by Nash Landesman for the Saker Blog
The following is an exclusive interview with Russian Duma deputy, Yevgeny Fyodorov, a high-ranking conservative, nationalistic lawmaker in President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party. He has been Chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy of the State Duma and a member of the Advisory Council of the President of the Russian Federation. Below we discuss war with Ukraine, principles of sovereignty and geopolitics, the ongoing energy battle, the nuclear option, and the reestablishment of the Soviet sphere, all within the context of US ambition and Russian counter-strategy.
Atop the unipolar priority list lies the looming Russian “threat” of providing European consumers with affordable, dependable heating and cooking gas at stable long-term contract terms amidst the dead of winter. Only America and its’ “allies”/ [subordinates/collaborators] can halt this menace by supplanting cheap Russian gas piped from relatively short distances with much more expensive, technically-complex US liquid natural gas shipped from across the Atlantic, capitalizing on America’s shale revolution while stamping out Russian influence in Europe—killing two birds with one stone. (Although at least twenty-nine multibillion dollar regasification intake terminals have been built across Europe under US pressure to import its supplies, a new Russian pipeline threatens to render them sunk costs).
The Russian pipeline would “pose an existential threat to European energy security,” states one US sanctions bill, implying that the very notion of energy security outside of US/EU auspices is the threat itself. Washington is trying to block this development, using various means that now include the threat of war under any pretext.
Since Soviet times as much as 80% of Europe’s Russian gas imports traversed Ukraine— but lately those flows have since slowed to a trickle, due to Washington’s eight-year proxy war in Donbas, NATO expansion, Kiev’s tendency to syphon Russian gas and not pay its bills, and other factors. It is little wonder Moscow is scrambling to establish alternate routes avoiding third-party generated instability.
This year European gas prices rocketed to record highs, adding fuel to Russian ambitions to circumvent its’ now-hostile neighbor with its’ latest project, the recently- completed $11 billion natural gas pipeline, Nordstream 2, running under the Baltic sea direct to Germany, crucially evading land transit states subject to external control.
Nordstream 2 could be a major geopolitical boon to both Russia and Germany, helping the latter achieve the energy independence it would need to take steps to chart an independent course and/or remove US occupation troops from its territory, still present under the NATO umbrella since WWII.
Despite the pipeline’s recent completion, the European Commission has delayed (indefinitely) the certification required in order for Russia to start pumping gas. Whether Moscow will go ahead and do it anyway remains up in the air.
What is clear is that US counter-strategy is a patchwork of threats, hysterics and racketeering. As Richard Morningstar, former US diplomat and founding director of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Centre, bluntly put it, “I think Nord Stream 2 is really a bad idea…If you want to kill the [US-based] LNG strategy go ahead with Nord Stream ”.
The pipeline also undermines an interrelated, long-developing, radical globalization scheme—an internal EU gas market established under the European Energy Charter that’s designed to dismantle Gazprom by preventing Russia from owning or controlling its downstream energy assets.
Large land transit states like Ukraine help to ensure that Russia obey the rules. But after withdrawing from the aforementioned treaty in 2009, Russia has struck bilateral gas deals with states like Hungary and Belarus, enraging Washington and Brussels. Now Nordstream 2 would symbolize the ultimate affront to the internal energy market architecture as it involves Europe’s most powerful nation, Germany, with no transit states in-between.
(Berlin has been left in the cold ever since caving to pressure to phase-out its nuclear capacity and cease domestic coal production). The pertinent question is: on whose outside supplies will Berlin come to depend? Europe’s future may hang on the answer.
Ex-German chancellor Angela Merkel supported the pipeline, her foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, along with the Austrian Federal Chancellor, Christian Kern, complaining, “The draft bill of the US [sanctions regime] is surprisingly candid about what is actually at stake, namely selling American liquefied natural gas and ending the supply of Russian natural gas to the European market. We cannot accept the threat of illegal extraterritorial sanctions…involving Russia, such as Nord Stream 2, [which] impacts European-American relations in a new and very negative way.”
Detractors, meanwhile, insist that a pipeline avoiding Ukraine would give Russia more leverage over its weaker neighbor, despite the implied detachment, a piece of double-think requiring little to no explanation.
Nevertheless, one hard-headed member of Russia’s Duma explains what’s really going on, from Moscow’s view, and what’s truly at stake in this developing saga.
Q: How does EU policy affect European states’ energy consumption?
A: The alternative to our natural gas is, of course, importing US LNG, which is much more expensive. The crucial interested parties in our piped gas are Europe and especially Germany. The key question arises from the fact that the EU wants absolute control over the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline. They want to control everything. The principle of competition of nations is involved. Russia is also interested in full control over those gas supplies; it helps Russia to fulfill its obligations. We welcome no third party to play this game as an outside controller over the pipeline.
Hence the Germans’ position: they support Nordstream 2 because it provides for their gas balance and they understand that otherwise they will lack gas. Nord Stream 2 is a kind of “magic wand” for Russia because it helps Germany to get a stable gas supply and sign long-term contracts. Otherwise they will need to keep temperatures in their dwellings very low. If the EU refuses to certify Nordstream 2, Europe will freeze. It would be like shooting its’ own leg.
The position of Europe is this: give us all transport routes and gas fields—but it contradicts the Russian principle of state sovereignty. So Russia won’t agree to it. Our position is simple: we supply gas, you can either take it or not. We aren’t going to sort out your domestic problems.
Q: What are the impediments to gas flowing through the recently-completed Nordstream 2 pipeline?
A: Blocking Nordstream 2 is a result of pressure from the Americans. There we need to understand common sense. What is the Americans’ interest? It is a very basic interest. There is no economic profit in LNG supplied from the US. The interest of the US is that they are generally against German economic independence and independent resouces. Yes, we have American military troops in Germany, Germany is being controlled by the US. In case Germany becomes too independent it will simply throw away American control. This is how history works. Of course, this is why the Americans are against NS2. Not just because of the competition with their LNG, but also because of US Anti-German policy. They dislike that Germany would gain a new level of economic independence; such level which would allow Germany to get rid of American control.
It’s clear that the U.S. wouldn’t like European countries, particularly Germany, to become more powerful. So, the U.S.’s geopolitical interest consists in Germany not being able to solve its problems with gas supply beyond U.S.’s influence, without the influence from Ukraine, Poland etc… As a result Americans opposed Nord Stream 2 from the very beginning. It’s obvious. Because it’s one thing when you control a few countries and manipulate them and it’s absolutely different thing when Germany will get a regular gas supply and will be independent of the US. It’s the position of the US and it’s clear and understandable.
The position of Germany: it needs a reliable gas supply and independence. The position of Russia: to earn money for its gas supply. With every coming year, Germany will become more and more sovereign\independent and one day American troops will be withdrawn from its territory. I’m sure one day Germany will raise the question of withdrawal of American occupation troops from their land. You know, these troops were simply renamed from occupation troops into NATO’s troops. It’s in the interests of German people and at some point Germans will do it. Russia will definitely help them, not in a military way but by creating geopolitical foundation of free nations.
And now another question: the situation in the European Union. European regulations/treaties/charters/energy packages were adopted not by Germany but by the EU and which are greatly influenced by the U.S. They created the so-called energy packages … If EU countries had signed long-term contracts, there wouldn’t have been any price increase. They could have agreed on $300 per cubic meter for many years ahead. But without these contracts the price rocketed to $1000, harming Germany and other European countries.
A: How does the issue of sovereignty come into effect?
What’s the main motivation of any nation? Sovereignty and freedom. And if there are any occupation troop on their land, it’s anything but freedom. That’s why any nation will demand occupation armies to leave their country even if at present they don’t talk about it openly because of the propaganda. Germany is moving in this direction. It’s a normal process. A Unipolar world is neither normal nor legal in the historic context. Either there is one Empire, like the Roman Empire of Alexander the Great, or the world is multi-polar. There is no other option.
Today’s unipolar world is volatile. And Americans understand this. They have two options: either to create a colonial empire (but aren’t powerful enough to do it) or accept\embrace the multi-polar world model. They are guided by the rules of competition among nations according to which everyone is everyone’s enemy. That’s the way people live in the world. All the wars were caused by this. The logic is: you’re the most powerful and the rest are suppressed by you. Everyone is suppressed by you, not only major enemies like Russia, but allies as well. They are allies because American troops are on their territory but not because they love America.
Q: Why does the U.S. still insist on gas transit through Ukraine?
A: Another play is the game with Ukraine, where we still talk about keeping gas supply transiting through it. Nobody (in Russia) refuses to transit via Ukraine. But the talks and wishes are about the substantial profit Ukraine will obtain from transiting our gas over its’ territories. The Americans will continue to insist that Russia must finance its’ own war with Ukraine, until NS2 will start to function; until Russia manages to exclude Ukraine from financing its’ military actions with Russian money [via transit fees amounting to billions of dollars per year].
Frankly speaking there is a particular part of Ukraine that refused to follow the orders of the newly- emerged power in Kiev, who occupied power in 2014. The new undersea pipeline (NS2) shouldn’t involve a third party like what we have to deal with in the case of Ukraine. Our undersea pipeline is more convenient for Europe. It is clear that when the Ukraine pipeline was constructed in the middle of last century there were no underwater pipeline technologies. Now this new technology has emerged thanks to scientific progress.
Q: What are the economic implications of this energy battle?
A: Let’s look at this question from the viewpoint of science, history and geopolitics. What is the American dollar? The American dollar is a world currency. Let’s look at some figures: the American dollar turnover in the world is 40%, the euro turnover is 40% whereas the ruble turnover is only 0.18%. So, the ruble turnover is 400 times lower than that of the dollar or euro. The ruble doesn’t exist on the global scale.
Americans have built their consumption at the expense of the world dollar. Estimates show that Americans consume 4 times more than they produce on their territory. The situation in Russia is quite the opposite. Russia produces 4 times more of the global GDP than it consumes. As a result Russia is a contributor to the world economy while the US is a vermin\parasite. These are merely figures\data, nothing personal. So, the dollar is of great importance to the Americans.
The dollar requires worldwide jurisdiction – Anglo-Saxon law – because currency is worthless if it’s not supported by juridical system. Hence comes the mechanism of the world jurisdiction, the unipolar world as a vertical authority. According to Putin, “one power center means one decision-making center”. What’s Russia’s interest? To restore the ruble, which will allow Russia to immediately control 6% of the world currency turnover. And I’d like to remind you that at present we control only 0.18%. In the long run, taking into account that Russia has 1\3 of the world’s resources, we expect this figure to reach 1\3 of the world turnover. We want to have the right to print out currency.
Q: Do the aforementioned issues implicate a pivot to Asia?
A: There is a policy of reducing dependance of EU countries on Russian gas. We are ready to sell our gas to EU countries. But we see EU legislation creates harm to Europe, eg. Now the natural gas price jumped to $900 per 1000 cubic meters. But those are internal problems; they should be able to set up their legislation so that it will not harm their economy. Concerning Chinese – Russian relations and natural gas supply to China, the supply will continue to grow.
This is about geopolitical and economic profitability. There are certain issues that lead to this. Russia and China have a common goal: to establish sovereignty. I reiterate one figure for economists: in the world economy the USD and the Euro comprise 80% of the world economy. The Russian ruble comprises one twentieth of 1% of global reserves. Hundreds of times less. Naturally that is unfair and illegal. And we will carry on politics which will result in the situation where the Russian ruble will equal Russia’s economy and resource export capability. And China will be our ally.
Q: What is the general position of European states, notwithstanding EU internal market legislation?
A: Who is the enemy of American unipolar world? The enemy of any unipolar world, including the American one, is national thousand-year-old states\countries, like Germany, France, etc… because such countries don’t want to be given orders. France has been independent for more than 1000 years.
They don’t need any bosses in Brussels, let alone in Washington. So the policy of the US is to subdue them. The US has been trying to achieve this goal, firstly, by assisting in EU creation and by Mediterranean wars which led to millions of refugees who break French, German etc… national regimes. That’s the goal. Why did America bomb Libya, Syria? Why were they involved in the coup d’état in Egypt? It’s clear that they wanted to destroy national thousand-year-old states, which leads to economic destruction.
Q: What do you make of the de-Russification laws in Ukraine?
A: It is occupational tool intended to limit and prohibit the Russian language in Ukraine. The character and basic feature of Russian nation is that it is cultural people with big history. And the Russian language is a very important factor in consolidating and uniting multiple smaller nations.
In the territory of Ukraine, as Ukraine itself is not a legal state from the position of International Law. So in Ukraine outside extranational parties. First of all, the US and their allies carry out the politics to stop the process of reestablishment of the joint united Motherland within it’s 1945 borders. In turn the reestablishment process in many parts of the Soviet Union is being carried out by all interested parties.
From this fact emerges the conflict within Ukraine. This conflict could only be resolved by establishment of one single united state of Ukraine and Russia. Otherwise, it will never be resolved and will last forever. Actually, the reunion (of Ukraine and Russia) will definitely happen one day, is my strong belief. All serious leading experts understand that. The situation (between Russia and Ukraine) is still not regulated in accordance with the procedures guiding the liquidation of the Soviet Union. That is most important to understand. To say it in rough words, the situation with Ukraine and Crimea is prolonged and delayed until today. These are the roots of conflicts and arguments with Ukraine about Crimea and Donbass and Lugansk, and with Moldova, Transdniestria, Georgia, Abkhazia, etc…
Q: How does Russia view subversive actions in nearby states like Belarus, for example?
A: As an attempt to intrude by a third party into territory of an internationally recognized state entity, a joint Motherland within 1945 borders. Actually, we will react to intrusion into any other country, not only Belarus. Russia will use shield and defense tools. Defense tools we have include nuclear weapons, to protect and secure our borders and keep them safe and contain safely our nuclear weapons, and using those nuclear weapons. In other words, should America enter the territory of Belarus, our nuclear missiles are targeted at London, Washington, New York and other cities. The US will continue to manipulate Ukraine and Belorussia to oppose Russia. They will utilize the issue of unregulated state borders [see today: Kazakhstan] between these countries as a lever against its’ competitor and opponent, Russia.
Q: Do you feel that America’s missile bases in Eurasia are directed towards Russia?
A: We don’t ignore the reality that the US has installed missile bases throughout Eurasia. And the [US] State Department was saying that they will form new military nuclear bases there, including in Asian countries. Please understand this is very simple story. Russia plans to engage its nuclear weapons not against those countries where it was launched against Russia, but against the mastermind cities where the decisions were made. To be exact, it is Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other American cities. Please fully understand, in case American nuclear weapons are launched from, eg. Taiwan, or Poland, the response will hit New York or Washington.
Q: Please elaborate on the EU’s long-unfolding internal gas market/energy treaty packages.
A: Sure. European policy was to reject long-term contracts. This policy was to start a competitive war in which, as they said, the price would be reduced as a result of competition. And here lies their error of judgment. Competition works only if there is excess supply.
But taking into consideration the post-Covid economy boost of China and Asia [among other factors], there hasn’t been any excess supply. As a result the EU failed. [higher prices, however, have increased demand for US LNG imports, perhaps implying that Russia’s plan backfired, playing into America’s hands]. Those who signed long-term contracts didn’t suffer at all. Some French companies, for instance, didn’t lose anything. They even benefited from this. So this price increase is the EU’s fault. What Russia wants is just to earn money for its produce. Russia thinks like this: if we don’t sell gas in Europe, we could sell it in China.
Q: What is the situation surrounding US negotiations with Germany regarding Russian energy?
A: Look: Who is more important: the supplier or the consumer who pays money? Surely, it’s the consumer. So, who is the main player in this situation: Germany or Russia? Germany. That’s why the U.S. opposes Nord Stream 2 by negotiating with Germany, not Russia. Germany is the main player here. So, the U.S. exerted pressure on Germany. And Germany, in its turn, tried to compensate by offering to invest in Ukrainian system, hydrogen etc… The negotiations regarding Nord Stream 2 were conducted between Germany and the U.S. but not between America and Russia.
Q: How do offhand events, like the “Russiagate” fraud, the alleged Navalny poisoning, hysteria surrounding Russian troop buildup along the Russian-Ukrainian border, etc… influence public opinion?
A: Russia is constantly blamed and there are two reasons why. Firstly, Russia doesn’t have influence on its own information sphere; it doesn’t have the necessary technology. Even Russia’s social networks, television are American. Mass media in Russia are beyond Russia’s jurisdiction. Russia doesn’t have “weapons” in the information sphere. Besides it’s very convenient to put all the blame on Russia in order to solve one’s own domestic problems. It’s common practice.
Q: Is the EU’s energy Treaty Packages/Charter unfeasible?
A: The EU’s energy packages are based on market excess supply. What I mean is they get gas supply from everywhere, from the U.S., Asia, Norway, and Russia. Europe wants to get the lowest price due to the competition between these suppliers. It only works providing there is excess supply due to different reasons, including transport logistics [plus Russia’s allegedly withholding supply from the market for leverage in Nordstrream 2 negotiations]. So it was a wrong strategy. I have only one question here: was this strategy was wrong because they are fools in Brussels or because they just played along with Americans? I think the latter. The situation got out of control: it led to price increase. Now they don’t know how to handle it.
Q: Will Russia accept the terms and conditions of these energy packages?
A: While drawing up this energy package (and it took years), they didn’t anticipate post-Covid syndrome which changed the situation globally. But Russia’s position is very simple. We support sovereignty. Historically, the concept of sovereignty in the Russian word is a priority. We respect the sovereignty of others. Russian position is simple: here is gas, you can either take it or not. We aren’t going to change your own internal regulations.
Q: How does US and Russian geopolitical strategy differ?
A: We have a different geopolitical strategy. The U.S. strategy is to support dollar turnover in the world. The U.S. domestic economy is dependent on external dollar. Hence 800 (military) bases abroad.
The strategic historical policy of Britain and later America – the so called “gunboat policy, is creating conflict zones and supporting both conflicting parties with the aim of controlling the situation. That’s the U.S. policy. It originates from the American principle of nation building. Russia’s policy is exclusively managing our own business. We are a country of defensive\protective policy. The only exception was the USSR with its Marxist ideology of world revolutions. But it was a temporary exception and it was rejected by Russia.
Q: Do you regard ecological complaints from Poland as a part of the American scheme?
A: Sure. Poland is under U.S. control. If Americans remove this control, it will be gained by Germany. But it’s not in the U.S. interests, so they use Poland and Ukraine. They tried to control Belarus but failed. It’s a clash of strategies. The American strategy is “divide and rule.” Americans want to divide Russia in order to get supplies separately from the Siberia, Ural. But since Russia has nuclear weapons, this plan won’t work out for them.
Q: Would Russia like to restore something like the USSR?
A: The priority here consists in re-establishing legal outcomes, in restoring something that was violated illegally. If a country is divided legally, they have the right to do so. For example, the Czech Republic and Slovakia decided to split. If they did it legally, that’s not a problem. But if it’s illegal, it should be revoked. Do you feel the difference?
As for Yugoslavia one should scrutinize the legitimacy of its division. What are the relations between international and internal\domestic laws? International law doesn’t interfere with domestic laws. A country can be destroyed\divided only by its own laws. If internal Yugoslavian laws were broken while dividing Yugoslavia, then this country should be restored. For the same reason Americans insist on Serbia recognizing Kosovo. Because Americans are well aware that until Serbia recognizes Kosovo’s independence, Serbia and Kosovo can’t be considered legally divided, no matter how many American (military) bases are located in Kosovo.
Without any doubt, the Soviet Union’s dissolution was illegal. By the way, from the viewpoint of law, it wasn’t dissolved because no republic, except for the Baltic States, took the decision to leave the Soviet Union. The republics decided on the state sovereignty but any union consists of sovereign states. So, it doesn’t mean the dissolution of the union.
Q: Who controls Russia’s Central Bank?
A: You must understand how our Central Bank works. The Central Bank is the Depositary of IMF and secures and answers for worldwide USD circulation and includes part of Russian territory. So the Central Bank is part of USD circulation. The Russian Ruble is a derivative of USD and Euro circulations. The Ruble emission is carried out proportionally to part of export deals, as part of USD and Euro income as a result of such operations. So, the Central Bank policy and ruble policy does not reflect the Russian economy at all. It just shows our export potential. So we understand we need reforms to nationalize our currency exchange system and Central Bank. And reforms would create a ruble currency bulk inside Russia in correlation with exports. Similar to what the ECB and Forex are doing. We plan this reform.