexei Djumin, Mikhail Mishustin and certainly Dmitry Medvedev. I don’t consider the head of Wagner’s forces, Prigozhin, as a president, nor Chechen leader Kadyrov. But both of them could play an important role as kingmakers in a certain domestic political dicey situation. One must not forget that both are under the command of so-called elite guards who could interfere in the power struggle. We know enough of this from Russian history. From today’s perspective, I no longer rule out a return of Medvedev to the highest office; he would be Putin’s main candidate if the latter were to withdraw after the end of the war (victory or defeat).
Global Review: At the moment NATO and the EU feel very strong, but what if a Trump or a Le Pen comes along, who are probably Putin’s hopes regarding the EU and NATO, as well as Erdogan-Turkey, since due to the alleged expiration of the Lausanne Treaty around the Greek islands after 100 years (!) there is also another EU and NATO crisis on top of it? Besides also Capitol Hill was stormed not only from the outside, but also from the inside. Does Putin have to tremble more before the West or the West more before Putin if he holds out for another 2 years? Especially with the support of Xi- China and recently also with OPEC plus by Saudi Arabia?
Alexander Rahr: The Ukraine war is just a mosaic piece of a much larger conflict into which the entire world could be swept in the 202O-ies. I have no idea what the epoch we have entered since 2014 will later be called. Hopefully not the beginning of World War III, hopefully not a comparison with 1938, but I predict more dangerous wars that could upset the world order. And it is not clear to me today who will win the great war. The West – which will cement its grandiose victory in the Cold War, or the rising powers like China, which want to create a multipolar world and above all weaken the West. You address Turkey in your question. Well, the Turks, just like Russia, China, Iran are striving to expand their sphere of influence. Erdogan actually dreams of a new Ottoman Empire. I have heard that in secret talks, Putin, for his part, has given him the green light for this, but on the condition that the Turks leave NATO for this in the long term, turn their backs on the West, become a member of the new Eurasian extended family over time, and commit themselves to a multipolar world. For Erdogan, membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or BRICS is highly lucrative. Putin is ready to give Azerbaijan to the Turks in exchange for Armenia. Turkey will soon become the main hub for the distribution of Russian and Azerbaijani natural gas in Europe. Germany no longer wants to play this role. Ultimately, Putin will grant Erdogan the triumph and agree to peace talks with Ukraine under Turkish mediation. In the island dispute with Greece, Russia will support Turkey, only to demand Turkey’s withdrawal from NATO immediately afterwards. The fact that Putin is doggedly fighting for the new multipolar world order can hardly have escaped the attention of an attentive observer. OPEC is now more on Russia’s side than it is on the U.S.’s. The West has lost its influence over the Middle East to China after its military defeat in Afghanistan. Putin is a serious opponent of the West. Russia’s goal is to weaken the West. However, Russia cannot change the world without China. The Russian military is obviously too weak for that. And the Chinese are following their own interests, which are incompatible with Russia’s. As for the EU, it must not take itself too seriously.
Today, Western politicians are overbidding with demands for arms deliveries to Ukraine, without thinking that the Russians, despite their obvious weaknesses, have the ability to shoot all these tanks to pieces. This will only prolong the war indefinitely, more young Ukrainians and Russians will die, without the war on the battlefield changing its character of a war of position. Meanwhile, the West, obsessed with the idea of defeating Russia (with Ukrainian help) is blind to diplomatic solutions. But the EU’s values-based foreign policy is being taken up as a challenge in Asia and other parts of the world. There, they forbid constant lectures from the West on questions of democracy and push for a final decolonization of world politics. Many in the West do not even realize that outside the EU, Russia is supported by countless states because it is finally showing the „arrogant“ West where the stick hangs. Let’s take a closer look at the statements of the foreign ministers of India, China and South Africa here in Germany! Or do we in Germany not want to hear the other side at all? The Western think tanks should stop preaching only values and become more aware of the dangerous world situation. I very much hope that today’s interview with Global Review will contribute to a better understanding of the world of the 21st century.
Global Review: Xi is currently weakened, possibly only used Putin as a battering ram to enforce a new multipolar world order, since he too assumed a disintegrating West. The calculation probably did not work out as hoped. Because of Covid, the Ukraine war and the U.S. trade war and the unity of the liberal West at the moment, Xi is now sending out signals of relaxation, be it the meeting with Biden in Bali, be it that he replaces his wolf warrior diplomats with people who do more of a smile diplomacy. At the same time, however, since Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, a normal threatening „normality“ has emerged; so the US is putting out reports that China wants to continue to rearm, to increase its ICBM numbers to US and Russian dimensions to at least 1000, just as a CSIS simulation has now run through 13 war scenarios in which China would lose a war. Is a Sino-American war still avoidable in the medium term, especially since not only Xi, but also forces in the U.S. such as Pomepo, Larry Wortzel, John Bolton and others are pushing for it, especially since already the marginal study „War with China“ named this as 2025 more favorable than 2035, Ben Hodges expects it in the next 5 years or Habeck at the latest in 2027 and what consequences would it have for Russia and Europe and the world? Putin’s last hope?
Alexander Rahr: We are only in the early stages of a conflict for world domination that will not last long. Multipolar world with weakening of the West – or victory of democracies over dictatorships. Either way, the 21st century will not be a peaceful age, mainly because none of the competing sides is committed to diplomacy, détente, disarmament, reconciliation of interests. Each side wants victory over the other. The generation of today’s leaders has forgotten the horrors of the Second World War. In the West, so-called triumphalists, who believe in the idea of the end of history, rule according to the motto: liberalism always wins. In other countries, aggressive and militant resistance to the West’s paternalism of world politics is coming. Xi and Putin want the world to belong to them, too – not just to the West. And they are willing to wage wars for their power goals. Sooner or later, China will intervene in Taiwan. China wants to be a superpower, so it is not appropriate that right under its nose in the Yellow Sea, a stubborn island that is formally Chinese should challenge Beijing’s world power ambitions by its very existence.
Let us now look at the West: it has so far proven itself in the great global conflict, has not been weakened at all. Russian military power in Europe has been weakened by a military buildup in Ukraine. NATO has expanded to include Finland and Sweden. Unlike China, the West has defeated the pandemic. The EU, contrary to what many experts predicted, has freed itself from Russian commodity dependencies, and it has done so in less than a year. The West seems strong enough to cut off Russia, the largest country on earth, from the global economy. The West has moved together, but at the price of a strengthened U.S. hegemony over Europe. In Europe, no one froze to death in the winter of 2022/23; contrary to predictions, energy prices actually fell on New Year’s Eve. The energy crisis is not as bad as feared. Neither in France nor in Italy have anti-European forces gained power. In the USA, the Democrats are firmly in the saddle. Trump’s chances of returning are dwindling. China is weakened by the pandemic. BUT: all these are still snapshots, it is far too early for the West to be celebrating victory. The trend may soon go in the opposite direction.
Global Review: General Domroese, Vad, Starvadis, and U.S. Chief of Staff General Milley expect that by early summer in Ukraine, both sides will be so jaded that a cease-fire will be reached. Ben Hodges, on the other hand, expects Ukraine to conquer Crimea August 2023, at which point the Donbass will also fall, raising the question of Putin’s succession, although Hodges does not expect a more democratic succession either. How do you see that and which options are arising from it?
Alexander Rahr: I have already answered this question above. I do not expect Crimea to be reconquered. Russians live there in the majority – they will defend their new homeland in the same way that Ukrainians are currently defending themselves against Russia in eastern Ukraine. The West constantly demands that Russia return the conquered territories to Ukraine under international law. This does not give due consideration to the question of ethnicity of people living there. The Russians, by the way, say that they adhere to the new international law in the war: protection of oppressed minorities, responsibility to protect, right of self-determination of peoples. The Ukrainians would have fought the Donbas for years, Moscow would have had the right to intervene protectively.
I make myself unpopular with the following idea, but Twitter chief Elon Musk is right: the war in Ukraine must be solved by the right of self-determination of the people living there. Real referendums must be held on the occupied territories, including Crimea, under UN auspices. The outcome of the referendum may determine whether the territories return to Ukraine or become Russian. Such a move would be perceived in the West as an invitation to aggressors to seek further territorial conquests. Hitler will be remembered. Still, Musk’s proposal is the best yet that could end the terrible war. And that is what is at stake now. By the way, I do not assume that a clear commitment to Ukraine or Russia will emerge on the territories of eastern Ukraine. There will be regional differences.
Global Review: What might a new world order and European peace order look like and what form would it take under which constellations? Will there be a new bloc formation, a new Iron Curtain, or a UN reform with stronger representation of the G20 or other possible constellations, especially since Xi and Putin hope to incite the so-called Global South against the West and bring it into position?
Alexander Rahr: Please forgive my intrusiveness at the end of the interview. But I would like, if I may, to do some self-promotion for my prophetic political novel „2054,“ which is available in bookstores. I have painted a scenario on the wall there which I believe will be true, even if not now – but at the end of the present conflict. The West will form a common transatlantic bloc under American leadership. It will be weaker than today, but it will still assert itself, especially militarily. In addition, Eurasian alliances will emerge, oriented toward the superpower China. Russia will remain a major energy superpower, but not for the West. The third bloc in the coming world order is interesting. This will be formed of Islamic states, with a center of power in the Middle East. This new third world will include the states of North Africa, the Levant, the Persian Gulf and South Asia. By mid-century, this Global South will be linked to China and Eurasia. Only then will the real Third World come, leading to a longer-term division of power in the world. What is important for us Europeans: we will be dependent on the USA for better or worse in matters of security and raw materials. However, the U.S. will not have enough power to care deeply about Europe and at the same time Asia, where its real strategic interests will lie. So what happens in Europe, which faces a hostile Eurasia; at the same time can no longer count on a 10O support from the USA. Better geopolitical vision must flourish in the next generation of European leaders. Europeans will be forced to step back from their fundamentalist values stance. This will be very painful, especially for the Greens in Germany. The balance of interests in the global community of the 21st century will become imperative. I wish that Global Review will do a lot of thinking in this area.