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Friday, May 16, 2008

Another Original LR Translation: Q & A With Vladimir Milov, Via Essel

Q & A with Vladimir Milov

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

NOTE from LR: Vladimir Milov is the co-author of the Nemtsov White Paper previously translated by Dave Essel exclusively for this blog. This post is based on blog entries from Mr. Milov's personal website and is the second installment from that source provided by Dave. Read the first here.

NOTE from Dave Essel: I like Milov. He’s our sort of guy – I mean he appears to have the character traits that LR approves of. I move that we nominate him as one of the presidential candidates for Russia after the forthcoming third/fourth collapse of Russia currently being engineered by Prostitutin and his Teddy Bear (1 – 1905 Revolution; 2/3 – February Revolution & Great October Disaster of 1917; 4 – Bankruptcy & Collapse of the USSR).

Aren’t you afraid of criticising the authorities?

This is fair question to ask, especially after recent events such as the vile murder of Anna Politkovskaya and the repression of the the independent media, politicians, and so on.

My answer: no, I’m not afraid. It’s my job to inform people about what the authorities are hiding from them, to provide the truth to people. And I will continue to do so. It’s of vital importance for our society.

Furthermore – who are we talking about fearing here? Yes, in today’s Russia one can be be imprisoned, beaten up, or even killed for going up against the authorities. However, I know – perhaps better than most – what utterly despicable nonentities they all are – both the people so much noise is made about in Russia today (the powerful, the popular, and so on) and the people who produce this hysterical ass-licking propaganda.

And I should be afraid of these motherf***ers? Some people may be, but I’m sorry, I refuse.

Are you disturbed by the cooling of relations with the USA?

Russia has recently been revving up anti-American hysteria. A confrontational line with the USA in the international arena is becoming the official stance. This is a very sad state of affairs which is not in the long-term interests of Russia and could quite possibly lead to some highly undesirable consequences that we could and should avoid.

This anti-American line derives from a combination of things – the need of the Russian authorities to have an “external enemy” as a way of securing internal positions plus a “post-imperial syndrome” that is suffocating Russian society as it strives wildly and at any price to demonstrate its national greatness by a growing hatred of rich and powerful states which it views as “competitors” on the greatness front. That many Russians are fundamentally ignorant of what the USA’s policies and political & economic system are about is another factor in this – and one for which active anti-American propaganda in the Russian state-controlled media is largely to blame.

I am completely and utterly against vilification of the USA and attempts to present that country as an “enemy of Russia”.

Firstly, the USA is not an enemy of Russia. The USA was an enemy of communism and the USSR and did a great deal to help the rest of the world to become more free and to flourish. The USA and its Marshall Plan contributed over 120 billion dollars in today’s money to the restoration of post-war Europe. It is to the USA that we in many ways owe the successful construction of a peaceful Europe that for the first time was not a military threat to Russia. The USA was firmly opposed to the erection of anti-human barriers in post-war Europe and made it clear that it would defend its Western European allies from events such as befell countries in Eastern Europe – e.g. Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968. J.F. Kennedy’s famous phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner” in his speech to hundreds of thousands of Berlin’s citizens in July 1963 in four words symbolises the USA’s freely taken resolution to defend its allies.

People who try to depict the USA as a “coloniser” would do well to recall the history of modern Europe and remind themselves who paid for the restoration of the war-ravaged continent and who, when that job was completed, withdrew its troops from the place. The USA has never planned to annex foreign territory, to the extent that it still today has not incorporated Puerto Rico into the union.

Secondly, the USA is a natural foreign policy ally for Russia. I am wholeheartedly in agreement with the views of the former governor of the Central Bank of Russia, Sergey Dubinin, so I will just repeat what he said: that we should not quarrel with, but, on the contrary, build a genuine alliance with the USA as the only possible ally of stature for us in the world.

Thirdly, the USA can and does make mistakes. One such mistake was the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Bear in mind, however, that all politicians make mistakes. Russian politicians do too. For those who have forgotten how Russia makes mistakes, let me just recall the years 1956, 1968, 1979, and 1994. Furthermore, large numbers of Americans openly protest against the war in Iraq. The slogan “No War for Oil” was invented in America and not somewhere else. Despite currently having a less than desirable administration, the USA remains as ever a free and healthy society.

The mistakes of the USA’s leaders are a reason for increasing dialogue with that country, for seeking greater access to those leaders in order to prevent repetitions of such mistakes in the future. They are not a reason for being hysterical, for boycotts, for boorishness or for spoiling relations – that is the way of the stupid and the unprofessional.

Making a conflict out of the deployment by the US of some anti-ballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic was another silly mistake. It is worth remembering that the original reason for the problem was the USA’s withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. Unlike such hardcore Soviet leaders as Brezhnev and Gromyko who got the USA to sign up to the ABM Treaty in 1972, today’s Russian rulers did not make the slightest attempt to get a continuation of the diplomatic process on anti-missile systems and helplessly declared about the USA’s leaving the treaty that “this does not come as a surprise”. Okay – so then do something about it! The deployment of American anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe – neither an easily understood nor a very pleasant thing – is the direct result of complete diplomatic inaction on our part, of the systemic degradation of our diplomacy.

We would not be having these problems if people other than today’s leaders had been ruling Russia. Alas, as I have frequently emphasised, the people in power in Russia today are grossly unprofessional. While yapping at the USA, they are completely unable to do anything about either the increasing militarisation of China and its growing influence in Central Asia or the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes. Yet that is where the real threats to Russia’s security reside.

Disagreeing with the USA on military matters, is not a reason for strained relations. For example, for many years Japan and the USA have been in serious disagreement over the American base in Okinawa but this has not prevented or stopped the two countries from being firm military and political allies. Thank God that in the case of our two countries we are only talking about the relatively minor matter of the deployment of some anti-missiles systems in other European countries and not about American bases or troops on our territory!

Any disagreements between Russia and America on the deployment of anti-missile systems are not insurmountable and should in any event be resolved quietly, at the negotiating table, without outbreaks of hysterics or the application of foreign policy blackmail. The USA is not the kind of country one should try to blackmail in any event. The deployment of the systems is the direct consequence of the fact that today’s Russian rulers stood by like stage extras when the USA left the ABM Treaty in 2002 and made not the slightest effort to conclude a new agreement. And it’s rather late in the day now to hope for anything.

As for the actions of the USA, they are aimed above all at defending the country’s interests. Which is exactly how things are supposed to be in international politics. Cooperation runs side-by-side with competition, sometimes very fierce. In international relations it is very important, while always seeking partnerships, not for all that to lose sight of one’s own interests. That is what makes diplomacy an art: knowing how not to quarrel or lose track of reality at the slightest difficulty and still to move things forward towards increasing cooperation. In hockey, when you go out onto the ice, only a stupid player gets upset and complains that he’s been bashed against the sides and knocked in the teeth. The right thing to do is to play on and keep to the rules or else end up in the penalty box as well.

These simple truths regrettably appear to be unknown to today’s Russian leaders.

Sad to say, the reason for the difficulties in our relations with the USA is mainly due to the lack of professionalism of our own side. The next step is to try to conceal this amateurishness by aggressive anti-American rhetoric and by drawing us normal Russians into a conflict with the USA. I object vigourously to this. It will not do our country anything except harm. The USA is our strategic ally and partner. It’s high time a stop is put to the anti-American yapping all around us.

What do you think about Khodorkovsky’s sentence?

I have a very slight acquaintance with the man and that contact was not of the friendly kind. However, I am firmly against the sentence and the whole way the Yukos case was managed.

Way back when I was working at the Ministry of Energy, I was seriously pressured by Yukos and Menatep people. Not that I was trying to do anything concrete against them. It was simply a matter that suddenly this sleepy Ministry had acquired a deputy minister who was proposing new ideas about oil industry taxation, production sharing agreements (Yukos was at that time waging an aggressive campaign against PSAs using the media, lobbyists in the Duma and so on) while for my part I was and remain in favour of PSAs. Yukos of course considered that I was taking “unacceptable liberties”.

For example, I was against the building of the Datsin oil pipeline because of the threat to Lake Baikal and because it risked creating a single-consumer market. I did not come out against the project as such but just said that Yukos should take all the risks connected with China as a market upon itself and not ask for state support and that the pipeline should be run further from Lake Baikal.

As a result, I soon came under pressure from lobbyists, including some open Yukos lobbyists from within the government (who today are doing nicely in high government positions). In 2002 Mikhail Khodorkovsky publicly made a number of heavy-handed remarks clearly aimed at people like myself. (Since there were not that many of us, I like to think that some of them were directed against me personally.)

From this it may be seen that I am by no means a natural supporter of Khodorkovsky. On the contrary, if there are any feelings at all, they are mostly bad.

However, I consider the ways and means used by the authorities against Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev and others to be barbaric. I have read the sentence against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev and consider that the prosecution totally failed to prove any of its charges, especially in the matter of the Apatit accusations [TN - that Khodorkovsky’s Menatep Group had failed to invest $280 million, which it had promised in return for a 20% stake in the 1994 privatisation of fertiliser manufacturer Apatit]. Everything is based on interpretations of and twisting the meaning of the words “knowingly and wittingly”. So the company had accumulated debt. So the fact that the company paid off this debt with money transferred to it as investments required in the terms of a tender. This is a company matter. I can’t see how parts of a financial report on the movement of funds can be interpreted as a failure to make an investment.

I consider the sentence to be unjust. I think that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev should be released immediately before a fair and unprejudiced review of their case. And actually, I think that as soon as there is a change of power in Russia, the need for the charges against them will vanish.

This is a clear case of warfare between clans seeking power and riches. For my part, I don’t support any of them. It is my certain opinion, however, that the authorities were the first to exceed the bounds of legality in this matter.

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