Alexander Zinker: Readiness of the Kremlin to protect its "Big Russian
world" is dangerous for Russia itself

Interview of Director of Institute for the Eastern European and CIS
Countries in Tel-Aviv, Dr, Alexander Zinker

by David Stepanyan
Saturday, July 5, 10:20

Ukraine has stirred up the layer of the old problems accumulated
between the world force centers. Today they have been seriously
discussing a problem of a unique border running through its territory
and of the geo-political split between the West and Russia. What are
these borders?

New processes have been developing at the territory of the former
USSR, within the frames of which some republics understand the
statements by the Russian leaders "concerned about the problems of the
Russian-language population in other countries", of the so-called
"big Russian world", like a warning. On the one hand, it is normal
that Moscow is concerned about these problems. But on the other hand,
how much Russia may support these communities of the "Russian world".
The problem goes out of the CIS frames. There are 1,5 million
Russian-language population living in Israel. However, this does not
at all mean that Russia may suddenly be concerned about the problems
of the Russian-language population of Israel. Fortunately, Moscow does
not think about it, and I hope Russia will never do that Ukraine has
risen many old problems accumulated between the world force centers,
and it is hard to predict how further events will develop in Ukraine,
and between Russia, Ukraine, the USA, Europe and other CIS countries.
I can only say that the events in Ukraine have stirred up all the
problems between the above mentioned countries. Moreover, the attitude
of the USA and EU to this issue is absolutely different. If the events
in Ukraine directly concern Europe, they concern the USA indirectly.
Just for this reason, unlike the Europeans, the Americans are more
categorical in their statements and requirements.

I think that in that case Israel's answer will be short...

The time will come when the peoples of Russia and Ukraine will think
not about their difference but equality. A new word expression
appeared today .
This word expression really reflects the situation and the short-tern
prospect. I have never seen such a true information war at all the
levels, and in mass media first of all. I think no mass media as such
have remained in Ukraine and Russia. They have quickly turned into the
propaganda bodies.

I have got an impression that today people have simply turned into
zombie by this multi-level propaganda. And the situation will not
recover, until these people themselves will not understand that they
can make friends. By the way, today Georgia and Russia have been
gradually establishing relations, though after the war 08.08.08. it
was practically impossible. I think that the time will also come when
the peoples of Russia and Ukraine will think not about their
difference but equality. Not everything is simple there. As for the
purely political reaction of the EU at the events in Central Europe,
here we have a strict system of dual standards.

Do you agree to the viewpoint that the USA and Russia have again found
themselves in a "cold war"?

The Americans and the Russians have called the relations
establishing between them for the last years as "restart". But at the
symbolic button they accidentally wrote the word "overload", and
actually just the overloading has taken place. Today the cold war
again started between these countries. The relations level being
established today between Russia, the EU and the USA is like a new
cold war. Moreover, some people say even about the danger of the third
world war. For this reason, today there is no smile in the relations
between the USA and Russia, and I think they will not smile to each
other for a long period of time. Both parties may be blamed for that.
I think that all the ideas of President Barack Obama, for which he
was given the Nobel Prize, were not brought to life. His only merit is
withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. As for the situation in
Ukraine, the expert thinks that Obama's administration has been acting
not so much far-sightedly, as it is better to talk than to threat with
sanctions and weapon.

And what about Putin?

Today's Vladimir Putin differs very much from Putin which came at the
beginning of the 2000s. When he appointed Medvedev as a premier, the
conception of his foreign policy sharply changed, to be correct, its
paradigm changed. And the empire statements often voiced by him for
the last period of time, will unavoidably lead to bigger changes. I
think that the radicals' wing in his surrounding and in the Russian
policy strongly pushes him to that. Today this wing says about the
necessity of bringing Russian troops into Ukraine, which is very much
dangerous. Taking into consideration the fact that the leadership of
NATO seems to be eager of that, it is a very much dangerous trend. The
talks that the third world war will save the world economy from a
theoretical research has transformed into a theory which may be
implemented in practice. I hope that the radical wing of the Russian
policy will not gain a victory, but he does not want to predict
further development of the situation conditioned by the latest trends
in the global politics. Nevertheless, one thing may be said for sure -
"the cold war" period has again become reality today.

In its aspiration "to gather the Russian lands" Moscow has been
imposing pressure upon the potential participants in its Eurasian
projects. What does it hinder Russia to economic levers for raising of
the true interests of the South Caucasus states, including Azerbaijan
, in the Eurasian Economic Union? I mean, for instance, unblocking of
the Abkhazian sector of the railway.

I have got an impression that by every attempt of the Russians to
restore any commonwealth, not the USSR, which is unreal, less
beneficiary countries remain. So, I think that such an approach is
wrong. The economic tie of the countries with Russia is the best
scenario for integration. And although it is not so much modern in
Armenia, I treat Armenia's joining the Customs Union rather calmly. By
the way, Israel seriously revises the idea of cooperation with
Eurasian Union. I think that in Armenia as well as in Ukraine this
issue is very much politicized. Whereas, in Israel only big
businessmen and governmental structures were aware of signing the
Association Agreement with the EU, all the rest population were not
interested in this issue at all.

Maybe, because there was not an opposite pole to pull Israel to its side?

Yes, of course. At present we have been cooperating with Eurasian
structures, but the EU does not even try to say that having an
Association agreement with the EU, Israel should not have similar
economic relations with another structure. So, economy is the best
machinery for being interested in integration. At the same time, I am
not sure that if Moscow decides to involve an issue of unblocking of
the Abkhazian sector of the railway in its integration machinery, it
will be easily resolved, as it is not an economic problem. I am
confident that when Georgia revises the problem of letting trains run
through the territory which it thinks is an occupied one, it is not an
economy any more but politics. In this context, I think that it is
very much possible that the problem of the Abkhazian railway may be
resolved only grounding on the economy but not politics. Incidentally,
the Georgians have several times come to that. However, the politics
always became an obstacle.

And what about Israel?

In general, taking into account the level of relations between
Armenia and its natural partner Iran, Israel is quite alert to the
idea of restoration of the North-South communications. I think that
opening of the Abkhazian sector of the railway would extend the
economic ties of Armenia much. If Russia took the issue of other CIS
countries' participation in its economic projects on the basis of
equal partnership, it would gain much more, at least, it would not
lose the friends which it loses today. I think that Kazakhstan,
taking into consideration the fact that numerous Russian-language
people have been living at its territory, should worry that one day,
when its relations with Russia worsen, Russia may take this trump
card. I think that the trend of readiness of the Kremlin to protect
the "Big Russian world" is dangerous for Russia, first of all. And one
should take it very much carefully. Any country does not have friends
forever, there are only everlasting interests. What is happening today
between Russia and Armenia may be explained just by coincidence of
economic and in a certain sense regional interests of Russia with the
interests of Armenia.

From: Baghdasarian