You can find the original post (with audio recording) here: http://thesaker.is/the-saker-interviewed-by-a-free-slovak-radio-stations-show-casus-belli/
This is the full English language transcript. I did not have the time to correct it, it was made by a friend, not me, so there might be mistakes. Caveat Emptor!
The Saker Interview: Casus Belli SLOVAKIA, Host Maly Sudiar
August 23, 2017
Maly Sudiar: Introduction, in Slovakian
Translator: Saker, we will come to you on the waves of Slobodny Vysielac, Radio Freedom.
The Saker: Thank you very much. It’s an honor and a real pleasure.
Translator: Thank you for being here and to start, you can say a few words about yourself, about how you started to write about the world problems.
The Saker: I was born in a family of Russian refugees in Switzerland who had fled the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, so I am a white Russian. I studied military strategy and strategic studies in the United States and I was, for a big part of my life until 1991, a very active anti-Soviet activist. The KGB was my big enemy and I was a Cold Warrior.
I eventually in Switzerland worked for a number of years as a military analyst in strategic intelligence. I also worked for the United Nations as a researcher in issues of disarmament. And it’s during my years at the UN that the war in Bosnia, Croatia and later Kosovo truly opened my eyes to how naïve I was when I thought that one side was good and the other side was bad.
I could read intelligence reports and UNPROFOR reports about what was truly happening in Yugoslavia, and yet at the same time I could read the exact opposite in the media. This opened my eyes to the real nature of the Anglo-Zionist empire, and due to my opposition to that war I lost my job and then my career.
I was eventually blacklisted in Switzerland, and that’s when I emigrated to the United States, because my wife was a US citizen. My wife is, like myself, the descendent of Russian refugees and also from the so-called “first wave,” so her family also left after the so-called civil war. Both her and I are 4th-generation emigres but we still speak Russian at home, and so do our children.
When I came to the United States I started blogging just because it was psychotherapy for me to write whatever I want. I wrote mostly about the Middle East, but when the coup happened in the Ukraine in 2014 I started writing about the events there, and my blog became famous suddenly and very rapidly because I was writing in English but from a Russian point of view. It was a surprise for me. I never thought that my blog would have any kind of success originally, but since I was by training in my career an expert in Soviet military matters it was easy for me to see that the official version of what was taking place in the Ukraine was not true.
Originally, I was writing under a pen name, The Saker, and not under my real name, Andrei Raevsky, because I wanted my privacy to be protected. But now pretty much everybody knows my real name but I still prefer to use that now as a pen name just because I’m so used to it. That’s my summary. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
Maly Sudiar: Saker, thank you very much. Saker …
Translator: Saker, the first question will be: In your analysis you are using only the open sources or you have some acquaintances in the Russian or American army?
The Saker: No. I am a private individual. I have absolutely no contact or, even less so, access to either Russian or military sources. I have made some accurate guesses, and I use open source information only, but I have had no access to classified information since already over 20 years.
Maly Sudiar: Okay. Next question. …
Translator: Saker, can you describe what is the actual status in the United States out of the mainstream?
The Saker: I don’t understand your question. Can you be specific, please?
Translator: The question is: How do ordinary people in the United States judge the situation, the events in Charlottesville, and what they think about current politics?
The Saker: First of all, I think it greatly depends on whether the people are still listening to and believing the official media. You have to understand that the American media lies more and better than the worst times of the Soviet propaganda. So you can roughly separate people in the United States in two groups: those who do believe it and those who don’t. Those who do, typically their opinion would be reflected in what you see on CNN. They will think that they think whatever the propaganda machine tells them to think.
Now, the second group is the interesting one. They range from people who know that they’re lied to but don’t really understand or know what’s going on –
Translator: They don’t know … I’m sorry. I didn’t catch the last few words.
The Saker: They know that they’re lied to but they don’t know what is really happening. Those are the kinds that could have sympathies for either movements like Black Lives Matter or the so-called alt-right.
Those who do understand that they are being manipulated understand that neither of the sides in Charlottesville represents their interests. They see that as part of an effort by the ruling elite inside the United States to create conflict and chaos with the double goal of hiding who is really in power in this country and to justify political measures and so-called response to crisis. Those who understand that tend typically to be older people, I would say 40, 50 years up and older, or more experienced, and they are usually better informed, also. But what is certain is that the majority of Americans really have an intense dislike for the federal government.
Translator: As I followed your articles, Trump was a big issue and there were some hopes. There were big hopes also with ordinary people here in Europe. The question is if this trend of disappointment will continue further or what’s your opinion?
The Saker: You have to realize that this is not the first time this is happening. There were very real and very profound hopes for Barack Obama. The difference between Barack Obama and Donald Trump is that Barack Obama was always a liar and that he always represented the interest of what we call the Deep State, the real power in the United States.
Donald Trump, I think, was elected because the Deep State and the Democratic Party made a terrible mistake and they were arrogant. They never thought that Hillary would lose, but once the man came to power they were very effective in essentially destroying him in about a month.
You have to understand that the Deep State is much more than just the American bureaucracy. To use a Marxist approach, the Deep State represents a class. The Deep State does not have a set, a boss, headquarters and officers who implement specific policies. There are many conspiracies in the United States but not one single conspiracy. What exists instead is a collusion of class interests. Those who have common class interests defend them together. The Deep State includes, of course, a big part of the bureaucracy, especially the intelligence and security services, but also big finance, also families of influential politicians, and specific lobbies. Every single part of the Deep State pushes for a specific policy, but like with mathematical vectors there is a sum vector which is the resulting policy.
I’m explaining that because it is important to understand that Donald Trump was not only considered an enemy by the bureaucracy of the States; the entire political system considered him as a threat because he promised horrible things, for instance, to stop tensions with Russia, to stop useless wars of aggression, and to what he calls “drain the swamp” which is a code word for getting rid of that Deep State. He promised to unite forces with Russia against terrorism and that is another thing that the Deep State could not tolerate.
First, the Deep State needs a terrorist threat to frighten Americans and make them accept anti-terrorist laws. The Deep State also needs terrorism to direct terrorists against the enemy of the empire and, finally, the Deep State needs the terrorism to weaken Russia and Europe. So Donald Trump’s promises were very dangerous and that’s why they basically broke him very rapidly. It took them about a month to break him.
Unfortunately, the man proved to be very weak and dishonorable. He betrayed his best friends, like General Flynn and most recently Bannan. Please understand that these are not my heroes. I don’t particularly like either one of them but they were the closest allies and friends of Donald Trump. And yet he sacrificed them to try to appease the Deep State.
I’m getting very bad sound. I hear suddenly parasitic sounds on the line. Do you also have problems hearing?
Translator: Yes, the same sound we hear in this. Probably we are testing the connection to Martin. He is trying to establish the connection, I guess.
The Saker: I’ll answer your question then, finally, about Trump. People here are tremendously disappointed now. Those who hated Trump still hate him, and the most of those who had hopes for Trump have now been disappointed. The situation, thus, is very dangerous and unstable.
It’s for me very pleasant –
Woman caller: Hello, Saker.
The Saker: Good evening. Hello. Glad to speak to you.
Woman caller: It is evident that the military-industrial complex and the now are gaining serious ground against the president Trump and his supporters. How do you foresee the future development inside the White House, in the USA, and how will that development impact the whole world? Does this all lead to World War Three?
Translator: Saker, did you hear the question?
The Saker: Yes. I heard the question, understood it, thank you. Has ___ translated the question already? Can I answer?
Translator: I didn’t get the question, so would you mind repeating the question?
The Saker: Yes. Your caller asked what will probably happen inside the White House and whether there is a risk of that impacting the rest of the world. I think she said, could it lead to war?
I personally believe that Trump has been thoroughly defeated but the main people behind the Deep State – they’re called the neocons, the new conservatives, if you want, neoconservatives – are fanatics. They will not stop until they completely humiliate him. This is why I think that they will try to either impeach him or they will declare him incompetent to lead by reason of insanity, or they will invent some kind of scandal to destroy him politically. They will accuse him of something, no matter how ridiculous, to humiliate him and not let him finish his term. Donald Trump, I think, is a weak man. They might also simply convince him to resign. Either way, the consequences of the process taking place now are potentially catastrophic.
You have to understand that the empire is losing power and influence very fast. What is particularly striking is to see how much weaker the empire is in military terms. At the end of World War Two the empire led the world politically and socially and culturally. The empire also led the world economically. Right now, this is not true anymore, and for years already the empire has been weakening but this was hidden because it kept a strong military of power.
Translator: For use as a young people or for use as an obligation, as a utility?
The Saker: No, no, I said that the empire, thanks to the military power of the empire people did not see that it was already weakening. Now the empire’s defeated everywhere by comparatively small and weak forces, and it most definitely does not have the means to fight its major adversaries.
A lot of those who voted for Trump hoped that he would sacrifice the empire to keep the United States strong. Unfortunately, the neocons want to sacrifice the United States to keep the empire strong. The consequences of this is that instead of making what I would call a “soft landing,” the successful neocon coup against Donald Trump now risks a catastrophic collapse.
Could that collapse also trigger a war? Probably yes, some kind of war, yes. Possible candidates, of course, are Iran and Venezuela and North Korea. In theory, the US could decide to re-escalate in Syria. However, I do not think that the generals will agree to any of these wars, because with the possible exception of Venezuela, I don’t think they can win them. And in Venezuela the best we can hope for is an initial victory followed by a very painful guerrilla war so it would be a fake victory, just as the victory in Afghanistan or Iraq were fake.
Lastly, if the neocons are truly insane they could try to trigger a military confrontation with Russia but the consequences of that would be absolutely cataclysmic, and the United States would have absolutely zero chance of prevailing because fighting Russia would mean to fight close to the Russian territory. After all, the Russians are not deployed in South America or in Africa or in Far East Asia, and a conventional attack on the Russian military would yield a tremendous geographical advantage for Russia.
Of course, the United States could destroy Russia using nuclear weapons, but only at the cost of having the United States equally disappear. I therefore see no military option that would be viable for US wars. At most, they can do what they’re doing now, a small surge in Afghanistan, which is essentially useless. And what they can do is do what they have already done in Syria, that is, to make things worse and try to prevent peace from breaking out. So they can try to prevent peace but they cannot conquer the country. They cannot win there.
Maly Sudiar: Thank you, Saker. Martin …
Translator: I would like to start another theme. This is migration. According to my information … I heard, and it’s according to my information, that a similar situation like we have in Europe is in United States that migrants are brought to United States and they are kept in empty buildings, empty facilities. What is your information on it?
The Saker: I have not heard that kind of information.
Translator: So there is no wave of migrants who work in the United States?
The Saker: There is a strong movement to emigrate to the United States, principally from Latin America, but the United States are protected by two immense oceans. The issues of immigration in the United States are totally different from the ones in Europe.
Translator: Let’s have a look on Europe. Who are, according to you, the puppet masters of this migration wave in Europe, and what is their goal?
The Saker: You are assuming that the immigration is the result of a conscious decision to trigger that immigration. I am not saying that this is not the case. I just think that this has to be established before we conclude that that is the case. After all, there is a simple explanation for the wave of immigration that hit Europe over the past years. That is a direct consequence of the chaos triggered in Northern Africa and the Middle East, by the empire. Was that a deliberate part of the plan or not, I think is open to discussion. But what is certain is, then, that for a weakening United States, a weakening Europe is good, and I think that the immigration waves towards Europe are extremely dangerous and tremendously weaken Europe.
It is my understanding that there is indeed a conspiracy to help immigrants come to Europe, particularly through Turkey, and clearly, some countries believe they can use that as a political tool to put Europe under pressure. But Turkey did not create that wave of refugees. These refugees come from many different countries. Some countries are indeed at war; others are not, so they come for economic reasons.
That they all suddenly took the decision to move almost together towards Europe is suspicious. It could be the result of a strategic psychological operations plan. However, it might also be the unintended consequence of capitalist policies of aggression and exploitation in poor countries. I honestly do not know.
Maly Sudiar: Okay. Thank you.
Translator: How can an ordinary person understand the European elite support of the coming of these masses of people?
The Saker: That is very simple. The European elites – they’re not elites – the rulers of Europe do not stand for the interests of Europe at all. This is just a comprador class –
Translator: Comprador? What’s that? Sorry.
The Saker: It’s an expression. It’s from Chinese history. It’s a class that administers Europe for the Americans.
You have to understand that Europe is a colony, a developed, rich and well-educated colony, but a colony nevertheless. There is no such thing as a European policy simply because that is not the role of the rulers of Europe to formulate a policy defending European interests.
They are stuck between two imperatives. On one hand, they have to execute the orders coming from the United States, and on the other hand, they are prisoners of their own ideology and rhetoric. You cannot speak of your love for Africa for years and then tell Africans not to come. You cannot preach equality and then suddenly say that some are more equal than others. I would compare what’s happening in Europe to the AIDS disease, which is a deficiency in the political immune system. European politicians cannot say something politically incorrect, and that is why they cannot tackle a reality which is politically incorrect.
The other perfect example is the completely self-defeating and irresponsible policies of Europe towards the Ukraine. What Europe supported in the Ukraine is a disaster for Europe, and there will be a terrible price to pay in the future for that mistake. But just as in the case of immigration, the European politicians were stuck, and with very few exceptions nobody could say the truth. So what Europe needs today is a national liberation movement similar to those that happened in other countries that were colonies. As long as Europe will remain a colony, nothing will change.
Maly Sudiar: Thank you, Saker. Marianna …
Translator: Saker, what is your estimate of what will be the future of Ukraine and their relationship towards European Union, Russia, United States and the world?
The Saker: Right now, the Ukraine is first of all an artificial country and not a viable one. The disaster is so big that it will take an international effort to rebuild that country. Russia, having a very small economy, can barely absorb Crimea. Maybe with time and with a great deal of effort and reluctance, Russia will have to help the Donbass. But the notion that Russia could somehow rebuild the Ukraine is absolutely ridiculous, and contrary to what the Western propaganda says, Russia has no interest whatsoever in acquiring any more territory there. So there will not be a Russian solution for most of what is the Ukraine today.
The United States are far away from the Ukraine and will not suffer the direct consequences of the disaster there. And that only leaves Europe to carry the costs or most of the costs of any form of reconstruction.
Let’s take one example, the example of refugees from the Ukraine. Already many refugees from the Ukraine have moved over to Russia. Considering the demographic problems of Russia, it is not a major problem for Russia to accept them. Considering, furthermore, that most so-called Ukrainians are really culturally Russians anyway, this is not a sociological problem, either. However, there are also many Ukrainians who are very anti-Russia and will never move to Russia. Where will they go if they decide to leave their country because of the economic and political catastrophe taking place? They cannot walk to Oklahoma or Wisconsin or California, but they can most definitely walk to any part of Europe. Again, Europe will be the continent to bear most of the costs.
I personally think that for political reasons it will be impossible for one side or the other to win in the Ukraine. Furthermore, the main problem of the Ukraine is simply the large size of that territory. If the Ukraine were to break up in smaller entities, that would be a far more manageable problem. I think that it is likely that people in the Ukraine itself will slowly start thinking in these terms. After all, if you look at the demographics and economy of, for instance, the Lvov or Ivano-Frankovsk oblasts and you compare that with the Donbass, they’re very different. They’re also different culturally. So I question the wisdom of wasting resources in trying to keep together an entity which is fundamentally artificial. At this point in time, I do not believe that there is any way of convincing the Donbass to return under Kiev sovereignty.
So this, in my opinion, leaves only three possible options: an endless civil war, a breakup of the country or maybe a very, very, very loose confederacy. But even in purely political terms, if there is peace in the Ukraine the different regions will pull in different directions. This is why I believe that eventually some kind of breakup of the country is inevitable.
Translator: We have one question, which is, when you wrote in 2014 about the situation in the Ukraine, which sources did you use to keep your information up to date?
The Saker: A mix of open sources and personal contacts that I had with people in Russia and in the Donbass. I also had a few contacts with people who were on the other side in the Ukraine, but I had no access to classified or any kind of special information.
Translator: I would like to come back to Trump with the questions that we have from our audience. The question is if Trump has some support among politicians or they turn with the back to him because of the profits they have from the military-industrial complex.
The Saker: Well, it all depends who you’re speaking about. Trump definitely has people supporting him, including politicians. For example, those politicians who want the United States to start producing actually, to have an industry that produces something and not just speculates in financial markets are supporting Trump. Likewise, a part of the military supports Trump. But those people, who are most of them retired military, who don’t want more wars.
I would say there were hopes on the parts of the libertarian Americans who wanted freedoms to be restored and respected in this country. But it’s crucial, I think, to understand that the main reason for Trump’s victory is Hillary. I think that a lot of people who voted and supported Trump did not like him as much as they truly feared Hillary.
Look, it’s pretty simple. If you look at what was taking place last summer and last fall Hillary looked apocalyptically dangerous. But Donald Trump said many very good things. He did say good things. Of course, people were aware of his personality, and to many he did look like a billionaire clown, but between the certitude of the horror of a Hillary presidency and the hope that Trump might do something good, people chose Trump.
Finally, a lot of people noticed how much the media propaganda hated Trump. And I really want to insist on that, that the hate campaign against Trump here is absolutely fantastic. A lot of people concluded—
Maly Sudiar: Saker, (interruption – phone call with listener’s question.)
Translator: The listener is asking that he heard on Ukrainian or Russian television that there are already agreements between Russia and the United States that in the area of Ukraine have to be or will be created a new Israel. What’s your opinion about it?
The Saker: First of all, let me tell you that if I was Jewish myself, the last place I would want to go is a place where anti-Jewish feelings were the strongest. Secondly, I heard about that report. I know exactly what your caller is referring to and it is absolute nonsense. The reality is that, unfortunately, nobody in the near future will want Ukraine, let alone want to control it.
Translator: We have another question from a listener. The question is about climate change, if his opinion is reasonable or he is just sitting on the wave of the billionaires, the supporters of the Republican Party?
The Saker: I have to apologize and admit my complete incompetence in that topic, so I cannot offer any kind of comment. I’m not a scientist.
Translator: What is the influence of the leftist Jewish lobby on Donald Trump and since when it has influence on Trump?
The Saker: What I can tell you is that organized Jewry is overwhelmingly against Trump. The fact that his son-in-law Jared Kushner is a hardcore Zionist and a Likudnik does not change that. It is quite remarkable to see the hatred that most Jewish organizations and media outlets have for Trump here. I personally know and I have even Jewish friends who supported Trump but that’s a minority. Most rank-and-file, simple Jews traditionally in the United States vote Democratic. They by and large tend to hold ideas which are called liberal here, and they are already hostile to Trump.
Then you have the neocons who are overwhelmingly Jewish but not exclusively. Some neocons are not Jewish but most are, and they hate Trump with a passion. So I would argue that the overwhelming Jewish influence in the United States, which is very strong, is definitely against Trump. For example, Jews are very influential in Hollywood and the mass media, and the mass media and Hollywood are 99% anti-Trump. And the latest is now that they accuse Trump of being a racist and a white supremacist. So the coup of the neocons against Trump and the hate campaign are very much the result of actions of Zionist interests in America.
One final note: Interestingly, it is rumored that Jared Kushner played a key role in getting rid of Bannon and of Flynn. So it appears that even those Jews who are supposedly pro-Trump are largely against him. This being said, this is a generalization. I personally have Jewish friends who voted for Trump, so it’s not 100%.
Translator: We have a question from a listener if you are not planning to move again to Russia with your family.
The Saker: The reason why I can’t do that right now is simply because, for one thing, I don’t have Russian citizenship. Nobody in my family ever had Soviet citizenship. The last one we had was Russian imperial citizenship. Besides that, I’m trying to put my three children through college here. So right now, this is totally not an option for me.
What the future holds for me I don’t know. So far, the authorities have never done anything against me here but with the neocons back in power, this could change. So we will see what the future holds for me.
Maly Sudiar: Next quick question is from me. …
Translator: Sometimes these tensions between Russia and China and United States looks like theater or staged for sheeple, for sheep. The main reason is that the business with arms is going on, all of this in empires, and all of them are gaining money from these wars and they use these wars for their interests. So the question is, is it theater or it’s real?
The Saker: It is most definitely not theater. First of all, neither China nor Russia are empires. They’re big countries, but they have no imperial interests. Furthermore, at least in Russia there is no support for any kind of imperial ideas. Russia paid too dear a price playing empire. Empires are a disaster for those countries who engage in imperial politics. Just as the Soviet empire was a disaster for the Russian people, today the Anglo-Zionist empire is a disaster for the American people. So I think your assumption is mistaken when you compare Russia, China and the American empire.
Furthermore, the sale of weapons is not sufficient by itself to justify the cost of empire. Most wars today do not require expensive weapons, and most parties to modern conflict don’t have the means of purchasing advanced weapons systems. So in the case of Russia, for instance, the two partners which are most interesting for the Russian military-industrial complex are China and India. The Russian weapons sales to, for instance, Venezuela or Syria or Yemen are tiny. Finally, while even the military-industrial complex could maybe want war, they represent just one interest. There are many other interests who do not want war. I would argue that Russia and China, the last thing they want is any kind of war.
Now, switching to the opposition between the United States – or I would say, American empire – and Russia today, you have to understand that this is an existential struggle on both sides. The goal of the empire is to subjugate Russia and to turn it again into a colony like Russia was in the 1990s. The goal of Russia is to make the American empire collapse, because they correctly perceive it as an existential threat. This is also the goal of China. China and Russia want a multipolar world, not a unipolar world led by one hegemon. The Deep State and the neocons in America understand that very well, correctly, and that’s why they correctly perceive Russia and China as existential threats.
Finally, Russia represents also civilizational threats. Russia is rejecting the Western civilizational model entirely, and this is another threat that is also existential for the empire. When a comparatively small country like Iran – comparatively small like Iran – chooses to develop in a different civilizational model, this is not a problem for the empire. It’s a problem for the region, yes. Hence the hysterics of the Saudis and the Israelis, who are terrified of the Iranian civilizational model. But the future of the empire does not depend on that.
But when a country of the size of Russia allies itself with other major countries, like China or Kazakhstan or others, this also creates a civilizational challenge, which is dangerous to the empire.
Thus, contrary to your listener, I think that’s what we’re seeing, a war right now between the empire and Russia, but it’s war which is 80% informational, 15% economic, and maybe 5% military. The example of that obviously is Syria. It is a different kind of war, I agree, but it is a war in which one of the parties will win and the other one will collapse and disappear.
Maly Sudiar: Okay, super. Thank you, Saker. Next question I shall ask. …
Translator: We cannot assume that the United States assumes the following scenario for the third world war. It will be happening mostly in Europe, and the main consequences will be borne by Europe. The United States will be suffering less, and losses will bear in the United States mostly citizens. In United States there will be a lot or mostly all the soldiers, who got option to choose either prison or army. And this is a supplemental question: Can you imagine the future in the case of the death of President Putin?
The Saker: Okay. That’s two different questions. Let me try with the first one first. NATO is a political-military organization but if you look in terms of military capabilities, NATO is about 80% American. This is not just counting tanks or infantry; this is including key resources, such as intelligence, reconnaissance, mobility, transportation. If a war was to happen between Russia and NATO in Europe, the US section of NATO would play by far the crucial role. The Russians know that and would defend themselves accordingly, which means that casualties on the US side would happen immediately with their military. The Americans would then have the choice to either accept that, which they will never, or escalate very fast.
So if the US hoped that a war could be fought only in Europe, that’s a mistake. By NATO being forward deployed and often within very close distance to the Russian border, including American forces, any war would immediately pull in the United States very rapidly. So I don’t think that the US could fight a war, hope that there will be a NATO in Europe which will not heavily involve the United States very rapidly.
Furthermore, I would actually say that one of the most important developments in warfare recently are strategic reconnaissance strike complexes, which are conventional.
Translator: You have to go word by word because I don’t know what this is.
The Saker: Long-range non-nuclear weapons, for instance, cruise missiles. If a war were to happen between the USA and Russia today the Russians would be in a position to strike the USA as a country with conventional weapons. So for the first time in their history, Americans would be threatened inside their own homeland in the US.
Also keep in mind that most of the American infrastructure is along both coasts of the United States. Thus, all of them would be within strike range of Russian conventional cruise missiles. So if the US generals think that they can use their deployment in eastern Europe to fight on Russian land only, they are deeply mistaken. Any US conventional attack on, for instance, Novgorod, Pskov or Murmansk – whichever), would result in similar attacks on US targets in the United States. So again, the idea that the war would be limited to Europe is a mistaken one.
Translator: The second part of the question was, if Putin would die, whether the relations would change. And I will add, if possible, a lot of people idealize Russia because of Putin. If you compare, what is the relationship between Trump and Congress and Putin and Duma? Are there any similarities between them?
The Saker: First of all, I have to tell you that when Putin was appointed by Yeltsin’s entourage to become the acting president I was extremely suspicious of him. It took me many years to change my position but today, I have to sincerely confess that I am a Putin fan and I admire him tremendously.
What I believe happened is the following: In the late 1990s, Russia was in such a state of collapse, that it is similar to what the Ukraine is seeing today. So the two big forces that were still left over, which is big money and the intelligence services, got together and appointed jointly two people representing each group to rule together. This is obviously Medvedev representing Gazprom and the big financial interests and Putin, who represented the intelligence services and the military. It took Putin more than 10 years to slowly start to prevail over Medvedev, and the way I describe the two camps is I call one the Atlantic Integrationists – those who want Russia to be part of the empire as an equal partner – and the second group I call the Eurasia Sovereignists. They want Russia to become a sovereign Eurasian power.
The Russian elites largely support Medvedev and hate Putin. However, the Russian people in an overwhelming majority strongly support Putin, at least at 80 percent. So this is the real internal struggle that is taking place inside Russia. The real opposition to Putin are those Atlantic Integrationists, and they’re the biggest danger for him. The Duma is basically a joke, which doesn’t really deal with these matters and whose opposition parties are more or less loyal to the Kremlin. There is also a very small pro-American, pro-Western tiny non-system opposition. They call it non-system opposition, which is hopelessly pro-American, which has some support in Moscow itself but who can’t even get a single deputy inside the Duma. So I estimate that pro-American feelings are not more than maybe two to three percent of the population. The rest of the opposition to Putin comes from either communists or nationalists. But thank God, he keeps them pretty much under control.
So now to compare Putin and Trump, you could think of Putin as a successful Trump, or Trump as a failed Putin. As soon as Putin came to power he effectively and rapidly crushed the oligarchs who were ruling Russia. And that was the only option for Trump, also. Trump should have done it like Putin and used the law to actually get rid of and put these corrupt people in jail. I assure you that the level of corruption in the US elites is no smaller than in the Russian elites. Unfortunately, Trump never understood that he had to crack down on the neocons immediately after taking power. In contrast, Putin fully understood that and did exactly that immediately, as soon as he became acting president.
The bad news for Russia now is that there is no successor to Putin. Generally, Russians have a very bad history of finding successors. Furthermore, even if Xi Jinping, president of China, is a very interesting and competent man, what rules China is the system. China is ruled by a system, by institutions. Unfortunately, Russia today is very much ruled by a single man. Most of what happens today in Russia is directly dependent on Putin. You can see that in the way people call him to ask him to solve even local problems. In Russia, we say that he rules “in a manual regime”, “v ruchnom rezhime”. That is potentially very dangerous. There are some very good people around him, but none of them have the kind of personality that would make them a successor.
If something were to happen to Putin, I am afraid that the Atlantic Integrationists would immediately try to seize power. That could result in a very harmful power struggle inside the Kremlin. My hope is that Putin understands that and has made provisions to avoid such a situation. Still, I am afraid that he is quite irreplaceable at this time.
Maly Sudiar: Okay. Next question. …
Translator: The question is, if there is a conventional attack from Europe on Russia, if Russia would be forced by this conventional attack to use nuclear arms.
The Saker: No. Russia has an overwhelming conventional superiority, not in numbers, but in quality. NATO forces in reality are not very effective. They are poorly trained, poorly commanded and wouldn’t last very long against the Russian military. Now, of course, I want to qualify this by saying I assume a Western NATO attack against Russia. Russians do not have the power projection capability to successfully pursue a conventional attack on Western Europe. The notion that Russia would attack Europe is ridiculous. Even the three Baltic republics have absolutely nothing to fear from the Russian military not because the Russians are inherently kind, peace-loving and gentle people, but because there simply is no rational interest or scenario under which Russia would want to acquire these territories. Russia does not need more land or to pay more unemployment benefits, so the notion of a Russian attack is just stupid.
However, if you think that NATO is capable under US command to take military action against Russian forces, Russia would most definitely fight back, and fight back very hard. So that is a possibility. That would leave the US only two options, to go nuclear or to give up. Please understand that I’m not talking about an invasion of all of Europe up to Portugal and France like it was feared during the Cold War. I am discussing a Russian defensive operation, which would happen within both sides of the Russian border. On that segment of the territory, Russia has an overwhelming conventional advantage. But I can promise you the Russian tanks are not coming to Prague.
Translator: In this case, to Bratislava.
The Saker: Or Bratislava or any other city in Europe.
Maly Sudiar: Okay, next question from listener, Peter. …
Translator: If US would recall all their military personnel back to the homeland, to the United States, would it cause the collapse of the US social system? And what could they do with all these people?
The Saker: No, the US is a fantastically rich country. They are wasting resources on maintaining a costly empire. Look at how the Soviet people lived during the Soviet empire. Empires are a disaster for the economy. If the US was to withdraw from the entire world and pull all their forces back in, that would allow absolutely fantastic savings. To add a couple of million people to a country that itself has 300 million people is not that big of a problem. But the savings realized by stopping the financing of the empire would be in the many billion dollars. It would be huge. We’re not only talking about the money spent on the military machine, but also the money spent on sanctions, on subversion, on economic control. It’s immense. It’s a huge waste of money. Propaganda, everything.
Also, empires have terrible social consequences. You can see here people who, everybody has either lost some family member of friend or has somebody who has been wounded in combat or otherwise is poor or homeless because of these wars. It is crucial to understand – if you’re the victim of an empire, you have to understand that the nation hosting that empire is also a victim.
I think that the American people have the same interests as the rest of the world. The enemy, the threat, is the empire, not the United States as a country. I think of an empire like I think of a malignant tumor, a cancer cell. It is hosted by a body but it’s also the enemy of the body. I get letters from American veterans every day saying, “I love my country, and I’m a patriot but …,” and then they start saying how much they hate the empire. Just like real Russian patriots would be opposed to Russian empire, real American patriots are opposed to the American empire. So we all have the same enemy, imperialism.
Translator: Oh – we have last minutes, so we would like to thank you for coming and we have plenty other questions here.
The Saker: Thank you. It was a pleasure and a privilege.
Translator: And we have plenty of questions which are not addressed yet, so if you don’t mind coming next time to the program and finish with questions around Syria and other …
The Saker: With great pleasure.
Translator: Would you mind coming to the next program?
The Saker: Yes, I will do that. Absolutely.
Translator: We are greeting you to California, the United States.
The Saker: No, Florida, Florida. I’m in Florida.
Maly Sudiar: Oh, Florida, sorry. In Slovakia, good night and in Florida –
The Saker: Good evening.
Maly Sudiar: Good evening, yes.