Mikhail Kasyanov*: “Due to Putin, NATO Got New Internal Energy”
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Mikhail Kasyanov*: “Due to Putin, NATO Got New Internal Energy”

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Настоящий материал (информация) произведен, распространен и (или) направлен иностранным агентом Касьяновым Михаилом Михайловичем либо касается деятельности иностранного агента Касьянова Михаила Михайловича

Text by Nikolay Nelyubin

Translation by Vladimir Kolosov

Why did Putin invite big business leaders to the Kremlin on the day the military operation began? What are the first signals of sanctions after the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine? Why Kyiv-2022 is not like Belgrade-1999? In the evening of February 24, Novy Prospekt asked these questions to the Putin’s first Prime Minister, leader of the People’s Freedom Party Mikhail Kasyanov*.

Mikhail Mikhailovich, when did you realize that the military operation is hard to avoid? How many days ago?

— On Monday, when I watched a meeting of the Security Council, and after that I listened to his lecture. It was a lengthy, controversial speech about Ukraine and its creation. After that, I finally realized that something had gone wrong. I watched Vladimir Putin in detail.

Those who believe that the problem is in mental characteristics of one particular person are not mistaken?

— I think so. In my opinion, there are some problems there. I realized that the military operation was inevitable, although before that I had been writing all the time that it was just a bluff, a political game with high stakes. I was sure that Putin was just trying to get some concessions from the West.

Before that, world leaders were visiting him for a month, and they agreed on something. There was a feeling that the things suddenly went wrong. Or not all of a sudden?

— In December, when he announced those unacceptable and in some way insane demands to the West — to withdraw NATO troops to the 1997 positions and never to accept Ukraine into this organization, I still believed that this was a card game with high stakes. However, when I was listening to Putin, I realized that he really wanted that. It sounds crazy. It means that this person does not live in the 21st century. Any unreasonableness and irrationality of what is happening, along with the reaction to rejection of his unacceptable demands, raises a question: is it possible to predict anything at all in relation to the current leader of the Russian Federation?

The man with the nuclear suitcase.

— The danger is very high.

Do you believe that Russia’s leaders are capable of such decisions that can change not only the map of Ukraine, but also the entire world order?

— That is exactly what I want to emphasize: unpredictability is now at its highest level. The Kremlin produces such a danger that no one has ever seen before. Therefore, solidarity is a very important measure for us today.

Would you be surprised if the liquidation of neo-Nazis «according to Peskov» turns out to be an attempt to remove the current government in Kyiv, replacing it with a new Yanukovych or similar?

— As of today, we cannot exclude anything. Maybe he does not have plans to capture all of Ukraine, but we are talking about the Novorossia that he touched upon during his lecture: part of the Kherson region, Zaporozhye, a corridor to Crimea and further on, through Transnistria, to Odessa. Now, there are sea battles near Odessa, there are tanks in Kherson, and people are surprised by how quickly they managed to get there. Probably, it means that this is exactly the plan he is trying to implement.

Today, Valentina Matvienko has said many times that the West cynically equipped Kyiv with lethal weapons. Therefore, we had no choice but to respond, and those Russians who oppose the special operation are only thinking about their daily problems, but not about Russia’s security. Is it a medal, or an order, or a tribute? What can you say to your government colleague?

— They all have a twisted mentality. Matvienko did not work for the KGB, but she worked for Komsomol and communist organizations. We all know that there was and there is no threat to Russia’s security. This is a fiction. Putin himself admitted that everything is being done because the West has not recognized Crimea. He also said in his speech that if Ukraine joins NATO, they will try to get Crimea back, and then there will be a war against NATO. This means that all citizens of the Russian Federation are hostages of these twisted worldviews.

How do you assess the role of the United States in the current situation? Can we say that the Americans surrendered Ukraine?

— The Americans have warned the whole world. No one really believed them, but they insisted on the inevitability of military actions. The Americans are afraid, given their past problems, to participate in operations outside their territory. It is quite understandable. Other NATO members have the same fears. However, it looks like they are trying to think differently about what is going on.

The fact that the Americans were talking about a possible military operation helped Putin to free his hands?

— The Americans used a simple logic: Putin must be afraid of the disasterous sanctions. Putin does not really care about them. He does not care about his citizens' way of life, how they feel. The situation will be terrible in a few months after the introduction of these sanctions, everyone will feel serious changes. However, he is preoccupied with his own ideas; he has a very narrow corridor of thinking today. His actions prove it.

Many see that the United States can benefit from their increasing influence in Europe, their hydrocarbons are becoming more attractive, and neutral countries will certainly ask to join NATO.

— These are not benefits, but distorted views. These consequences are happening now. Of course, even the European countries that are the most heavily dependant on Russian gas supplies now understand that they must stop buying it as soon as possible and find alternatives, although it will be more expensive. Therefore, this is not a favorable situation, but a forced, artificially created one. The new US administration is restoring the transatlantic unity that Trump destroyed, and it tries to make NATO stronger. With the help of Putin’s threats, NATO has received a new internal energy and unity. The role of this organization only became obvious when people had already forgotten about the need for its existence.

What sanctions are inevitable for us? Will they cut off SWIFT, destroy gas pipes and switch to other gas suppliers?

— The first announced sanctions are not too serious. That is why everything looks so cheerful so far. Putin and Medvedev said that all this is nonsense, since we were ready for this and we will survive it. Yes, that’s true. If they disconnect Russia from SWIFT, it would be a difficult story, while a blow to the oil and gas industry would be a mortal wound. Apparently, it cannot actually technically happen. Nevertheless, if an embargo is imposed on Russia’s oil and gas in the future, this will mean that Russia would have no sources of foreign currencies. The country will restart printing rubles and hyperinflation will follow in a few months. The people will not be able to feed themselves. This means mass protests not just for freedom, but simply for survival.

Is the West able to replace Russian hydrocarbons? It is said that the nuclear deal with Iran could be considered as a possible exchange.

— The European leaders (especially the Germans, as they are heavily dependent on Russian gas) are trying to find alternative oil and gas sources. The Americans have already confirmed that they would increase supplies, even if they were more expensive for buyers. Qatar and Australia have also confirmed that. A complete technical alternative exists. Yes, this will affect the pace of economic recovery in Europe after the pandemic, but it is technically possible.

Why did Putin invite big business managers to a meeting today — those who have lost half of their fortunes in a few hours?

— Exactly for the same reason why he organized public meetings with the Security Council members — to make a show. So that these people publicly confess to the rest of the world for their ties with the decisions that the President of Russia has made. The same thing happens to business: if someone does not confess or does not show his loyalty, then he will definitely lose something tomorrow.

Are there any disloyal people left at all?

— This is a sort of encouragement, so that they are not only loyal, but also toeing the line.

Will there be any compensation for today’s losses?

— He will not compensate anything. During the pandemic, he did not compensate for anything. It is just a disciplinary action. If there are real problems for state corporations, and there might well be, then they will get some help through money printing.

Why did COVID-19 appear to be more frightening than the threat of war? During the pandemic, the leaders of different countries stated that almost all the people on Earth have united, that the value of human life has grown. They failed to do the same in the current situation.

— There is only one reason for that: during the pandemic, everyone thought that tomorrow it would come to their door, and there was nothing to defend them. Today, many people believe that Ukraine is somewhere «out there». Until yesterday, they did not have a sense of a serious threat; no one seemed to prepare for it, to work out a set of corresponding actions. Discussions of sanctions were sluggish and reluctant — no one believed that such a decision would be made. Today, they started reconsidering their attitude. Ukraine is far away, the pandemic is at the door. Fear of the unknown. That is the nature of a human being.

A classic of the principle «My hut is on the edge?»

— Yes, something like that.

Do you remember Yugoslavia in 1999? Are the events that started today similar to what NATO did those days?

— Everything is different. In Yugoslavia, it was all about genocide; here it is about far-fetched threats.

Putin also talks about genocide to Russians.

— This is Putin. These are far-fetched things. There is not a single appeal about violations of human rights coming from there. Neither in the UN structures, nor in the structures of the EU. Not a single complaint is considered about the violation of rights, especially about genocide. This is a fabrication.

If we talk about external aggression, then Yugoslavia-1999 and Ukraine-2022 are somehow similar?

— Once again, there was genocide. There was an extermination of people on a national basis. In order to neutralize the leaders of Serbia, to stop the genocide, a pinpoint strike was made. Many people think it was a mistake. I do not like those solutions either. However, now we see unprovoked, unreasonable and unjustified aggression. We are talking about incomparable things. Those who compare the situations have a distorted worldview.

OK. What parallels do you see?

— Georgia-2008. The Georgian leaders were provoked to open fire, which became the justification for an invasion of the territory of Georgia. A settlement plan was immediately made. The Russian Federation had many obligations: a ceasefire, withdrawal of troops, and so on. Nothing has been done. The so-called Sarkozy plan was completely ruined. Moreover, parts of Georgia were recognized by Moscow as independent countries. After three months, relations with the West were restored. In full. Medvedev said exactly the same words on Monday. Business as usual — everything will come to normal, and every party will fall back in love. He believes that. He thinks in terms of 2008 and remembers Georgia. By the way, those events provoked the annexation of Crimea and the events in Eastern Ukraine as well.

A day and a half before the start of the operation, Putin said that he proposed to take the Russian Federation into NATO. «In 2000, when US President Bill Clinton came to Moscow, I asked him how America would react to accepting Russia into NATO. The response to my question was very restrained.» Were we ready for such alliances, or was it just some kind of KGB trolling?

— Not only ready… I stated that myself when I was the head of government. I said that I dreamed that Russia would become a NATO member in the future. Putin was more restrained, he said that he «has nothing against considering such a possibility.» It happened after Clinton, we were discussing it with Bush. We had excellent relations with the United States in 2001-2003; we had very good relations with the EU. We launched four interaction spaces, and then we considered ourselves strategic partners. We planned to establish a free trade zone, a visa-free zone from Vladivostok to Lisbon. However, in 2004-2005, everything went the other way. The issue of cooperation with NATO was implemented — the Russia-NATO Council. Now it remains on paper only. Then, mutual trust was built. Today it simply does not exist. In 2007, Putin was already surrounded by enemies. Remember his Munich speech? NATO did not threaten us. Cooperation and a possible entry into NATO was not considered as a joke in the early 2000s. This was a real, possible path to move together.

While we have been talking, a new UK sanctions list has been published. It includes Denis Bortnikov (VP of VTB), Petr Fradkov (head of Promsvyazbank), Kirill Shamalov (shareholder of Sibur), Yuri Slyusar (CEO of UAC), Elena Georgieva (head of Novikombank), Aeroflot, Rostech, the United Aircraft Corporation, the United Shipbuilding Corporation, Tactical Missiles, Uralvagonzavod, and VTB. Can we say that so far everything looks quite modest?

— Well, yes. The sources of income remains untouched.

What would you ask, remind or just say to Vladimir Putin as a Russian?

— Now it makes no sense. It is useless to remind him of anything, it is useless to ask for anything. We saw him this week in all his glory. No sense at all. The actions of Western partners should speak in order to prevent the worst development of the situation. Whether Putin listens to this or not, we will watch and see in the near future.

Mikhail Mikhailovich, is this all for decades ahead?

— As soon as this power changes, all the problems will go away in a short time. At least, I am sure that any future government will fix all these problems and restore normal relations with the civilized world. Without that, Russia will not survive. Otherwise, it will simply be destroyed. No success and no improvement in the economic or social situation should be expected under this regime.

* 24 ноября 2023 года признан иностранным агентом

Mikhail Kasyanov Vladimir Putin Ukraine NATO
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