Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Interview with Sergey Karaganov about the Ukraine War

Very interesting interview with Sergey Karaganov, a Russian foreign policy intellectual once very close to Putin. He oozes contempt for western Europe but is very worried about China. He also seems worried about the course of the war, because he views it as absolutely essential that Russia emerge with some kind of victory.

BM What do you think would be the final goal for the Kremlin at this point? What would be considered a successful outcome for the invasion?

SK I don’t know what the outcome of this war will be, but I think it will involve the partition of Ukraine, one way or another. Hopefully there would still be something called Ukraine left at the end. But Russia cannot afford to “lose”, so we need a kind of a victory. And if there is a sense that we are losing the war, then I think there is a definite possibility of escalation. This war is a kind of proxy war between the West and the rest – Russia being, as it has been in history, the pinnacle of “the rest” – for a future world order. The stakes of the Russian elite are very high – for them it is an existential war.

Karaganov alludes more than once to the possibility of escalation:

BM You talked about demilitarisation of Ukraine, but it seems that such a goal would not be achieved if the West continues to provide Ukraine with weapons. Do you think Russia will be tempted to stop that flow of arms, and does this risk a direct clash between Nato and Russia?

SK Absolutely! There is a growing probability of a direct clash. And we don’t know what the outcome of this would be.
And this from near the end, about the long-term repercussions of the war:
BM One argument is that Russia will fall under Chinese control, and this war does not help – because by isolating Russia from the West, it turns Russia into easy prey for Chinese economic influence. Are you worried that this could be the beginning of a “Chinese century” for Russia?

SK There are two answers to your question. One is that China’s economic influence in Russia and over Russia will grow. China has most of the technologies we need, and it has a lot of capital, so there is no question about that. Whether Russia would become a kind of a satellite country, according to the Chinese tradition of their Middle Kingdom, I doubt it.

If you asked me how I would describe Russia in one word, it is “sovereignty”. We defeated those who sought to rule us, starting with the Mongols, and then Carl [Charles XII] of Sweden, then Napoleon and Hitler. Also, recently, we had years of Western domination here. It was almost overwhelming. And nevertheless, you see what has happened: Russia revolted against all that. So I am not afraid of Russia becoming a part of a great China. The other reason I’m not afraid is because Chinese civilisation is very different. We have our Asian traits in our genes, and we are in part an Asian country because of this. And Siberia is at the core of the Russian empire: without Siberia, Russia wouldn’t have become a great country. And the Tatar and Mongol yoke left many traits in our society. But culturally, we are different, so I don’t think it is possible that we will become a subsidiary country.

But I am very concerned about the overwhelming economic predominance of China over the next decade. People like me have been saying precisely [that] we have to solve the Ukraine problem, we have to solve the Nato problem, so that we can be in a strong position vis-à-vis China. Now it will be much more difficult for Russia to resist Chinese power. 

BM Do you think the US is benefiting from this war?

SK At this juncture, yes, because the big losers are, in addition to Ukraine, Europe, especially if it continues with this mysterious zest for independence from Russian energy. But China is clearly the victor of this whole affair… I think the biggest loser will be Ukraine; a loser will be Russia; a great loser will be Europe; the United States will lose somewhat, but still it could very well survive as a huge island over the ocean; and the big victor is China.


Shadow said...

China does seem to be doing very well for itself by the simple act of staying out of wars.

Anonymous said...

Standard Kremlin hack. Alternates between basically saying nothing:

SK I would say yes, this is an existential war. If we do not win, somehow, then I think we will have all kinds of unforeseen political repercussions which are much worse than at the beginning of the 1990s. But I believe that we will avoid that, first, because Russia will win, whatever that victory means, and second, because we have a strong and tough regime, so in any event, or if the worst happens, it will not be the dissolution of the country or collapse. I think it will be closer to a harsh authoritarian regime than to the dissolution of the country. But still, defeat is unthinkable.

If we lose, which we won't, there will be major repercussions, but we will win, however we define victory, and we will have an authoritarian regime, which we already have, but we won't lose, however we define it.

Then the collapse of the Soviet Union made it seem for a while that Western predominance was back, but now it is done away with, because Russia will continue to be a major military power and China is becoming a first-class military power.

Russia over the past six weeks certainly has shown themselves to be a major military power, and the West is obviously over. Whatever you say, Sergey.

David said...

Bruno Macaes is himself an interesting character. He was a doctoral student of Harvey Mansfield--who made a name for himself a few years back arguing that the US needed a great revival of "manliness." Macaes dedicated to Mansfield a recent book in which, summaries say, he argued that the US was headed, not toward decline, but toward a vigorous future in which it finally shook off European liberalism and became its true illiberal self. His other two books are about how China is going to dominate Eurasia, and Europe as its own thing is finished and better get on that bandwagon. So that "island fortress America" bit sounds like Macaes himself. Arguably it looks like Macaes sought, or at least found, in Karaganov someone who would echo his own beliefs.

As Anonymous might say, I don't *know* what I'm talking about. I offer it as a possibility.

Anonymous said...

Kremlin hacks don't need other sources other than the Kremlin

David said...


I was talking about Bruno Macaes, though, using Karaganov as a source.

Anonymous said...

Could be, who cares? Kremlin hacks aren't good sources.

Anonymous said...

There are better sources in the world, unlike Kremlin hacks who think that the last six weeks have shown Russia to be a 'major military power'

“It’s stunning,” said military historian Frederick Kagan of the Institute for the Study of War, who says he knows of no parallel to a major military power like Russia invading a country at the time of its choosing and failing so utterly.

G. Verloren said...

The lack of self-awareness on this guy is dizzying.

Waxing poetic about Russian sovereignty and the Russian spirit of independence making them unsuited to falling under Chinese influence, at the same time that they are trampling Ukrainian sovereignty and independence? And then going on admit being confused by Europe's "mysterious zest for independence from Russian energy"? Yikes.

What's truly worrying, though, is the claim that this is somehow an "existential war" and that if they cannot achieve some kind of victory it will lead to "escalation". The Russians have outright stated that they would not use nuclear arms except in an existential crisis - which reads to me like they're prepared to precipitate armageddon if they can't "win" this war.

Anonymous said...

What's truly worrying, though, is the claim that this is somehow an "existential war" and that if they cannot achieve some kind of victory it will lead to "escalation". The Russians have outright stated that they would not use nuclear arms except in an existential crisis - which reads to me like they're prepared to precipitate armageddon if they can't "win" this war.

Eh, same old Soviet saber rattling. Next Putin will be banging his shoe on the table at the UUN. All their crap is the same old Soviet playbook. Same old Kremlin hacks, they never change. You notice he also says that their definition of 'victory' is also flexible?