The Russian website GEOFOR interviews the Saker
Translated from Russian into English by Lilia Shumkova
GEOFOR: Dear Mr. Raevsky, I recall how after the Geneva meeting with President Vladimir Putin, his American colleague President Joe Biden, in response to a question about the continuation of high-level contacts between our countries, said that we should wait until the end of the year, and after that time make an appropriate decision. And now, six months after Geneva, a new dialogue, albeit in a video format. Moreover, this time the initiator was the American side. What do you think this means? What did the White House want to achieve, and to what extent did it succeed?
Raevsky: Under Biden, the United States turned to Russia five times with a request for negotiations – three times by phone, once in person and now via a video conference. Why did they need it? Here, you just need to look at the general context from the point of view of the United States and Biden himself. He has several “fronts,” not only the problem of Russia and Ukraine. I would even say that this is not the main “front” for him. There are two main ones. First of all, there is an internal “front”: he has a very low rating; The social, economic, and political crisis in the United States is now total and, in many ways, resembles the Soviet Union in the 1980s. American armed forces have already proved many times their total inability to conduct combat operations and achieve anything with them. Iraq is a disaster. They are afraid of Iran and do not even want to compete with it. You have seen the disgrace in Afghanistan. Now the mood is very depressed and angry. This internal “front” of President Biden is undoubtedly the most dangerous.
The second very dangerous “front” he has is the issue of China. The Americans say that in two years they will no longer be able to gain the upper hand in the war against China; something needs to be done urgently.
People who understand the principles and timing of the reform of the armed forces and the development of new weapons systems, the principles of tactics and military art in general, understand that nothing can be done in two years. It takes a decade, and maybe more than one.
China and the United States are moving towards a confrontation. Beijing definitely occupies the position of the stronger player. And the Americans are weak on all fronts.
Then they have the Middle East, where Iran is now, in fact, ruling the ball. Israel is trying to maintain the appearance that it is very strong and very dangerous, but in reality the United States is now losing the entire Middle East.
This was an open goal of the Iranians. This is a country that is an order of magnitude smaller or weaker than Russia or China, now – in general, successfully – expels the United States from the Middle East, or at least from many parts of the Middle East.
And, of course, another “front” is Ukraine and Russia plus Europe. And in Europe – and this needs to be pointed out – there is an economic crisis.
For all these reasons, Biden was in an extremely difficult situation.
Russia has been retreating on all fronts over the past 20 – if not 30 – years. And now the situation resembles the one when German tanks were near Moscow. The time is now to say, “Not a step further.”
I think that [Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Valery] Gerasimov and Putin conveyed exactly this to the Americans: “Say what you want, we will not practice the same belligerent rhetoric. But in reality we have the means to repel any provocation or strike from you, and we will have to do it if you don’t change course.”
I think that the realization of how dangerous the situation is today has reached the “collective Biden.”
Now about whether he achieved what he wanted in this video conference.
Sure. To some extent, yes. Because he will be able to say that it was he who stopped Russia in Ukraine, that it was he who stopped China, and no attack on Taiwan happened on his watch.
But this, of course, is fiction. Everyone understands perfectly well that neither China nor Russia need these wars. All these fears were fanned by the Americans themselves.
And, that’s where they really scared themselves, which was the right thing to do, because they are absolutely not tough enough to “butt heads” with Iran, China, and Russia at the same time.
But there is a certain specificity of American politics in this. Very often, American diplomats come to Moscow and say one thing, then when they come back, they are attacked by the media and Congress. Both the media and the Congress are totally in the hands of the “War Party” here. Accusations of weakness, softness, cowardice, etc. follow and here they need to show their “coolness”.
So, for example, Trump acted when he negotiated with the Russian side, and then declared: “There were no agreements.”
Therefore, it remains to be seen whether Biden will be able to withstand the onslaught of the “War Party” now. If he can do it, say, in the next 2-3 weeks, then I would say that for him this conversation was a clear and undoubted success.
And if the “War Party” breaks it, as Trump was very quickly broken, then everything will return to normal, and we will return to the same threshold where Russia and the United States will be on the verge of a full-scale war. This, in general, is not necessary for anyone, and maybe it has come to the American side that it is one thing to talk about world domination, to fight with weak incapacitated forces. And it’s quite another thing to wage war against a real military superpower.
GEOFOR: The meeting was preceded by a strong propaganda attack against Russia, during which Washington clearly tried to “raise the stakes.” President Biden even said that he does not see and does not accept any “red lines” outlined by Moscow. And yet, just before the meeting, Congress lifted a number of sanctions against Russia from the defense budget, including on the Nord Stream-2. Clearly under the influence of the administration. How do you explain such a metamorphosis?
Raevsky: Of course, firstly, it was necessary to “raise the stakes” in order not only, as they like to say in the West, “to negotiate from a position of strength,” but also to convince both public opinion and the “War Party” that we are in no way making concessions to Russia. And Biden said: “We will not recognize any red lines!” [NATO Secretary General] Stoltenberg said: “We do what we want and Russia does not order us!” and so on.
It’s all PR.
In reality – the fact that they have already asked for negotiations with Russia for the fifth time shows who is in a position of strength, and who is not.
And this lifting of the sanctions you are talking about from the defense budget is, in general, a small step, rather, a diplomatic step of goodwill. But, in fact, the issue with the Nord Stream-2 has already been resolved. The only thing that can close it is a full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine – or something worse. They have already sanctioned Russia so that there is nowhere else to go – they say it themselves.
So, if you no longer have the opportunity to impose other sanctions, then you can “sell” this “non-imposition” of sanctions as a gesture of goodwill.
This is Realpolitik, and nothing more.
The Americans have never abandoned their strategic goals – containing and encircling Russia, forcing it to submissive obedience and surrender of its sovereignty, and this is their ultimate goal which the Americans have never agreed to abandon.
This is a strategic goal. And everything that is being done now, for Americans, is the level of tactics, not strategy.
They have not discussed the strategy yet, because to revise the strategy means to revise the entire ideology on which this country is built. They are not ready for this yet.
GEOFOR: Could Putin’s visit to Delhi have influenced the position of the American side, and if so, what kind? Recall that during this bilateral meeting with the Indian leadership, a number of documents were signed, including an agreement on military issues until 2030. Moreover, this document concerns not only military-technical cooperation.
Raevsky: Here you need to understand a very subtle game that the Indians are playing. They are friends with the United States, they will even go to this Summit of Democracies. But they are friends not against Russia, but against China, which for them is a regional enemy.
But in order to emphasize how friendly they are with the United States not against Russia, Putin’s trip to India was organized and giant contracts were signed there, including contracts for weapons, including S-400 air defense, which the Americans categorically forbade Indians to buy, and the Indians did not care about this ban.
In fact, India’s attitude towards Russia is a slap in the face of the United States. This shows that the Indians will look very selectively at what is beneficial to them and act in their own interests, and not be a submissive puppet in the hands of anyone, and certainly not the United States.
I would also like to add that, in my opinion, the confrontation between China and India is the main current problem of the Eurasian continent. I see only one side that can help these two countries to change relations and switch to a different quality. This is, of course, Russia.
And the strategic task of the Americans, on the contrary, is to incite further conflicts between China and India at any cost.
And it is clear that the parties will continue to bend their own line. Moscow stands for peace in Eurasia, and the United States – if not for war, then, in any case, for military tension and confrontation between these two great countries.
GEOFOR: One of the main priorities of Moscow in these negotiations was the issue of ensuring the security of the Russian Federation, which was stated long before the meeting. As it became known, the American side confirmed its readiness for dialogue on this issue. In particular, to discuss the issue of the deployment of offensive weapons along the Russian borders from Norway to Romania and possibly Turkey. This also automatically includes Ukraine. How does this relate to the belligerent and harsh statements on the eve of the meeting?
Raevsky: Officially, right before the meeting, the Americans said that they categorically refuse to recognize Moscow’s red lines. Stoltenberg also said that “Russia is not a law for us, let it behave correctly and keep quiet, and we will do whatever we want.”
But in reality, expert groups will meet. And what will they discuss? Yes, of course, just these red lines. This is the only subject of real bargaining that is possible between these two countries.
So, in fact, the United States says one thing and does another.
Yes, they are now making concessions to Moscow. The growing power of the Russian Armed Forces, and the forces of the Russian economy and political “soft power” forced the Americans to make concessions.
From the Americans’ point of view, Ukraine itself in its current state is a “404 country”, and I would say, in general, the whole of Europe turned out to be such a “suitcase without a handle.” And Americans are no longer able to drag around with them – neither economically nor politically.
So what can they do? If it has already been decided to leave the suitcase without a handle, then you can set it on fire and hope that this arson can achieve something.
And what to achieve? Yes, it’s very simple – the dream of Americans is for Russia to really grab as much Ukraine as possible. First, because this is a “black hole” that would become a headache for Russia, not America. Second, it will create ideal conditions to block the Nord Stream-2 and even other energy projects between Europe and Russia. And, third, it will create – finally! – the next “cold war,” without which the American and, in general, western politicians and generals are so sad.
Everyone understands that in the event of a war, Russia will win quickly and convincingly. But after that, a situation will arise that will resemble, perhaps, the “Berlin crisis” with a similar level of confrontation. And the “War Party” in the West wants this for a number of reasons.
For example, if the supply of energy carriers from Russia is cut off, then whose fuel and energy sector will be able to compensate for the outgoing resources? American, of course. Their liquefied gas.
The same is true in the sphere of political influence. If, say, an open war happens, and Russia liberates even just a part of Ukraine from Nazi rule, it will be presented as proof that only NATO can save Europe from Putin’s “mordor”.
It would be very beneficial for the Americans to have a full-scale war unleashed. This is the interpretation of the “War Party”. But there are other people – sane people – who understand that such a situation is fraught with a very rapid escalation and direct confrontation between the United States and Russia. And they don’t want that.
And so, on the one hand, we are seeing “cool” statements. On the other hand, there are a number of concessions that the Americans are ready to make so far.
And the offensive weapons systems that they have now deployed in other countries is a purely political, not military, issue. When Putin says that for a Western hypersonic missile from the territory of Ukraine, the approach time will be five minutes to Moscow, this is a fact. But, on the other hand, the time of approach of a preemptive strike by Russian hypersonic weapons will also, by definition, be five minutes. And in this area, Russia has overtaken the United States for a long time and very significantly. Russia also has the opportunity to place missiles in the Atlantic Ocean outside the zone of operation of possible anti-submarine means of the United States and “swoop” from there.
These offensive systems are dangerous for Russia not so much from a military point of view as from a political one, since this is really a political provocation. It shows what, as Americans like to say, “they send a message”.
This is the message: “We don’t care about you! We do what we want and where we want.” This means that Russia is not an equal party to the negotiations, that there is a great Hegemon and Suzerain of the whole planet, who does everything he wants and how he wants, and Russia is invited to shut up, sit quietly, and not slack off.
This political problem is very real for Russia. Therefore, the current situation will force Russia at some point to draw red lines and say that there are things that we will not tolerate.
Obviously, both Putin and General Gerasimov have very successfully brought these realities to the consciousness of the “collective Biden.”
GEOFOR: The information that comes to us after the meeting suggests that the tone of the conversation between the Russian and American presidents is similar to the tone of Biden’s remote talks with Comrade Xi, which also took place recently. For example, during a conversation with the Chinese leader, the US president stressed the need to refrain from seizing Taiwan by force, which essentially meant that Washington did not object to economic and political methods. As for the Russian-American negotiations, in part of Ukraine, for example, issues related to its territorial integrity, Crimea and the notorious “Russian aggression” were not discussed at all. And at the briefing following the conversation, Assistant to the President J. Sullivan called on Kiev to stop the escalation of tensions in the Donbas and referred the Ukrainian leadership to the Minsk agreements. What is the reason for this position: the desire to maintain the status quo for a while? Then – for what purpose and for how long?
Raevsky: In this area, the situation can be said to have turned completely upside down.
Russia needed these decades of concessions in order to strengthen the Russian society itself, strengthen the information sphere, the Russian economy, establish import substitution, create new ties with other countries and, most importantly, to develop the Armed Forces to such a level that they can cope with any threat to Russia.
The Americans’ situation is flipped. They have the deepest internal crisis – political and economic. The state of the American armed forces is very fraught.
Of course, the current status quo is beneficial to them. The alternative is to continue on the path of escalation, and then there is only one way – to military confrontation. There’s nothing else left. Everything below the level of military confrontation has already been done. And it is completely unprofitable for them to go to an open military confrontation with Russia.
For how long is such a status quo beneficial to them? It is necessary to clearly distinguish two sides. On the military side, the reform of the armed forces is a very long and difficult process, very complex, and the armed forces have a huge inertia, which is very difficult to deploy in another direction, considering that the American political calendar is two years ahead; one year ahead, well, four years ahead at most.
On the political side, Biden’s rating is now catastrophically low. The situation inside the country is very bad. Therefore, it is more profitable for him to maintain the status quo for a year or two rather than to have a direct confrontation with Russia during his presidency. Plus, it is still unknown what benefits the Chinese and Iranians could find for themselves in such a confrontation.
Thus, Americans need the status quo. On the political side, two years, even one year, is much better than a war.
In the long run, the current status quo, I think, is just a screen put up to hide the fact that they will continue to self-destruct. In my opinion – and I know this country quite well – it is absolutely impossible to rebuild it. Reforms are impossible here, because this country is based on imperialism, on the ideology of world domination, and it is simply impossible for it to abandon this. Speaking “in American language,” “it’s not American.” That is, to recognize, for example, just the possibility that the United States is “one of the countries of the world”, but not “the leader of all mankind”, is something that is literally unthinkable for most Americans, and certainly for American politicians. For them, this is simply unacceptable.
The whole “crazy kindergarten” – there is no other way to say it – that we hear now from a local congressman about Russia, about China, about others, is a reflection of this type of thinking and worldview.
Unfortunately, in the United States, being an open supporter of the “War Party” looks patriotic. And since this country did not have any real war in defense of its homeland, and they lost all the other wars after World War II, this is a country that simply cannot abandon its imperial ideology, and now it lacks the tools that it needs to impose its imperialist ideology on the entire planet.
Therefore, realistically speaking, they need the status quo for as long as possible. But it is impossible to define this “longer”.” There are too many variables, too many scenarios.
GEOFOR: About protocol problems in relations with the White House. In preparation for the meeting, it was widely announced that the conversation would be “one-on-one.” And now we see President Biden negotiating surrounded by four of his advisers. Does such a transformation of the format of the meeting contribute to the establishment of an atmosphere of trust in negotiations and, more broadly, in bilateral relations in general?
Raevsky: First of all, you need to understand that when it comes to Biden, of course, we are talking about “collective Biden.” Biden himself is not able to delve into all the problems facing him, nor to negotiate. And, certainly, not with a man like Putin, who can talk for four hours without a piece of paper and remember all the numbers on all topics.
Naturally, there should be advisers around him; there is nothing new here.
When George Bush’s son was interrogated about the events of September 11 , he was not trusted to answer questions alone. Dick Cheney was sitting next to him, who had to make sure, as the “senior supervisor,” that Bush would not blurt out anything superfluous. It’s the same here.
These advisers surround him, naturally, to advise, but also to keep an eye on him. They are the watchers, and he is their official representative.
Moreover, I would even say that this is a very good sign – just as I welcomed the trip of Victoria Nuland and the CIA director to Moscow. This shows that “serious people” are talking to the Russian side. Now if they sent Kamala Harris to talk to someone, that would be a sign of total disregard. Or, say, how Blinken calls Zelensky to tell him what happened at the negotiations.
There is no such contempt here. On the contrary, there are serious people who know what they are talking about and who are able to make decisions. This shows that the negotiations were not symbolic and that there really was a shift. In my opinion, this can only be welcomed.
But! There can be no question of any atmosphere of trust. This is what journalists think: there is an atmosphere of trust in the negotiations between Russia and the United States.
Such negotiations only develop confidence-building measures – those that are verifiable.
There can be no question of any trust.
Most likely, in general terms, the parties agreed to some steps, and expert groups will work on specifics – who, how and when will check the measures mutually agreed during the negotiations.
Here we can recall President Ronald Reagan, who said: “Trust, but verify”.
This is exactly what we are seeing now: both sides will check to the maximum, because the stakes are very high. When there is a risk of military confrontation between two nuclear superpowers, there can be no trust. There can only be absolutely verifiable mutually obligatory steps of the two sides.
GEOFOR: And now a few words about the affairs of Washington. The further away, the more noticeable the discord in the White House foreign policy team. If the aggravation of the situation in bilateral relations, harsh criticism of Russia, etc. comes from the Secretary of State and his team, then a certain constructive approach comes from the national security assistant. This became especially noticeable after Mrs. Nuland, whose work results apparently did not satisfy the White House much, an experienced diplomat, a former ambassador to Russia, and now the director of the CIA, William J. Burns, whom a number of Russian analysts write down in the “Sullivan team,” arrived in Moscow. Will President Biden be able to continue to stay above the fray of his closest aides? How subjective is he in making and implementing his political decisions? After all, it is still impossible to ignore the opinions of both parties on Capitol Hill… In short, how much can Russia trust the agreements that were reached during the dialogue at the highest level? Will the decisions on joint study of issues of interest to both sides go beyond expert consultations and translate into concrete binding agreements? Or is it still an attempt to get a respite in time in order to settle their internal problems, reformat relations with allies, and then return to the period of confrontation?
Raevsky: There are undoubtedly two parties here. There is a very serious struggle going on within the ruling classes of the United States and in the so-called “deep state.”
Imagine some kind of gangster group – one of those organized criminal groups, each of which controls some part of the city. As long as things are going well, they sit quietly. But as soon as the crisis begins, then they start fighting among themselves.
And so the election of Trump four years ago brought such a split in the ruling American elites that now a very strong battle is going on at the top in different groups, clans of the American government. And the divide is not between Republicans and Democrats. Relatively speaking, on the one hand there is a “War Party,” and on the other hand there is a “Peace Party.” This is very conditional, but not wrong.
First, the “War Party” members are pure ideologists. Second, it is the fuel and energy sector of America, which is very interested in “cutting off” Europe from Russia. It would be very beneficial for the American economy as a whole if Europe were both weaker and more dependent on the United States. Any cooperation between Russia and the EU is a direct and clear threat to the economic and political interests of the United States. There are still those who retain nostalgia for the Cold War. There are so-called “Neocons,” there are “Neoliberals,” and there are various lobbies that are hostile to Russia for various reasons. The Israeli lobby, the Polish lobby, the Ukrainian lobby. All of these groups lumped together can be called the “War Party”.
And there is a “Peace Party”, which, I think, consists of those people who understand that, going further along this path, you can only come to one point – war. This party does not want to pay such a price. This party probably understands that it is simply too much for the United States to go into a total confrontation with Russia, Iran and China at the same time.
Even if they wanted war, they realize that in this position it is better for them to present themselves as a “Peace Party”.
This is probably what Biden wants to achieve. He wants to demonstrate that with his “coolness” and disregard for any demands of Russia and China, he has succeeded, stopped both “Russian aggression” against Ukraine and “Chinese aggression” against Taiwan.
That there is absolutely no reality under this rhetoric, it does not matter at all. This is all for domestic consumption and for domestic policy. And also to preserve the image of the World Hegemon, which, unfortunately, it is absolutely impossible for Americans to abandon, since this ideology is “embedded” in the national identity of many – if not all – Americans. In addition, all politicians, in order to show that they are patriots, must be supporters of the “War Party,” supporters of wars and “cool” unilateral measures. In this country – alas! – this is interpreted not as a sign of insanity or irresponsibility, but as a sign of “coolness”. And if the president demonstrates these qualities, then he is a strong and serious president.
How to reform such a country and give it the opportunity to become just a normal country, and not an Empire, I can’t imagine. I don’t see how this system can be reformed. The only way out, which I unfortunately see, is that it should collapse. Collapse either quickly during a military confrontation, or – God forbid! – through some kind of agreement to “hit the brakes.” This is the best we can all hope for.
GEOFOR: So, how do you see the future of relations between Moscow and Washington?
Raevsky: First of all, I have always believed and written that for at least seven years – if not more – the American Empire and Russia have been at war. This is an ideological war, this is an informational war, a political war, and an economic war. And-thank God! – there have not been any major military actions yet.
But this does not negate the fact that, in fact, there can be only one winner in this war.
Russia, Iran, China and other countries want a multipolar world in which there would be a place for sovereign states that treat each other with respect and in accordance with the principles of international law.
The American vision of the future is world hegemony, “the USA is ahead of the whole planet,” the USA governs everything and everyone, and there are no equals.
This is a very important point – “We have no equal.” It’s an idea that generations of Americans have been raised on.
But suddenly [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] General Milley said that, in general, from a military point of view, the world already has at least three poles – the United States, Russia and China. There are actually more of these poles. For example, in the Middle East, the strongest regional power is no longer Israel – it is Iran.
The situation is changing, and not to the benefit of the United States.
Russia plays for a long time. She has been yielding, stepping aside, and giving way for a long time, because it was necessary to create such Armed Forces that could really guarantee the security of Russia in any threats. Russia has finally achieved this.
For Russia, the idea of Anglo–Saxon domination over the planet, when everyone else should serve them, is fundamentally unacceptable – and I would even say civilizationally. Russia sees herself to be an equal player among the great of this world.
What will be the relations between Moscow and Washington? One side will lose the war, and the other will gain the upper hand in it.
Not necessarily, by the way, a war with military operations. This could be a purely political war only, God willing!
But only one of the two boxers in the ring will remain standing. The second one will have to accept a real defeat.
For Russia, such a defeat would mean the loss of sovereignty and destabilization. Which will once again put her in a dangerous position.
And for the United States, simply giving up world domination is already a total defeat, because it will force this country to completely reformat itself and recreate itself on a new basis. Which they are absolutely not capable of, at the moment. In order to reform the country, it takes decades – if there is no external force. And since Russian tanks will not appear on the streets of Washington, no purge like the one that was against the Nazis after World War II in Germany, here – alas! – it won’t happen.
It means that all this will take a long time, and this process will not only be long, but also dangerous for this country.
Andrei Raevsky was born in Zurich, Switzerland, his father is Dutch, his mother is Russian from a family of White Russian immigrants.
In 1984, he entered active military service in the electronic warfare unit, and then was transferred to the military intelligence service as a language specialist, to work in the interests of the Swiss Air Force. Then he moved to the USA, where he received a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the School of International Service (SIS) American University (American University) and a Master’s degree in Strategic Studies (Strategic Studies) at the School of Advanced International Studies. Paul N. Nitze of Johns Hopkins University (Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University). Upon returning to Switzerland, he worked as a civilian consultant (in a position corresponding to the military rank of “major”) in the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Service (SND), preparing strategic analytical materials, primarily about the Soviet/Russian armed forces. He worked as a specialist in “enemy operations” (“Red Team” in American military jargon) to train personnel at the operational level of the General Staff of the Swiss Armed Forces. Later he worked at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), where he specialized in peacekeeping tactics and operations. He wrote a book about psychological and intelligence operations in peacekeeping and four books of collected works “The Essential Saker” (The Essential Saker). Speaks Russian, English, French, Spanish and German.
Raevsky holds a Licentiate in Orthodox Theological Studies (PhD in Orthodox Theology) from the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies at the Monastery of St. Gregory Palamas in Etna, California (the “Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies” (CTOS) at the Saint Gregory Palamas monastery in Etna, California).
Lives in the state of Florida.
The questions were asked by Serge Duhanov, a journalist, specializing in international relations and national security issues. Не worked as the NOVOSTI Press Agency's own correspondent in Canada (Ottawa, 1990-1992) and the US Bureau Chief (Washington, 1996-2001) of the newspapers Business MN, Delovoy Mir and Interfax-AiF.