October 10, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8312

Putin's Former Foreign Policy Adviser Karaganov: Russia's New Mission Is To Defend Global Peace; Democracy Is An Anti-Meritocratic System

October 10, 2019
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8312

In an interview with the outlet, Sergei Karaganov, a former Putin adviser, and dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the Higher Research University, revives a theme from Soviet times that Russia is the bulwark of global peace and the struggle for peace must be the defining idea of Russian foreign policy. When the Soviet Union collapsed, countries that were considered peace-loving went berserk. Russia's military revival helped restore stability and balance although the situation has not yet stabilized.

While calling for peace due to the new sources of global instability that could precipitate an armed conflict, Karaganov, who has become an apostle of Russian authoritarianism,[1] believes that war has a purifying effect and that countries need the threat of an enemy to organize themselves. Wars bring to the fore leaders like Churchill while prolonged peace is responsible for the prevalence of mediocre leaders in the West.

Karaganov believes that the smartphone and the internet have also had a debilitating effect and he would train the new elite in isolation from these nuisances.

Below is Karaganov's interview: [2]

Sergei Karaganov (Source:

To protect the world could be Russia's new mission

“One of the general ideas of Russian foreign policy should be the recognition of the fact that Russia is the main supplier of international security for the world and for herself,” says political analyst Sergei Karaganov. This may be the mission of Russia in both domestic and foreign policy.

The West is losing a military superiority, which for centuries has been the basis of its global dominance. Russia, on the other hand, is becoming a new source of stability. At this point in time, against the backdrop of the low level of world elites and of their irritation with Moscow's activities to avoid a big war, why is democracy dangerous in peacetime and why do we always need an external enemy?

That idea was told to VZGLYAD (The Glance) newspaper at the annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club by Sergey Karaganov, Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs of the National Research University Higher School of Economics. Recently, he, together with political scientist Dmitry Suslov, released a report on the “New Understanding and Ways to Strengthen Multilateral Strategic Stability”, where the authors described the geopolitical changes in the military-strategic landscape and assessed the risks of a nuclear war.

VZGLYAD: Sergey Aleksandrovich, why is the report coming out now?

Sergey Karaganov (S.K.): This report should have been completed two years ago, when it became obvious that, in addition to the very many negative factors influencing the threat of war, we had to add the collapse of the arms control system, which was not the most, but a very important and essential element for strengthening stability. For a year and a half, we thought about it. A lot of preparatory work was done.

There was another internal message: we understand that Russia lacks a strategic idea not only for internal policy, but for foreign policy as well. First we wanted to become the West, then we survived, then were getting up from our knees, then we became a great power again, and now, since 2016, nothing. One of the general ideas of Russian foreign policy should be the recognition of the fact that Russia is the main supplier of international security for the world and for herself.

VZGLYAD: Do the prerequisites to become such a supplier exist?

S.K.: They already exist. What is international security in the broad or narrow sense of the word? When the Soviet Union disappeared, you saw what happened. Countries, which were considered peace-loving, broke loose, began to rape Yugoslavia, attacked Iraq, Libya, and exterminated a monstrous amount of people. It was all before our eyes. Russia has returned, and the situation has radically changed.

But we are providers of security in the broader sense of the word. Having restored our strategic potential and ability for an effective deterrence, we have made it impossible for the West to achieve military superiority. This means that a full stop has been set, or rather a series of full stops, in the very long process of the West's loss of its military supremacy, which for almost five centuries was the basis of its political, economic and cultural superiority. We have liberated the world! Now it is necessary to gradually ratify this position, and to avoid war, while we are at it. The threat of war is now extremely high.

VZGLYAD: On what do you base your fears?

S.K.: New weapons, plus cyber weapons, plus drones that can be equipped with a nuclear bomb or other bombs. And even the Houthis are already launching drones! This mixture creates a situation which is technically much more explosive than it was 30-40 years ago during the Cold War. In order to simplify, this compounds the sharply declining level and quality of the elites of so many countries whose desperation is due to [their] failure.

VZGLYAD: do you mean Western countries?

S.K.: Mostly yes. Plus the phenomenon of "strategic parasitism" appeared, not only in the West, but also in Russia i.e. people are getting accustomed to peace. The generation of the people who feared war at the genetic level is gone, and now 70 years of peace have become habitual.

VZGLYAD: There has been no war for a long time...

S.K.: There has been no war for a long time, and people have simply forgotten. For most people, peace is normal. This is remarkable. But in order for it not to be interrupted against the backdrop of the technical and political circumstances which I mentioned above, we need an active policy of fighting for peace.

VZGLYAD: Some kind of vaccination?

S.K.: Vaccination, preventive measures, and propaganda. The next series of our works will be devoted to the struggle for peace, but not only in the traditional sense (initiatives and slogans) but going much deeper. The idea that Russia is the main bulwark of peace and strategic stability should be one of the key ideas that will unite both the Russian people and the international community.

VZGLYAD: Is this actually Russia's mission?

S.K.: This is one of the missions. For me it is absolutely obvious. I am pleased that a huge number of publications have been published in recent weeks [since the report was released]. People intuitively feel that something has happened. We must have hit a nerve apparently.

VZGLYAD: How do you assess Russia's recent initiative to propose to Europe and NATO a moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles?

S.K.: Standing ovation! This should have been done before.

VZGLYAD: But there is no particular reaction to the proposal.

S.K.: Look, people are entrenched, people are losing, people are hissing. But you have to push and push. It's not instantaneous. First, the struggle for peace is a process. Secondly, with this statement by Putin, we are setting yet another additional obstacle to the deployment and arms race and not only in Europe.

We must create a situation where it becomes clear that the deployment of a new generation of medium-range missiles can not only change the balance, but also increase the threat of war. This is indeed the case. These weapons are more destabilizing than many others.

VZGLYAD: What can you comment on the recent statement by a British general that we are in a state of cyber warfare?

S.K.: This is one of the immediate unexplored problems. A feeling exists that several countries can cause strategic damage to each other with a single cyber weapon. Also, cyber weapons can become the weapons of the poor, because with [their] development, terrorist groups may be able to cause damage and instigate. But this issue is not regulated in any way. Fifteen years ago, when we proposed reaching an agreement, the Americans believed that they could maintain [their] superiority in this area, and refused. And now we do not know what to do at all, because, apparently, the situation has completely gotten out of control. We do not know how to regulate this sphere and we do not know how to regulate the Internet. Note that now, in all countries and not just in China, there is a tendency towards the nationalization of the Internet.

VZGLYAD: Among the risk factors, you mention not only the lack of fear of war, but also the decline of the elites, the decline of morals within the elites.

S.K.: Think for a second. Now Jacques Chirac is gone. Let’s go 40 years back, line Chirac up and the leaders of Europe of that time, and then compare them to current leaders. The latter ones are physiologically altered type.

VZGLYAD: And what is the reason?

S. K.: This is due to the fact that life is very good... and democracy is an anti – meritocratic system.

VZGLYAD: How paradoxical!

S.K.: This is paradoxical only for those who have been using Western ideological products. People choose not the best, they choose their own kind or people with whom they get along. In the absence of war, democracy always chooses the worst.

Now the world is much more democratic. But Europe and many others, and especially the United States, are heading in the direction of what I call "leaderless democracy" - downwards.

VZGLYAD: Is this an inevitable process in a democratic system?

S.K.: It's inevitable. I assure you that if in 30-40 years there will be peace here, we will also choose weak leaders.

VZGLYAD: Is war “purifying”?

S.K.: War kills the best, but during the war, the people tend to push up the leaders. The most classic example is Churchill. When the war broke out, the people intuitively chose Churchill, as soon as the war ended, they threw him out.

VZGLYAD: You’ve mentioned that now the TV generation is coming to power, and after them the “iPhones generation” is coming. How will this affect the elite's behavior?

S.K.: We know about the TV generation, it has already come. This generation corresponds to the way it is depicted. In Russia, too, if you look closely, many in the elite's circles say, "What does it look like?". They are used to think in TV terms, and in very short periods of time. Fortunately, we have a group at the top who thinks strategically.

And we simply do not know the “generation of the iPhones”. When it will come, there will be other people. This is not a verdict, but what will the people, who are used to sending likes instantly, do and how will they manage the countries? In my other works, I wrote that maybe one of the criteria for the success of the states of the future will be the growth of an elite independent of the Internet.

VZGLYAD: Utopia…

S.K.: Nothing like that. I have an iPhone in my pocket that I'm trying to get rid of, and there's a "push-button" phone that I want to switch on again, because the iPhone reduces my intelligence capabilities, it narrows my environment, it devours [my] time. It affects me, and [still] I consciously switch on to the push-button phone.

VZGLYAD: Can you give examples of representatives of the “television” elite?

S.K.: In Europe they are all like that. The worst is Macron. Yes, and Trump is amazing. This is the TV generation. We are also [like that], but to a lesser extent. Television came later to us, we were poorer, plus Soviet TV was boring. But the generation of 40-50 year olds is already a full-fledged TV [generation].

VZGLYAD: Around the world, there are growing trends in the search for an external enemy to solve domestic political problems. But this is a rather stale strategy; [however] it worked in the Soviet Union, and in America.

S.K.: In the Soviet Union, we could not exist without an enemy, and we cannot in Russia either, because we are genetically a country that has grown on the need to defend. If we take it out, then everything begins to crumble. One of the reasons of our fall in the late 80-90s was that we decided that no one was threatening us. Therefore, unfortunately, we need a certain level of external threat for the self-organization of society.

It was believed that democracy did not require an external enemy, but look at what is happening. Artificially and convulsively, they are fabricating an enemy! This whole story about "Russian interference" was made up in order to self-organize. In America, they came up with the "Russian intervention" to unite against Trump and to take control of the social networks that had got out of the control of the political elites.

VZGLYAD: This is not always a smart policy ...

S.K.: We need to understand and know who we are dealing with, to know ourselves. If many of us believe that everything is wonderful in the West, then I can say that not everything is wonderful in the West, and that democracy requires an enemy, especially [when] it is in a weak state. Even developed, rich democracies require an enemy.

VZGLYAD: You indicate that the political systems of Russia and China are freer from the immediate demands of society. Is that a plus?

S.K.: The Chinese and we are more authoritarian and a bit more manageable. This is our advantage, that's why our geopolitical competitors are so worried. After all, when [they try] to impose democracy on us, it is not just an ideological message.

Democracy, especially for poor countries and especially for large countries, is the kiss of death. Democracies are less manageable, although there is a more comfortable environment for human life.

VZGLYAD: From the point of view of humanism, should we strive for this?

S.K.: We need to strive. And in democracies too there is a powerful element of compulsion and criticism ... But democracy in China is the destruction of China. And democracy in Russia ... We got it. Each society must develop according to its own laws. Democracy is just one of the ways to manage complex societies. Now it’s quite clear that we do not have enough democracy at the municipal level. This is a major mistake [that was done] in the last 30 years. But if we return to the situation of the 90s, we will collapse again.

VZGLYAD: You say that the system of strategic stability is becoming more complicated. And in a recent report by the Valdai Club, a general question was raised as to whether such a rigid system is needed at all.

S.K.: This is a big and complicated dispute. It is good that Russia is taking the leadership in the intellectual sphere on strategic issues. We used to always act in the American way, but now we are starting to take over. As for what the world will be like, we are engaged in a hidden debate. I think that sooner or later some general trends will be evident. Twenty years from now, the system will be settled, a new military balance will be created, and a new basis will be created. Now this basis has been deleted.

VZGLYAD: Will the military balance be based on new technologies?

S.K.: On new technologies, on nuclear weapons, on post-nuclear weapons. And we still do not know what will happen. But now, through our efforts, we have knocked out the foundation of the old system of international relations, which was Western. This is one of the deepest reasons why we are causing such anger. We have deprived the West of its superiority.

VZGLYAD: Let's say that elites need to become more meaningful and more responsible. But [what] we see is the example of the girl Greta Thunberg. Is this the new elite or what?

S.K.: This is a very difficult story. Yes, they should, but can they? I believe that it is necessary to grow a new elite specifically.

VZGLYAD: Some kind of special selection?

S.K.: In special closed elite schools with protection from the Internet.

VZGLYAD: But today Greta Thunberg influences politics. After meeting with her, the rating of the Canadian prime minister fell.

S.K.: Because the "iPhone generation" has arrived. The poor girl is being used to advance somebody’s agenda. But I do not think that Greta Thunberg will have a significant impact on the course of human history outside a narrow group of countries and elites. This is one of many episodes of this new culture.

VZGLYAD: Back to the crisis of strategic stability, how can we overcome it?

S.K.: We offer several solutions. The first is an active struggle for peace. The second is the transition to a new philosophy: not to overcome nuclear weapons, but to strengthen multilateral nuclear deterrence. Meaning that we must be guided by the philosophy that we are interested in the United States holding us back and not being afraid, and the United States should be interested in us holding them back and not being afraid. And the same goes with China. The third element is establishing dialogues and contacts. Ultimately, [there should be] a Russia-China-US dialogue.

VZGLYAD: There are some concerns about China in our society – [China] is quite big, close and incomprehensible. [Then] why, on one hand, our countries do not want to be direct allies and why, on the other hand, we do not see a threat in China?

S.K.: We do not want to be allies, because for us and for the Chinese, sovereignty is everything. We cannot be allies. The Chinese and we can only be leaders, by definition. Second, we de facto need each other a lot. They strengthen us with their economic cushion, and we strengthen them with our military power.

Thirdly, we are not afraid of China, partly because we have a huge nuclear superiority. And the Chinese should be interested that [this superiority] remains with us, so that we will never fear them. If we are afraid of them, there will be suspicions and fears, and eventually there may even be conflicts.

VZGLYAD: What about the USA? You are in favor of resuming formal and informal contacts. But our relationship is at its worst since the 1950s. How can we overcome this if no one trusts anyone?

S.K.: We can start with symbolic things. Supposedly [with a new] Samantha Smith…[3]

VZGLYAD: But it's the same as with Greta Thunberg, with the difference that it is about nuclear disarmament.

S.K.: It will be better of course, if adults will do it. I hope that the American system, if Trump wins the election, will settle down a little bit, and we will have more opportunities.

VZGLYAD: So, is Trump beneficial to us?

S.K.: No. Of course, we would have benefited [more] from Hillary Clinton, who would have destroyed America, whereas Trump strengthened it. After all, America is our strategic rival.



[2], October 3, 2019

[3] An American 10-year-old, who wrote a letter in 1982 to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov calling for peace between the two countries.

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