Wiesława Lewandowska talks with prof. Romuald Szeremietiew about helplessness of Ukraine, Russian insolence, nonsense talking of the West and a portrait of tsarina Katarzyna
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: – The decision about the Third World War has already been made by the president of Russia – the extremely nationalist Russian politician Władysław Żyrinowski threatened. And it cannot be in any other way, because this is the history of powerful Russia: finally Putin is a worthy successor of tsar Nicolas II and Józef Stalin…Today the Russians are proud of such an interpretation of history and should all the others be scared?
PROF. ROMUALD SZEREMIETIEW: – Putin is only an imitation of Stalin, which does not mean that he is dangerous. And Żyrinowski is the vice-president of the Russian Duma, a leader of the important parliamentary fraction, so we should not neglect what he says, despite his foolish behaviours. Contemporary Russia with its accepted tradition, that is, a tsar married to Sovietism proves that the Russians in their mass, do not feel to be the victims of communism. It proves a request formulated by a great explorer of Russian history, prof. Jan Kucharzewski (‘From white to red tsarism’), that bolshevism was a natural consequence of how tsarist Russia was developing. The fact is that the Russians were expecting very strict treatment from their authority throughout their whole history, but they love such a strict authority. Gorbaczow and Jelcyn, mild rulers are hated in Russia and strict Putin is loved.
– They love strict rulers, although they are very cruel to them?
– Yes, that’s why, because they keep them with a hard hand, but, first of all, because they scare and conquer other nations. This is where the Russians have always seen compensation for their sufferings. A Russian man thinks that it is worth suffering if Russia becomes great in it. Therefore, even today Stalin is considered by the Russian public opinion – at least not by some bigoted communists – as one of the most prominent leaders of this country. Already in the beginning Putin found allies in ordinary Russians, saying that the biggest tragedy in XX century was the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now he wants to rebuild the Russian empire which gives him the general support in his homeland.
– Now the European critics of Putin are warning with care that he is setting ‘a trap of war’ onto himself.
– Those are warning who are scared of Putin or do not want to oppose to him, hoping that he may withdraw. Well, he won’t, although the Russian Federation is weaker than Soviet Russia and maybe for this reason.
– Therefore, he will not resign from the plans concerning our region, from the greedy looking at the West?
– If Russia wants to play an important role, if it wants to return to the international arena as a super-empire, then it will not attack China, and it has already got Siberia… It is the West from which it always took its power, especially from its relations with Germany. Germany has always been an apple of Moscow’s eye. The elite governing in the tsarist times was of German origin in 70%. Later we had an alliance of the Nazis with the Bolsheviks (Ribbentrop-Mołotow pact). I think that today these dreams are returning as an element of a kind of a political intention of Kremlin – building a geopolitical euro-Asiatic community from Vladiwostok to Lisbon. The Russians will not realize these plans without the Germans.
– Today, are these only dreams or a particular plan quite successfully realized just thanks to the approval of the Germans?
– These are not dreams but particular actions of Kremlin. In this Russian context we can perceive that in the German policy today two tendencies clash together: the western-German (deriving from the tradition of Western Germany) and the Eastern-Prussian (NRD called previously ‘red Prussia’). The latter one is very favourable for Russia. After the unification of Germany and moving the capital city from Bonn to Berlin, these two tendencies clashed together both in forming the foreign policy and in practice of governing of the chancellor’s office. It is not a secret that the chancellor Merkel is somehow an educator of NRD and on her desk – as she boasted – she put a portrait of the tsarina Katarzyna…
– However, he does not follow any sentiments in politics…
– Instead, he is taking on the Prussian logics more and more often in formulating the national interest of Germany.
– Recently, she has said ‘Nein’ for the bases of NATO in European Europe. In whose interest?
– For Germany good relations with Russia are priority, but Russia does not want bases of NATO on the areas which it would like to possess in the future. And, beside it, Berlin treats the absence of the alliance in the central Europe as strengthening its position in the international arena. Luckily, what is happening in NATO is decided about by the United States, which – if only it wants - can lead to installing bases in Poland. Then, in my opinion, Germany, despite its pro-Russian tendencies, will have to get subordinated to it. A good sign is that the ‘evacuation’ of the USA from Europe, visible some time ago, was perhaps stopped.
– The world is keeping silent, and Germany supports the policy of Putin – this is the conclusion of the public opinion in central-eastern Europe in the end of the year 2014.
– Maybe it is not so bad. However, Germany broke a contract with Russia on building the training centre for land armies. However, I do not know whether it was a sign of honesty in the German politics or only an accident at work. Whereas France postponed supplying Russia with one of two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships till this November.
– Poland and other countries of our region, especially Baltic countries, feel more and more endangered, expect much more interest, than it has been promised before, from NATO. It is in vain?
– The situation is not obvious. Today NATO is in a difficult situation; first of all, it must define itself anew, what it is going to defend, whether it will stop aggression of Russia. It is not going to be easy because of pro-Russian members of the alliance – especially the Germans, as well as the French, the Italians and even the Spanish. The Americans could overdo the issue, provided that they would like to do it…A lot can also depend on in what relations with the United States member countries of NATO will be smaller and endangered by Russia today.
– But if – which is more probable – do strong interests of countries, such as Germany or France, prevail?
– If the main idea of NATO, based on defence of the western civilization , freedom, human rights and democracy is changed into small interests of big European countries, then – in my opinion - there will be the end of the north-Atlantic pact.
– The powerful ones will always cope with it, but what about the smaller and defenseless ones?
– It is necessary to think about elaborating conditions to receive a partnership agreement with the United States.
– Which – as Polish experiences with the missile shield show – does not seem easy. Anyway, in Poland we are already being threatened that any presence of NATO or America will cause a danger of the Russian attack – bombarding not only military bases but also the capital city.
– This is only a threat. Let’s remember that the disproportion of forces between the Russian Federation and NATO is so big to the detriment of Russia, that even Putin with Żyrinowski would not dare to have war with the Alliance.
– There is quite a popular belief in Poland that the Americans can determine our safety, if, certainly, they want to. Don’t we really have any influence?
– If we wanted, we could have. Polish elites should realize what tools are at disposal today in order to build a centre of force independent from Germany and based on the Polish potential. Force which will be able to raise interest of the United States. In central Europe nobody will do it for us.
– The president assures that we are able to scare an enemy, prevent aggression from outside, defend independence…
– I would not take these words seriously for various reasons. Surely it is necessary to do a reliable examination of conscience of one’s own abilities of defence, a review of possibilities of cooperation with countries is necessary, which are feeling endangered today, first of all, with the Scandinavian countries, Baltic countries and Romania.
– Is it difficult to hope for understanding from more powerful countries of the West?
– Great Britain could be our partner because of its unchangeably good relations with the United States and also because it is looking at the actions of Russia with concern and has got atomic weapon which has also a significance.
– Military parades on 15 August undoubtedly cheered Poles. And how can be today’s army impressive?
– Parades are for this purpose, in order to cheer up! I do not doubt that we have good soldiers, ready to defend the country. I do not know whether they are well-trained and equipped. Watching a parade, I noticed the predominance of equipment which cannot be used for a military purpose. As long as soldiers’ march could be enjoyable, presentation of arming was not.
– We are looking at what is happening behind the eastern border with more and more concern: a military conflict in Ukraine is getting stronger, the Ukrainian army is not coping with it, and the world is looking at it helplessly.
– We must call things by name. We must clearly say that in Ukraine there is war in which there are two parties: military forces of Ukraine and military forces of Russia. Russia is using irregular forces for attack, soldiers pretending partisans but we must not allow for being deceived by it.
– Ukraine needs a very consistent military help. Who and how should give it to Ukraine?
– Germany, if Mrs. Merkel said in Kiev that she guarantees maintenance of territorial integrality of Ukraine!
– You are joking! Saying words thoughtlessly is a canon of the European policy…
– I am only saying what consequences of the declaration of Mrs. Chancellor should be. Words of serious people should always be proven by actions. The chancellor Merkel said in the capital city of Ukraine that Germany supported the rule of territorial integrality of this country. So, she should say now how Germany will support Ukraine in defence of its borders. Moreover, let’s remind that in the Vienna agreement from 1997, in return for resignation of Kiev from the atomic weapon, the United States, Great Britain and Russia guaranteed Ukraine the territorial integrality. Why don’t these two atomic powerful countries implement this contract, allowing Putin to ‘cock a snook’?
– How could NATO help Ukraine?
– It could support it with ammunition and armament, and maybe sending an army…If NATO supported Kiev really and in a military way, president Putin and his ‘green little people’ would be in a big trouble.
– But – there are such concerns – it would already be the Third World War…
– I will mention again that Russia is not strong enough to undertake war with the Alliance. I am sure that after consistent intervention of NATO, the Russians would withdraw, certainly, spit at the ugly West. It does not seem that the consistent attitude of NATO would evoke something beyond the propaganda clamor of Muscovites.
– However, nobody cares to help. Everyone is afraid of war, does not want to tease Putin?
– After a conference in Munich in 1938, Winston Churchill noted that English and French politicians, giving way to Hitler, wanted to avoid war at the cost of disgraceful division of Czechoslovakia. They chose disgrace and will have war anyway – said Churchill then.