Andrey Kortunov the director-general of the Russian International Affairs Council admitted in an interview to Sky News that the launch of Russia's military operation caught him by surprise. "I was shocked because for a long time, I thought that a military operation was not feasible. It was not plausible." In an article posted on the RIAC website, Kortunov listed the negative effects of the invasion:
"1. Russia has inadvertently recaptured China’s seemingly entrenched role as a major international villain and opponent of the West. Surely, restraining China’s foreign policy ambitions is not off the agenda for Washington and its European partners, but this is now pushed to the sidelines. Moreover, Beijing has adopted an extremely cautious, even outspoken, position on the Ukrainian issue, emphasizing its respect for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, Ukraine included. Only explicit and unequivocal attempts by China to resolve the Taiwan issue by military means can change the current system of Western priorities, but such attempts are unlikely to come in the near future.
"2. Moscow has virtually no allies or—at least—sympathetic observers left in the West. After the events of 2014, there remained significant forces in Europe, who were calling for taking Russia’s interests into account and combining pressure on the Kremlin with the possibility of some concessions to the Kremlin from the EU and NATO. Today, even such figures as the leader of the French far-right conservative National Union Marine Le Penn or the Czech President Milos Zeman are unanimous in their condemnation of Russia’s actions. As for the United States, the anti-Russian consensus in Washington has grown stronger than ever in the last third of a century.
"3. Russia faces an inevitable and a likely long pause in high-level political dialogue. In the foreseeable future, the Kremlin is unlikely to see a string of presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and foreign ministers waiting in line to meet with Russian leaders. Numerous visits of Western leaders to Moscow on the eve of the crisis are among the foreign policy failures, and the Russian side failed to persuade anything, with political and diplomatic compromise considered unattainable. An at least partial political and diplomatic boycott by the West seems likely; in some cases, it will be complemented by closures of diplomatic missions, recalls of ambassadors and even (following the example of Ukraine) severance of diplomatic relations.
"4. Moscow will have to endure a long and costly arms race. Considering the events taking place on the territory of Ukraine, the West will set itself the task of making the most of its obvious economic and technological advantages in order to devalue Russia’s military potential, both nuclear and conventional, over time. Although it is still premature to proclaim the death of arms control in general, the competition with Moscow in various qualitative parameters of armaments will only intensify. Amid the current circumstances, it is unlikely that we could return to negotiating a moratorium on NATO enlargement or other options for legally-binding guarantees of Russian security.
"5. Russia has long been a permanent and priority target of Western economic sanctions. Sanction pressure is expected to augment, gradually but steadily. It will take a long time to get rid of the existing dependence on Russian supplies, hydrocarbons primarily—but the West will hardly step away from this path. The abandonment of Nord Stream 2 will be followed by a reduction in purchases of Russian gas from other pipelines, even if alternative sources of hydrocarbons prove to be more expensive. The same applies to other raw materials or other world markets, in which Russia still maintains a prominent position.
"6. Russia will consistently be pushed away from the existing and emerging global technological chains—ones that define the transition of the world economy to a new technological mode. To this end, efforts will be made to limit the participation of Russian scientists in international research projects through creating obstacles for the activities of joint ventures in the field of high technology as well as for high-tech exports from Russia (and imports to Russia). As a result, Moscow’s technological cooperation with the West will decline, while Russia’s technological dependence on China will increase.
"7. There will be a fierce struggle between Moscow and the West for the minds and hearts of the rest of the world, especially in the countries of the Global South. For Russia to be finally labelled as a rogue country, the West needs to turn its narrative of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict into a global, universal narrative. To this end, efforts will be made to promote this narrative across South and South-East Asia, in the Middle East, in Africa and in Latin America. Russia will be presented as a country that has challenged the fundamental norms of international law, undermining the foundations of global—rather than merely European—security. The strategic goal will be to isolate Russia on the world stage as much as possible, as this will supposedly set limits on Moscow’s ability to diversify its foreign policy, economic and other ties, partially making up for the damage caused by the collapse of cooperation with the West."
Kortunov voiced his fears for Russia: "In the last quarter of a century, Russia’s political and socio-economic systems, for all their many shortcomings, have demonstrated a high degree of resilience. Still, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has yet to face challenges of a crisis of such magnitude."
In an interview with Fontanka.ru's Leonid Lobanov, Kortunov ruefully conceded that the Russian civilian experts misread the thinking of the decision makers. Kortunov, however, believes that two contending views exist on how to end the war. There is the radical position espoused by Ramzan Kadyrov the head of Chechnya that insists on total victory and the ouster of the Ukrainian regime. This policy, suggests Kortunov, will require a huge further investment in blood and treasure, and does not assure a pacified Ukraine. The alternate position that Kortunov espouses seeks a political solution that will address the security needs of both Moscow and Kiev. It views the Ukrainian government, however imperfect as a legitimate interlocutor that must be permitted to save face. This position will require the leadership to explain why the objectives set forth on February 24, were not realized. The leadership will have to spend some of its political capital in assuaging this disgruntlement.
It is important to note that the interview appeared before the evidence pointing to Russian atrocities in Bucha and elsewhere appeared. These developments make a political solution more difficult.
Kortunov's interview with Lobanov follows below:
Andrey Kortunov (Source: Rbc.ru)
Andrey Vadimovich [Kortunov], how fair is it to say that on March 29 in Istanbul, for the first time since the start of the Moscow – Kiev talks, the sides agreed on something concrete? All the media reported on the statement by Deputy Defense Minister, Alexander Fomin. "The decision has been made to drastically, many times over, reduce military activity in the Kiev and Chernihiv axes [of the offensive]. In your opinion, is this an acknowledgement of certain facts or events? Is this an announcement of something?
It seems to me that Fomin's statement is more of a consequence of the results that were reached in Istanbul. The results were announced by Vladimir Medinsky and later reiterated by Sergei Lavrov. These are, first of all: Ukraine has agreed to abandon attempts to join the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) and to reaffirm the country’s non-aligned, non-nuclear status with appropriate international guarantees. Second, as Lavrov said (although the Ukrainian side has not yet confirmed this), Kiev has acknowledged the irreversibility of changing the status of Crimea and Donbass. In this regard, I believe, there may be more surprises. But exactly these two points were emphasized by the Russian side. In all likelihood, they were the reason for a sharp decrease of a military activity in the Kiev and Chernihiv directions.
Shoigu's military claim that the decrease of an offensive intensity at the positions on Kiev and Chernihiv directions has occurred due to the fact that the talks on the drafting of a treaty on Ukraine's neutrality, its nuclear-free status, and security guarantees were "moving into practical plane.” It seems as if Kiev has lost something strategy-wise. However, hasn't Kiev strategically speaking gained something this month?
Regarding the qustion of who has lost what, what was gained by the parties. It seems to me that if we [the Kremlin] perceive Zelenskyy as a legitimate leader of Ukraine, as a potentially open to discussion partner, then any agreement should be structured in such a way that the Ukrainian leadership would also consider such an agreement to be an achievement, and not a failure. It shouldn't be the kind of agreement that is signed at gunpoint.
Naturally, this primarily concerns the security guarantees, which should eventually become one of the main bonuses for Ukraine resulting from the current conflict. Theoretically, under certain conditions, legally binding security guarantees can be no less effective than a country's joining any political-military alliance. In this regard, I believe it would be erroneous to argue unequivocally that Ukraine will definitely have to lose something.
However, the territorial issues are in fact more complex. In this regard, provided the Ukrainian side officially agrees to change in the Crimea and Donbass status, it will certainly be a failure for the country. As I see it, this is why Ukrainian negotiators are doing everything they can to keep these questions open (at least in theory). Everyone fully understands that the Ukrainian side is unable and probably will be unable to reassert its control over Donbass, let alone Crimea, in the future. But it’s extremely difficult for it to acknowledge the irreversibility of the changes that have happened. On the other hand, Ukraine can commit itself to renounce attempts to return these territories via military force.
And in a sense, this will already be an achievement for Russia, as Moscow has always feared that under certain conditions Ukraine could try to retake Donbass by force.
Regarding the security guarantees for Kiev, isn’t Ukraine is essentially getting what it wanted from the very same accession to NATO? The only difference being that the guarantees won't come about via a direct alliance with the bloc, but via guarantees agreed upon with Moscow.
First, it’s not at all a fact that Ukraine's security interests interests conflict with those of Russia. Ideally, of course, we would like to have a system in Europe that would equally ensure the security of both countries. If we were to raise the issue of legally binding guarantees for Russia from NATO, then, perhaps, we should also leave a possibility for Kiev to raise the issue of legally binding guarantees for the Ukrainian side.
However, it’s important to understand that so far we are discussing just a declaration of intentions. Negotiations are after all underway [only] between Russia and Ukraine. For now, the states, which Ukraine expects to provide guarantees have not been involved in this negotiation process in any way. And if it’s about some substantial, legally binding security assurances, i.e. something that fundamentally differs from the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 (an interstate document on security assurances provided to Ukraine in connection with the country joining the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which was signed on December 5, 1994 by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Great Britain and the US. - Editor's note), it’s possible that these agreements will have to undergo the relevant ratification procedures in those countries that are willing to provide such assurances. [This is the case for any international treaty].
This takes serious legal and political work. So far it has not even begun; we are just discussing some opportunities to enter such agreements, to provide Kiev with such guarantees (by the result of the Istanbul talks, British Permanent Representative to the UN, Barbara Woodward stated that the United Kingdom is ready to play a role in providing Ukraine with security guarantees, provided Kiev will make a corresponding request- Editor's note.)
On Tuesday Sergei Shoigu unequivocally stated that Moscow's next goal is Donbass. "The combat capabilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces [hereafter - ZSU] has been substantially reduced, which allows us to focus the main attention and effort on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbass," stated the defense minister on March 29. Does this fit in with the Russian authorities’ rhetoric prior to February 24? We remember recognition of the DPR and LPR that happened on February 21, along with Putin's remarks that the DPR and LPR are being recognized within the borders of the corresponding Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine.
Yes, of course. I believe that from the very start [of the operation] it has been one of the main, if not the main, military tasks set by the Russian leadership. As far as one can tell, this task will remain in any set of developments. If one to look at the map, then it can be seen that this task has not yet been fully accomplished.
A significant portion of the lands of the former Luhansk and, especially, Donetsk oblasts is not yet under the control of the DPR and LPR leadership. Probably, the most crucial issue right now is the fate of Mariupol, the second largest city in the Donetsk region. I believe that the operation in Mariupol, as well as the offensive in the directions of the of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts' administrative boundaries, will most likely continue.
So far, the prospect of a land corridor to Crimea hasn’t been realized, as well as a corridor to Transnistria.
So, you are certain that after Shoigu's words that the next concentrated efforts [by Russian forces] will occur in Donbass, Mariupol? (On March 29, Vladimir Putin conveyed to French President Macron that for the dire situation in Mariupol to be resolved, "the Ukrainian nationalist fighters must stop resisting and lay down their arms. - Editor's note).
I believe that operation in Mariupol will be brought to a successful conclusion. I don't know about the corridor... If one were to look at the map, one can easily conclude that a land corridor to the Crimea has, in fact, already been created. But the overland corridor to Crimea implies maintaining control over the southern territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts [of Ukraine]. That's not Donbass territories, is it?
My question was more complicated. Further up the coast lies Kherson, which is controlled by the Russian Armed Forces, and down the road to Transnistria lies Odessa, which is under control of Kiev.How will the situation develop here considering things said in Istanbul?
One can only speculate here as to what the plans of the Russian Armed Forces might be for lands that lie beyond Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. True, the Kherson oblast is now under Russian control. The future of this oblast is not quite clear yet. What’s more, it is not quite clear to what extent the Russian side is ready (or not ready) to continue the offensive in the western direction, towards Odessa and Transnistria. But if one to take the words of the Russian defense minister literally, then the obvious conclusion is that the main military efforts will continue to be carried out on the territory of Donbass, and not elsewhere.
NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said Wednesday that Russia had underestimated the capabilities of the Ukrainians' resistance and overestimated its own powers, but that does not mean the Istanbul talks are a done deal. Sergei Lavrov claimed that Stoltenberg's perception of reality wasn’t adequate back in January (a month before the start of Moscow’s special operation). What do you think of the NATO Secretary General's assessment?
The thing is that we do not know. I suspect that we will never know, what exactly the Russian leadership's original plans were, i.e. what timeframe was set, what losses were expected (on March 25, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that 1,351 Russian soldiers died, while 3,825 were wounded during the special military operation in Ukraine. - Editor's note). [We won’t ever know] how it was all planned in the first place.
Well, one has to admit that the resistance of the ZSU was very stubborn. Given that Russia possesses the strategic initiative and crushing air superiority, naturally, the ferocity of the fighting may have gone beyond the initial estimates and calculations of the Russian General Staff. Although, I repeat, we can only guess about this.
Some patriots after the Istanbul talks argued that the talks are detrimental to Moscow in principle, that the Kremlin’s negotiators convey Kiev's positions better than their own, that they are grist to the "enemy’s" mill, that if we won’t make it this time, we’ll have to try a third time later (2014 was the first time, 2022 – the second). How do you perceive this reaction to the news about the talks?
Indeed, there are two fundamentally different stances with respect to the talks and with respect to Russia’s ultimate goals in this conflict. One can depart from the assumption that the current leadership of Ukraine is illegitimate, dependent, and is not an independent political actor. It can be assumed that the current Ukrainian statehood project has no prospects, that Ukraine will never fulfill its obligations.
If one werer to proceed from this set of assumptions, then negotiations do in fact make little sense (at least the talks with the Ukrainian side). Moscow can negotiate with the West, with the US, with the behind-the-scenes puppeteers… However, the operation must continue until victory is reached, no matter what this victory will cost in the end.
Under such a scenario, the result of a special operation should be assertion of control over all major cities, perhaps up untill the western borders of Ukraine. This is one point of view, the other one is that the today’s leadership of Ukraine, for all its shortcomings and, perhaps, for all its deficient independence, is still legitimate and has a political identity. This is the only partner for talks that we now have.
Under this scenario the task of the Russian operation shouldn’t be a total surrender of the Ukrainian side, but a sort of compromise that would allow Zelensky not only to save face, but would also allow for Ukrainian statehood to be preserved (alas with certain restrictions insisted upon by Russia). These are the two points of view present in our socio-political discourse. I don’t see any way that these points of view can be combined into one.
Do the events of recent days demonstrate that the first point of view has been forgotten?
I would very much like to hope that the point of view, which implies a compromise, will prevail. Because... I don't see a military solution to the Russo-Ukrainian problems. Even if Russia were to occupy the entire territory of this country, this would require disproportionately larger forces and means than are currently involved in the special operation. We are talking about a country with a population of more than 40 million people.
Territorially, Ukraine is the largest country in Europe after Russia. It would be extremely difficult to put such a country under control. It will be extremely difficult to maintain it. Especially considering that the country's population will regard external control most negatively. It seems to me that we have to look for a political endgam. And only via this path can we achieve some kind of stability and security for both Russia and Ukraine...
As I understand it you are an international [relations?] expert. But I can't help but asking, in your opinion, does the aforementioned first point of view (the one focused on the conflict), let's call it "radical one," become a problem in the relations between the authority and society within Russia itself?
I believe there is a potentially serious problem here. Naturally, any attempts at political compromise under the current circumstances will provoke some sort of opposition. There will be constant questions within the country: What did we fight for? Why did we make so much sacrifices? Why didn't we reach Lviv? Who snatched away our victory?
Such comments after a political compromise has been reached are practically inevitable. But actually, one of the authorities’ tasks consists of an ability to manage public expectations. This represents a need for more subtle propaganda than the type we observe today. It may require some new interaction with specific target audiences: with youth, the military, opinion leaders.
In this regard many things have to be started anew, or almost anew. Certainly, there will also be some costs, a portion of the authorities’ political capital will have to be burned. Naturally, it won’t be possible to simply turn the page and start a new chapter of Russian history, especially since the manifold consequences of this conflict have become subsrtantial for ordinary Russians. The cumulative bill we will, probably, have to pay for the events that began on February 24 will continue to grow.
Indeed, under a "radical" point of view, would Kadyrov be a better negotiator than Medinsky? How do you perceive the "separate opinion" of Chechnya's leader that refuses to accept the proposals presented during the talks?
Vladimir Medinsky (Source: Tass.ru)
(Laughs) Obviously, Kadyrov, like any other Russian citizen, has a right to his point of view. After all, citizens can express their opinions (including on how and under what conditions) these hostilities should be settled. Naturally, it’s important to understand that this opinion is still the stance of one politician, not the point of view of the Russian leadership. I believe that when a ceasefire agreement will be reached, the heads of our regions, among others, will have to elaborate to their voters the parameters of the said agreements reached and explain why the military special operation ended this way and not the other. I hope that this won’t be the most complicated issue for the Russian leadership.
However, not all the Russian regions' heads are now armed and in the neighboring country...
True, this is Kadyrov's special role. Obviously, this special role provides him with reasons for his own opinion, which differs from the official position. Generally speaking, it’s interesting to witness how the radical Russian patriots are cozying up to those, who previously were their staunch opponents. It is a sort of paradox. Certainly, this prompts some reflections on the nature of Russian radicalism... [It’s interesting] how unexpectedly the seemingly opposite poles of the Russian Federation's political spectrum converge.
To be fair about the "radical" stance. On March 29, a few hours after the Ministry of Defense’s announcement about the decrease in intensity on the Kiev and Chernihiv axes of the offensive, Medinskiy explained that this isn’t a cease-fire. Can we discern something more here other than the personal peculiarities of the head of the Russian delegation to the talks?
It seems to me that according to his mandate as a negotiator, Medinsky alone is hardly authorized to negotiate a cease-fire. There is an official Kremlin’s stance regarding this issue, which so far remains unchanged. True, there has been a decrease in military activity on some axes, but on the other ones, hostilities continue.
Apparently, the conditions set by the Russian side for a cease-fire have not yet changed. Thus, it’s obvious that no one from the Ukrainian side ever hoped to get a cease-fire obligation from Medinsky. Medinsky's remark per se that the fire will continue doesn’t cancel the importance of the decision to decrease [the intensity] of military activity. Let’s note that this decision was publicized by the Ministry of Defense representative, not by Medinsky.
The collective West has seemingly dropped from the Russian agenda that existed prior to the special operation). [Earlier] some form of "security guarantees for Russia" under NATO was sought from the West. Do you share this notion as well?
I believe this to be a temporary phenomenon. All the same, when there is talk about security guarantees for Ukraine, inevitably the chain will stretch to security guarantees for Russia, and the collective West will again become an actor in some kind of talks. Without the Western countries' participation, it’s hardly possible to negotiate security guarantees for Ukraine, and for Russia as well.
So, there is a feeling that we were taking a swing at something global, but ended up haggling over how not to lose something that wasn't even discussed before February 24, am I wrong?
You see, if we're talking about those demands to the West that were put forward in December of 2021 (about NATO no-enlargement eastwards, about the withdrawal of NATO military infrastructure from various European countries etc.), then it was very difficult even then, and almost impossible now, to fulfill these demands.
Yes, there will be some sort of adjustment of Russian negotiating positions. We'll see to what extent and in what directions [it will occur]. But some shifts in international relations that happened last month are already permanent. It’s unlikely that all the sanctions that were imposed after February 24 will be lifted.
Or that the new tens of thousands of American soldiers will be removed from Eastern Europe…
Yes, that too. Perhaps in the future, at some stage, the US military presence in Europe will be reduced again. However, the fact is that any such shifts will now require a considerable amount of time, a change in the political environment and in the political-psychological perceptions of Western societies and elites. In the near future it is difficult to count on this. In a few months' time, there will be a NATO summit held in Madrid, where the bloc's new strategy will be adopted. It will undoubtedly have a prominent anti-Russian character.
That is the showdown with the West goes further into the economic sphere? Are we waiting for the beginning of April, when the West, as Moscow presumes, should agree to a settlement in rubles?
Yes. I don't know how this story will end. I don't see the West being willing to go along with these Russian conditions.
So the very same "military-technical solutions" can in the future sustain economic decisions?
We don't know what will happen next, and neither does anyone else. One can only hope that the crisis' nadir has either already passed, or that we are approaching it. After that there will be a certain stabilization of relations (even if it will happen at a very low level).
But even this stabilization demands a considerable effort from both sides, a willingness to compromise. The West will have to give up at least part of its sanctions. Russia will have to adjust its demands upon the West, which were formulated at the end of last year.
Did (you and I) Russia manage to "demilitarize" [Ukraine]?
(Laughs) An important caveat. Not "you and me," of course, but the Russian leadership. Relations with the West will still have to be built somehow. We, and I mean Russia, are starting from a disadvantageous position... It’s unlikely that we can win back anything quickly, even if we would really want to. Is there such a desire among the Russian leadership today? This question remains open.
Do you understand the role played by Roman Abramovich, who suddenly appeared at the negotiations? Were there similar cases in your experience?
There were all sorts of things. I believe Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin had a man named Boris Abramovich Berezovsky. As I remember, he was personally involved in some talks on Chechnya. He solved the tasks that were set before him, one way or another. Later Berezovsky became deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council. And such a thing is happening with us as well.
The most important thing now is to have people serving as mediators, who enjoy the trust of both sides. People who are willing to understand and convey the positions of both sides. What exactly Abramovich's role is, we’ll never fully know. Maybe, this is some sort of negotiation process parallel to the one headed by Vladimir Medinsky.
However, it’s important to clarify that Abramovich has been observed during the negotiations sitting not among the Russian negotiators, but somewhere on the side. He is not part of the Russian delegation. But he does have access, including to President Putin. Possibly, he can convey some confidential information, carry out one personal assignment or another. Perhaps he has a special relationship with Vladimir Zelenskyy. At least it is clear that Abramovich is not a total stranger to Zelenskyy. Possibly, the moment has arrived, when precisely such intermediaries are needed.
Roman Abromovich (Source: Ria.ru)
French President, Macron calls Putin on a weekly basis. Can we talk about his special role in the changes being debated?
There are several figures, who strive to influence the situation from without. Macron is one of them. True, his contacts with Putin continue, despite the fact that the positions of the parties are very much at odds. But there is also Turkish President Erdogan, who has been trying to mediate for a long time. We can witness that the last meeting of the Kiev and Moscow negotiating delegations took place on his territory.
In a sense, it was a goodwill gesture on the part of Russia. The continuation of the talks on the territory of Belarus could have been uncomfortable for the Ukrainian negotiators. The transfer of the talks to Turkey is a concession to the Ukrainian side, albeit a small one. It is well known that Turkey has consistently supported Kiev since at least 2014.
There is also military-technical cooperation regarding the supply of famous UAVs. There are many other things. In addition, there is Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennet, who has also tried to facilitate dialogue. There are other European and non-European politicians, who offer their assistance in establishing a dialogue.
All of these attempts should exist. The more they exist, the greater the chances are that the parties will eventually be able to reach an agreement. Although, certainly, the role of the mediator shouldn’t be overestimated. A mediator can help provided the parties themselves are willing to reach an agreement.
Everything we have discussed risks being the next [version] of the "Minsk agreements" that aren’t working? There is an important nuance in Kiev's conditions, that a deal with Moscow on many issues is possible via the decision of Ukrainian society.
Now one cannot predict the possible format of the agreements with any certainty. However, I believe that if we end up with some sort of agreements like the Minsk agreements (at least in terms of the parties’ structure), i.e. some sort of multilateral format on post-conflict settlement and development, then, certainly, the parties will have to consider the sad experience of Minsk, as well as that, incidentally, of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. In order avoid the stalemates that we all know regarding the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
"Any analysis demonstrates that a war is unprofitable for Russia," you said that to Fontanka on January 27. What did the highly qualified experts get wrong in their assessments? One can reread the comments left after February 21, after the Kremlin recognized the DPR and LPR.
This means that the logic of our experts (provided at least we are talking about civilian experts, the experts, whom I talk to) does not fully correlatewith the logic of the people, who make decisions. What we considered impossible turns out to be feasible.Namely this signifie that an alternate logic, another system of coordinates, another system of priorities exist that defines the most important political decisions in Russia.
Our expert community turned out to be unprepared to perceive the new reality. We continued to live in that world which, to all appearances, has already became a thing of the past.