12 Jan 2012

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev: If Putin, Obama come to power, situation worldwide can see a trend toward consolidation

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks of the Russian and U.S. presidential elections, and the situation surrounding Iran and Syria.

Question: Nikolai Platonovich, both Russia and the United States will hold presidential elections soon. What will happen to the Russian-U.S. ‘reset‘, if President Obama loses the race?

Answer: I am certain that the election in our country will be truly free and democratic. The platforms of all the candidates are known. Though different in content, they are constructive in general. You and I know the leader in the presidential race - Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
As regards the U.S., for all the difficulties the Democratic administration is facing, President Barack Obama has quite a good chance of remaining in office. One of his positive slogans is to solidify partnership with our country. In the event of Putin, and later Obama, coming to power, U.S.-Russian relations, and the situation worldwide can see a trend towards consolidation.
In any case, elections in every country are primarily a domestic event, and it is voters who have the last word. However, one tries to interfere and influence this process fr om outside.

Q.: How?

A.: For example, through various non-governmental organizations and funds. One even tries to directly influence public opinion from abroad, and various modern technologies, in particular social networks that have already been tested in a number of other states are used.
Despite efforts to exacerbate the situation, our citizens are capable of evaluating the situation themselves. Those who attend rallies do not have extremist or aggressive attitudes. Law enforcement agencies act correctly. They ensure order and security at such rallies and timely react to violations of Russian laws. They will prevent chaos and violence. Attempts to interfere in our domestic affairs cannot arouse anything but resentment. Our people have experienced many challenges and can see danger in attempts to manipulate public opinion, shatter the constitutional base of the state, including in line with the ‘color revolutions‘ scenario.
Russian society, with all the diversity of opinions and attitudes, in general is interested in improving conditions and quality of life and stability. It will not allow any influence from outside under various slogans, be it democratization or protection of human rights. Such interference, as history shows, will finally lead to decreasing living standards for the majority of population.

Q.: In your opinion, who will profit from such rallies? Probably the West or someone else?

A.: I think that it will be the Communists [Russian Communist Party] rather than the West or someone else.

Q.: Let‘s go back to cooperation with the U.S. You have said that Russian-U.S. relations will get stronger. However, there are a number of issues on which Moscow and Washington cannot come to common terms. For example, the missile defense issue…

A.: Our countries have serious mutual interests as regards security. For example, we are combating terrorism jointly with the U.S., among other things by making the northern route available to meet the needs of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, we are fighting organized crime and illegal trade in weapons, narcotics and psychotropic substances, and cooperate in trying to maintain information security.
We proceed from the fact that the U.S. has remained a leading Western power. It is Washington that decides on NATO‘s core strategy. That is why we attach paramount importance to the development of Russia-U.S. relations.
However, we have differences on a number of issues. The issue is about spheres in which we must ensure our national security. For example, we are seriously concerned - and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has many times stated this - about the creation and development of the U.S. missile defense. Today it may not pose a serious threat to Russia, but its long-term objective is to reduce our strategic potential. As far as I know, the plans for a global American missile defense are viewed negatively in Beijing as well.
Despite the radical changes in the global alignment of forces as a result of globalization, the U.S. is persistently seeking to sustain its economic, political and military domination in the world. At present it is important for the U.S. to eliminate threats to this domination, threats that primarily come from China, as the U.S. believes.
Simultaneously, the U.S. would like to gain direct access to the resources and transportation facilities of the vast area of the Caucasus, the Caspian and Central Asia. There are well-known statements of American politicians about the need to put the energy, water and other resources of Russia under U.S. control.
The American administration has designated the Asia-Pacific region as a foreign policy priority. The Americans are trying to use India as the main counterweight to the growing might of China, and for this purpose they are hyping the idea of specially close strategic cooperation with Delhi.
I would like to stress in this connection that Russia speaks for the development of cooperation with every Asian state and is not going to play on contradictions. We are absolutely certain that real threats to Washington, just as Moscow, Brussels and other EU capitals, lie in the sphere of economic, financial and political instability.

Q.: How do you view process in the EU? What will happen if Europe backs the U.S. embargo on supplies of Iranian oil?

A.: The EU has yet to become one of the centers of the multi-polar world. It looks as if France, the United Kingdom, Germany and some other countries try on such a role, but their actions have yet to get a common design. ‘Eurosceptics‘ are becoming more active, but at the same time there is the inertia of the EU enlargement. A number of countries still want to join, for example Serbia; however, now it is hard to see the immediate profit from such a move for Serbia.
The near future, probably 2012, will show how things will develop, how the EU will be transforming and whether it will be able to protect its interests.
If the EU follows the Americans, embargoes purchases of Iranian oil and tightens sanctions against Teheran to the utmost, it is the Europeans themselves who will suffer and not the United States, which has enough oil of its own.
With the debt problems in the euro zone becoming more acute, such actions will serve to aggravate the social and economic situation.
The European Union is one of our most important trading, economic and political partners. The euro is the second most important currency in our national reserves. So it is of fundamental importance to Russia that the EU should not get weaker but should get stronger as one of the centers of the modern world order.

Q.: Russia‘s budget largely depends on world oil prices. Is there any safety margin in Russia if oil prices fall?

A.: Russia‘s economic indices in the past year can be called satisfactory against the backdrop of well-known crises in the U.S., EU, Japan and a number of other countries, and this happened mainly thanks to our government led by Putin. We have enough financial resources to both implement core development programs and fulfill increased social obligations. However, now there is no reason to make just an optimistic forecast.
Our budget, just as in previous years, will depend on global prices for exported energy, other resources and semi-processed materials. Now no one can predict the dynamics of these prices.
Hard-to-explain situations emerge in conditions of volatility and nervousness on markets. For example, aggregate consumption of oil in Europe, the U.S., China and India has been falling recently, while OPEC suddenly makes a decision to enlarge extraction quotas. And there is a dissonance here, because it would be logical to expect that prices would fall in such conditions, but they either remain the same or grow. There is an impression as if regulators are outside the market and are guided by speculative, possibly political reasons.
Some experts think that oil prices may either grow or fall at a certain moment of time, if this complies with the interests of influential regulators. That is why one should be ready for any scenario.

Q.: So, you admit that oil prices may become an economic weapon?

A.: The manipulation of hydrocarbon prices may in certain conditions be a powerful economic weapon aimed not only against Russia.
Remember that there was time when Arabs unhappy about the pro-Israel policy of the U.S. and its European allies used this weapon rather efficiently. However, the same Arabs, to be more precise Saudi Arabia, made oil prices fall to weaken the USSR. The fall of prices was not the only but an important reason why the Soviet state faced the disaster.
As to the present day, direct parallels with that period are premature. One the one hand, we can see that the U.S. government has considerably adjusted its energy policy. It took the course of reducing the import and increasing self-production, endorsing the increase of domestic production and stockpiling strategic reserves of oil and hydrocarbons.
Some experts may see anti-Russian connotations in this.
One the other hand, the U.S. explanation of such actions by the intention to ensure energy security in case the Iranian situation spoils look trustworthy. One cannot rule out that the Iranians will be able to fulfill their threats to close the Arabian oil export through the Strait of Hormuz, if military actions are taken against them.

Q.: In your opinion, is the strike on Iran is inevitable?

A.: Unfortunately, tensions around Iran are not easing. At the moment, the U.S. sees Iran as its main problem. They are seeking to turn Tehran, their enemy, into a loyal partner, and for that purpose to change the ruling regime there by any means. Economic blockade is applied, as is the massive support for opposition forces, which can conduct a colored revolution there.
There is a likelihood of a military conflict escalation, with Israel pushing the U.S.

Meanwhile, Russia, China, India and a number of other countries are making every effort to solve the problem by peaceful means, by talks. The result of these efforts has so far been insignificant because neither the U.S. nor Iran seem very interested, albeit for various reasons.
U.S. allies in NATO speak of the Iranian nuclear threat as an accomplished fact. They cannot explain what exactly their confidence is based on, nevertheless, we are being vigorously reassured that the U.S. missile defense assets being created along the Russian borders in Europe are for the purpose of defending against an Iranian nuclear attack.
By the way, all this talk about Iranians being almost a week away from creating a nuclear bomb, we have been hearing it for many years now. The presence of a military aspect in Tehran‘s nuclear program has never been proved by anyone. However, it did not stop U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta from stating confidently that there will still be a strike against Iran.
A similar situation is happening with Syria. We are receiving information that NATO members and certain Arab states of the Persian Gulf, acting according to the well-run "Libyan scenario," are going to turn the current mediated intervention in the Syrian affairs into a direct military intervention.
Only this time the main striking forces will be supplied not by France, England and Italy, but possibly by Syria‘s neighbor and recent friend Turkey, which is competing against Iran and has enormous ambitions. It is possible that Washington and Ankara are already working out various ‘no-fly zone‘ options, wh ere armed squads of Syrian rebels could be formed and amassed.
It is clear that in this instance Syria has become a subject of attention of the new "coalition by interests" not by itself. They intend to punish Damascus not so much for its repressions against the opposition, as for its reluctance to break up its alliance with Tehran.
It is obvious in this case that Syria has become an object of attention of new ‘coalition of interests‘ not by itself. They are going to punish Damascus for unwillingness to rupture relations with Tehran, rather than for repression against opposition.

Q.: What is your assessment of results of U.S. operation in Iraq and Afghanistan?

A.: The U.S. hastily declared its victory, that it had achieved the goal of the war, despite the fact that the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan is extremely unstable and could bring about new conflict.
One can only sympathize with our U.S. partners: officially declared motives for ending both wars are as unconvincing as pretexts for unleashing them.
Experts say that Washington often makes such decisions based on domestic political considerations, which is why their consequences are not well thought-out. Judging by a recent statement by Vice President [Joe] Biden that the Taliban movement is not the U.S. enemy, this is the case. We can see a U-turn in the policy.
As to Russia and our allies in the CSTO, which felt the danger of terrorism, extremism, drug threat, no ‘light‘ assessments of the situation in Afghanistan is acceptable for them. Obviously, new risks and challenges for neighboring countries and regions will inevitably emerge and grow after the U.S. ‘responsibility zone‘ shrinks.
By the way, the U.S. does not have enough capability to independently resolve emerging problems by military means in conditions of the economic crisis. It has to appeal to the allies, shifting a considerable share of expenditures and responsibility to them. They so far take part in short-term operations, but try to evade the burden of expensive expeditions that could cause huge losses. It seems to me that the only exception is the Saakashvili regime in Georgia, which is ready to increase the presence of its soldiers anywhere Washington wants; however, only if financing is provided.
Recently, the peculiarities of European behavior can clearly be seen in the Iraqi and Afghani campaigns. In both cases, the allies made unilateral decisions to fully or partly evacuate their troops, and one had to evacuate a major part of U.S. forces which, it seems to me, may soon be needed in other places.
So, recent U.S. actions confirms that Russia‘s steps aimed at building a security system together with former USSR republics to protect our interests in the southern direction are correct. By common efforts we will try to strengthen sovereignty and independence of our states.
At the same time, we will develop integration structures, the need and usefulness of which is understood by peoples on the post-Soviet space and our neighbors. We hope that the CIS and the SCO will work more actively, the formation of the Eurasian Union will be an important step, and useful consultations in the BRICS format will continue. There will be much work in various directions in 2012.