''Kiriyenko and Volodin aren’t a 'hill', they’re a 'foothill''
Aleksey Malashenko tells about the dead end in Syria, new discoveries about United Russia party and mutual understanding of the USA and Russia
In the second part of the interview with Realnoe Vremya, famous political expert Aleksey Malashenko told about current Russian parties, their prospects, the Syrian crisis and why there is a mutual understanding in the relations between the USA and Russia.
Mr Malashenko, of course, the communist party of Russia couldn't ignore the topic of the retirement age increase. Was it the party that mainly held protests against power's pension ideas? In general, do you think parties play a role for people or do they want to score points?
If you asked me such a question a month ago, I'd just sneer, and that's it, you'd understand me. But now, when we saw the result of the vote on the pension reform in United Russia, when six or seven people didn't say 'yes', while Poklonskaya was against, we saw a reflection of a wide range of the public opinion in front of us. I personally found out that even United Russia had factionalism like it was said during Lenin's era, there are people who don't agree with the mainstream. Don't you think our State Duma can have honest politicians? Judging by the vote, it turns out it can. Of course, at the moment these people who disagreed mean nothing, they don't mean there will be some evolution in the party. But it already turns out United Russia isn't the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, it's not a monolith. They have different positions and understanding that many mistakes and stupidities are equal to a crime. And other parties should start thinking now. And as we see, the communists started to think – they offered a referendum. Yes, the same communists will solve nothing, but they are creating and can create a specific atmosphere. Now, in general, it's an interesting time – it will last to the autumn election and after it. Let's not expect radical transformations and the next revolution, but there is still a trend that it's time to buckle down and be honest.
''And other parties should start thinking now. And as we see, the communists started to think – they offered a referendum. Yes, the same communists will solve nothing, but they are creating and can create a specific atmosphere.'' Photo: Dmitry Reznov
Do we probably see a result of the fight for greater influence in making decisions between Sergey Kiriyenko and Vyacheslav Volodin?
It's very hard to comment because we need to mention surnames. But it's risky to use surnames. If you name a surname, some of those deputies will be offended and say: ''Why do you think of me so?'' I think that both Kiriyenko and Volodin are very ambitious people. It was rumoured once Volodin wanted to occupy the No. 1 chair. But neither of them will be lucky – they aren't a ''hill'', they are a ''foothill''.
Why do right parties express themselves on the most burning issue so little? Not Yabloko, not PARNAS but a little-known party was the claimant of the rightist campaign in Moscow. What does this all mean?
We don't have the right opposition, there are right moods. If we define the right opposition by personalities, I will also be critical like in the case of United Russia – it also has honest people. But our right opposition didn't succeed for two reasons. Look, 20% is the biggest number of people who can support the right opposition in Russia. But these people can't agree with each other, first of all, due to ambitions. It might seem the guys aren't young there, many of them are older than 50 and more, they could agree on fight principles. But, unfortunately, everyone wants to be great there. And I feel sorry about such a right public – these people aren't suitable for active political work. This is why many rightists who were active in the past switched to science and other spheres. We can't call those whom we have in the right-wing politicans.
Does it mean we don't have to talk about any future of the right wing?
No, and I will say more – I don't see any successors of the right wing, I don't see the right wing has interesting guys who are 25-30 years old. There is Navalny, okay: it's probably great to be a germ of protest and honesty, many people are afraid of him. But there is no opposition that became a system! Where is new young Yavlinsky? There is none. I have a good attitude to old Yavlinsky, but he already missed the boat.
''There is Navalny, okay: it's probably great to be a germ of protest and honesty, many people are afraid of him. But there is no opposition that became a system!'' Photo: Maksim Platonov
Do you think the same mayor's election turned into an anecdote to a great degree and due to the rightists like Radzikhovsky said?
He said absolutely correctly. But let's look, should they nominate Sobchak? It's ridiculous. I understand if she runs for the Duma. But if she goes to higher posts, sorry, it's not what's called a systematic right opposition.
Now let's talk about foreign affairs. As you're an expert in Eastern studies, should we start with Syria? What's actually going on there? Has Russia made any progress towards peace on this territory?
The Syrian crisis is insoluble, absolutely insoluble – Russia either scores points or loses them there, and this is evident. There is no light at the end of the tunnel in Syria. And here one could accuse Russia, but we should have a broader view. A spiel about the multipolar world is taking place now, and we've got it in the Near East. Is Turkey a pole? It is. Is Iran a pole? It is. Are the Arabians a pole? They are. Russia and the USA are also poles. And all these poles can't come to an agreement. An awful civil war takes place in Syria, and the information we have here, in Russia, is a fake because Assad doesn't control more than a half of the country's territory any more. And if we have a look at the population, Syrian society, the most part has gone or moved. So Syria isn't a country any more, it doesn't exist. It doesn't have borders on the map we got used to seeing. Where has Russia won? It's shown it's a big power, so now what? We are sitting there between Iran and Israel, and there is no choice – we need to talk with both of them. This is why Syria is a dead end. And I, even I'm an expert in Eastern studies, don't know what will happen in the end, and nobody knows. I even don't know what a benefit Russia will get from it! Do you know how much money is needed to rehabilitate Syria? $150-300 billion! We don't have a Syrian but Near Eastern conflict, and this conflict will drag for 60-70 years.
Can Russia leave this conflict?
It's impossible because Putin will be asked a question: ''What have you been doing there if you've upped and gone?'' It will turn out we've been expelled from there. This is why Russia will always be there. In addition, if Russia leaves, it will be a sign of weakness, while the Near East respected only the strong. There will be many questions about Syria. There are bases in Latakia and Hmeymin, so what? What have we done there? The Americans are far, they lost, forgot and went, while we crammed, and there is a no-win situation there. Assad is there now, if he isn't there, there will be someone instead.
How important are the relations with the USA for Russia? Does it need them? Why are they important, first of all?
We extremely need the United States, and it's very important as a constant threat. If this threat doesn't exist, if we don't live in the ''sieged fortress'', citizens will ask power a question: ''What are you doing to improve the economy? What are you doing with the pension reform?'' And now it's possible to explain on TV we need tanks, rockets because everyone is against us now. But the USA is a major threat. If the USA isn't a threat, it's necessary to explain the disorder in the country. We need to understand that foreign policy is a tool of domestic policy. And we need to understand there won't be any war against the USA, though both ours and American generals will work to worsen relations – there is a mutual understanding here. We benefit from this position, they also do – they can just scare the world with the Russian nuclear weapon and so on. And the meeting of Putin and Trump in Helsinki has shown this complete mutual understanding – they like such a picture like we do.
''We extremely need the United States, and it's very important as a constant threat. If this threat doesn't exist, if we don't live in the ''sieged fortress'', citizens will ask power a question: ''What are you doing to improve the economy? What are you doing with the pension reform?'' Photo: kremlin.ru
Is the investigation about Russia's meddling in the 2016 election serious for our relations with the USA or is it an aspiration of the US democrats who didn't accept the defeat to score points that will lead to nothing?
I will say more. All intelligence services have always meddled in others' domestic affairs: the US service meddles in our affairs, while ours meddled in theirs, so what? Remember, didn't the USSR meddled in Germany's domestic affairs in the 30s? Are we going to prove our own innocence now? Of course, Trump wasn't chosen thanks to us. But Russia made a small contribution to his election. And thank God, it means the guys know how to work.
Why doesn't Russia raise a question to lift sanctions? Isn't this question important any more?
The sanctions help to strengthen Putin's politics. The more sanctions there are, the stronger is the feeling of a sieged fortress. The more the feelings, the more we need to huddle around him. I don't know why the Americans decided to impose sanctions – out of stupidity or some strategy, but they only strengthened the regime in Russia. Sanctions weren't the best measure, but aren't there fools as well?