Romania, Timișoara – Interview with Nikolai Starikov, Russian writer, opinion journalist, social activist and a co-chairman of Great Fatherland Party: “If Western politicians were really worried about the possibility of war breakout and would want to avoid it, they would have established a belt of independent Central European states.”
In May, Ferenc Almássy had the opportunity to meet with Nikolai Starikov, who was in Timișoara in order to introduce his book “Rouble Nationalization – The Way to Russia’s Freedom”. A good occasion to have a little chat with a Russian patriotic politician and intellectual to better understand the point of view of Russians regarding the Central and Eastern European countries.
Ferenc Almássy: First, I would like to thank you for this interview. We had the opportunity to meet in Timișoara, where you launched the Romanian edition of your book „Rouble Nationalization – The Way to Russia’s Freedom”. I would start with a first question: how is it to live in Russia, in an illiberal democracy?
Nikolai Starikov: You asked the key question. On one hand, using the market mechanism, Putin has managed to reestablish a significant part the power of the state inside Russia and re-establish Russia’s position in the international arena. Today, the situation in Russia is contradictory, on one hand we have a powerful, self-confident foreign policy. On the other hand, in internal economics we followed the global, American economic system. My opinion is that the opportunities offered by the liberal economic model have been exhausted. We need a new economic policy and new people who can apply it. I want to emphasise that when I am talking about new people I mean, new Prime minister, new governors, new political forces. These have to complete the activity of the President, whom I consider one of the best politicians in the history of Russia.
FA: You are the president of your own party, The Great Fatherland Party. Does this mean that you are running on your own or you want to work with Vladimir Putin, a personality that you seem to like?
Nikolai Starikov: Politics is the art of the possible and any political force is created in order to ascend to power. We endorse the politics of Vladimir Putin, our President. At the same time, we are opposed to the economic policy put in place by the Government. The evolution of the political process in the last few decades can be summarised as follows: after the fall of the Soviet Union, the „ultra-liberals” came to power. All their actions were not intended for the good of Russia but of the United States. Because of Putin’s actions, these „ultra-liberals” were replaced by patriot liberals. They are willing to oppose the Americans on foreign policy, but they are not prepared to have a sovereign internal policy. This leads to a dangerous situation, in which the undertaken of a sovereign internal policy becomes impossible because our economy is negatively affected by its liberal course. In my opinion we need new persons and new political forces in order to change the internal policy of the country. I would name these patriotic forces, among which I count, of course, the Great Fatherland Party.
FA: Your party is presented as a Russian “defence party”, but in the Western media especially, Russia is presented as an aggressor and not as a victim, and there are multiple examples: Crimea, the Donbass, the Zapad exercise, provocations in the Baltics. So, is Russia really in a defensive situation?
Nikolai Starikov: Let’s analyse the facts. From 1945 until 1990 in Europe there were two German states. Does this mean that there were two different German peoples? Of course not. In 1990, one state has swallowed the other one and today we have one united German state and one united German people. This was made possible because the Soviet Union, meaning Russia, has organised this process and not blocked it. Today, we do not understand why Europe is blocking the same kind of integration for the Russian people. In politics, it is laughable to talk about gratitude, nevertheless we would like to see, foremost from Germany and Eastern Europe, which we let chose their own political course, a certain form of appreciation. To better understand our situation look at it from our point of view: Hitler has attacked the Soviet Union. At that time, three days of uninterrupted advance were needed, in order for a German tank to reach Moscow. Today, there are 350 km from the Russian-Ukrainian border to Moscow. From the American military bases in the Baltics to my home city of Saint Petersburg there are less than 200 km. Today the Americans, the NATO troops, are much closer to our economical, cultural and political centres. The question is why are they moving closer and who is the potential aggressor? If Western politicians were really worried about the possibility of war breakout and would want to avoid it, they would have established a belt of independent Central European states. Instead, they breached all commitments given to Gorbachev, and NATO’s infrastructure closed in to Russia. Around our borders a so-called anti-rocket shield is being put into place. When we question its purpose we are given the treatment of kindergarten kids and answered that the shield is directed against Iranian and North-Korean rockets. Obviously, if this shield were directed against Iran and North-Korea, two pre-requisites would have been necessary: one, that these countries posses these kinds of rockets and second, in this case the shield should have been placed at the borders of North-Korea and Iran, not in Romania, Bulgaria and Poland. If we were to follow this pseudo-explanation offered by the American politicians then, the re-armament of the Russian military is undertaken in order to protect Europe from an extra-terrestrial invasion. Maybe it will take place. And we have a good military. Or maybe we need to defend against Columbian drug barons.
FA: You said that Central Europe should be neutral, to be a buffer zone. What is your opinion regarding the Visegrad Group and this area of Europe? How do you see the current situation?
Nikolai Starikov: The behaviour is different from state to state. The most worrying is the position of Poland. On the other hand, we, as realists, understand that the political decisions in Europe are not taken neither in Bucharest, nor in Budapest or Warsaw, not even in Brussels, but in Washington. Consequently, our President tries to reach a deal with those who determine the course of the European policies. But, instead of an agreement, we see the closing in of military forces towards our borders. When the countries of Eastern Europe entered the Warsaw Treaty, they had NATO’s military infrastructure pointed against them. Today, because they belong to NATO, they will be automatically targeted by the Russian military machine. What is the difference? I do not think that their security has been increased by becoming the target of a different nuclear weapon. The priority was completely different: no nuclear weapon should be targeting the countries of Eastern Europe. When the Americans scare Europe with the Russian peril everybody should ask himself the following question: what does Russia need from Europe? Does she need European territories? Do we have territorial demands from Poland, Romania or Bulgaria? We never had them. Poland has some historical phantoms and potential demands against us. We have no demands against Poland. We only want to reestablish the unity of our people. We do not seek foreign territories.
FA: Does this mean that you want to take back other parts of Ukraine or some parts of the Baltic countries where there are large Russian minorities?
Nikolai Starikov: Every historical age dictates its own forms of integration. Earlier, an empire included a certain territory. And this territory became a part of the respective empire. There were states in a certain dependency of the big empires, but they kept their independence. Back then, empires fought among themselves by trying to dismember their rivals trough the creation of as many as possible small „independent” state on their rivals territory, who in the end became dependent from a certain geopolitical player. As an example, today, the European states are subordinated to the United States of America. This is why we can affirm that, in today’s Europe, there are no real independent states even though some external attributes of independence such as, the President, the national flag or the seal are kept. Nobody says that Europe was legally occupied by the US, but, in fact, the Americans are leading it. This is why I think that when someone affirms that we want to include territories in our state, he thinks in last century’s terms. We want to reestablish our influence on these territories and to end the influence of our geopolitical opponents, in this case the US, which has led to armed conflicts. Maybe in Western Europe not everybody knows that Ukraine, Russia and Belarus are three states inhabited in reality by the same people. Ukraine has not existed in history. It is an artificial project of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and it has a birthdate, the late XIX century. In the US, the immigrants from these parts of the Austria-Hungarian Empire used to print newspapers. If you look into such a newspaper you will see that up to a certain date, in the second half of the XIX century they used to call themselves Ruthenians or Russians. Suddenly, in the same newspapers the term Ukrainians appeared. So, yesterday they used to be Ruthenians, today they are Ukrainians. This is impossible. Ukraine was created and it is endorsed up to today by the Americans in order to became an anti-Russian, rusophobic state. Imagine that at Hungary’s borders, a new state, who’s ideology and purpose of existence was the destruction of Hungary, appeared. In this state the inhabitants would be Hungarian and the official language would be a Hungarian dialect with a large number of German and Romanian words. The Hungarian language would be banned. Hungarian would not be studied in schools and its use would be banned on radio and on TV. Anybody with Hungarian as maternal tongue, meaning 98% of the population, would be forced to write all the documents in this new language with many foreign words. And all this amid a huge propaganda telling the people that they are Ukrainians not Hungarians and, that Hungarians have scoffed Ukrainians throughout their entire history. This is the present situation.
FA: I got your point, but if millions of people say that they are a nation, who can this deny them this right? Nations too are born and eventually die. Maybe, from one point of view, the birth of the Ukrainian nation can be considered artificial, but now, it exists. What’s next? Do you deny the right of the Ukrainians to have a state?
Nikolai Starikov: In our time, the people find out about the emergence of new nations on TV. They are told these things. It is an absolutely artificial project and millions of people do not have a say. For instance, we could draw the conclusion that in 1933, 80 million Germans have suddenly decided, for an unknown reason, to kill Jews ans Communists and to occupy the entire Europe. It is obvious that this decision was not taken by the tens of millions of Germans, but by a small circle of Nazis who came to power. This is why I say that the statement that millions of people participate in the process of nation building is just a political speculation. The simple people are interested in simple things: they want a good job, a good salary, they want to raise their children and live in peace. They are being inoculated with rage, which in the long run is supposed to lead to war. For six years the Germans have been inoculated with hate towards the Slavs, the Gypsies, the Jews and the Communists. What happened afterwards? The Nazis have educated people to kill mercilessly. In Ukraine, for two decades a similar propaganda is being undertaken. A generation prepared to kill was raised. Today, this generation kills people in the Donbass. There is no fighting between Russians and Ukrainians in the Donbass. There, representatives of the same people are fighting each other. There are persons with a totally Russian first and last names fighting on the side of Ukraine. Equally there are persons with family names specific to Southern Russian regions fighting on behalf of the Donbass. They speak the same language. In the majority of the most brutal Ukrainian battalions Russian is the spoken language. Ukrainian politicians speak Ukrainian only in front of the TV cameras. Once the cameras as switched off they start speaking Russian, which is their mother tongue.
FA: I understand your opinion regarding the Ukraine, but don’t you think that Central Europe, which you said you would like to see neutral, became part of NATO (and Ukraine wants to do the same) because Russia did not managed well the end of the Soviet Union and was not able to develop new relationships with these countries?
Nikolai Starikov: We have established new kinds of relationships with these countries for the last two decades. We have not interfered in internal politics, and, at Washington’s pressure, we have incurred trading losses by selling gas to Ukraine at a very small price. In the end, we obtained an enemy state at our borders and NATO rockets which can reach our capital within a few minutes. We cannot and do not want to continue such a policy.
FA: What could be done on diplomatic and other levels in order to help Central Europe become neutral again? How can we have a new start between Russia and Central Europe? What should the Russian part do?
Nikolai Starikov: As a political realist I will say: Russia must come to an understanding with the USA. And the USA cannot and will not reach an agreement with us because the final purpose of the American politicians is not the world’s peace but maintaining dominance at any price, even including military conflicts.
FA: Do you have an opinion regarding The Three Seas Initiative, a project that envisions a network of gas pipelines and LNG terminals to link the three seas – The Baltic, The Adriatic and the Black Sea?
Nikolai Starikov: Today gas pipelines are political instruments. We would be glad if they would be built only to bring gas from point A to point B. But, understanding that they are built with a geopolitical purpose, we will endorse those gas pipelines which are in our and Europe’s advantage. We will also oppose the Americans’s attempts to build gas pipelines whose purpose is to take us out of the European political process. By the way, the Americans act the same way. This is the reason that Russia and Europe cannot build the second ramification of Nord Stream 2 or the South Stream, which was initially stopped by Bulgaria, followed by Macedonia, where „unexpected” riots have then erupted. At the present time, there is an intend of building this gas pipelines through Turkey.
FA: A last question: don’t you think that the world becomes multipolar and that Central Europe could be one of these poles? Wouldn’t it be good for Russia to endorse such efforts in order to take this region free from Western domination and become an independent neighbour and partner?
Nikolai Starikov: We are expressing our desire for a multipolar world because it would be a much more stable world. In my opinion we must endorse the process which have as a end goal the creation of a new global centre of power, on the entire European continent (or parts of it).