Dima: Good day! Today Delfi says hello from a place where you can see a combination of toponyms that in today’s content are incomprehensible. Behind us is the Russian Embassy, the square in front of the Embassy is named in honour of Nemtsov, it’s location – the street of Heroes of Ukraine. Next to me stands a Russian politician, a former vice minister of energy, and a colleague of Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Milov. Vladimir, hello.
- Today we decided to talk with you about the Russian opposition, and this discussion should be more of a philosophical kind, so to say. And the main topic of our conversation is – the Russian opposition from Nemtsov to Navalny, since you seem a perfect speaker as both a colleague of Boris Nemtsov and Aleksey Navalny. And my first question is does Russian opposition, opposition in Russia, really exist?
- Certainly, it does exist. The numbers of our audience prove it. These numbers are similar to the audience of federal propagandist television. My tentative guess is that in Russia the monthly audience of all independent opposition channels is approximately 30-35,000,000 unique users. But those watching us are not necessarily our supporters. The permanent audience is about 10-15,000,000 people. This is a lot, and this is the politically active part of the population while Putin’s supporters tend to be politically very passive. Their motto is to obey their superiors. For example, when Prigozhin’s mutiny happened, when something has happened, they sat quietly without moving. Our audience, which has chosen to stay in Russia, is huge and politically active. Now, they are not very visible as people are afraid of imprisonment. I do believe, the Belarusian opposition understands what I mean, this is an innovation of the last three years. First in Belarus and now in Russia, political activists began to be subjected to heavy prison terms and terrible conditions.
Our goal is to protect the spirit of resistance. We are preparing people for the moment when they will be able to speak up. Now, it would be counterproductive to go into frontal attack, but I do believe, the right moment will come. We are deeply engaged in broadcasting in Russia, in counterpropaganda, as well as preparing the most active supporters for future political actions.
- You said that among your audiences you have not only supporters. Let’s clarify this. Now, we are talking with you literally after my broadcast on YouTube. And I often ask people to write in the chat section, from which countries do they watch our program. Although we are a Lithuanian media channel, we have viewers from Germany, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and many other countries. And what about your audience: people are mainly from Russia, or they are Russians who have left their country and now live somewhere else?
- The numbers I have mentioned particularly refer to our viewers from Russia, YouTube and social media statistics serve as a proof. In addition, many people from Russia do not hide that they subscribe to and watch opposition media channels. So, these numbers refer to our audience in Russia, which has grown very much since the start of the full-scale invasion. It happened because many people finally understood the truth: earlier they believed that somehow the situation will sort itself out; now, many have clearly seen the bestial face of the regime. And, as I said, our audience has grown a lot after a full-scale war erupted.
- Is it possible to say that the opposition, in general, not only you specifically, has stable and direct connection with Russia? There is such a deep-rooted prejudice that a person, who lives outside Russia, loses touch with this reality, does not feel important nuances?
- This stereotype emerged before the modern information era. For example, 15 years ago, people did not have mass access to the Internet and social media. It is a new phenomenon. Therefore, these statements about losing contact with the country when emigrating were relevant many years ago. People still do believe in this concept, but everything has changed. But I am not saying there are no problems at all. Of course, there are some. Of course, one can netter understand what is happening in the country when one lives there. The most important thing is that it goes both ways. We are not just broadcasting; we also get huge feedback. The more my audience grows, the more difficult it is for me to sort through all the messages I get as people write from all over the country – from Kaliningrad to Blagoveshchensk, etc. I receive messages from dozens of cities daily. And I want to thank everyone who writes to us. I thank them for their realism, for realistically looking at the situation.
We do not get these rose-tinted glasses that everything is fine and all people in Russia are against the war. People, on the contrary, talk about difficulties. That is why we perfectly capture the mood of the Russian society. I am already 51 years old, and I know Russia very well. I have traveled Russia back and forth. In the 80s and 90s, I visited many factories.
Moreover, while under arrest, I spent some time with real criminals. I know Russia very well. And the information we receive sometimes is deceitful. Yes, many oppositionists are politically experienced people having much communication skills. Therefore, I think, that we understand Russia very well. Although, of course, this problem does exist, and we need to do lots of fact checking constantly. It is no good to rely on your stereotypes, it is better to give questions to the audience and find out what is happening there.
- This feedback, you receive, points to what conclusions? You mentioned its honesty and constructiveness. For example, many people write that the impact of “Z propaganda” is huge. Could this help to make some conclusions on its extent? In general, what is mood in Russia today? Talking about people who write to you? They are depressed? In a decadent mood? Or do they see some kind of light at the end of the tunnel?
- I will start with “bad news”: indeed, a large part of Russians is highly susceptible to propaganda. I always insist it is not the majority; but about 35-40% of the population. Various opinion polls show that 30-40% of people support the government, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. These people do not just follow their leadership but also repeat these patterns of aggression, such as, we can do whatever we want in the world, we do not care what the collective West thinks, there is no such country as Ukraine, and so on. There are many such people in society, and it is a big problem, because these people need to be educated not to act like this, educated to cherish democratic values. Healing would not be easy. I do not have any illusions about this. The good news is, as I have already mentioned, that part of the audience supporting the regime is traditionally passive; I remember this dating back to Soviet times – such people are politically inactive. Railing against the regime at home after watching TV is one thing, and taking part in any political actions is another. For example, we do not see any voluntary demonstrations supporting Putin or the war. No popular mass movement.
Let’s say, 100 years ago, during the World War I, we witnessed exactly that. People went out into the streets for the tsar, for the fatherland and signed up en masse as volunteers. Now we do not see any of this. One of my greatest thrills is when people send me photographs with empty recruiting posts. They erected many of these, and they are completely lifeless, no volunteers. The bad thing is that children became involved in this militarized context – they play war, they are interested in all that military stuff. But in general Russians are staying aside. They had a campaign to recruit volunteers for the war, offered a lot of money, but nevertheless it failed. This part of society, which is for Putin and the war, is very passive. They support the war theoretically but are not keen for actions. Another good news is that we can roughly divide Russian society into three parts, and one is for the war. And about a third of the population is actively against the war. And not only against the war, but also against the regime, which is based on violation of human rights, and humiliation of people both in Russia and in other countries. It means they are for different model of government, a different life. And these people are very politically active. They are ready to take on many risks, realizing that they, for example, can be sent to prison. At the beginning of the war, many of them went out on demonstrations. Now people do not go, but the situation in Russia is so explosive that you can get a real prison sentence for likes, reposts, or financial support for the opposition. But people in Russia continue to do so. They take great risks; I see many people who are keen to talk to others and convince them to change their mind.
Over the past year and a half, many managed convincing regime’s supporters to wake up; sociological surveys also support that. Over time, some, who trusted propaganda, changed their minds, and that has worked in our favor, not Putin’s. And, of course, such change is slower than we would like, but, on the other hand, censorship and propaganda are very strong. Nevertheless, we are still achieving some progress anyway. And there is a remaining group of people who are absolutely passive, who prefer not to notice what is happening around them. But over time, some of these people start to understand what is happening and take actions, numbers are not great, but they still are. Some of active regime’s supporters start doubting it, initiating positive developments. From the first, to the second and then to the third group – we see an integral change. Let’s take Levada figures. I would not take them for granted, let’s treat such surveys with a grain of salt, but the tendency is clear. In March 2022, there were 53% of people who supported the war; now, it is 40%. The trend is accelerating. Numbers speak for themselves.
- What do you think, where is the dividing line between these three groups? Between passive group, active supporters of the war and active opponents of the war? I still cannot find the answer to this question myself, because I see people with whom I went to school or university together. When we were kids, we played football together. So, we came from the same cultural context, watched the same cartoons, had the same teachers, but in the end, we are on different sides of the barricades.
- Look, there are many different individual cases. And I urge everyone who examines Russian public opinion not to fall into the trap of one’s inner circle. Because everyone is different. One man tells me he does not have anyone in their surroundings supporting Putin or the war. Another says that everyone around him supports both Putin and the war, and he does know what to do. It happens in different ways, but some differences are clear to me. The first is, of course, age. It is obvious, no fluctuations at all. The older the people, the higher their support for Putin and the war is. If you take out of the picture the 55+ age group from the society, you will see a completely different picture. These people have a feeling of insecurity lingering from the Cold War, from the big confrontation. When there is a big confrontation in the world, they feel they have to remain loyal for our country, no matter what. This philosophy came from that time; they have it in their genes. This generation is mostly interested in watching TV. A strong correlation exists between watching TV and their attitude towards the war. Younger people find it challenging to consume the TV version of events because it is too dumb for them, too linear for a person who sees the world as complex as it is. And it gives them the feeling of rejection.
So, the first factor is age; and the second is geography. It is also very interesting as it is often said that Russia has just Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, the capitals, and then the rest. Actually, it is not true as cities with a population of 500,000 or more are also some sort of regional Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. In any city with a population of 500,000 to a million the mood is the same as in the capital. And in towns with a population of 100,000 to 500,000 there is the highest support for Putin.
Because people there have less opportunity to travel, they have not seen the world. In such towns, the entire population depends on 2-3 enterprises belonging to state corporations, they do brainwash people. Relatively speaking, cities with a population of 1,000,000 or more are rather against Putin and against the war. In small towns situation is far worse. So, these two factors are clearly observable from the sociological data.
- You said that the highest support concentration for Putin is in small towns. I presumt, that there the support for the opposition is the weakest?
- Probably, yes. But, on the other hand, even in such cities we have at least some supporters. If in general in the whole country we have support of one third of population, in big cities have much more supporters, maybe half of people, and in towns it may be 15-20%.
But the most important thing is that such support for the opposition do exist in all towns. And our principle is not to neglect anyone despite of geography, social matters, or age. We try to reach out to all people. And even if somewhere there is little support for the opposition, we still consider it essential to work with them, talk and look for more supporters.
- There is an opinion, which had been popular long before the war, that the opposition in Russia, liberal opposition, is supported mainly in major cities. And it is not a myth. But is it close to the truth?
- Yes, this is close to the truth. The only thing is that it is usually narrowed to Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. But we must understand that the population of Russia is concentrated in large cities. But only close to one-third of the Russian population lives in cities with population over a million. This is an approximate calculation. There is a misconception that there are 2, 3, 4, 5 cities where residents support the opposition, and the rest of the Russians live in some sort of outback. It is not true. The proportion of large cities is very high. It means, that Russian people live mostly in towns and in big cities. Therefore, this proportion is rather in our favor.
- How did this myth about Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and a few other cities emerge?
- It goes back to traditions. I’m currently preparing a new episode for my YouTube channel; finishing a series about the history of the 2000s and the birth of putinism. I want to do also an episode about the 19th century, the roots of imperialism, that some sort of hypertrophy, excessive state absolutism. It is very interesting. In many ways, this topic was artificially imposed by state propaganda, meaning that the capital’s intelligentsia was cut off from ordinary people. And that the capital’s residents do differ from the remaining Russia. The house of the Romanovs served as a key ideological postulate – that some kind of mold has sprouted there, which is raging, westernized, but our people, the real ones, are with us… Please, note that the ideology of the current regime also appeals to this, to those real people…
- …for whom spiritual things are more important than material.
- Exactly. In fact, the picture is more complicated. Basically, if you take a closer look at the political evolution of any country, it has always been a struggle between the progress and the archaic heritage. Here in Western democratic countries there was also quite a lot of archaism. So, these are roughly similar processes. Our goal is to help those who are progress oriented. We are struggling with the archaic legacy, this struggle takes a lot of time, but in the end we will succeed.
- A follow-up question. Let’s go back to the three groups, I find the middle group the most interesting – the most passive and inert one. If we talk about people who always go with the flow, whoever is in power, when Yeltsin, Nemtsov, and Belov were in power, it means they went with the flow with you?
- Not really. In the nineties, all these people had the opportunity to speak, and they very often spoke critically, for example, about the democrats in power. This criticism grew over time, and now very often people tend to stereotype those times meaning that everything was the same. No, things were different then. Officials in power were constantly under strong pressure from the electorate. When they did something wrong, they were accountable to the voters. People were able to put pressure on them. Generally, I want to emphasize that the space of freedom we have managed to create at that time now serves as a source of strength for today’s opposition. Navalny, Yashin, Roizman, Milov, and Guriev – they are people who had established themselves personally and professionally back then, during the period of relatively free Russia. I am sure, if we had not that short period of freedom time, today we would not have so many charismatic resistance leaders.
- You mentioned that you have a project on YouTube about the history of the 2000s. The viewers, especially from the European country, may form an impression that there were times when Nemtsov was in the establishment, and Milov was Russia’s Deputy Minister of Energy. And at a certain point came Putin. Nemtsov, your colleague in the past, joined parliamentary opposition. At first glance, it seemed that everything was fine, yes? But then unfolded this scenario; the same is also applicable for Lithuania when the governing powers go into the parliamentary opposition and win the next elections. But at what point it all went wrong?
- This is an important issue that we are now discussing with many people in different democratic countries, where there are some unpleasant trigger processes. For example, judicial reform in Israel, against which people protested. The main conclusion from what happened in Russia is that democracy is easy to undermine. You need to be on the alert all the time and immediately react to the slightest changes, because look what happened in Russia. When Putin came to power, some people began to wonder about authoritarian tendencies, but these people were laughed at. They were ridiculed – “listen, what bad can happen?” Less than ten years ago, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was brought down; and we are talking not about some retired KGB officer; this is a whole system. We now have a free parliament with nine factions fighting with each other, we have independent television, we have independent courts, issuing rulings against authorities. These were the realities of the late 90s and early 2000s. People used to say: “What bad could happen, dont be so paranoid”.
And when these steps are taken, you have to remain on high alert, because no one comes and announces that that’s it, we are closing democracy – I am now a monarch. These changes are gradual. Little by little they slightly changed the procedure for appointing judges, seized one TV channel, but everyone stayed calm: well, there are many more TV channels. They slightly changed the procedure for appointing the Federation Council, and so on. Each of these steps by itself does not mean anything. Still, in my video material I prove that it was a systematic takeover of all institutions, which was carried out in just a few months. Less than a year and a half – this is how long the process took place. As a result, the Russians found themselves in a mousetrap, completely powerless. The final point in this was the coup that was launched during the Parliamentary elections in 2003, because the ruling party did not receive even a simple majority in these elections, it got only 36% of votes. But with intimidation of deputies from other factions, they formed the so-called constitutional majority, more than 300 mandates out of 450. They simply changed all the laws and quietly almost abolished democracy. Almost immediately amendments were adopted, for example, that protests cannot be held without permission, non-governmental organizations must report on funding, a new party cannot be registered, and governor elections were canceled. Therefore, the main conclusion from the Russian experience is that one needs always be on guard. Even in developed democratic countries there might be some attempts to compromise state institutions, refuse validating the outcome of democratic elections, and attempts to change the composition of judges and polling constituencies, some rules in order to stay in power for an indefinite amount of time. Viktor Orban in Hungary is one of the most striking examples. And Russian society simply missed that moment of crucial changes. In justification one might say that it was just a very short period; we had to stay completely focused on politics, but Russian people were very tired of the turbulent 90s, also there was an incredible economic growth.
The average growth of real income in the first eight years of Putin’s rule was over 12% yearly. In six years, income has doubled. Internet, bank cards came along, and travel opportunities and so on. Life has changed in an incredible way. Of course, I remember all these conversations – “Come on, you’re just exaggerating with Nemtsov, nothing terrible will happen”. And when something terrible did happen, it was already too late, people were simply deprived of any power to influence the situation. Therefore, the conclusion – if recognizing any signs of growing authoritarianism, ring all the warning bells. You should not be scared to throw a tantrum; it is scary to end up in a situation of an authoritarian dictatorship with dismantled democratic institutions.
- So, it turns out that step by step we have what we have. We do remember 2014, the annexation of Crimea, then 2015, when Nemtsov was killed, and what is happening today, the war against Ukraine. The Russian government moved towards this step by step. Nemtsov was killed in 2015, but the opposition continued to use methods that, it seems to me, were more effective at the beginning of the 2000s. Is there a mistake the opposition have made, that the government turned more radical step by step, and the opposition has not followed this pattern?
- Look, it is a lengthy debate – should the opposition become more radical or not. The key point is that we promote a completely different system – a system based on law, legitimacy, and peaceful solution to the issue of power. I know, that many people urge us to take more radical steps. But life is a different story. When you become a supporter of more radical methods, you lose popular support because the supporters of democracy just want legitimate authority. They do not want this to be a mutiny of an armed thug against other armed thugs. It was obvious with the situation with Prigozhin’s rebellion. The vast majority, 98%, of our supporters in Russia said they see no difference between Putin and Prigozhin. They want a different system based on legitimacy and so on. For this reason, this discussion could be endless. There is a great global experience, such discussions often take a lot of time and effort. In terms of convincing people support your cause, there is no alternative to peaceful democratic protest. Any radical methods, given how heavily armed this regime is, are doomed to fail. And I have not yet heard a single clear action plan. How is it possible to go against the authorities having so many military men? Putin’s Federal Security Service alone is 50,000 people. Many say that Putin must be overthrown by force, but no one has ever elaborated on how to do that, where are we going to get these 50,000 armed men, I am not talking about 100,000 or 200,000. That is why the request from our supporters, of course, is a peaceful democratic alternative. By the way, an important point when discussing the change of power, the split of elites, if we recall our own history, when part of the elite went over to the side of democracy, it was always connected with their support to peaceful coexistence with their own people. They did not want to get involved in any armed confrontations. You can remember general Lebed’, who defected to Yeltsin’s side in 1991 because Yeltsin was a peacefully and legally elected leader. So, it’s such a difficult path to take, but I don’t see any real alternative. If someone offers one, I will be glad to discuss it.
- Is it possible to say that the Russian government’s attitude towards the opposition has moved from targeted repressions and murders to strikes on squares?
- Not yet, but they are moving in this direction. And as popular discontent increases, this will most likely be inevitable. Let’s take a look at the regimes that are ahead of us regarding repressions, like Iran or North Korea. By the way, I made a separate video about North Korea recently on my channel – similar model of repressions. They have a much more developed apparatus of repression. For example, in North Korea, the ratio of security forces directly involved in repressions is ten times higher than in Russia. And, of course, there are mass executions, people just disappear without a trace. It has become the norm. We are very far from it, but the dynamics, of course, leads to that direction. It is too early to call what is happening mass repressions. According to various human rights organizations, there are approximately 500-600 political prisoners in Russia. This is a lot; it is three times more than in the late Soviet Union. When it comes to tens of thousands, you can technically call it mass repressions. But we are going that way, and, as the government’s authority falls, I think, unfortunately, repressions will increase.
- Yes. If we take the official numbers of human rights organizations, this is three times less than in Belarus. Nemtsov was killed in February 2015. I will never forget that day. And the question of Ukraine played a great role in his assassination.
- A crucial part. I have my own version why all this happened. I presented it publicly. Former KGB officers have such a term – “on totality” – meaning, that some things had been accumulated and something was the last straw. This, of course, was associated with Russia’s attack on Ukraine, but also there was growing discontent about his domestic and international publicity. He was both nationally and internationally known person, who was brave enough to challenge the government. That challenge has to do with Ukraine. First, regime was wildly annoyed by his Marches of Peace, because for the regime of crucial importance was the picture, that all Russians are imperial, they all support Putin, the war, etc. And Marches of Peace showed different picture. Putin or Dugin will never bring so many people under their banners. Tens of thousands of Russians in major cities came out with Ukrainian flags. This, of course, completely changed the picture of popular support for Putin, which he adores bragging about. The second moment, after Nemtsov was killed, I talked to a well-known banker who also knew him. This banker believed that Nemtsov was killed because of the sanctions. He paid attention to the timeline. In December 2014, it was an absolute panic in the government, two months before the murder. It was the Black Tuesday, the ruble collapsed, the economy collapsed, and so on. When such things happen, the KGB officers always have someone to blame, some kind of traitor. According to their logic, everything was fine until Nemtsov has appeared. And then, according to the timeline, they placed Chechens from Kadyrov’s battalion on leave, these men participated in the technical side of the murder. That is, the timeline is obvious; these events happened right after economic hurdles began. I think they blamed him for the sanctions. All these consequences, of course, were connected with the war unleashed by Putin.
- We once discussed on one of the broadcasts, that, and it was no secret, many believe, including Ukrainians, that Nemtsov was a friend of the Ukrainian people. As for Navalny, not everything is so clear, to be honest. Why do you think that is so? And, in your opinion, is Milov a friend of the Ukrainian people?
- Milov is a friend of the Ukrainian people, and I have been actively interacting with Ukrainians all my life. I grew up in the energy, oil and gas sector, and, since Soviet times, we have had many ethnic Ukrainians there. For example, the longest serving minister of energy under Khrushchev and Brezhnev, who built the entire Soviet energy system, was Petro Neporozhniy – Ukrainian. Viktor Muravlenko, who explored West Siberian oil, was also Ukrainian; there is a monument to him in the Tyumen region. That is why I interacted a lot with Ukrainians throughout my life. In 2008, Nemtsov and I flew to Kyiv and presented the “Putin. Results” report. When we flew back and forth with him, we only discussed how outstanding Ukrainians are, that we are very lucky that such a wonderful nation lives nearby. And, of course, it is not clear how long we will have to work in order to reverse terrible consequences of what Putin has done. We all love Ukraine very much, maybe Navalny, according to his biography, is less connected with Ukraine. Therefore, he had statements that Ukrainians interpret in their own way. Navalny, in principle, is a person who has traditionally always been focused on living in peace and harmony with all the neighbors. We had an absolutely common vision that we should move towards European integration. We must support the entry of all our neighbors into the Euro-Atlantic structures and strive to get there ourselves. As a result, to build one big common market with Europe, with transparent borders, trade, investments, and so on. If you carefully analyze everything that Navalny has said, it is clearly visible that Navalny is a person who, together with the European Union and together with our neighboring countries, wants to build a common, peaceful, democratic European home. But some of his statements are being interpreted to universal proportions. I think that this basically does not reflect his real personality. And, of course, he is a friend not only of Ukraine but also of all other nations that surround us. We all want our neighbors to live in peace, freedom, and democracy.
- I can suggest another reason in addition to his statements about Crimea. As for Nemtsov, your words: after the annexation of Crimea, the March of Peace organized by Nemtsov has gathered many people. And Navalny’s first agenda was the fight against corruption. Now, we have a popular opinion that corruption in Russia is an ally of Ukraine since corruption weakened Russian army.
- This is a wrong opinion because corruption is a broader phenomenon than someone stole something. Let’s compare two indexes: Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International and Index for Freedom by Freedom House. We can see that countries with low corruption do not attack others. Countries where corruption is an integral part of the regime end up attacking other countries. That’s the law. We are not talking that someone stole something, it’s simply that corruption is an integral part of regimes that do not obey laws and do not respect democracy. And it all ends in violence against other countries. They may steal, but finally they will come with clubs in their hands, one way or another. As I said, these regimes do not obey the law and democratic order. If you look at the countries that are waging aggressive wars, for example, Russia or Iran; they are somewhere in 130-140 places in the world ranking of corruption – the same story with the African dictatorships. Therefore, we need to take a broader look at this issue. Without corruption, there would be no point in attacking. The absence of corruption is a quality of a country that lives in a democratic order and respects the rule of law. So, I think this pattern is much more important than who and where, technically, stole something.
- You said that it is impossible to say how much time will pass before Russia and Ukraine, Russians and Ukrainians, will make lasting peace, if it is even possible, but let’s imagine this scenario: Russian opposition comes to power. Probably it would not happen in this century, but nevertheless. What priority steps should the Russian opposition take in order to bring this moment closer?
- The first thing we need to do is to face the truth and acknowledge the fact that all that bitter criticism of Russia as a nation will remain. And you cannot say that this criticism is unreasonable or ungrounded. Let’s be honest – Russia deserves it. Of course, we will have to complete all formalities, pay reparations in full. Because Russia aimed at making mincemeat out of Ukraine, thus reparations should be paid without discussions. Further, it is necessary to extradite all war criminals and ensure the full responsibility of those people who had participated in these crimes. Then, we will have to have a very difficult and unpleasant conversation with our own people because we have much to discuss. And this work is my priority. How it is possible that a large part of society has turned into a crowd of beasts, completely barbaric? We will have to do everything to eradicate this, so that it will never happen again. Well, other countries and Ukraine, first of all, will monitor and evaluate this process. Depending on how successful this process is, some sort of trust may develop. In addition, I think it is very important that we fully support all the ambitions of our neighbors for Euro-Atlantic integration. Here we are talking not only about Ukraine, but also Moldova, Georgia, I hope, Armenia, although they are very cautious on this topic, and others. This obstacle should disappear. It turns out that everyone wants to join Europe, NATO, and nasty Russia is in the way. Russia should support this, as it seems to me that for the future of Russia, this is a very obvious story: the closer the EU, NATO, and Euro-Atlantic structures are to our borders, the more guarantees that Russia itself will be peaceful and free. And this will take a long time. After World War II, 25 years passed before Willy Brant came to Poland and signed an agreement with them on the mutual recognition of the territory, as West Germany did not recognize the transfer of Silesia to Poland for a long time. The Christian Democratic Union of Germany then wrote on posters – “We will never give up what is ours”. But Willy Brant arrived and agreed with Poland on reconciliation. He then knelt in Warsaw in front of a memorial. 25 years is a lot. We need to understand that the horizon will be broad, we will have to do a lot of important work on ourselves.
- I noticed you mentioned one important condition – that Russia should not prevent its neighbors towards Euro-Atlantic integration. Should Russia itself strive for Euro-Atlantic integration?
- Absolutely. But there is a problem here. There are geographical difficulties if we talk about joining, for example, the EU and NATO. After all, the European Union and NATO were built as regional structures, and most of Russia’s territory is located in Asia. Then the meaning changes. But there was such a good formula: “everything but institutions” that the Europeans proposed some time ago. We need to build some kind of common space for trade, security, and movement with the EU and NATO. There was such a term – the Northern ring, Global North, countries of the northern hemisphere. We will need some kind of global pact with both the European Union and NATO that we are actually becoming some kind of “Eastern Norway”, which, as it were, is actually a participant in this space. Norway is in the European Economic Area and the Schengen Area and is a member of NATO but not a member of the EU. This will require some flexibility. The only obstacle I see is geography.
- Yes, Vladimir, thank you very much. We managed to discuss everything.
- Thank you!
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