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March 4, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 9806

Russian Professor Valery Solovey: Putin's Mistaken Invasion Will Accelerate Processes Leading To His Ouster

March 4, 2022
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 9806

Valery Solovey, a former Professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, was interviewed on the Echo of Moscow radio station on March 2, 2022. Solovey predicted that the mistaken invasion of Ukraine something which he called a stain that Russia would never wash out[1], would result in the weakening and perhaps ouster of the regime. The next day, the station and its website were temporarily shuttered. This and the fine imposed on its editor were apparently a warning by the authorities who closed the Dozhd TV network. The editor of Republic has also left Russia. Solovey himself was taken into custody briefly in February and is facing a charge of incitement to hatred. [2]

The interview was notable for revealing the cat and mouse tactics between the authorities and independent outlets as well as for Solovey's predictions (he has been wrong in the past). Given its length we are presenting it in two installments. In the first installment, Solovey claims that Putin was surprised by the Ukrainian resistance and the Western response. The economic measures are truly crippling and are eventually going to translate into popular resentment. Maintaining the war and pacification of Ukraine will require further military mobilization. When the average Russian family had four to six children that was one thing; for the modern Russian family to send its only son to war is quite another. Russia's isolation from the outside world is another thing. For the past thirty years Russia has lived with open borders; it is not North Korea that is used to isolation.

Below is the first part of the interview with Valery Solovey:[3]


Valery Solovey (Source: Radiokp.ru)

Good evening, 19:08, this is the "Osoboye Mneniye" [another opinion] program, I'm your host, Alexei Naryshkin, and political scientist Valery Solovey is opposite me. Hello.

Good evening, Alexei, good evening to all.

Let's start with the essentials. The worst thing that could've happened is happening, at least according to analysts. [NGO] RoskomSvoboda, there is such an organization, they claim that YouTube in Russia is being gradually blocked. So I ask you, is this for real? Can you believe it, and if so, what is the utility of it by the authorities'?

I believe that in Russia currently, one can be convinced in anything one wants, even in the purest phantasmagoria and illusions. There is, certainly, a logic here. After all the authorities introduced bans against Facebook and Twitter, the platforms that gathered essentially opposition-minded people, while YouTube remained. YouTube takes almost first place in terms of visits, that is where people interested or concerned with politics go this network, as well as people with a completely neutral stance. Although it will become increasingly difficult for them to remain neutral.

I believe that from the authorities' point of view it would make sense to preventively block this platform, this video-hosting website. Another issue is what the consequences of such a decision would be, namely whether the "cure " would be very dangerous worse than the disease in fact) should be scrutinized in practice, especially since the majority of YouTube visitors are not interested in politics.

Why cannot you say something soothing and reassuring, like "everything will be fine, turn to RuTube?"

I'm very optimistic, I know very well that RuTube website in the last 2-3 months has undergone intensive preparation. I have friends who were involved in this task on the technology side. And they told me that, judging by the rate in which content is being uploaded to the website, that it's clear that YouTube will be shut down. It's only a question of time.

Well, naturally, if they shut it down, it will be bad thing per se. [Consequently], it means that people will turn to Telegram. Now one can post videos on Telegram too. New platforms will be created. Furthermore, all social media users head to this new platform, leaving Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. An ideal oppositional political platform will be formed there, which the authorities will, probably, be unable to block.

What do you mean, "be unable?"

Most likely, the authorities won't be able to do that. They will try, but, nevertheless, will fail to finalize this task.

Hold on, I had already gotten used to the idea that we have lost YouTube that we conceded it.

No, one shouldn't lose heart. One has to fight (at least verbally).

Okay. But we remember the "Telegram case" and the"difficult choice," of which [Telegram CEO Pavel] Durov talked about before the election. He said that either you [users] lose Telegram, or you'll have to do without [Navalny's] Smart Voting lists.

Yes, but back then Durov was virtually alone facing Russia. And now Russia is one-on-one againt the entire world (well, not the entire world, but still...)

Turkey, China.

This doesn't concern him very much. However, those on whom Durov is dependent, they are actually on the side that opposes Russian policy.

Who is he dependent on?

I believe he is more connected with technologically advanced countries than with countries that have a firewall, authoritarian dictatorships. Who is Durov? A libertarian, basically. Thus he wouldn't want to end up in bad company.

As Sergei Markov, quoting either Clinton or Obama, often states, "one has to be on the right side of history." Durov would want to be on the right side of history at this point, because it is clear that this right side is not in our blessed fatherland.

Is Durov one of the few people, who will preserve an island of freedom for us in Russia?

I suppose that's likely.

So, it seems that he has great political prospects.

Then he will have great prospects in civil society. The person, who supports the torch of freedom (well, not the torch per se, at least a spark of freedom, as it's difficult to talk of a "torch" in Russia now) in the future may receive and have the right to claim the greatest dividends.


Telegram CEO Pavel Durov (Source: Vesti.ru)

Why do you have doubts about the Russian authorities' ability to shut down Telegram? No matter how we feel about the government and the specific characters in there, their capabilities are impressive: anyone can be pushed out of the country, anyone can be blocked.

[In Russia, people have] always underestimated the bloodlust of our leadership, but it seems to me that people obviously overestimate their capabilities as well. The events currently unfolding in Ukraine demonstrate this. Because there was one scenario on paper, but eventually [the troops] had to move through ravines.

The disposition looked literally exactly as in Tolstoy's famous novel "War and Peace." Do you remember the description of the [Russian] army's dispositions before the Battle of Austerlitz? The first column, the second, and the third and etc. But the reality turned out to be just the opposite of expectations. And the president [Putin] is not just disappointed, he is extremely angry. This is the first disappointment.

And the second disappointment is the West's reaction. It seemed [before the war] that, well, at least Europe was bribed, intimidated, blackmailed, embroiled in hybrid warfare. However, suddenly, "look, where did this [reaction] come from?" They've done more in a week than they've done in 8 years. Just in one week! They practically put the Russian economy if not yet on its knees, then already in a half-knee position (to put it in yoga terms).

The Russian economy will dance at our funerals.

[Are you talking about] natural resourses-based economy? I mean: hemp, honey, supplying oil by the bucket?

Well, we'll try, objectively. After all, life in Russia...

… is not ending

That's not bad already.

It inspires hope.

Life will truely become less comfortable.

You are absolutely right. The quality of life is decreasing significantly, in addition there is technological degradation. However, if these developments were to happen in North Korea, which did not have a "window" to freedom, to another world, which had no opportunity for comparison, that would be one thing. Russia is completely different. Here people lived for 20 years, in one way or another, with open borders.

We got spoiled in here.

Actually we lived like that not for 20, but for 30 years. And the thing is that people already assess this [sanctions on Russia] as a collapse of personal strategies, as well as family tragedies. There's going to be a lot of misery and unhappiness in Russia. They haven't yet come round to realizing this. [Ask yourself,] what they've been doing for the past week? They were saving their nest egg, isn't that so?

If one has something to save.

Well, in the major cities there is a middle class, the middle-middle class (sic!), the upper middle class… they all had something to save. Although it wasn't very much, people were saving it. People of the lower middle class, or even the impoverished, bought some provisions and medicine (whatever they could afford). But now they will adapt, [it would be a] psychological adaptation.

The first shock has passed, then they'll suddenly realize that they don't have jobs anymore. There is Moscow City, where the offices of Western companies are, what will happen to these offices? What will all this "office plankton" do?

Suddenly, they will see (well it won't already be sudden), they will see that prices are skyrocketing for everything, while wages and incomes are not growing, as there is no possibility for it.

The third point, which may be most important, is that on Friday, they suddenly might hear the president calling upon Russians to sympathize with the fact that it's mandatory to conduct a mobilization. And mobilization requires half a million of young and middle-aged people.

No.

Alexei, this is something that is constantly being discussed by the president now. Are we going to mobilize, or not? We have to raise another half a million of servicemen for the army.

First, as far as I know, we have a bigger army than the Ukrainian one. Considering our current forces and means, given our combat readiness (we have modern weapons) is it really impossible to carry out this planned operation in Ukraine?

The operation had to be completed by March 1, because the airports were closed until March 2. As of now, the airports in southern Russia are closed until March 9. On the evening of February 27, Putin was supposed to give a victory speech claiming that the special military operation was a success. However, it is not ending with success, it doesn't want to end at all. There are not enough people and equipment. It turned out that this equipment was not at all new, and that within 4 days two-thirds of the stock of missiles reserved for the operation had been depleted.

Who told you that?

The Americans are reporting it. Good heavens, it's no secret.

Don't trust Americans, it's unpatriotic.

Of course, I have to trust [Putin's press secretary Dmitry] Peskov.

19:19, this is Valery Solovyov's "Osoboye Mneniye" with Alexei Naryshkin in the studio. I feel much easier. I've checked the news feed during the commercials, and Roskomnadzor stated that no decision had been made to block YouTube in Russia.

That's great.

You and I have wasted our time.

No waste of time at all. We warned that we were monitoring the situation closely.

Do they [the Kremlin] listen to us?

Of course, in real time. They listened to us, you'll see.

Let's get back to Ukraine. You listen to American intelligence, as far as I can understand?

The American mass media. That they are receiving data from intelligence sources is a fact.

How can you believe the American media, who for three months have been running amok screaming, "here comes the war; no, it will be tomorrow; no, the day after tomorrow."

Well, they weren't saying "tomorrow, the day after tomorrow," they gave exact dates. Biden was giving exact dates. I too, by the way, was giving exact dates too, before Biden. That's very interesting. As the saying goes, "there is no prophet in his own country." This is the kind of information that cannot be kept secret.

Are you conveying information to Biden?

God forbid! We use different sources, but simply come to the same realizations.

By the way, do you know that it's dangerous to talk and quote all sorts of data on the development of hostilities right now? On Friday, as they say, the State Duma will pass a bill [imposing a 15 year sentence on purveyors of fake news].

And we don't quote data regarding the course of military operations. We simply refer to the facts.

But you did state how many missiles we have fired.

This is data provided by CNN, and they in turn quoted this data with reference to the Pentagon. If the State Duma believes that such data is a fake, let them argue with CNN and the Pentagon.

We will be explaining this in court.

That's fine. After all, it was the Russian authorities, who announced that airports wouldn't work until March 2, and now this restriction was prolonged.

So we're just comparing facts?

Of course, on the basis of simple facts we are reaching quite clear, unambiguous conclusions.

I want to quote Sergei Lavrov, who was asked today if the world is on the brink of World War III, and Lavrov, being the Russian Foreign Minister, forwarded the question to Biden. Let me forward it to you, are we on the brink of World War III?

Yes, we are now in a situation that is most reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis; that's true. The other issue is that this crisis will be protracted in time. I believe it will last at least for a week. We are, as of Sunday, on the verge of an exchange of nuclear strikes, or at least - using tactical nuclear arms. Yes, we are.

At the end of this new Caribbean crisis, who will get what? Will Putin finally sit across from Biden, will they stare each other in the eye, will the chemistry happen?

This is not an option anymore. One shouldn't have launched a special military operation in order to look Biden in the eyes. Putin had a great chance to look Biden in his honest eyes and try to talk about something, to make one last attempt. He decided against waiting, he decided to speak from a position of strength, [he thought] "now we will get control of Ukraine, sign binding agreements with Ukraine, i.e. accept a capitulation… And after that we'll talk. You'll see how strong we are.

So far it's not working out. Thus, neither Biden, nor Johnson, Scholz, and nobody else in Europe isn't going to talk with Putin about anything else at all. They believe that he has deceived them, they are sure of it. Do you remember what Macron said once? "I'm not a Russian peasant, who can be deceived." This is a big insult, a really big, a personal one.

Wait, what do you mean they won't talk? Do they need gas?

Well, we need [foreign] currency, don't we? Of course, we do. After half of the Central Bank's funds abroad have been frozen, we need [foreign] currency even more.

What kind of detente can occur in this regard? Who is going to bow to whom, to apologize… what will happen?

I highly doubt that such a detente is possible in this case. I believe that the West, the collective West, will wait for Putin to leave. They are sure that such a departure will occur this year. They are now stimulating elite groups [in Russia] to facilitate his departure.

Well, why did you say that? What factions? Ah, you mean the elite, I thought for a moment...

You've thought of terrorist gangs?

No, I thought… I mean, we've read different reports that saboteurs are in Kyiv. But no, oh, Lord… I'm losing my mind.

No, Putin is well protected in this sense.

Well, thank God!

But there are people, and there are increasingly more of them, who, to put it mildly, are not very happy about this situation, or, more precisely as Yeltsin would say, "twist, you know," in Russian foreign policy [meaning a complicated situation].

So is this a "palace coup?" as with (Czar) Paul?

No, he is protected from a "palace coup" In this regard, the West overestimates the capabilities of Russian elite groups. But it is acting persistently, working towards to this policy goal. Because first they announced sanctions lists, and now the families [of Russian elites] will be included in the sanctions lists. This is obvious.

And what is behind the West's logic to hit ordinary Russians [with sanctions]? After all, you and I aren't the ones, who made the specific decision to deploy troops for the sake of a "humanitarian operation."

Absolutely right. However, the logic here is the same as that during the World War II. Naturally not all ordinary Germans voted for the NSDAP, in fact, most were against it, but Hitler started the war anyways. That's why Dresden was bombed, there were carpet bombings of the city. That's why the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. But the situation there was, understandably, even worse.

So yes, as much as we would like, we will bear a collective responsibility. We have to understand that. Things that are being told to us now, (as Johnson said, "we understand that Russia is not Putin, that the Russian people think differently") this is a statement.

The there is a mass perception, mass practices, which are already being implemented, and they think exactly as follows, "Putin is their president after all. He made this decision, and the Russians elected him as president. He was elected for four terms. So we do bear at least partial responsibility.

Can you explain to me, as a "victim" of Russian TV propaganda, why, in fact, Putin should not have entered Ukraine? I've been fed for 8 years with information that there are "enforcers" in Kiev [the term used for Nazi collaborators during WW2], especially in western Ukraine, they are subjugating the Russian-speaking population, bombing them and etc. For me, as a person who watches TV and for other people who do the same (and there are a lot of them) Putin is saving our brothers.

If people are captive to this virtual reality, an alternate reality (there are the alternatively gifted [i.e. the idiots], and there is an alternate reality) then there is no way to influence them. Everything is developing right for them.

But when their income will decrease two-times, and their children and husbands will be drafted into the active army, they will start to think differently. True, they will never blame themselves (as it's absolutely impossible). However, they will find someone to put a blame on. Most likely, this time they will start acting, as their vital interests will be affected.

[Today's Russia] is not early 20th century Russia, when the average family had from six to eight children. Now it's a good thing if there are two children. In most cases there is a one son in a family. Now imagine that your "little one" will be drafted to military service, to pay your debt to the Motherland. The authorities will claim that your son will serve in the rear, will eat Ukrainian lard and be awarded with a dozen hectares of chernozem [a fertile black soil]. Well, parents won't believe it.

I have girls, thank God. What does Putin want now?

To achieve ultimate military success. He conveyed this openly to Macron, and Shoigu repeated it, quoting the president, "to bring Ukraine to its knees." He wants for Zelensky to sign the capitulation (and if not Zelensky, then someone else should be in Ukraine).

And then what? Well, imagine he has signed the capitulation. What's next?

You ask a rather valid question, which I kept asking, and no one could provide me with an answer. How the political issue will be resolved? There is no answer to that question, because the political part of the operation has no satisfactory resolution for Russia at all, provided the military part of the operation is completed successfully (which is likely. It's not an inevitable result, but likely, despite all the problems that arise now).

It is inconceivable that in any election in Ukraine people would vote for any pro-Russian force. It is absolutely impossible now. If, before February 24, there were people sympathizing with Russia (which, by the way, constituted a significant proportion), now it is simply ruled out. Putin turned Ukraine into a complete,  and permanent existential enemy of the Russia. That's to his personal credit. He shaped the Ukrainian nation, he was shaping it since 2014, and now he is completing this process. This is the final stage.

Wait. Well, they'll teach the Ukrainians order, they'll march like we do.

Who will teach them? The Rosgvardia? Zolotov's Rosgvardia?

Well, why do you think the Chechens came there?

It's not going to happen.

Why? The military will provide a blockade, for example.

It was difficult to integrate Crimea. It was integrated, not without problems. The [Crimean] Peninsula hosted a million and a half, or a million and six hundred residents, while Ukraine has 40 million. All right, let's say 900 thousand people left Ukraine, some people were working in Europe. However, it's not a small European country in terms of number, not to mention the territory.

The main thing is that these people were formed for 30 years in a completely different political and informational space. They know what elections are all about.

For a Russian man, this is immorality. These "Maidans"[pro-Western revolutions] are immoral, that's what [the pro-Kremlin presenter Olga] Skabeyeva will tell you.

If it's immoral, then we will cultivate asceticism. I am waiting for [VTB bank President Andrey] Kostin (as well as for [Lukoil President Vagit] Alekperov and others) to emphatically follow asceticism. I assume that [the portly Alfa Bank head Mikhail] Fridman will certainly benefit from asceticism – you just have to look at him to agree). [Former deputy prime minister Igor] Shuvalov could benefit from asceticism too. I believe he would give up his private plane to transport sick children. I would love to see these people demonstrate their civic solidarity with the nation.

 

[1] Echo.msk.ru, February 24, 2022.

[2] Mk.ru, February 16, 2022

[3] Echo.msk.ru, March 2, 2022.

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