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Yevgeny Primakov: the aim of anti-Russian economic sanctions is to weaken Russia

October 29, 2014, 0:24 UTC+3
The former head of government is convinced that the US’ goal is a color revolution in Russia
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The goal of Western economic sanctions is a “color revolution” in Russia, Russian Academy of Sciences presidium member, academician Yevgeny Primakov is convinced. He told TASS in a jubilee interview of conspiracy theories around oil prices, the U-turn of Russia’s economy to the East and the role of informal diplomacy in conditions of a political crisis. On October 29, Yevgeny Primakov, who consecutively headed the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the Foreign Ministry and the government, turns 85.

- How large-scale can the influence of reciprocal sanctions be on the global policy and economy?

- I can’t agree with the term “reciprocal sanctions”. The sanctions imposed by the United States and their allies against Russia are one thing. And response measures taken by Russia are quite another thing. The aim of anti-Russian economic sanctions is to weaken Russia, corner us, put into practice the idea of a “color revolution” in our country. The response measures that in their scale are not comparable to anti-Russian sanctions are mainly aimed to create an atmosphere that does not favor escalation of sanctions imposed by the West. Of course, in such a situation, a signal is sent to relevant departments and businesses on the required support for the domestic producer in order to loosen our dependence on imports, especially in the food sphere.

Economic sanctions without a relevant decision of the UN Security Council are a measure that contradicts global processes – both economic ones aimed to develop interaction in the interests of all countries, and political ones who solve the problems of creating various systems of counteraction to the real threats to the security of the modern world.

- Has escalation of the conflict discredited the leading institutions of international economic cooperation – the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the IMF? Do they require transformation?

- The development of the conflict imposed on us by the United States directly contradicts the principles that underlie the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF, but it does not mean that Russia should quit these institutions of international economic cooperation. Even in conditions of the changed global situation, Russia does not accept a course for self-isolation.

The key thing today is to subordinate the monetary policy to economic growth

- How big is the political component in the current level of oil prices? Do you see the rational basis in conspiracy theories explaining the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower contractual prices? For example, collusion with the United States designed to weaken the Russian economy? Or an attack on shale projects in America?

- There is a political component in the oil price reduction, but it does not make me a supporter of different variants of conspiracy theories. The key factor in global oil price reduction is a slow dynamics of the post-crisis world economy.

- Is it likely that the period of comparatively low oil price quotations and expensive dollar will drag on for several years?

- I don’t think it will happen like that. But it does not mean that we should ignore such a possibility when solving domestic economic tasks.

- Will you agree that the policy of accumulating reserves conducted in particular by Alexey Kudrin was finally justified? Is it time to spend money reserved in sovereign funds? What branches do you think require state support on a priority basis?

- The key domestic economic crossroads that we faced after the crisis and are still facing now is either to consolidate the financial resources or direct all efforts for fast growth and quality development of GDP. I specify, that does not mean that we should give up financial consolidation, but the key thing today is to subordinate the monetary policy to economic growth and secure the technical and technological development. And in conditions of Western sanctions, it means to determine the critical points in which not just import substitution but a breakthrough ruling out catching-up development is required.

- Do you see the real consolidation of society and elites in conditions of an external threat? At the latest Valdai Forum, a thesis was discussed: “… today there is Putin and there is Russia, and people retransmit threats addressed to the president to themselves and the entire country”. Is it true for you?

- Those who don’t turn a blind eye to that see that the overwhelming majority of the Russian population support the head of state and do not accept threats addressed to Putin, whose policy is justly assessed as one serving Russia’s interests and at the same time not slamming the door for cooperation with all countries, including the US and the EU, to neutralize real threats and challenges to the international community. Putin’s speech at the Valdai Forum, I am convinced, strengthened even more his positions inside the country and beyond its borders. As regards the “elites”, it’s unclear whom you mean. If you mean the political opposition from among experts, political scientists and nonprofessionals that joined them, I don’t think they fit the definition.

Infographics Economical sanctions against Russia Economical sanctions against Russia
The USA, EU, Canada and Australia have introduced sanctions against Russia over its involvement in the Ukrainian crisis. Infographics by ITAR-TASS
- Is it possible to settle the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine beyond the political context – in the framework of commercial talks?

- It is not only possible but necessary. I think the matter is moving in that direction, if, of course, Ukraine does not draw new uncompromising conditions.

- Does the role of informal diplomacy grow in conditions of political contradictions? In particular, do you think that representatives of big business of Russia, the US and the EU will contribute to rapprochement of political positions of the countries involved in the confrontation?

- Informal diplomacy is especially important now, including at the level of Russian, American and European businesses, interested, it seems, not in destruction but in creation, in development, first of all, of economic cooperation.

Development of the Far East and East Siberia would be Russia’s main task in the 21st century

- Has China retained the status of the United States’ arch geopolitical rival against the cool-off in Russian-US relations? Or is it now Russia?

- As far as economics is concerned, in the context of the existing inter-dependence of the United States and China their competition is unlikely to fade into the background, particularly so now, that the Chinese economy has taken first place. At the same time, I do not believe that one should project this situation to the worsening of relations between the United States and Russia, which by no means signifies that Russia positions itself as the United States’ main geopolitical rival.

- How do you see the future of the APEC, where China has taken the rotating presidency this year?

- The APEC is a forum of 21 countries in the Pacific Region, the world’s largest by its share in the global GDP, global turnover and economic growth rates. At the same time the region has accumulated major conflict risks, such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons, territorial disputes between countries, the unresolved problem of how Taiwan may be reunited with mainland China, and so on and so forth. The forum that implies annual meetings by the APEC leaders and systematic consultations among them at the ministerial level are very useful. But the centre of gravity has been shifted not towards the integration of the whole region, which is for many reasons impossible, but towards the development of bilateral and multilateral ties, which yield indisputable benefits in the economic and political spheres. It is very unlikely China’s rotating presidency will change this trend.

As for Russia, we are interested in relations with the Pacific countries, in particular, in economic relations. This is one of the mechanisms to ensure the accelerated development of our country’s Pacific territories. Special attention to that part of Russia was seen in President Vladimir Putin’s statement to the effect the development of the Far East and East Siberia would be Russia’s main task in the 21st century.

- How realistic is the scenario of turning the Russian economic system eastwards? Will such a decision be fraught with the risk of a gradual drift away from the post-industrial model with the emphasis on raw materials projects to meet the demands of China’s booming economy?

- Diversification of Russia’s economic system, with the eastern track gaining greater importance, does not mean that we are prepared to curtail our relations with the European and other states. I see no risk of abandoning the post-industrial model. Gone are the opinions such model is confined to science, engineering and the services. World experience shows that the countries that have ventured into the post-industrial world never stop to be raw materials producing and industrial ones. Regarding the post-industrial and industrial models as opposing polls is very wrong. Merging reindustrialization and modernization is one of the crucial tasks for Russia.

It is good that we avoided succumbing to deceit again

- The Ukrainian crisis has distracted attention from the Syrian conflict, but the hostilities are going on. Do you share optimism regarding Bashar Assad’s chances of staying in power?

- The growing activity of the terrorist organization calling itself the Islamic State, possibly, the most radical terrorist organization of all, is the main threat to everybody. Indiscriminate US support for the ISIL and forces opposed to Bashar Assad was the indisputable prerequisite for its successes. The results of that short-sighted policy are deplorable. It remains to be seen whether the US course aimed at overthrowing the existing regime in Syria will continue. But isn’t it clear that instead of Bashar Assad, whose policy has proved very constructive in many respects, including the elimination of chemical weapons, will be replaced by the ISIL?

- How do you see Russia’s stance on Libya? Do you believe that staying aloof from the events of 2010-2011 was a strategic mistake?

- We have never stayed aloof from the events in Libya. We invariably pressed for non-intervention in that country’s affairs. It is an entirely different matter that the US “partners” have in fact deceived us, when they persuaded us not to veto the UN Security Council resolution that established a no-fly zone over Libya to ward of the risk Libyan warplanes might bomb civilians. Pretty soon the underlying reasons that the United States and its European allies had had in mind rose to the surface. The bombardments that followed were targeted against the Muamar Gaddafi regime. The effects of that are clear to the naked eye. Libya has been plunged in chaos and its territory torn apart. It is good that we avoided succumbing to deceit again and vetoed all UN Security Council’s resolutions that had been proposed with the aim of overthrowing Syria’s constitutional regime.

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