Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator
US-Russia talks in Geneva are to be held January 9-10. President Putin has presented issues to be discussed which are aimed to diffuse tensions over the Ukraine and Russian border situation.
NATO has played a stronger role than the EU, and foreign ministers of the bloc will meet this week. Against this back-drop, the EU must face the fact that it is Washington and Moscow who are center stage in the political drama.
Steven Sahiounie of MidEastDiscourse interviewed Leonid Savin for his take on the situation and to gain insight into the unfolding story.
Leonid Savin is a geopolitical analyst, editor-in-chief of Geopolitica.ru, founder and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Eurasian Affairs, head of the administration of the international “Eurasian movement”, and an author of various books.
1. Steven Sahiounie (SS): News reports say Russia pulled 10,000 of its troops back from the border with Ukraine. While President Putin also has some demands of NATO. In your opinion, will NATO comply with Russia demands?
Leonid Savin (LS): First of all, I must mention that any moves of Russian troops inside Russia is sovereign right of Russia. Routine military maneuvers and drills are essential part of national defense in any country. The West uses false flag propaganda that Russia will start a military campaign against Ukraine soon because of these moves. Should we tell about preparedness of war of the US against Mexico because of a situation on the border and concentration of troops of many agencies there? Or, let me ask what is the American military doing in Syria? Are they invited officially like Russians? Western propaganda on steroids doing its own business as usual. So, better to find other sources of information.
In other hand, NATO powers are doing many provocations close to Russian borders. So, it is also the reason why Moscow would like to start diplomatic negotiations.
Concerning NATO decision about Russian proposals: I think that they will not agree with Moscow, and will continue their own agenda. Problem is that promise to not enlarge to the East was given during Soviet times to Mikhail Gorbachev (in exchange for the reunion of Germany) and contemporary politicians inside NATO countries, and NATO decision makers especially, don’t care about it.
Anyway, the Russian proposal has rational elements on European security, and NATO must discuss it.
2. SS: President Biden and the EU keep exaggerating the threat of the Russians at the Ukraine border. In your opinion, is this a form distraction to keep the Western media focused on what Russia is doing instead of focusing on what NATO is doing to provoke Russia?
LS: Exactly. Under the umbrella memetic phrase of “hybrid warfare” the West can describe any kind of Russian activity as hybrid warfare. If Moscow installs counter sanctions against countries who imposed anti-Russian sanctions, it can be named as “hybrid warfare” of Russia. If Russia supports allies (Belarus for example), it is “hybrid warfare” too. If Russia sells gas to Europe by market prices – it is named “hybrid warfare”. The point is that many in the West don’t know Russia, never were here, and have limited sources of information. Unfortunately, many scholars in the West follows this trend (when I met them in other countries they demonstrated deep ignorance on many issues related to Russia). The only hope is the alternative media, but hegemonic circles try to suppress it by different methods.
3. SS: Recent statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the west of supporting Ukraine with weapons worth of 2.5 billion dollars since 2014. In your opinion, how can NATO and the West justify their action?
LS: Because the government of Ukraine is a puppet of the West, and it is very easy to say that this country is interested to join NATO. No matter that there are serious problems – corruption, rule of law does not exist, democracy not exist (it is not democracy when half of country can’t speak the mother language). The West is doing a kind of carnival policy providing some grants for business and youth, but it is a facade only. There needs to be serious investigations. Who will care about it? OSCE is doing many reports about violations of peace agreement by the Ukrainian army in South East of Ukraine (Donbass region where we have two self-proclaimed republics). And what is results? Zero. In Ukraine from 2014 the glorification of Nazism is rising. What is the West (EU) doing to combat it? Nothing. Because of the double standard political practice NATO can use any rhetoric form or any claims. In December 2021 President Zelensky signed a decree that in 2022 many military drills with participation of Western forces will be conducted in Ukraine. It is also one more step to engage Ukraine into NATO.
4. SS: Biden had said previously, that he wanted to withdraw troops from Iraq. However, his policy has changed and the troops are staying in a non-combat capacity. In your opinion, does this mean that the US plans to stay in Iraq and in Syria indefinitely?
LS: Yes, they will stay in Iraq and Syria because of military-political logic of the US. Presidential promises are serving for domestic politics, but usually disconnects with reality. Let’s remember that Barack Obama promised to withdrawal the US troops from Afghanistan before his presidential inauguration! The same is now. But, Biden’s team is more incompetent, and now the White House has anti-Chinese paranoia.
5. SS: The Syrian war is over, but the Syrian recovery hasn’t begun, and the economy has collapsed. Yet, President Biden has no policy to help the Syrian people to recover. In your opinion, do think that President Putin and President Biden can work together to find common ground on a solution for Syria?
LS: I’m skeptical about any deal with the West. Less than year ago the West organized a big international conference on assistance to Afghanistan. Then, the official government fell down there, and the Taliban came to the power. But, where are the funds collected to assist the people of Afghanistan?
I think that a better solution will be reconciliation within the Arab community, where rich countries of the region will start to provide material help to Syria. Especially because some of them funded the so called armed opposition in Syria. So they have full responsibility for what happened there. The West also played a very destructive role, but the West is far and the Gulf states are near.
Steven Sahiounie is a two-time award-winning journalist