Hopes and eye-openers from the new Nostradamus
He has already been dubbed a “political Nostradamus,” and for good reason! Valery Solovey predicted Donald Trump’s victory, a number of major political crises in Europe, and serious shifts in Russian leadership. Professor, department head at MGIMO, and one of Russia’s most famous political scientists Valery Solovey answered our questions in an interview with Capital Ideas.
What awaits us in 2019? Will there be a war?
At the very least, Russia definitely won’t be initiating a war. If others start one, which is also highly unlikely, we’ll have to get involved. But Russia doesn’t have the intent or the resources to go to war with anyone.
What kind of war would we have? Look around: did a lot of people go volunteer in Donbass?
War is a good way to resolve internal problems, so long as it doesn’t result in suicide. That’s what we’re dealing with right now.
But Russia is being threatened with a cyberwar?
It’s important to acknowledge that we are at the brink of a large-scale cyberwar between Russia and the West. According to many independent experts. it’s highly likely and maybe even inevitable. The recent anti-Russia statements made by the government of the Netherlands and the UK Ministry of Defense serve are proof of this.
And here is something else that worries me. People who don’t have any first-hand experience with war are now in power and in charge of military forced all over the world. According to researchers from the US – and I agree with them – this is key to understanding modern-day threats.
For many politicians and generals, war is starting to look like an entertaining computer game. Well-informed people from the American establishment have told me they are concerned about this. According to them, military personnel are dreaming of using robots instead of soldiers in combat in the future. According to them, this will make war take less of a moral toll on people. These are dangerous games to play.
So does this mean that any hopes Russians may have for a thaw in our relations with the West will not be realized?
According to my forecasts, we have to be prepared for our relationship with the US to worsen in 2019. And the difference between now and the 20th century Cold War is that Russia and the US no longer have any informal communication channels. Yes, there are hotlines for the Presidents and Ministers of Defense in both countries. But there is no longer a system of informal contacts. People in both Moscow and Washington acknowledge this. And it seems they’re not doing anything to fix this. Maybe they’re waiting things out?
Of course, there will be new sanctions against Russia, there is no doubt about this. So realistically, we should be talking how big they will be and what kinds of consequences they will have.
In Moscow, all of these estimates have already been made. The country’s leadership is assuming that relations between Russia and the US will continue to deteriorate and that Russia will have to live with the sanctions for a very long time, perhaps until 2033-2035.
But will we have a relationship at least at the embassy level?
Rumor has it that the Americans have thought of a trick. In the future, it looks like the US Ambassador will make the decision to stay in Moscow or come back to Washington because there are no serious affairs to attend to here.
For the rest of the world, this would look like an unprecedented move. Because nothing like this has ever happened, even during the worst parts of the Cold War.
In 2016, you predicted that Trump would win the US election. Maybe you know what kind of role Moscow played in this election?
Yes, I turned out to be one of the few people who confidently said Trump would win. But, I’ll be honest, this is mostly an accomplishment of my American friends. I really trust these people’s opinion, because they have a lot of experience working with the US bureaucracy. They were cautious, but they let me know Trump may end up in the White House.
Trump’s victory is the result of his successful political strategy and Hillary’s mistakes. She should not have assumed that things were predetermined. If you always talk about your victory as if there is no alternative, people are going to want to teach you a lesson.
What did Trump do? His team clearly understood which states they needed to win. Trump successfully politicized the white working class, which is resentful and has partially stagnated. The Republican candidate showed them an alternative: don’t vote for an establishment politician, vote for a simple guy who is a real American through and through. And he hit the jackpot.
If you read blogs on the Internet, people in Europe don’t like Russians these days. But if you visit Warsaw, London, or even Odessa as a tourist, attitudes toward us haven’t changed. People are really welcoming…
There is a difference between relationships between people and the logic of politics and economics. The question is which one prevails. And no matter what we want, the logic of politics is going to prevail both this year and the next. In other words, the climate will be determined by politicians, not business people who are interested in developing tourism. And I think this group of politicians will be at least cold toward Russia, if not outwardly hostile.
A number of supposedly reputable foreign publications have once again started talking about a possible territorial disintegration in Russia. In your opinion, how should we react to “forecasts” like this?
Like the nonsense it is! What disintegration? Why, for what reason? The country is held together by three key unifying forces. These are Russian language, the Russian ruble, and Russian culture. The most important thing is that nobody, not a single territory, is trying to leave the Russian Federation. Even in today’s Tatarstan, centrifugal forces are insignificant. The most they can do is ask Moscow for some symbolic preferences.
Even the North Caucasus, the most dangerous region in terms of separatism, doesn’t understand how it would survive without Russia.
What do you think about the fate of Donbass?
The longer Donbass continues to exist outside of Ukraine, the more difficult it will be to bring it back. In my opinion, the time limit is five years. After this period, the alienation and enmity may become insurmountable.
According to the Russian side, if we cut back on support for Donbass, Ukrainian forces will enter the territory and mass repressions will begin. But a kind of compromise does exist right now: Donbass is assigned a temporary international government (the UN, for example) and the blue helmets come in. A few years (at least five-seven) will be spent on reconstruction, establishing a local government, and so on. Then, there may be a referendum on the region’s status.
Overall, I’m not sure that Ukraine needs Donbass. Regardless of the conditions under which Donbass would be integrated back into Ukraine, it will still be a group of people that are hostile toward Kiev. It will be a sort of Trojan Horse in the Ukrainian statehood. Kiev most likely needs Donbass for political and propaganda-related reasons.
In any case, this will take decades to resolve. Even if Donbass is reconstructed, people will harbor resentment toward the central government. By the way, Donetsk has always been skeptical of the central government, even when Yanukovych was President. Donbass has always gravitated toward Russia.
Mr. Solovey, different media sources are constantly saying that the crisis development in the EU are good for Russia. Is the EU doomed to the same fate as the USSR?
Russia continues to be an active participant of the bigger game on the international arena, so of course it is at least partially interested in a weakening of the EU as a union. It would probably be easier for Moscow to negotiate with countries individually, rather than with the EU as a whole. But we have to acknowledge that Russia is not capable of triggering a Europe-wide crisis. This is absolutely not a possibility. Even if we had more economic capacity than we do right now.
Not a single reputable expert would make the claim that the EU is at the brink of a collapse. Yes, Brussels has serious problems. And it’s possible these problems will continue to escalate. Still, the coalition for keeping the EU in place is much stronger than those who are against a European Union.
But the European Union will have to go through a very significant internal transformation. I think it will be good for the EU.
Of course, the EU will never have as much political power as the United States, but I think it’s possible economically.
Britain’s exit from the EU may also work in favor of the European Union staying together. Because this means Brussels will be rid of a constant aggravating force – a country that was constantly asking for special rights and privileges.