In the margins of the conference “European choice: Globalization or Re-sovereignization” on 6 March in Geneva, Current Concerns spoke to Dr Vladimir I. Yakunin.
Current Concerns: What is your assessment of the present situation in Ukraine? When is the end of the conflict to be expected?
Dr Vladimir I. Yakunin: To tell the truth, I’m not a politician to answer the questions concerning the feasibility of the end of the conflict. I am studying politics. My task is to learn how to find the major trends and this is how I’m studying politics. To my mind the Ukrainian crisis is a very specific crisis. In contemporary history there is not a single example of that kind of crisis. Yugoslavia has already been mentioned here. We can also consider Lybia from this angle.
But that is a specific case, because there is a conflict on the territory of a country with the same historical roots as Russia itself. It is a country which has actually never been a state. It has always been a part of the Russian Empire, Russian society, Soviet society, etc. As regards its culture, Ukraine is part of the [Russian] territory, and from the point of view of values it is quite the same. And now they are divided and even a part of the existing Ukrainian state is strictly divided into the south-eastern part and the very western part of this country. The situation is extremely dangerous because it is also evoking the beast of neonazism.
I have a lot of friends, I am travelling a lot around the countries in Europe. I’m talking to governors, to prime ministers, presidents and I know that the actual mass media reflection of the crisis in Ukraine is not adequate. I am far from being the one who possesses the ultimate truth, but I was surprised how difficult it is for the western societies to find information. So, to my mind, that is a lack of actual knowledge of what was and is going on on that territory. Which is bringing us to this global misunderstanding among the political parties.
As far as I’m concerned the key to the conflict does not lie in Kiev, nor in Moscow and even not in Minsk, it lies in Washington. But on the other hand, an Austrian friend of mine told me when he visited the USA and when he was talking to very prominent people there, his friends, they said no, no, no, we are not involved in the Ukrainian crisis, that is a purely European case.
Despite progresses made in Ukraine so far, the US and the European Union hold on to their imposed sanctions on Russia. What do the people of Russia think about the politics of sanctions imposed by the West?
The answer is simple. The poll results show that more than 86% of the population of Russia are supportive of the course of President Putin and that is the same for the elderly and the younger generation. One political observer said that, in the history after the Soviet Union, those sanctions contributed more to the consolidation of the Russian society than any previous attempt to this aim on the part of the government and other governmental structures. This is first. Secondly, I suppose we need to admit that the spectrum of the society is very, very wide. You can find liberals, you can find neoliberals, you can find communists, you can find nationalists. Unfortunately, one can even observe the remnants of neofacism. I am ashamed to say, but this is true. On the other hand the majority of the population voted in favour of the policy of Putin. It is not because of propaganda because people rank and file always knew what was going in the Soviet Union and they still know what is going on behind the walls of the Kremlin.
What are the consequences of the sanctions for the people in Russia?
Of course, these sanctions badly influence the life of the people. Not only materially. But psychologically. It is a kind of reaction on the part of Russian majority. We were trying to become part of the European family. We did a lot for that, we never meant any aggression. We never insulted anybody. Why should the world permit e.g. official representatives of Poland to speak so badly about the history of World War II in which our country lost 27 million people? Why was the world not shaken by this attempt to insult, and that is a pure attempt to insult, to punch into the wounds. That is disgusting in my view. Those people are not illiterate, they are well educated, they know quite well what they are doing. And then the question is, for whom do they do it and at what prize. That’s it!
In contemporary world, which role does today’s Russia play, which role do the Russian people play? With respect to that role, are there any reasons for fear of Russia – one speaks about “Russophobia”? What does the term Russian World mean?
In the contemporary world there are only four countries who could behave and who could think globally on a political level. One of them – historically seen – is Great Britain. Not that it is still a great empire but psychologically and historically they are thinking globally. Then, the United States of America, of course. The newly born global empire, as Chomsky called it, and of course, China. Fourth is the Russian Empire. Russia today inherited this sentiment, a huge territory, a big population, and they are thinking globally. From the point of view of an adversary, the United States can see Russia as a major target, a major objective. Why? Because of its nuclear and military potential. Because it is historically proven and because Russia is sending signs of sovereignty and independence. It is not just because Snowden has settled in Russia. He just could not find any place to go, right? So for our government it was natural, if he did not commit any criminal offence in terms of killing people, drug affairs or something like that, he has the right to be protected. That is the major human right.
You can ask why “Russophobia” is so necessary to the contemporary western world. It is historically proven that it was not Russia or the Russian Empire who fought with the West. It is known from history that it was vice versa. Those who are condemning the idea of a Russian world because it reflects their mind, their imperialistic feature of contemporary Russia, they are just avoiding the actual truth. For it is quite normal for the people from a certain city or from a certain village, that they know each other and possibly support each other if they have the possibility to communicate in their different city or in the different village. Those people from Greece who live in New York City, for example, have their community in New York City. They all have this kind of semi world. So when we use the term Russian world, we mean the people who possibly emigrated from Russia during the Revolution. Or those people who left Russia later but who are still in love with their homeland, in love with their culture – these people would like to preserve and would like to introduce their culture to other cultures which is definitely the meaning of the word dialogue, meaning the interaction among different cultures and different nations. And we are standing for that. It has nothing of aggressive implementation of some particular ideas to the societies in the West. That is to promote and to sustain the rich culture of the Russian language, the diversity of Russian culture and that is the meaning of Russian world.
In your Berlin speech you held during the conference “Friendship with Russia” in 2014, you spoke about the crisis of identity of the West as well as a crisis of identity of Russia. What do you mean by that?
Maybe in a distant age, all the human beings on the earth will be just human beings of the earth population. Not Germans, not Austrians, not Swiss, not Russian, etc. But the multicultural world of Swiss, German, Russian people, etc. provides such a big variety of possibilities and it also provides the value of this world. So we are made believe to forget, just to oust that we are Germans, Russians, English, Americans in order to be in line with the mainstream. And this mainstream whose name is globalisation does not mean to develop a human being of highest possible humane, respectful features.
You heard that it is all about the Americanisation of the world. And the American nation is a specific nation. People who were coming there were people who left behind their history. The history of their nations. They were immigrating and cut off all their linkage. That mentality can explain some of the features of American policy. They have nothing to inherit from the past, they value nothing from the past. It is not like the historical nations. It is not alike. In history we had good things and bad things. Such is life. Everyone of us can be ashamed of something he or she did. But that is also part of the life which cultivated the nature of a person. When I was talking about losing self identity, I mentioned that the aggressive suppression of humanity in the human being means that we lose the identity of the human being. Moreover, the cult of consumerism is bringing to the surface an absolutely new breed of the human beings. The person who is nothing but a consumer, only wants to consume, only wants to have in order to have, only wants to get what serves his or her desires. Needless to say without any responsibility towards the other. During the period of French Revolution there was a well known case which to my mind is a good description of the freedom of a person, individual freedom of the person. The judge ruled that your freedom to use your hands ends with the nose of another person. And that is true.
How do you see the importance of neutral Switzerland for Russia?
I do not have time to particularly point out the most valuable theme about the history of contemporary Switzerland. Through two wars Switzerland avoided to be part of the war destructions. Throughout the history Switzerland had a federal structure of state with four equal major languages and nobody feels hurt by the fact that if he goes to Lausanne it might be better to talk French there. Nobody, that is normal, because of this equality. I suppose Switzerland can give a very good example on this and I can add, that Russia is also a multinational country. Not one small people lost its existence. They were not eliminated and they were not suppressed. Even more some of the languages were given another possibility to be written languages, and not only in the songs and in the poems. And that is true. So we have many things in comparison that are equal and I suppose we can strive for a kind of closer cooperation of our societies to show the examples how the people could coexist muliticulturally, multiethnically and they rightly can coexist.
Dr Yakunin, thank you very much for the interview. •
(Interview Dr Eva Maria Föllmer-Müller)
ef. On 6 March a panel discussion on the topic “European choice: globalization or re-sovereignisation” took place in the Swiss Press Club in Geneva. The conference was organized by the Endowment for St Andrew the First-Called Foundation and supported by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Swiss-Russia/CIS, Swiss-Russian Forum, the Lomonossov Moscow State University, and the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilisations”. More than a hundred experts from Russia, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Greece, France, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Denmark and Great Britain participated in the discussion. The conference was moderated by Guy Mettan, president of the Swiss Press Club in Geneva and president of the Geneva Red Cross.
The first part of the event dealt with “globalization as politics”.
Considering the mainly negative consequences of globalization, national states face the choice either to keep their national sovereignty and democratic policy or to be involved in the process of international integration (globalization, WTO, TTIP, TiSA, etc.). Many participants in the discussion pointed to the negative consequences of globalisation in all areas of society, especially the associated loss of sovereignty.
Switzerland was brought into prominence as a positive example, succeeding better than other European countries in creating mechanisms to protect its state sovereignty. Thus its highly developed banking system had spared Switzerland the dependence on the US Federal Reserve network.
In contrast, the globalised “banking system […] has turned into an absolutely independent and rather profitable kind of business which dictates other elements of the economy how they should develop”, as Dr Vladimir I. Yakunin, founder and deputy president of the Endowment for St Andrew the First-Called Foundation and political scientists explained in his opening speech. He emphasized: “The processes connected with globalization lead to the situation that some part of the state’s sovereignty including economic sovereignty is handed over to supranational organs”.
With sobering bluntness, Richard Werner, Professor for international banking at the Business School of the University of Southampton, director of the Centre for Banking, Finance and Sustainable Development, Chairman of Local First Community Interest, shared his opinion on the economic consequences of globalization: “For the last forty years we can see how strong the influence of IMF and other banking structures was on the development of different economies around the world when it comes to privatization, liberalization and deregulation. The result was quite different from the expected one. As a result there was a lack of development, inequality, economic and political dependence of countries whereever this policy was applied”.
Professor Hans Köchler, President of the International Progress Organization, was formulating his criticism of globalization from the standpoint of legal philosophy and international law: “Because state sovereignty is founded in the inalienable rights of the citizen, ‘re-sovereignization’ necessarily means respect of the right to self-determination and re-democratization of politics at the domestic and inter-state level. […] In the European framework, supranational structures and procedures have undermined democratic decision-making not only at the domestic, but at the inter-governmental level as well.”
The participants of the conference agreed that a common goal of all European countries had to be preservation and protection or rather recovery of sovereignty as well as the prevention of conflicts. Further contributions to the conference emphazised the importance of a historical exchange between the Europe and Russia countries, in particular with Switzerland. This exchange could be a fruitful base for the future and for sustainable development.
The entire conference has been documented at www.st-andrew-foundation.org .
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