In his latest RTRS interview (Bosnian-Serb Republic public TV service), Srdja Trifkovic talks about Russia’s complex political and economic power structure, which is mostly at odds with the image of an authoritarian Kremlin monolith presented in the Western media.
[Video here—Trifkovic segment starts at 6 minutes. Excerpts, verbatim translation from Serbian.]
Q: Professor Trifkovic, you’ve just come back from Moscow where you attended the Economic Forum, but it was also a political forum?
ST: The Moscow Economic Forum is a major annual gathering of economists and experts who advocate a change in the macroeconomic policy of the Russian government. They act from the standpoint of what one may call “patriotic opposition.” They argue that the country’s economy and financial structures are still unduly dominated by the upholders of the Washington Consensus, and by the oligarchs who continue to control the flows of money through their ownership of many private commercial banks.
Q: Are you trying to say that the Russian government is pro-American?
ST: No, but within her economic and financial structures there are officials—like Elvira Nabiullina, head of the Central Bank of Russia—who reject dedollarization, which is advocated by the “patriotic” wing of the government, as embodied in the deputy prime minister in charge of the defense industry . . .
Q: You mean Rogozin?
ST: Yes, of course. The Forum was attended by a prominent critic of government policy who is also an advisor to President Putin, who argued in favor of lowering Central Bank interest rates which are 9.75% at the moment, which is way too high; that’s Sergey Glazyev. He stated with regret that massive funds, which had been allocated by the government for investment in import substitution after the sanctions were imposed in 2014, have ended up in private banks and have been used for financial speculation on money markets, with no added value. The result is that the Russian industrial production is now stagnant, instead of being stimulated by a new investment cycle. These economists think that Russia should be more proactive in resisting the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency. Many of them see Putin more as a manager in the process of balancing various pressure groups within Russia’s power structure, than a sovereign strategist who plots his moves way ahead and who controls all kevers of the system.
Q: We’ve seen critiques by “patriotic” economists before, who are unhappy with the Russian government’s economic policy. But isn’t it strange that President Putin can’t influence that?
ST: Whether he can’t or won’t is a separate question. I’d say that the oligarchic structures which control the money are so thoroughly out of control, and have such substantial funds both at home and abroad, that his attempts to force a showdown could result in an even greater stagnation. On the other hand, as Gazyev has pointed out, since 1991, over a 25-year period, Russia’s share of the world economy has grown to barely two percent, while China’s has reached 16-17%. At this moment China is the dominant partner in the two countries’ economic partnership, and provides high technology while Russia is still oriented on exporting energy . . .
Q: Maybe in the civilian sector, not the military . . .
ST: No, like in the Soviet times the military sector is doing well, it has been preserved and is experiencing a new flourishing. But so far we have not seen any sign of what had been talked about three years ago, that the sanctions were an opportunity for Russia to finally wake up and to start investing in manufacturing, to produce its own machine tools, optics, electronics etc. . . .
At the same time, Russia’s inability to project soft power has been evidenced first and foremost in Ukraine. After the turmoil caused by Yushchenko’s “Orange Revolution” in 2004, the Russians believed that everything would be arranged through a direct deal with Yanukovich and his band of oligarchs. In the meantime, George Soros and the National Democratic Institute from Washington and others have done their work, steadily and surreptitiously . . . We should not entertain any the illusion that Russia has an elaborate long-term strategy in the Balkans. They are still resorting to ad-hoc improvisations from one day to another . . .
That same syndrome is present in a broader sense. We’ve mentioned Ukraine. A great power, which has staged a comeback to the world stage, would not have allowed the Maidan to happen in the winter of 2013-2014—especially not after the warning they’d had ten years earlier! And we are talking about the most vulnerable strategic point of the soft underbelly of southern Russia, some 50 miles from Rostov-on-Don and 350 miles from Kazakhstan. Obviously, this was a major failure of the security and intelligence structures. If it happened there, then why should we be surprised that in the area of southeastern Europe, which is to them relatively peripheral compared to the bend of the Dnieper, to the Crimea and the Donbass, they have . . .
Q: But you know how it happened, Mrs. Merkel called Putin and said, “Tell Yanukovich not to use force in the Maidan!” And then, foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland said, “no violence, we’ll reach and agreement!” And then Putin called Yanukovich and said, “no violence!” And he was double-crossed . . .
ST: If Putin was duped, after that broken promise given to Gorbachev that there would be no NATO expansion; and after the quiet prompt given to Saakashvili to try his adventure in South Ossetia in August 2008; if he could again fall for some such promise, I think that he could not afford that sort of luxury. I am only repeating what some of my Russian contacts are saying, that a major blunder was made which has proved to be very costly. Right now the virus of ideological Ukrainianism is spreading from Galicia, from Lvov, to Poltava, to central Ukraine, to Kiev above all. A newly-composed form of Ukrainian nationalism is spreading along the Banderist model . . . The Russians have a major problem in that they want to belong to the club, to be accepted as part of Europe. Ever since the time of Peter the Great there has been this fascination with “the West.”
Q: Is this still present in Moscow?
ST: It is strongly present in some intellectual circles . . . But the one thing that really bothers them and their foreign mentors in relation to Putin is that he refuses to reeducate Russia in accordance with the Western postmodernia. There are no gay parades in Russia, there is no self-hate, there is no complex of guilt because they are white Orthodox Christians. They hate that Russia is the last major European nation resisting the model of Weiningerian self-hate, which is eroding and destroying Europe.
Q: You are saying that they have not succumbed to a variety of the Stockholm Syndrome?
ST: We have had, for over a century, some form of Western geopolitical design against Russia: Halford Mackinder, Admiral Mahan, surrounding the Heartland. On the other hand, today we have an animosity which is not based on geopolitics but on ideology: that Russia must be reeducated, undermined from within, that her identity must be altered, according to the model of Western postmodernity . . .
Q: Have you noticed some disappointment in Moscow’s political circles that the hard-line position of Washington is staying the same, the sanctions are to stay until the Crimea is returned to Ukraine, that nothing has changed since the Obama administration?
ST: Some degree of disappointment is present, but it is not excessive because the expectations had never been very high. Some sober Russian analysts, in contrast to their colleagues elsewhere, had always warned that on the issue of détente with Moscow Trump would encounter much stiffer resistance of the American “Deep State.” We’ve seen the signs between the election on November 8 and Trump’s inauguration ten weeks later, when the story of the Russian hacking of the DNC and Podesta’s emails was launched to delegitimize his victory.
Q: How successful has it been?
ST: So much so that the American bicoastal elite class has internalized this paranoid, utterly hysterical Russophobia. This cannot be compared to McCarthyism, this is more like Stalinism, the era of the Moscow trials in the 1930’s: Aha! Mr. so-and-so met the Russian ambassador at such-and-such a place and time in, say, 2013—what does it mean? Any routine encounter or exchange of views with a Russian official makes the American interlocutor a potential Russian asset, or a fellow-traveler, or an unconscious puppet. It is insane. I was in Washington just over a month ago, and my friends there are saying that they have never experienced such level of irrationality. In addition, for a politically correct American liberal—who has to be oh-so-sensitive, emphatic and kind to the homosexuals, Muslims, immigrants, and all other minorities you can imagine—it comes as a welcome psychological relief that you can hate and slander someone freely and with impunity, and even to feel morally superior for doing so. And that is the treatment of Russia and the Russians, which would be unimaginable in relation to any other group, any other segment of the society.
Q: But that cannot last for ever, can it?
ST: Yet it indicates the essential irrationality of the contemporary Western public discourse . . .
[Image: screengrab via RTRS]