This is the recorded version on YouTube
You can also download the mp3 file from here: https://archive.org/details/SFInterviewWithTheSakerDiscussionOfUSRussianRelations
Cheers,
The Saker

TRANSCRIPT

Viktor Stoilov: Hello, everybody. Thank you for joining us today at our Saturday livestream on SouthFront. I am Viktor Stoilov, from Bulgaria, and I’ll be the host of the show today. I’m with my friend, Brian Kalman, who is one of our top military experts. And we have our special guest today, the Saker. He’s one of our friends and key partners of SouthFront. He’s helped us a lot in the past and especially when we faced a lot of difficulties last year with some cyberattacks and attacks from other places. He’s a true political analyst and a regular contributor to the UNC Review at UNC.com. His website is thesaker.is. I’m going to give the floor to him to introduce more of what he does and how you can help him grow more and support his project.

The Saker: Hello, everybody. Thank you for having me here. It’s a pleasure. It’s the first time and I think I will enjoy this. I am a blogger right now. I was born in Switzerland, Europe, where I spent a lot of my youth. I basically got my militarily service completed there. I then went to study in the United States, got a couple of degrees here, in Strategic Studies and military topics, then returned to Switzerland and worked for a while for the General Staff. I also have experience with the United Nations and different things.

Eventually, my incorrect political views made me lose my career. I decided to move to the United States, and I began blogging just because I felt like saying whatever I wanted. Amazingly enough, my blog suddenly became popular because of the events in the Ukraine. Originally, the focus of my blog was actually the Middle East, not the Ukraine, but when things got really terrifying there I started writing a lot about it. It helped me that I was fluent in English. I used to be a cold warrior, so I knew “the enemy,” the Soviet Union, and now it was Russia which wasn’t an enemy any more. But I knew pretty much how the Russian militarily functions and I was comfortable with the topic of Russian geosecurity, geostrategy, so that’s what I started blogging about, and that’s how my blog became more popular over time. That’s a summary of who I am and where I come from.

Viktor Stoilov: Just for the audience’s information, today’s topics will be mainly about US/Russian relations, and that’s why we have the Saker as one of the very good analysts on this topic, and we also have our militarily expert from SouthFront, Brian Kalman. I will make sure to keep the discussion balanced. So if Brian has some words for the audience, please, the floor is yours.

Brian Kalman: If you listened to the last few of the livestreams you’ve already got my introduction, and if you’re a visitor or frequent visitor to the site you’ve seen some of my analysis. I’d just like to say I’m pretty psyched that we have the Saker today. I started reading and following his analysis and commentary online probably right around when the Ukrainian crisis started, and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things that, especially as an American citizen, you don’t really think about. His point of view has been extremely eye-opening, very refreshing, and it’s just great to have him on the show today.

Viktor Stoilov: With no further ado, we’re going to move to the actual livestream, the actual topics. The first thing that we’re going to talk about today are the reasoning and the reasons behind the developing crisis of the US and Russian relations. The first part I want to discuss with you is what’s going on with the new sanctions against Russia, and what are the real reasons behind them? So, to the Saker: What do you think is the main goal of the new US sanctions against Russia, and why did they come? There was no … We didn’t expect them. Most of us didn’t expect them to come at this time.

The Saker: I think the reason for the sanctions is not primarily linked to Russia at all. First of all, you’ll notice that the sanctions are not only against Russia; they’re also targeting the DPRK and Iran and I believe Venezuela – or Venezuela sanctions came in a second phase. The key thing here is that it’s an attempt by Congress to do two things: first of all, to sabotage any efforts by President Trump to try get any kind of dialogue and any kind of collaboration going between Russia and the United States. That, you have to understand, is the primary threat to the US deep state right now, is God forbid peace would break out or, even worse, actually collaboration. So it’s a way of trying to sabotage that.

Secondly, it is basically destined to try to show the world the United States is not weak, that they are still strong, and ‘Look, we’re lashing at everybody.’ This is basically similar behavior to a dog who is barking a lot to try to prove that he is a powerful dog. These are highly political motives that deal with petty politics and not with geostrategy. I don’t think anybody, not even the craziest of crazies, seriously think that anything would change as a result of the sanctions – not in Iran and not in North Korea and most definitely not in Russia.

Viktor Stoilov: Brian, what do you think of this? Do you agree with our friend, the Saker?

Brian Kalman: Yeah. I definitely agree on a lot of what the Saker said. I think it’s kind of shows some of the chinks in the armor of the US hegemon. It’s starting to become more and more obvious the hegemonic power status of the United States is starting to slip. And like the Saker said, God forbid there be any move towards reconciliation or peace breaking out again between Russia and the United States or Iran, any sort of rapprochement at all. The deep state’s going to be against that for.

Viktor Stoilov: Talking about the deep state, because we usually hear some commentators say that these anti-Trump attempts are coming mainly from the Democratic establishment, but we also see that big parts of the Republican Party are also against Trump, and some people think that this is actually the real deep state. But for the audience’s sake, can you explain a little bit what the deep state really is and how this really works?

The Saker: This is a very controversial topic. There are different views on that. I might surprise the audience by saying that my understanding of what the deep state is, is actually heavily influenced by Marxist ideas, specifically class consciousness. I don’t think the deep state is linked to a specific party or to a specific US state agency. I don’t think it’s necessarily linked to a sector of the economy, like finance or any other category. It’s basically people who have a community of interests and who don’t necessarily conspire in an organized way together. I don’t think there’s a place in the United States where the deep state’s executive meets and hatches out plans.

I think there’s literally a class consciousness of specific elites in the United States who then jointly develop a policy, the way in mathematics a vector is the sum result of two or several vectors. I think the US policy, to the degree that there is a single US policy, and that also, by the way – I should open a parenthesis – is changing. We see several US foreign policies running in parallel. But to the degree that we can identify the unitary actors or something called the deep state, that is basically a subset of the real US elites, the people who run this country and who have a vested interest in a specific policy is being implemented and that other, under no circumstance, should be allowed to happen.

Viktor Stoilov: Brian, what’s your take on this?

Brian Kalman: I think the Saker summed it up very well. There’s no group of shady individuals meeting in a backroom somewhere in some country club. It’s not that simple. The deep state’s been around for a long time, and Trump is not the first president by far to have to deal with the interests of the deep state. Eisenhower dealt with it. He warned the United States citizenry about it. Truman also dealt with it. He had a very poignant – I believe it was in the Washington Times or Washington Post – article, after JFK’s assassination, basically alluding to the powers of the deep state. And JFK, of course, had alluded to it.

It’s not some group of individuals that meets on a regular basis, like the Saker said. It’s interest in the United States, whether it be financial, military, corporate and government, that as their interests coincide they steer policy. It’s sometimes a parallel government in some ways. And I think if anything that Trump’s election has pointed out, it’s that the deep state is alive and well. Is the president really in control of the executive branch? Or is he really in control of foreign policy? I don’t agree with Trump on many issues, and I think he’s so far been a weak president, but I think his presidency has definitely brought to the forefront and put a spotlight on the fact that the president’s not always in control. There’s other interest groups that are steering foreign policy and domestic policy and pulling the levers of government and industry and finance.

Viktor Stoilov: Then my question to both of you is, then who chose Trump to be the actual president? Which interest groups allied behind Trump in order for him from an absolute outsider to become the president of the US?

The Saker: That again is highly debatable. I think that Trump was elected almost by – it was a mistake of the deep state, essentially. They wanted to have Hillary in power and they decided to have Trump as the most unpalatable and impossible candidate against her, and they just miscalculated the degree of hatred that the American people have for that deep state and that they would vote for Trump just because he’s not Hillary. I think a lot of that happened.

Secondly, on a more profound level, I would say that – and it’s really important to understand. I’ve been living in this country for now a total of 22 years, if you include my college years, and I’ve been observing it. There’s one thing that’s really important for international audience to understand. Most Americans hate the federal government. They might be clueless about the world geography. They might not be able to organize a third party, even though they’ve tried. They might still go and vote and every time vote for the lesser evil. But it doesn’t make them blind. They know that the federal government does not represent their interests. This is absolutely crucial.

I think that Trump presented himself as the outsider, and that is something that got a lot of people who would have been otherwise disenfranchised, uninterested and basically disgusted to vote for him.

It was also, and that’s another crucial thing here – it was a vote of the majority of Americans against what I call a coalition of minorities. One of the most powerful political tools of the deep state in the United States is that the deep state always caters to minorities. And minorities have that feature – and I mean minority in a very large sense of the word. It can be political, it can be ethnic, it can be even a matter of like catering to the homosexual lobby here, which is very powerful in the United States. Any minority has a feature that the deep state likes, which is they are small and very easy to motivate by a single topic issue. Usually their agenda is very narrow and it doesn’t threaten the deep state, so the deep state basically buys them by catering and representing their views, and exchange for that they vote for the deep state on the single issue.

What happens then is that normally the deep state gets away with it because the majority has nobody to vote for and is often very divided. A lot of topics here in this country are artificially, how shall I say, heightened or made hotter just in order to keep some pretense of diversity and political debate going. It could be abortion, it could be race, it could be gun rights, it could be the legalization of marijuana. It doesn’t really matter what it is. So you have an atmosphere where the minorities will vote according to their one, single topic and the majority is hopelessly divided.

What happened with Trump is he was broad enough to get a lot of people to vote for him. and it was a huge slap, I think, for the deep state and for the minorities because they suddenly realized there is another United States, which has been oppressed and put down for decades now, which still exists and actually wanted to voice the opposition. That’s why they freaked out and that’s why they engaged in the campaign which was never seen before. The level of anti-Trump hysteria in this country is absolutely surreal. I can’t think of anything anywhere in the world coming anywhere close to that. And yet the American people still voted for Trump. And that is something that truly frightened them and something they consider unacceptable.

Typically, the way the deep state acts is short term they’re very skilled and very good at tactics, very bad at strategy long term. So they made a big mistake. They actually came out. They showed their true face, which worked to a certain degree because Trump is hopeless. First of all, he has been neutered essentially in one month. They got rid of his most trusted advisors. His policies are paralyzed now. It’s a victory against Trump, and what they’re now realizing is that victory forced them to show their true face. And that actually in the long term might be a seminal event, because now it’s clear that the elites are basically willing to organize a lynch mob to go against anybody who is against them.

As long as these were academics or politicians that was fine. Now it’s the man who’s president, who’s supposed to run the country, who’s the White House, and he gets that lynch-mob treatment. I think it’s absolutely fascinating to observe that basically the masks are slowly, gradually falling off, and that is a huge development.

If I may add one more thing. I was never a big supporter of Trump. I had hopes, which is very different than expectations. I did see an historical opportunity to get an outsider in, and my hope, again, was that he would do something very similar to what Vladimir Putin did in Russia. When Putin came to power, he understood very clearly who the enemy was. It was the oligarchs, and he immediately cracked down on them. He knew that this was a mortal threat and he took care of it.

My hope was that Trump, who promised to “drain the swamp” would do the same thing. Unfortunately, Trump, to put it mildly, was no Putin and basically the swamp drowned him in, I think, less than a month. Once they fired Flynn, to me it was clear that this was the end. But the hope was there.

I think the hope was reasonable, and I think the best example that Trump was not – Some people said he was sent in, he’s an agent, he was always working – no. Look at the panic. I think the man was, in his own way, sincere, at least with his desire to have a better relationship with Russia. I think he was probably surprised himself that he was ever elected, and for this we’ve got to credit Hillary Clinton, who truly showed a maniacal, satanic kind of face, and that’s what got him elected. Unfortunately, he’s not the kind of man who has the caliber or the qualities to deliver on his actually very good promise to drain the swamp. Unfortunately, it never happened, which is very sad.

Viktor Stoilov: Brian, can you add something on all this?

Brian Kalman: I pretty much agree with everything the Saker said. I think I normally do. I think he’s right that the US public – and it goes across financial and any demographic divisions you can think of – pretty much would have voted against the establishment, against the deep state.

It’s interesting I think, the deep state really mis-stage-managed the election, 100%. If you look at the Democratic Party, Hillary was not the favorite candidate in her own party. And if you look at Democrats or those with a socialist leaning, they didn’t want Hilary Clinton at all. They saw Bernie Sanders as the outsider, even though he’s part of the establishment as well. He’s bought and paid for. But he had that same persona that he was coming from outside the establishment. And in their zeal to get Hillary Clinton in office they totally stole the Democratic Party’s votes and then the candidate they wanted, and they made sure that Hillary Clinton was going to be the candidate.

That was kind of the first instance where the mask started coming away, and I think a lot of people saw what happened there, as, wow, the establishment is definitely pushing Hillary Clinton as the president 100%. And their only other option at that point was Trump. Not if you liked Trump or anything Trump was saying, but he still had that persona of coming from the outside and not being a servant of the establishment.

I think the deep state definitely mismanaged that. They could have allowed the Democratic Party voters to have their vote and had Bernie Sanders in and tried to preempt him, and not had Hillary. She was just such a horrible candidate. I can’t think of anybody that could look at her personal or political career and in any way say that she was a good candidate for running the United States.

The Saker: Brian, I know way too many people who would disagree with you and I even have friends that would say that she was a very good candidate and was way better than Trump or any other candidate.

Brian Kalman: Until you have about five minutes to really discuss it.

Viktor Stoilov: Oh, no, no, no. Some people are just impossible. Moving to another point … Does Trump really have any allies in his establishment or in his presidency, in his office? Does he really have any allies left, or is he completely overwhelmed by the deep state?

The Saker: Well, I think there are two levels here. First of all, him as a person. I think he’s weak, I think he’s shortsighted and I think he is as a politician grossly incompetent. So that resulted in him losing … Believe me, I’m no fan of Bannan. I truly am not. And on General Flynn I thought he was good on Russia but he was horrible on China and totally irresponsible on Iran, but my taste doesn’t matter. What matters is that when Trump came to the White House it was pretty clear that Bannon and Flynn were his two main allies. He sacrificed them both, at which point it becomes irrelevant if there are other people around him.

Now, for instance, I think Rex Tillerson is for real and tries to do more or less what Trump promised, but the problem is, first of all, the rumor is he’s going to resign because he can’t even reign in the crazy US ambassador Nikki Haley to the UN, who speaks in the name of the United States and she’s clearly a lunatic. And secondly, even if Tillerson got control of the State Department, which he doesn’t, there’s still the Pentagon and the CIA running their own foreign policies completely. So at that point, the entire issue of whether Trump has allies is becoming moot, because if you were an ally of Trump right now you would be hunkering down and trying to keep a low profile because they all get slaughtered, it’s pretty clear.

Of course, he does have allies. I think you could say, for instance, that the US economy is roughly split between the financiers and the industrialists. The industrialists want to produce something; the financiers just want to speculate. Clearly, Hillary and all the neocons and the deep state prefer the empire and the financiers as opposed to somebody who actually produces something in this country. But I don’t think it really matters at this point, because the industries are all also under control of that deep state, which is a political agenda that is imposed very harshly here. You do not go against the deep state if you want to keep your position or if you want to be heard, particularly not in Congress, which is controlled completely. If there’s two entities in this country that are absolutely controlled by the deep state and the main component of the deep state, the neocons, it’s Congress and the media, and right now, those two are very powerful. They frighten everybody and you know you have to walk the party line if you want to survive. So basically, no, I would say Trump has absolutely nobody, largely by his own fault.

He’s not the first president, I would add. It’s going to sound funny but I would compare him very much with Barack Obama. When Barack Obama came into the White House, first of all, he was a charming man and a very articulate one, but a lot of people voted for him because of the slogan “change you can believe in,” and they really wanted change again. Not necessarily because they carefully studied his political program and really wanted a specific policy from him, but they wanted true change, and that never happened.

I was wondering, I remember, when Obama was elected, how long he would last before he would even try to resist the deep state. I thought, he could do one thing, which Trump could have done also, which is directly appeal to the American people, over the heads of the media. I don’t mean by Twitter and 140-character-long tweets that don’t mean much. He could have appealed to the American people directly and said, “You know what? I’m physically at risk. I’m trying to do things here and everybody here wants to sabotage me. Please come and help me.” I can promise you that for Obama and even more so for Trump, you would have over a million Americans downtown D.C., about half of them armed.

They would have tried to help the man, because, and that’s the big thing. The Americans don’t feel that he represents their interests. That’s the other big thing between him and Putin. If somebody were to attack Putin seriously in Russia I can guarantee you would have a national uprising in his defense. And Putin knows that, and so do the Russian elites. The oligarchs have not completely disappeared. They’ve kept quiet and they stay out of politics. But the Putin-haters and the Russian elites, most Russian elites still hate Putin. Make no mistake about it – but they know they cannot touch the man because the people will never allow that.

This could have happened in the United States. I profoundly believe it. I know most of my neighbors here in Florida, if they felt that a president appeals for their physical presence in the streets to start draining the swamp, I think they would have jumped in their cars and gone. Unfortunately, it’s again a huge disappointment and again he caved in. So his ultimate ally was the people and he even lost that. I don’t believe the polls anyway, so I’m not going to say how many points did he lose or win in the past, but I can tell you people are immensely disappointed. I won’t put a figure on that, but people who truly believed Trump finally would do it are now disappointed.

Viktor Stoilov: I believe that what you’re saying was done actually by president Erdogan in Turkey. Whenever he faced difficulties he appealed to the people, to his voters and to his supporters, and they went on the streets. Whenever they tried to sabotage him, or even last year with the coup attempt, the moment it got really hot he just went and publicly told his supporters, “Go in the streets and support me,” and millions of people across Turkey started supporting him, went to the streets to support him. So I’m thinking that you’re pointing at the same thing. Is that right?

The Saker: Yes, exactly. Erdogan – thank you for bringing up an example. It’s the perfect example of a man, if needed, if you have that level of popularity, you tell people, “I need you to help me free this country,” and they will walk out. They will go and help you.

Viktor Stoilov: I believe that’s one of the ways why the coup attempt last year actually failed, because millions of his supporters took the streets to stop this madness in Turkey.

Let’s go to some specific questions that we want to cover today. Are the US and Russia in any way collaborating in Syria? And if they do, why are they doing it and what is the ultimate goal of both sides, in your opinion?

The Saker: First of all, I would not describe the US as a unitary actor, so I don’t believe it’s –

Viktor Stoilov: This is a very good point and I think that the audience should listen to this, that the US is not acting as one unity. Please continue.

The Saker: Correct. From the Russian point of view, and there’s actually something that began under Obama in the late part of his presidency. The Russian diplomats started using a Russian word, which is nedogovorosposobnyi. It’s a long word. If you translate it word by word it means unable to make an agreement, or non-agreement-capable. They were complaining that essentially – for instance, you remember Secretary Kerry was going to Moscow saying A and then he was flying back to Washington, DC and saying non-A. The Americans were promising one thing and then the other. At that point, the first complaints began that they were basically nedogovorosposobnyi, which means unable to even deliver on any kind of agreement.

That is exactly what we see today with the United States because what happened under Obama just got worse. It’s kind of a natural process. This is normal. If you have the chief of the executive who is extremely weak, for whatever reason – it could be because he’s incompetent, like Obama, and weak or because he’s isolated and surrounded by people who betrayed him like Trump – and an example for that statement is, if you cannot even talk to a foreign head of state without having the transcript of that conversation in the media, you can’t operate any more as a president.

So there is no US foreign policy in Syria, none, and therefore, the Russians are just looking at that in absolute dismay because they understand how stupid it is, but there’s nothing they can do. There’s nobody to talk to. There’s a level of people in the United States who are competent to talk to the Russians. That would be the CENTCOM commander or the commanders actually involved in the operation in Syria, but they don’t have the authority to take decisions. The authority rests with people who are not in command anymore.

Then you have the parallel policies run by at least the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department under Tillerson. Who do you talk to? They’re clearly not bound. The Americans say “We signed a ceasefire,” and a couple of days later cruise missiles start flying. So at that point, who do you want the Russians to work with? So no, unfortunately, there is no collaboration because there is nobody to collaborate with. I know it sounds hard to believe but I’m absolutely convinced of that.

Brian Kalman: I definitely think you’re right. There’s definitely no consensus at all in the federal government as far as foreign policy and Syria. You can look at, Kerry and Lavrov made agreements on a ceasefire in Syria and a day later, within 24 hours, the Air Force was bombing Syrian troops in Deir ez-Zor for over an hour. Was that an attempt to derail a peace initiative? There’s definitely no consensus between the Department of Defense, intelligence community and the White House at all. And that was true during the Obama administration and it’s true now during the Trump administration, for sure.

Viktor Stoilov: What do you believe is going to happen in the future? What’s Syria’s future in the next few months?

The Saker: Well, I’m not a prophet and it’s extremely hard for me. I always have the same unsatisfactory reply, which is by training I’m trained to try to understand what’s called a rational actor. So if you make rational assumptions, most of the things that have happened over the past year or so would never have happened to begin with, so how could I possibly say what would happen in the next couple of months?

I can tell you that at the minimal what my hopes are. That’s the least bad situation. I think that basically the world has to move on. The US is right now basically absent from the world stage, contrary to the images you see in the propaganda machine, because they say, you know, the threats, and North Korea … That’s not policy. That’s nonsense. That is PR. But in terms of responsible policy, the US is now generally absent, and the rest of the world needs to move on.

For instance, in Syria I think that Russia is going to basically act unilaterally within the objective constraints that limit Russian action in Syria. The US being absent is just one of the constraints. But if the Americans are not present to negotiate something with, well, the Russians will have to talk to everybody else, which is exactly what they’re doing. They are talking to the Israelis, to the Iranians, to Hezbollah. They are talking to the so-called moderate or the good terrorists who now have become allies. They’re talking to absolutely everybody, to the Turks, to the Kurds. And that is how foreign policy is done responsibly. You talk to everybody and you try to achieve a workable solution. And that’s what they’re doing.

I hope they will continue doing it. Right now, Daesh – and I use that word very loosely; I don’t like the semantic differences between al-Nusra, Daesh, al Qaeda and the rest of the bad terrorists. I basically assemble them under the word Daesh and describe them as Takfiris. I think they’re on the weak side right now. They’re clearly losing. There was a vapid and very unsuccessful US attempt to actually invade Syria from the south and it didn’t work because they were hoping to cut off the Syrians from the border with Iraq and that failed, so now they’re withdrawing. I think the US is basically done with Syria, and for all practical purposes threw in the towel and basically said, “Whatever.”

But there’s always the risk, again, of somebody crazy doing something truly stupid. When I saw the cruise missile attack that happened after the so-called chemical attack, which obviously wasn’t that, I couldn’t believe my eyes. For the life of me I could not have imagined a more stupid action than this, yet it happened. So tomorrow, I have to say – I’m not trying to be cute – I think they’re capable of absolutely anything, and I am not capable of predicting how crazy they are capable of going.

Same thing for the DPRK. There are constantly rumors of war. As a military analyst, I can tell you that’s a non-starter. You cannot win a war with aircraft carriers and Japanese/South Korean help. Whatever you achieve at the end is not called a victory, I can say this. It makes no sense. But do I completely exclude that some lunatic is actually going to order strikes on North Korea? I can’t, because I distrust – I agree with the Russian assessment. Americans are not only nedogovorosposobnyi; they’re not capable of formulating a rational policy anymore. That’s how scary it is for me.

Viktor Stoilov: Brian, at the same time we’re seeing that the US-backed forces are besieging and are getting closer and closer to the center of Raqqa, which used to be the capital of ISIS, and it seems that the US does have a policy on Syria. What do you believe, Brian, is going to happen there after Raqqa probably falls – and is it actually going to fall?

Brian Kalman: I agree with the Saker and I’ve said it before. I think at this point the United States has very few options at all in Syria. They’re not going to pull out; they’re still going to be involved, and God knows what decisions are going to be made.

But as far as Raqqa is concerned, I think it’s – what will happen if the Syrian Democratic Forces take Raqqa? It’s been a great distraction for them for the past few months. It’s allowed the Syrian Arab Army to outflank them and move down the Euphrates and pretty much gain the initiative there in southern Syria. So it’s kind of like a focal point, like during the Napoleonic Wars, Genoa, for the Austrians, gave Napoleon a chance to work around them. Or Stalingrad for Hitler. He focused so much on that city that he kind of lost focus of the greater, wider war. I don’t really see much changing if the SDF takes Raqqa, so so what if the US supports that operation? It’s not really going to change things on the ground as far as the end result. So I really don’t think the United States has any really good options in Syria.

And like the Saker says, there’s really an absence of not so much American leadership in dealing with these issues, but they’re not even capable or willing to sit down with maybe one or two strong allies, in the case of Syria or even in Korea, and come up with ‘what’s the best option here?’ They’re bereft in a sea, in a boat without oars. They have no direction.

But like the Saker says, you never know. Somebody could do something crazy. If you look at North Korea and the United States with the amount of saber rattling and the brinksmanship that just keeps escalating and escalating, it’s kind of crazy. I talk to people here, my friends, and they’re like, “Oh, my God. Kim Jong-Un’s going to fire rockets at Guam or nuke Guam.” Have you ever really thought what benefit could possibly come to the DPRK if they were to nuke Guam? It’s game over. That’s the last thing they’re going to do. They’re going to threaten to do it but they’re never going to do it. It’s the least beneficial option for them.

So yeah, I think the United States has definitely lost its focus anywhere as far as foreign policy. They’re not in control, and I think everybody sees it. Turkey, Russia, Iran, Syria, China, they’re all making their own plans and they’re all working with whoever’s willing to work with them to come up with a beneficial outcome and that’s where we are today.

The Saker: Can I add something to that?

Viktor Stoilov: Yeah, of course you can. Please.

The Saker: You mentioned the possibility of taking Raqqa, for instance. That is not a policy. That approach is a military objective. But military power cannot be used for the sake of using military power. A military operation is always done – or should, at least, be always done with a specific outcome in mind in support of a specific policy. Let’s assume, for instance the United States takes not only Raqqa but takes whatever other territory they can take in Syria. Then what? Okay, you’ve done that, and then what? That’s where I say there’s no US policy. There is a presence. There might be even military activity, and they might even take the decision to destroy this or that, or take this or that objective, but to me this does not qualify as a policy.

Likewise in the DPRK. Let’s assume something, which I don’t believe is reasonable, that you could strike by a combination of cruise missiles, even stealth aircraft, B-1 bombers, B-2 bombers, doesn’t matter. Let’s assume you can strike North Korea and very successfully, even completely destroy all their supposed nuclear devices – which are not weapons yet. And then what? See, that’s why to me this does not … There is a specific level that has to be met before this qualifies as a foreign policy. Disarming North Korea by military means is not a policy. It could be a tool in support of a policy, maybe, but it’s not a policy because you know they’re going to fight back, and then what? How do you deal with the consequences of that, of 500 artillery shells falling per minute on Seoul? How do you deal with the South Korean reaction to that, and what it does to the system of US islands in the Pacific Rim, etc.?

You have to look at much more to qualify your actions as a policy. Erratic shooting with your gun is not a policy, and that’s I think, all we can expect. So that is why I’m saying there is no US policy in Syria. There might be actions, but in my book they don’t qualify as a policy. I wanted to just explain why I say there is no policy in Syria.

Viktor Stoilov: We actually have a question from the audience which is very interesting. It’s for both of you. From what you’re seeing, would you say that Kim Jong-Un is more reasonable than the US leaders, then?

The Saker: I don’t know. I’m not a psychiatrist. My doctor used to say that Trump and he deserve each other.

Viktor Stoilov: Just from what they are saying and what they are doing, from their actions, what do you think?

The Saker: No, I cannot give an endorsement to the mental state of the Korean leaders. But I would add that if you set aside the rhetoric, I think they have a very legitimate goal, which is to survive, and that is not something irrational. They were willing to talk to the United States in the past. They were even willing to consider disarmament options against guarantees. I would feel much more comfortable if the Chinese ran the DPRK and that would get a much better interlocutor. I’m not of a good opinion of the political leadership in North Korea but I don’t find them nearly as crazy as, frankly, what I hear coming out of the White House.

Viktor Stoilov: Brian?

Brian Kalman: I think the government of the DPRK is a totalitarian regime that heavily relies on the military and the cult of personality. I think a lot of the rhetoric is just merely rhetoric. They don’t want a shooting war, for sure. They’ve always … The current leader’s father was the same way. They like to use this rhetoric to kind of force people to the negotiating table. They don’t want a shooting war, but they have to make it look like they’re so unpredictable and they’re so ready to go to war that the only option is to sit down and talk. So I don’t think, regardless of the bluster coming out of Pyongyang, that they want a shooting war at all.

The Saker: I agree.

Brian Kalman: That’s not what they want. And if you look at the activities of the US government over the past 50 years and how many countries we’ve invaded or bombed or torn apart in some way, how rational is the decision-making process in Washington? Like the Saker said, I think maybe if Kim Jong-Un and Trump could sit down over some cocktails they’d probably get along really well. Who knows?

The Saker: I would add, just imagine looking at what happened to Qaddafi and you’re sitting looking at that from the point of view of the North Koreans. You look at that kind of action and you go, “You know, maybe we really are doing the right thing by keeping our nuclear weapon program running.” They’re given exactly zero incentive to behave by anybody. I’m appalled by that.

Brian Kalman: Yeah, definitely.

The Saker: And the worst part of it is that the solution is completely obvious to everybody. It’s just the United States has embarked for many years on this heroic effort to not see the obvious solution. That’s what I find irrational. Is it a good thing to corner a country like North Korea? I think it’s a terrible idea.

Viktor Stoilov: If I can add to this and ask you … I remember one of the quotes from Vladimir Putin. He said if the fight is inevitable, always hit first. Do you think that North Korea could hit first if it’s threatened, not just threatened but knows that the war is inevitable?

The Saker: No, I don’t think you should take that quote and apply it to the situation in North Korea. North Korea would … Even if they believed that they’re preempting, which is what Putin was referring to, for clear political motives they absolutely have to ride out the initial attack. Recently there was an article in China – I think in the China Daily, I’m not sure – which clearly spelled out that the Chinese would not support the DPRK if it attacks the United States, but if the United States attacks the DPRK then China would take action to not allow that from happening.

Viktor Stoilov: So it’s something similar to the US position during World War II when they said that they are not going to support Stalin if Stalin attacks Germany, but if Germany attacks the Soviet Union then they will support the USSR.

The Saker: No, I don’t think examples from World War II apply to that situation. We’re dealing with a very unique situation in the Korean Peninsula. The asymmetry between the United States and the North Koreans is such that it cannot be compared with any other situation. The North Koreans are in such an inferior position in terms of overall strength that their strategy needs to be very carefully and uniquely crafted to that reality, and the first … I completely agree with what was said. The last thing they want is a shooting war, and if that ever happens, they absolutely have to do everything in their power to make clear that they were first attacked. And then only can they do anything else, but that is an absolutely overwhelming priority for them.

And finally, they don’t really have the means to preempt the United States because the kind of assets that would be brought into hitting … What Putin was referring to is, for instance, a situation similar to the one that Saddam Hussein faced when he let the Americans make a huge buildup in Saudi Arabia before letting them attack. This is a situation where military strategy compels you to attack first to prevent that buildup. And that buildup in south Saudi Arabia was within reach of the Iraqi armored units, but even if the North Koreans wanted to preempt the United States, what are they going to do? They don’t have the means whatsoever of substantially striking the US military, which would be my definition of preemption.

Viktor Stoilov: Brian, what is your take on this?

Brian Kalman: I agree 100%. I said it’s the last thing that the DPRK is going to do. They would have to allow the United States or South Korea and Japan and the United States attack first, because they would have to appear as the victim. Right now, at least the Western mass media has portrayed them as the evil villain, so why would they ever attack first? Number one, they have no hopes of winning, and number two it shores up that villain persona that the United States would use to justify its retaliation.

I think China very wisely kind of took it out of the hands of the leadership in Pyongyang, and the United States, really, by saying, “If you are attacked first, we will support you and we will prevent your regime change in the Korean Peninsula. But if you attack first, we’re not going to help you.” So they very wisely stepped in and kind of laid that out there for both parties.

The Saker: I entirely agree.

Viktor Stoilov: We have a question from the audience. Do you see the DPRK any time soon signing any kind of international nuclear agreement?

The Saker: A nuclear agreement with the DPRK would be primarily a nuclear agreement with the United States. The United States right now are categorically opposed to providing any kind of guarantees of … Another part of this stupid political thing about appearing weak, just imagine if Trump decided to get a reasonable deal, a good deal for the United States working with North Korea. He would be immediately accused of being weak and a Putin agent again.

So remove the United States from the possibility of an international agreement and it makes it meaningless. It makes no sense, because everybody knows where the problem is. Russia and China don’t like the DPRK being armed with nukes. They don’t particularly like Kim Jong-Un, they are not happy with the situation but there’s no real crisis. They can manage that. The only crisis is between the United States and North Korea, and any agreement would have to be between those two, and the United States will never accept it. Therefore, the question is completely hypothetical.

Viktor Stoilov: Let’s move to some other issues that we can discuss. Let’s move more to Russia and what’s going on there. We’re seeing that next year in March are going to be the presidential elections. Do you think that Putin is going to run for president for the fourth time, because he has this opportunity based on the constitution, or do you think that the internal powers in Russia are going to choose another person?

The Saker: Again, I’m not a prophet, but I sure hope he will run again. I think he will run again and I think that there are basically only two internal powers in Russia. Basically, call them the supporters of Putin, which don’t have a better candidate, and the opponents of Putin, which I call the Atlantic Integrationists, who would be a disaster for Russia. So I believe that he will run. I think that he’ll win with no problem. My God, if for some reason was pushed or had to not run it would be extraordinarily bad for Russia and highly destabilizing, so I sure hope he runs.

Viktor Stoilov: How do you see, both of you – I want to see because you’re both military experts. I want to hear your opinion on the possibilities of another war in Ukraine, and how are the US and Russia going to negotiate on the future of Ukraine? Brian, you can start first.

Brian Kalman: As far as the stalled stalemate in the Ukraine right now, the United States definitely just recently, I think it was this week, they made an announcement that they’re building a naval facility in the Ukraine, so they’re definitely there to stay.

As far as the confrontation between the Donbass regions and the Kiev regime becoming shooting war again, it’s really a shooting war every day, really. A lot of people in the West don’t understand what’s going on there. But as far as becoming a full-fledged war again, it’s always in the cards. When you have leadership like we’ve talked about in both the United States and in Kiev … Poroshenko’s got some strange bedfellows in his government there, the neo-Nazis and nationalists and a whole host of different factions there that he’s trying to keep together and supporting his presidency. A lot of those factions want a war. If the United States continues their support as far as militarily with intelligence and non-lethal and now lethal weapons systems and they’re building bases in the Ukraine, I don’t see it de-escalating any time soon.

I’m sure there’s a lot of hawkish forces within the Russian administration that have been from the start putting a lot of pressure on Putin’s administration to do more as far as military action in the Ukraine, but it’s just really hard to tell. It’s really hard to tell. If you would have asked me five years ago that we would be looking at a crisis in the Ukraine like this or the DPRK possibly going to a nuclear conflict there I would have been, ‘Aw, you’re crazy,’ but you just never know. I’d like to think that we won’t have another series of conflicts there in the Ukraine where there’s a full-fledged war but the United States has kind of thrown their cards on the table there, and they’re behind the illegitimate government, in my eyes, in Kiev. So I really don’t know.

Viktor Stoilov: Saker?

The Saker: My feeling is the United States right now is not really focusing on the Ukraine, which is the least bad news possible, because time is very much on Russia’s side against the junta in Kiev. So anything that is not a war and that prolongs it at this point is better than the alternative. A hot war would be obviously worse.

I don’t see meaningful American actions right now. Again, I don’t see a policy, and somehow being so involved with other threats left and right, including Venezuela, the DPRK, Iran, etc., I hope that the United States will basically do nothing. This is my best … It’s a very pessimistic scenario considering how really it should be solved. But again, the solutions are not that outlandishly complicated. But frankly, short of being a hot war my hope is that it stays simmering as a tepid war, as it is right now. And I don’t see signs of an imminent escalation.

The Ukrainians have been beat up very, very badly twice. Now, it’s debatable whether they have recovered or not. I hear different things about it. I don’t have the kind of access to tell it either way. But even if, say, the Ukrainian side got stronger there is North Wind and there is the Voentorg, Russia will not let the Donbass be conquered. So I think they would like to do it but they’re very reluctant at the same time because they know the risks they would be taking are huge.

So basically, if I had to predict something I would say a stalemate and more of the same until something substantially changes in the United States. The key thing right now is what’s happening here. Everything else is sort of in a semi-frozen situation because of that.

Viktor Stoilov: We actually have another question for you to predict on that’s from the audience. The question is – I think you’ll be able to kind of answer it. Will the Ukrainian economy and regime survive next year? What are the chances of the problem to disappear by itself just because of the regime failing?

The Saker: Well, remember that people have been waiting for the collapse of the Ukraine for a very long time, and at least externally, the signs are not here. I would say it has collapsed already. If we take the definitions of Dmitri Orlov of the stages of collapse, Ukraine has been collapsed for a long time. It’s actually not a viable state. The economy is in at worst a shambles.

But you know, Somalia also survived. I remember Argentina during the crisis. As a country, the Ukraine is already dysfunctional, essentially dead, and doesn’t make – that does not necessarily result in a regime change. And a regime change in a crisis as bad as what’s taking place now could be a very bad thing. Remember, somewhere, the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Because if you look at a who might replace Poroshenko, that can be very scary, too.

So I would say yes, the Ukraine will survive externally as a territory, as an officially recognized state with borders, with a population, etc. As a country, as a viable country, it’s been already dead for a while.

Viktor Stoilov: What do you think then of the Mother Russia project? I saw that you have some information on it on your website, but can you explain a little bit on what you’re thinking of the Mother Russia Project?

The Saker: If we’re talking about a long term … We have to look at … That’s a fascinating topic. What happens the day after this ends? My personal belief is the Ukraine as a state within its border today is not viable and it will break up. I think it’s the only sensible solution. At that point the next question is what happens to Donetsk and Lugansk republics? At the very least they’ve got to unite and obtain some kind of status, and they could be united under the name of Mother Russia. Why not? I think the labels matter less than what can actually happen on the ground. Right now there is no real Mother Russia, and there is a nonviable entity but if it’s a surviving one, but as it is right now, those two republics are not a viable entity. The war needs to be stopped for it to even be considered a viable entity.

So a lot of things need to happen, but somewhere down the line, yes, I can say for sure I don’t think they’ll ever return really to the Ukraine. I think that’s gone. I don’t see any way for them – other than conquering Kiev. That is the only way for them to attain a unitary status for them. And that’s probably not going to happen, either, because really, the eastern Ukraine is very different from the central and from the west. Again, it’s not a unitary state. So once the breakup happens, yeah, probably something of a Mother Russian kind will probably happen, yes.

Viktor Stoilov: We have a question from the audience and it’s again for both of you. It’s kind of a question and kind of a statement. This person says: Perhaps Russia is not much of a “rebel” against the world order as they advertise themselves to be. What do you think?

The Saker: Oh, I categorically disagree with that, most emphatically. Again, we could judge – we don’t have to go in the abstract. We look by their actions. Right now, today, Russia is the only country that has a worldwide reach and relevance and that openly challenges the hegemony of the Anglo-Zionist empire. There is Iran out there that does the same thing, has been doing it for years, but they just don’t have the size to do that. And there’s China, which has the means but is being very careful, and rightfully so. I think the Chinese are being very wise.

Russia didn’t choose that situation. Russia initially wanted to be part of the international system, particularly, certainly it was completely a US colony during Yeltsin and it certainly wanted to integrate with NATO and the US under Medvedev government. What happened under Putin is different. I think that there is an open civilizational challenge on the part of Russia which goes way beyond just political statements and social statements, that’s religious statements and moral statements and spiritual statements. It’s a clear vision of a world which is multi-polar and rejects the hegemony of one. It’s a world where international law has to be respected and not contemptuously ignored. So I think Russia is actually the only country in the world that presents a full-spectrum resistance to the empire. So I categorically disagree. I couldn’t disagree more with that statement.

Viktor Stoilov: Brian, do you believe this? And what do you think is China’s position in the new order, even if we don’t set a label to the so-called New World Order as a crazy conspiracy but just as world order. What do you think is China’s position there, and are there going to be the new US as the new state which fully controls the other side of the world?

Brian Kalman: Well, firstly I’d like to agree with what the Saker said about Russia. I agree 100%. I kind of see them as the great hope. They have a very rational foreign policy view and where they want the world to go here. They want a multi-polar world. They’re working towards that. Everything that they’ve done as far as foreign policy is all about stability, and not having conflicts, about all nations following an agreed-to international system of laws, and I think that’s been a great influence on the world as a whole, and I hope it continues.

As far as China, China has its own interests. They’re a rising global power, and I think if you look at China’s history – and also if you look at Russia’s history. If you look at China’s history, they’re not an expansionist power. They never have been. They’ve always been very powerful, both militarily, culturally, academically, militarily, always powerful. But they look inwardly. They do things internationally. They work with international partners and they come up with global partnerships that benefit them and often in the long-run benefit their partners. China’s definitely looking to if anything, expand economically. They have to build a strong military in order to support and defend their economic expansion.

So I don’t think that we should look at China as supplanting the United States as the global superpower. I don’t think that’s their intention. They have a totally different viewpoint on where they want to go in the world than the United States does. A and I think Russia realizes that and that’s why Russia is willing to work with them on so many things as a partner, because China and Russia I think, both desire a unipolar world. Neither one of those countries desires to be an empire that controls everything like the United States has tried to do for the past 50, 60, 70 years. It’s just not the desire of either one of those countries.

The Saker: Can I add something here?

Viktor Stoilov: Yeah, of course.

Brian Kalman: Of course.

The Saker: I think I want to stress the importance of what Brian just said, and the question that you asked, will China become the next US, has as an assumption that that’s something desirable. And I really think, I profoundly believe, for Russia I know for a fact and for China I suppose it’s the same thing. I think there comes an awareness in a specific historical moment in time in a country, in a nation, where it goes, empires are bad for us. We don’t want to be an empire any more, and I think it’s a big wisdom. Imperialism is disastrous for the hosts always. In Russia, for instance—I follow Russian politics extremely closely. I can tell you there is no imperialist constituency. There is no party that advocates it. None. It simply doesn’t – There are more people pro-US, which is considered to be somewhere between maybe 2 and 5% of the population that are pro-empire. If anything, the Russians are isolationist or they want to be within their own borders yet…

Viktor Stoilov: I’m sorry for interrupting, but for Russia, what do you think of Zhirinovsky or the military industry? Don’t you think they have some imperial minds?

The Saker: No, none whatsoever. First of all, Zhirinovsky, you have to understand the character. He is a guy who is essentially paid to say a lot of very good and smart things that nobody else says to see how it reacts and a lot of absolutely insane nonsense. But nobody … You have to understand, first of all, political parties in Russia don’t really matter. It’s a complicated topic and I don’t think we can go into it right now, but opposition to Putin is not in the Duma or in the political parties; it’s inside the state. Russia is sort of a strange society with an external veneer of democracy but profoundly it’s a very different kind of society.

And when you mentioned the military-industrial complex in Russia, that would be a real actor, but that actor does not need war at all to do well. It’s exporting superbly worldwide, it’s pulling the Russian economy. They’re doing fine. And a lot of people there also remember the war, are well read and realize it would be a disaster for Russia.

So no, I truly believe that there is no constituency in Russia whatsoever. This is a constituency for a strong country, yes, one that is sovereign, that is not going to be attacked again like happened during World War II and is largely fed up with Western interventionism. But to become an empire, none whatsoever.

And I think it’s the same case in China. These countries simply understood that this is not smart. For instance, their way of upholding international law is not out of some deep moral sense of wanting to be ethically pure. It’s because they realize it’s in their favor. I think the anti-imperialist stance of these two countries come straight out of a rational, pragmatic analysis of national interests and not out of ideology.

Viktor Stoilov: We touched on the international role topic and, Brian, I want to ask you, because we have a question from the audience: What will be the US and the UN position on Yemen because of what’s happening there and the body county of children killed is just growing and growing every single day?

Brian Kalman: I really don’t see it changing. I mean, I think the Saker talked about our wonderful representative in the UN, our ambassador, Nikki Haley. I mean, we might as well have taken John Bolton and shaved his ridiculous moustache and put a black wig on him and a dress and high heels.

The Saker: Yeah, true.

Brian Kalman: She’s cut from the same cloth. I don’t see any changes there. Saudi Arabia and their allies have been bombing Yemen and subjecting the civilian population there to unbelievable depravities for years now. It’s been horrible for years. Is there going to be a consensus that’s going to go against the United States and the UN in Yemen, of all places? I don’t see it happening. I would love to see it happen. I would love to see that conflict stop tomorrow. I would love to see international support for a ceasefire there and a return to … Let the Yemeni people decide their own fate, which they were doing before the Saudis decided to intervene. So yeah, I don’t see any big push in the UN against the will of the United States and the Saudis and their allies to change that situation, unfortunately.

The Saker: The thing is, and what’s so crucial in the situation right now, is that every question we’ve touched on so far, the issue is it’s not going to change. And why is it not going to change? Because right now the United States are busy imploding and fighting internally, and as long as that continues, there’s not going to be any change so everything is essentially paralyzed. There’s an almost worldwide stasis, and right now the only thing that could break that stasis is a hot war, which is not a very good perspective. So if a hot war, God willing, does not happen and the stasis will continue until something else happens. And what that something else might be can only start coalescing and crystalizing itself out of a resolution of the current conflict inside the United States, which I don’t see resolving any time soon.

So this is why I think both me and Brian are saying, “Nah, not much change. Nah, not going to happen,” because we just don’t see … The United States is powerful enough that you can’t really go against them. You can ignore them. You can actually resist them to a certain degree, but to get actually something constructive happening is very hard just because of, for instance, the US power in the United Nations. If the United States suddenly disappeared by a magic wand or lost its membership in the UN, a lot of things could happen. But as long as a country that’s essentially been lobotomized right now, literally in terms of the people that are at the top and the degree of paralysis that you have at the top, there is no policy. Who would be in charge of taking a decision on Yemen and maybe deciding on an agreement? Nobody. It’s really depressing.

Viktor Stoilov: I see a question. I’m looking at the livestream right now and there is a question and it’s towards the Saker. Do you think that Russia could move to Yemen after Syria, focus on Yemen?

The Saker: No, I don’t. You have to understand that Russia is not anti-US. Russia is not going to start involving itself the way the Soviet Union did it all over Africa. There’s many reasons for that. You’ve probably heard that the Russian defense budget is, according to some – it depends on how you calculate it – about a tenth of the US one. Others say it’s even smaller.

Russian militarily strategy basically says that Russia has to keep control and prevail within 1,000 km of the Russian borders. It’s never been formulated like that but that’s essentially what it means. You can speak of operational depth. Russia’s already over-extended in Syria and too far. That was a fluke case. They did something very refined and very complicated. But even that is not a real militarily intervention. The Russians did not really intervene militarily like they did in Afghanistan or they did in the past in Angola or other parts of the world. They simply don’t have the capabilities to get involved in places like Yemen. No, I don’t see that happening.

And politically, it would be impossible, by the way. When Putin ordered the Russian aerospace forces to move into Syria, everybody got really very, very tense immediately – including myself, I have to confess. I was very concerned about that move. And he explained very specifically that it’s something limited in time, limited in scope, limited in nature and that it was done for clear Russian national security objectives, which is to protect the southern borders of Russia, specifically Caucasus and central Asia. There’s no way he could go to the Russian people and say, “We’re going to send our forces into Yemen.” Even he, with his popularity, cannot do that.

Viktor Stoilov: We have a question from the audience and I both of you I will kindly ask you with your military background because it’s a very close question to me. We have a very strong Balkan audience from the Balkans, and there is a question: Because the Balkans are always heating up whenever the administration in the US changes, and we see that Serbia right now is basically besieged from all sides by countries which are, right or wrong, the vassals of the US. Do you see what will happen if Serbia tries to take back control of, let’s say, Kosovo or Metohijia with its army? How would NATO react in this case?

The Saker: Brian?

Brian Kalman: Well, the United States has been working on fragmenting the Balkans and making them friendly to NATO, and obviously NATO stands for the interests of the United States for decades now. They’ve Balkanized the Balkans very well. The Balkans, there’s so many different ethnic groups and cultures and cultural identities and histories there that intermingle and cross borders. Ukraine has a similar history as far as is Ukraine really a state or is it a confluence of states over time?

Things seem to be heating up between Serbia and Kosovo, and there seems to be some groups in Kosovo, some radical groups or insurgent groups that seem to be making some moves as if they’re preparing for something, and the Serbian Department of Defense and their intelligence is aware of this. Serbia’s going to do what it has to do to defend its national security. Is the United States going to use NATO and the United Nations again, like they did in the past, to attack Serbia? Possibly. I don’t know.

Viktor Stoilov: Because NATO doesn’t really have that much forces around Serbia, except for a few bases there, what do you think could happen, Saker, when it comes to Serbia? Because if they want to protect their national interest that would definitely cause a military conflict there.

The Saker: Well, first of all, right now you mentioned that Serbia’s surrounded by NATO—maybe you said colonies or –

Viktor Stoilov: Vassals.

The Saker: So is Serbia. Serbia is now a de facto occupied territory by NATO. So with that kind of government that they have right now in Serbia, which at best would be something similar to what Russia had in the ‘90s, I don’t expect them to be particularly creative or dynamic in terms of defending their national interest. Secondly, you say that the US doesn’t have much forces around Serbia, but it has more than enough to deal with Serbia right now, and forces can be brought in rapidly and they can hit from afar.

So right now, I think Serbia has to prepare for a long period of occupation by the empire. Only when the empire collapses can Serbia start again asserting her national rights, and I absolutely, unequivocally consider Kosovo as part of Serbia. And I think absolutely that territory by any standards should be part of a unitary Serbian state, as I consider Montenegro and Bosnia, by the way, at least the Serbian part of Bosnia. I think what was done to the Serbian people is absolutely outrageous, but to right that wrong, a lot of time will have to pass before a national liberation can make that happen because right now it’s enforced from above.

So Serbia can deal with her neighbors; she can’t deal with an empire, not on her own. And the Russians are not coming, neither can they. So the balance of power is overwhelmingly against them, unfortunately, right now. So it’s a matter of patience and playing it for the long-run.

Viktor Stoilov: I just want to add a few things because I just have a lot of information when it comes to this. Right now, just for the audience’s sake, in Kosovo right now there is a huge military base called Bondsteel.

The Saker: Camp Bondsteel.

Viktor Stoilov: Yes, Camp Bondsteel, and the US forces are there, NATO forces are there, and they are actually training a lot of people from Kosovo. They are sending them to British military schools and they are sending them for free, so you don’t have to pay anything. The people of Kosovo aren’t paying anything for this. Actually, if you enroll in that army and if you serve more than five or seven years there you’re getting a lot of money and you’re getting actually another education outside of your military one. So they are basically paying for mercenaries there. And these mercenaries can be used in a potential war against Serbia. So that was just my take on this.

I wanted to move to another question that we have. Is there hypothetically a chance of a coup d’état attempt in the US, and what would happen if it happens? Brian, you can take it first.

Brian Kalman: Well, anything’s possible. I think, like the Saker said, I think Trump has been for all intents and purposes, at least from what I can see now, relatively neutered. He’s surrounded himself by those in the establishment, holdovers from the Obama administration or holdovers from the Bush administration. It doesn’t really matter. If he really pushes the envelope and decides to go his own way and pushes hard against the deep state, of course there could be a coup. What form that coup’s going to take, I don’t know.

Unless you live in the United States, like the Saker said, we’re at this point in the American empire where – we’re at like a boiling point. There’s so much polarization within the country as far as people’s political views and even the American culture. You have a very different culture within the cities, that heavily vote Democratic, and pretty much everywhere else in the country that would be more conservative – or I would say libertarian in a lot of ways – that there’s almost like a … You can just feel it in the atmosphere, we need a change. Something’s going to happen in the United States because we can’t keep going on the way we are now. The government’s not functioning correctly. We have no foreign policy. The deep state has shown its face. The American people have seen it. They don’t like it; they’ve never liked it. So could there be a coup? Of course. I would not put anything past the deep state. The nature of it, I don’t know, but there’s definitely powerful forces at work in the United States and things have to change. We can’t stay on the same course, so I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility.

Viktor Stoilov: Saker?

The Saker: I first of all agree with everything Brian said. I would just add one more thing. There is a big difference between the United States and, say, the Soviet Union in 1991. The Soviet state was purely centralized. The United States has a very strong regional feel to it, which people who don’t live here don’t really see. But amongst the states there are very big differences and people have strong local loyalties, and they’re very diverse in terms of political views. It’s correct. It’s the cities versus the more rural areas. It’s also, I would argue, the Northeast versus the Southeast versus the South, the Southwest, the Center, the Northwest and different groups. For anybody contemplating a coup, that is a major headache, because if I do believe that, in theory – I don’t see it likely and I will explain why I don’t see it, I think the deep state will avoid acting overtly in a coup fashion as much as possible.

But one of the reasons I think that keeps them back from trying something like this is that I am not at all convinced that the federal government can assert its authority over the states in any semi-easy way. There could be a local resistance. It’s a long topic of how, but I really think there’s going to be a concern that certain parts of the country are just not going to obey, and I think that is a powerful deterrent against an overt coup.

So a covert coup, which is essentially what happened with Trump – I mean, if you have one guy elected on a specific program and then he’s prevented from acting and he’s essentially neutered, I call that a coup. I think a coup has already happened against Trump. But an overt one, with uniformed personnel and armor in the streets I think would result in a backlash that totally unpredictable, that could truly become catastrophic because one thing really is true: The American people are fed up. There’s a lot of pent-up anger here, a lot of despair, too.

And the people – one last thing I want to say about the US. People say that communism fell in Russia in 1991. That’s not true. The Soviet system fell, but some people maintain their communist ideals. Well, it’s the same thing here. A lot of Americans feel patriotic, feel very strongly about the values that founded this country, about the principles it’s supposed to stand for, and that makes them actually more anti-federal government than pro. And these values are still here. I think people, if you push them hard enough, actually I think they could fight for it, but they need something. What’s needed is a trigger, and that trigger is absent right now because of the propaganda system and because right now the overwhelming force is on the state side, the uniform cops that look like military, etc., so they’re scared and the overwhelming force is on the side of the federal government. But that could change if there was an overt political crisis.

Viktor Stoilov: Saker, I just want to ask you because we’re almost reaching an hour and a half into the live program, do you have more time or should we have one or two more questions and come to an end?

The Saker: I could do another 20 minutes would be my limit, if that’s okay with you.

Viktor Stoilov: So let’s just have two or three more general questions and move to an end. Is that okay with you?

The Saker: Absolutely.

Viktor Stoilov: Then right away I’m going to move to another question that we had. The person says: I have a question. Trump has surrounded himself with three generals and wants to use them to gain power. What happens if one of those generals takes over instead?

The Saker: Brian?

Brian Kalman: I don’t see that happening. I think that would be such a controversial move that, like the Saker said, it would finally flip that trigger, that hair-trigger that seems to exist in the American populace. The United States culturally, historically … I don’t think the overwhelming majority of the populace would tolerate what many would see as a military dictatorship taking control in the White House.

I think it’s been a mistake, in many ways, that certain general that Trump has chosen to participate in his administration – McMaster is a protégé of Petraeus and he should have seen him as an enemy from the start. He’s an asp or a viper crawling around in his bed, and his recent changes with I think it’s General Kelly and any of the other military members or prior military members of the administration, they’re not those military leaders that are opposed to the foreign policy of the past 20 years. They’re not opposed to the deep state; they are beholden to it. Do I think that one of those generals is going to take control? No. I think the vice president … I often wonder why Trump chose Pence as his vice president, because he’s such an obvious-

Viktor Stoilov: Do you believe that Trump chose him?

Brian Kalman: Well, he obviously had to sign off on it, so yes, he approved it. Were there strong forces within the Republican Party that were kind of forcing Pence on him as a running mate kind of like Reagan was forced to take Bush? Of course. But at the end of the day he chose to pick Pence and I think he did that to kind of appease members of the Republican establishment and to appease certain members of the Republican conservative voting bloc, of course. I don’t really trust Pence. I think if Trump was removed Pence would be more than happy to take the role of president. But do I see an overt coup where a military general takes control? No. I think that would be a disaster.

The Saker: I completely agree with that. The only coup that people would tolerate here would be one aimed at draining the swamp, and that’s not happening, unfortunately. And an overt coup that would actually blatantly go against the US Constitution would result, I think, in a huge backlash. And also, keep in mind American generals are mostly political people. They’re not fighting people. You’ll find most real experts and military specialists in the States in the rank of colonel or below.

Brian Kalman: Very true, very true.

The Saker: So it’s a different ecosystem. Once you become a general, particularly an influential one, you get co-opted by the state. You become very much a loyal product of that state, no matter how much they can call you a mad dog and try to give you this romantic view of a war-fighting man. It’s all nonsense. The real war-fighters don’t rise. In my experience, very few of them would rise above the rank of colonel and certainly not brigadier. So the kind of people that would do that are already essentially in power. The deep state is in power now. Why would they do a coup against themselves?

Viktor Stoilov: We have a question from the audience that he asked a few times: What does the Saker think of the US trying to break the INF treaty? How would Russia deal with this? It’s about the international agreement on nuclear weapons.

The Saker: You mean the intermediate nuclear forces?

Viktor Stoilov: Yep.

The Saker: At this point, I don’t think it’s going to have a major consequence because essentially all form of collaboration or agreements are essentially broken. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit. I don’t think it’s going to have … This is all political. Militarily speaking, the West does not have the means to attack Russia right now anymore. This is finished in terms of the possibility to do that. And in terms of escalation, well, Russia always responds mostly in an asymmetrical way and a very creative way. I think they already made the assumption that intermediate nuclear weapons might be deployed, and it doesn’t make that much of a difference for Russia anymore.

Viktor Stoilov: And Brian actually had a pretty nice analysis on this. Can you touch a little bit upon it?

Brian Kalman: I agree, and I really don’t think that Russia benefitted really, in very real terms from the INF treaty.

The Saker: Agreed.

Brian Kalman: The United States is far away, and as far as intermediate range nuclear weapons, they have them on submarines and the INF treaty allows that. They have them on ships, which it allows that, and the United States military, their navy’s very powerful. So those intermediate range nuclear missiles were well within range of Russia in light of the US naval power. If anything, it kind of tied Russia’s hands a little bit in that they couldn’t have those same missiles land-based. But I think if that treaty were to for all intents and purposes go away that Russia is not really going to be hampered by that. I’m sure they’ve spent… Ever since the INF treaty was enacted they’ve made the national defense decisions they’ve had to make to allow for it, and so I don’t see much of a change for Russia as far as if the INF treaty goes away. I think they’ll be fine.

The Saker: If anything, what’s really happening right now and not much discussed is that the Russians are deploying in large quantities strategic cruise missiles, conventional or potentially nuclear armed, and they could threaten both coasts of the United States in very many fashions, which essentially, that is the counter. Actually, it’s led to the Americans almost catching up because that’s the reality it’s going to shape now, is that Russian conventional cruise missiles sea-launched but also launched from containers even on commercial ships or merchant navy ships could start threatening the United States.

And if you look at the way the populations are separated, Russia’s pretty evenly populated whereas in the United States it’s the two coasts, and the two coasts already are within conventional strike ability of Russia, and of course nuclear, too. So that would be, if you wanted a response to that specific intermediate range threats, that would be already present.

Viktor Stoilov: We’re having the last question towards you two, and I really want to get your opinion on this because we’re getting almost so many different opinions on this: What’s going on in the US economy? What’s going on there? Trump is saying that he’s getting more and more jobs back, that he’s cutting on the debt, but is this really a little bit of internal propaganda or he’s really doing something good for the American economy? Is he really transforming the economy? Saker?

The Saker: Brian, I think you’re better qualified than I am probably.

Brian Kalman: Well, how much can one man and how much can the president really influence the economic situation in the United States? They really don’t have much influence there. For a long time the US economy’s been in a horrible state. I mean, if you look at our debt to GDP ratio it’s like 105% at least. Any nation that’s that in debt can’t continue for long that way, and the only way we do it is because we have the printing press, basically. We have the world’s reserve currency and we can print money to our heart’s content and all the other countries need to use the dollar for different international transactions, which is starting to slowly change. I think that’s going to, in the next decade there’s going to be a change there as far as we’re not going to be able to keep that printing press going.

I think that Trump definitely has enemies within the Federal Reserve System, which is not federal – it’s a group of private banks. They’ve started talking about raising interest rates to slow down what they see as, I don’t know, an economy that’s running a recovery too fast.

So no, I don’t think that Trump is really responsible for any sort of economic recovery, if it even exists. It’s a matter of semantics. It doesn’t really exist. There’s no huge recovery. We’re so far in debt that adding 200,000 jobs last month or last quarter is really meaningless. Our monetary policy is so out of the realm of reason that Trump’s not going to be able to change it himself.

There are so many factors that have to change. We have no manufacturing base in the United States anymore. We’ve offshored all the manufacturing. That’s been going on for a long time. The United States used to be, as it grew into a power, a manufacturing powerhouse. There was a real economy. What do we have now? Services. We’re a service-based economy. You have young kids getting out of college now with a master’s degree that are working as a barista at Starbucks. That’s their only hope of a job. So no, I don’t think Trump is changing our economic situation anytime soon.

The Saker: Well, I think Brian gave a much better answer than I could even dream of giving. I’ll give you a very simple one: my friends who as a couple work four jobs. Both of them have two jobs, both for minimum wage, are still working their four jobs and barely making ends meet with no healthcare, no savings. And they’re still at it; it hasn’t changed, so that’s my answer.

Viktor Stoilov: On this note we’re going to end the discussion. I want to thank our friend the Saker for joining us today. I hope to have you in the future to discuss more topics and answer more questions from the audience. I also want to thank Brian for joining us today, as well, and I’m just going to make a few announcements.

We are going to have our next livestream just next week, again on Saturday, on the 19th of August, and that we are working on two long videos, one about the popular mobilization units and another video about China’s military capabilities. But in order for you to watch those videos and to continue our project and have more videos like this, please support our project. Please donate now, because we have collected only 19% of our minimum budget and almost half of the month is gone.

So please donate now if you want to have more livestreams, if you want to have more videos. You know that SouthFront is almost a completely volunteer project and we are not funded by any governments or any corporations, so please support our project. It’s your way of fighting in the information war. It is your way of supporting independent projects like ours and the Saker. So please support us, please support the Saker. He will give you a few ways of supporting his project as well. Please do that, because if you want to counter in any way what’s going on currently by the governments and by the corporations, it’s by supporting projects like ours. Please, Saker, tell us how our audience today can be of help to you.

The Saker: I think what your audience can do to help me is to fund you, because what you are doing is absolutely unique. I think I’ve been following you pretty much since the beginning. I truly want to express my profound gratitude and admiration to all the people at SouthFront. What you’re doing is very precious and important. I think your audience is way bigger than even what can be estimated. I use your product every day. Literally. I run your videos every day and they provide something which nobody else provides. So I completely want to support that and I hope that every person who enjoyed this broadcast will donate as much as you can possibly give. Help SouthFront. We need them badly because they are fighting the information war, so my total, complete support for them is what I ask from all of you.

Viktor Stoilov: Thank you, Saker. Thank you for your words. Please go to the Saker’s website, read some of his analysis, read what he’s posting. It’s very interesting. He has been contributing to our project as well and we’ve been using some of his analysis on our website so he is a very special person to us, so please do that. Without further ado, we’re going to say good night from me, because I am in Bulgaria and it’s almost 11:00 here, and good day to anybody who is in a different time zone. Just last words form the Saker and Brian. Go ahead.

The Saker: Brian, you go first.

Brian Kalman: Well, I would just like to thank the Saker for being here today. It was a pleasure to have this conversation and it was an honor. I look back over two years, almost two years, and I think about why I got involved in SouthFront. Saker has this metaphor that he feels like a submarine in the desert. Well, you’re not the only submarine out there. We have a small flotilla of submarines in the desert, and the flotilla’s growing. Your support of our project is very heartfelt and we really appreciate it.

You were one of those voices that really woke me up and got me motivated to do something with my ability to write or my viewpoint, or that frustration you always feel about “Why is this discussion, a real discussion, not happening? Why are these topics not being covered?” The lies of omission of the mainstream media, we need to cover these things, and you’re covering them, and you always covered them, and you were one of those first voices that I saw out there. You definitely motivated me to do what I do with SouthFront, so I really appreciate you being here and appreciate your work.

The Saker: Well, it’s a huge reward for me to hear that. If you help SouthFront, really, that makes my day. It was a pleasure. I enjoyed it tremendously. Any time I will be willing to do it again, and thank you both from the bottom of my heart for doing what you’re doing. This is great. Thank you.

Viktor Stoilov: Thank you, Saker, and just a last note. If you think that you can help us in any other way, to the audience, with contributing great articles or contributing great video-makers, please contact us at info@southfront.org. You will be of great importance to us. But if you cannot, please give us a little donation. Every amount will be used to make videos or keep the project going. So thank you for this livestream. I hope to see you next Saturday. Have a great week. Good bye.

The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world