“No More Old Russia Anymore”. Political scientist Vladimir Pastukhov on sequences of the military operation in Ukraine
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English Prospect

“No More Old Russia Anymore”. Political scientist Vladimir Pastukhov on sequences of the military operation in Ukraine

Прочитано: 27853

Text by Nikolay Nelyubin

Translation by Vladimir Kolosov

Why is it so hard to compare the current military special operation that started on February 24, 2022 to any of that kind in the past? Why a pro-state sociology supporting the Kremlin’s decisions is meaningless? Who will be the leader of any Anti-Putin Coalition, or why Western sanctions cannot but hit civilians? Here we speak to Vladimir Pastukhov, a political scientist and senior researcher at University College London, who answers all these questions to Novy Prospekt just a few hours later after the start of the new conflict in Europe.

Vladimir Borisovich, what do you think about what has happened? Putin talks about a «special operation»…

— According to the information that I have, which comes from Ukrainian regions, the first full-scale phase of the special operation is underway. We are talking about a national-scale operation against a country of 44-million people, one of the largest countries in Europe. In terms of scope, ambition, and consequences — it is equivalent to ten Afghanistans.

Some say that Russia is acting according to the Georgian scenario of 2008, so the strikes on military infrastructure are needed to expand the borders of the DPR and LPR, but we remember where Putin sees their borders. Others believe that the goal is to change the regime in Kyiv. What kind of military operation of the past is similar to what we are seeing now, in your opinion?

— This does not resemble any military operation of the past. In general, the past life ended last night. By inertia, people will look for analogies with what has already happened. However, as often happens at turning points in history, we just need to say goodbye to our past. We must understand that now we are living in a different reality, the specifics of which will emerge very slowly out of the fog.

This special operation is unlike anything in the past. Its purpose is to change the political regime in Kyiv. Nothing else can satisfy Russia. In addition, if Moscow does not achieve its set goals, then the special operation will be lost not only strategically, but also tactically. To the great regret of the human race, after saying «A» the Kremlin will have to go through the entire alphabet to the very last letter.

The only acceptable goal for the Kremlin is to change the political regime. The Kremlin will hope to the last that this can happen by means of an uprising. Nevertheless, if it does not happen, then the Kremlin will have to get involved in things that are as yet unimaginable — namely, battles in big cities.

Dmitry Peskov said: «ideally, we need to liberate Ukraine, clearing it of Nazis.» Is this propaganda or the strategy determination?

— They just gave you a quote from the General Staff plan, and you consider it as propaganda. This is certainly the strategy announcement. The key problem now is the inability of a normal human brain to consider large-scale events at turning points in history. Cognitive dissonance arises when people using rationality just cannot believe that another logic exists.

This is the key issue, in my opinion. We are two steps behind the real development of events. Our brain is created to save us from reality, or to slow it down. All the time, we want to accept things as we think they are, to present the situation as a limited ass. However, everything that we can see now looks as a very big ass. It occupies a quarter of Europe.

In plainer words, you want to say that in order to understand evil we should find another evil that we have already captured before, just like in the movie The Silence of the Lambs?

— Absolutely! It is unbelievable, but I just talked about this with my colleague… The real response of the West will not be where it is expected, where it is prescribed for propaganda. All these sanctions, more often meaningless than merciless, are only the first reaction. From my point of view, an unexpected reaction for the West would be to accelerate its deal with Iran, even despite the Israeli point of view. The reason is that another dragon should replace this dragon’s oil with its own oil. This will be an answer.

Where can we get that maniac with whom it is worth talking to alter reality? The Hague has no one in its store now.

— The archives are full of heartbreaking stories. We can simulate any situation. Roskomnadzor, without imposing a state of emergency or martial law, and so legally permit censorship, has already said that it would fine and block the media if their reports about ongoing events do not coincide with official Russian state reports. Why is it doing all this?

We are a few years late once again. Several years ago, in Russia, both the state of emergency and martial law were introduced illegally, according to some theories. The only question is how narrow the window is. Since foreign and domestic policies are interconnected, it is naive to believe that postmodern life in Russia will remain the same — so-called totalitarianism mixed with an unprecedented freedom. This will no longer happen in the future. I am giving this interview on the run (an Anglo-Saxon wind is heard in the receiver — «NP» notes), because I understand that in a couple of weeks or months I will no longer have anyone in Russia to give interviews to.

What other consequences, besides the loss of money and the remnants of independent information, are already obvious to you?

— The main consequence has already been outlined, and this is not freedom of speech … This is the suppression of any dissent, building a system for suppressing consciousness. Everything will go underground. The most resistant people will be sent to build Rosneft projects.

Is everything just right like this, without halftones?

— The time for halftones is over. It just needs to be understood. We had enough time until yesterday.

Just a few hours before the start of the operation, VTsIOM reported that 73% of Russians supported Putin’s decision to provide military assistance to the DPR and LPR. I do not know a single person who would be in favor of that, even though I do not only communicate with those considered «liberals», «oppositionists», or «dissenters». Do you think the authorities in Russia will be able to convince society that the poverty it faces tomorrow is the work of «Ukrainian fascists?»

— These figures are no more than sociologists' games to play with the non-professional public. In my youth, I was doing what no one needed — I studied the phenomenon of power as such. The main thing that I understood about this phenomenon is that there is a fundamental human instinct — the instinct of submission. Any society is based on it. Without this instinct, our humanity would not be able to develop in principle.

Before the revolution, 70-80% of citizens will always support everything that the current government is doing now. This is fine. At the same time, with the accumulation of crisis phenomena, the majority begins to experience a split in consciousness, bipolarity. At some point, as with magnetic poles when there is no awareness, there are no transitional stages. When the poles change places in just a second, a catastrophe occurs.

This means nothing. It is like a coronavirus researcher: antibodies and cellular immunity. Now you see the immunity of power against a revolution, but you do not see what is happening inside the cells themselves. Therefore, every revolution is amazingly unexpected. «This has never happened before, and here we can see it again,» as Chernomyrdin said. We just voted to preserve the USSR — but now it collapsed. There was the Romanov dynasty — but now we see only caricatures of the Queen with Rasputin, nothing more is left. All these figures are from the evil one. The average person would say «Yes» to everything, but at the same time he will keep a fig in his pocket.

Zelensky announced the creation of an «Anti-Putin coalition» in the West. Will there be countries in the EU to maintain contacts with the Kremlin?

— Russia will have rogue states that are in the same position: Serbia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and so on. One of the consequences is that any contacts with Putin will become indecent. Russia will be isolated. He managed to do that.

Who will lead this Anti-Putin coalition?

— The UK and the US will be the coalition leaders. Anglo-Saxons that Putin hates most of all.

You mean to say there will be no one in the EU to keep talking to Putin?

— Until they replace their oil with Arabic oil, there will be those dependent on supplies from Russia, but later on they will disappear. You should understand that all previously discussed conditions and schemes have burned down.

This means that NATO, which worries Putin so much, has no obligations to hold back?

— Not only Russia has enough alternatively smart people. All of them are quite happy today. When Russia was going in its own direction, there were two main points of view: «To save peace at any cost» or «Every peace has its price.» Now the second position is winning. If they want to go into a trap, let them go.

Will Finland become a NATO member?

— Suomi has already purchased F-35 aircraft (in December 2021, the Finnish government announced the purchase of 64 F-35A multi-role fighters from the American corporation Lockheed Martin. — «NP»). So, what are we talking about?

This means that our «neutral» neighbor is already there?

— Naturally.

Yesterday, an international expert honestly tried to find logic in Putin’s decisions to recognize the DPR and LPR in terms of continuing to bargain with the West. Today, after the start of the special operation, he said only one phrase to me: «A painful end is better than an endless torment.» Was he right?

— This is a very good phrase when there is nothing to say. You know, there is an old theatrical trick when you have to make noise. The actors go on stage and all together repeat: «What to say if there is nothing to say?» The audience hears «the noise of the crowd». The phrase that your colleague told you is no more than the noise of the crowd. It explains that everyone is confused. This is a point where the adventure ends. The essence of Putin’s policy is adventurism on the verge of a foul. Everything that we are discussing now is a huge adventure.

This means that even the most devoted people would run away from their authorities in different directions?

— They have no place to run away, because all the eggs are in the same basket! Each of them has at least 10 volumes of compromising documents and criminal cases. Where can they run? One of them has an oil factory, another one has a salt factory, and the FSB tail is behind each of them. Nobody will run away.

Returning to the sanctions: will they depend on where the Russian troops stop?

— I think the Rubicon has been crossed. The West will impose all corresponding sanctions, as they are ready to level their impact. Any sanction is always a double-edged sword. However, the mouse has gotten into the mousetrap. The West will focus on its own interests: what they can afford in this sense, and what not.

Is it possible for the West not to hit civilians with the sanctions?

— The world is arranged in such a way that every nation has the government it deserves, no matter how painful that sounds. It seems to any Russian citizen that he is on his own person, and his government is separate. However, for the rest of the world, this is the government of the Russian people. If the people want to have such a government, then they must share that responsibility with their politicians.

Some experts directly say that after the start of this military special operation, they fear for the future not of Ukraine, but of Russia itself. Are you also worried about the future of the country in terms of its present parameters?

— I am no longer worried about it. For me it is yesterday, not today. The old Russia no longer exists. There are three options: there will be no Russia, but a certain number of territories fighting among themselves; it will be some kind of dying country, like Iran or North Korea, and a third option — if a miracle happens, and the elites wake up with a sense of national responsibility. In any case, yesterday will never happen again.


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Vladimir Borisovich Pastukhov. Born in Kyiv in 1963. Political scientist, publicist and lawyer. PhD in Law (dissertation «Political power in a socialist society: essence and appearance (epistemological aspect of research)», 1989), Doctor of Political Sciences (dissertation «Historical and cultural conditioning of the evolution of the political power in Russia: the formation of a political state and civil society»), member of the Moscow City Bar Association and the International Bar Association.

Since 1999 — Program Manager at the Institute of Corporate Entrepreneurship at the Higher School of Economics University, lawyer, consultant. Visiting Professor (since 2010) at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford.

Vladimir Pastukhov Ukraine
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