What do you think, should we expect changes in Russian-US relations now that Biden moves into the White House? Is it possible to reboot them? What are the main problems that Russia and the United States are to solve on this path?
The current condition of relations between Russia and the United States is a great concern. Unfortunately, this is a hard fact. But this also means that something has to be done about it in order to normalize relations.
I recall the mid-1980s. Then, both here and overseas, many people were saying that nothing would work out in relations with the United States. But we resumed the dialogue, met at the highest level – after a six-year break! – and adopted a joint statement. Moreover, we developed it right there at that summit and formulated our goals and objectives. We made a statement about the inadmissibility of a nuclear war, of any war between our countries, and pledged not to seek military superiority. We agreed to intensify contacts at all levels and our exchanges and cooperation.
Then, a lot of difficulties arose, but in general we stayed steady on our course. And two years later, the first agreement on nuclear disarmament – the INF Treaty – was signed.
What is your forecast – what will Biden’s policy towards Europe, the post-Soviet space be like? Should we expect a surge in tensions? Is the emergence of new regions of sharp confrontation between Russia and the United States possible?
This should clear up soon. But I want to emphasize once again: we need to talk to each other to make our intentions and actions clearer. At the summit in Geneva, we agreed to establish bilateral working groups on all issues – nuclear disarmament, bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and regional issues. Then there were many of them, no fewer than now. Both in the neighboring regions, and far away – in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. But gradually we began to clear up the piles of problems and achieved a lot. And now we need to put the discussion of regional problems on a permanent, systemic basis. I think it would be possible to agree on certain rules of the game, and then see to it they are followed. If they are not respected, we should talk frankly about it and discuss what is wrong, what is the problem. In a word, it is the diplomats’ realm of responsibility.
Biden is called a globalist. In your opinion, how realistic are the United States’ ambitions to become an absolute world hegemon, or is it impossible in the modern world?
You know, the speculations about American hegemony and even an empire began on a wave of euphoria over the “victory in the Cold War.” And as a result, the United States began to behave accordingly and meddled in conflicts and turmoil on almost all continents. The ensuing consequences were very bad, to put it mildly. So, it is necessary to discard such concepts, preferably once and for all.
Is it realistic to save New START? In your opinion, what other agreements need to be updated or worked out by Russia and the United States? In which areas do we have the greatest chances for cooperation?
It is necessary to extend the New START, and this is real, the more so since Biden advocated this during his election campaign. I recall a conversation with him in the White House in 2009, in the early days of Barack Obama’s presidency. The main thing on which we agreed then was that the process of nuclear disarmament must be continued. I told him: as a senator, you supported the agreements that we signed with President Reagan and President Bush. Now we need to take the next step. Then Obama joined in the conversation, and this topic surfaced again. The New START treaty, which he signed with Medvedev in 2010, was very important. Not so much in terms of the scale of reductions, as in terms of stability and control. Inspections, notifications and consultation mechanisms are very important, they must not be destroyed. And after the treaty has been extended, we must move on. In two- or three years’ time a more ambitious treaty can be negotiated. New types of weapons have appeared, and a qualitative arms race is underway. And other risks have emerged. In 1989, we signed an agreement with the United States to prevent dangerous military activities. Probably, we need to retrieve it from the shelf, hold consultations, and maybe update and clarify it; look into the incidents that have taken place and prevent their recurrence.
How significantly can the unrest in the United States affect the stability of the American state and society? What conclusions should be drawn from them? Do you think the United States has really lost any right to lecture other countries on democracy?
I have already expressed my opinion: what has happened there really creates a threat to the democracy and stability of the American state. But it is up to the Americans to delve into the causes and the consequences, and to draw conclusions. I think there will be a serious discussion. This is precisely what they should focus on instead of lecturing others. I once said to President Reagan when he chose the wrong tone in discussing human rights: “Mr. President, you are not a mentor, and I am not a student. Moreover: you are not a prosecutor, and I am not a defendant. If you disagree, then our conversation is not worthwhile. And, I must say, he turned an attentive ear to my argument.