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Putin and Navalny Both Represent Big Russian Capital – Alexander Buzgalin

The recent protests in Russia were more about the failed economic policies of Putin than support for Navalny, whose program may be even worse than Putin’s. The West loves Navalny because they think he will open Russia to U.S. finance capital. From Moscow, Prof. Alexander Buzgalin joins theAnalysis.news with Paul Jay.

Transcript edited for clarity

Paul Jay

 Hi, I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to theAnalysis.news, and please don’t forget the donate button at the top of the webpage.

According to Sunday’s New York Times, “tens of thousands of protesters across Russia took to the streets on Sunday for a second consecutive week to rally for the jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny. And they were met by one of the most imposing shows of police force seen in the country’s recent history. In Moscow, the police shut down subway stations and paralyzed much of the city center as they scrambled to prevent protesters from gathering in one place. It was a show of force and Kremlin anxiety unseen in recent years that disrupted the core of a metropolis of 13 million people.”

Well, is the New York Times report accurate? Is Navalny the real reason people are protesting and what to make of Putin? Is he the demonic dictator the West makes him out to be? Or is he the state representative of the Russian oligarchy, much like the U.S. government represents the American oligarchy? Now joining us from Moscow is Aleksandr Buzgalin.

He’s a professor and director of the Center of Modern Marxist Studies at Lomonosov — you’re going to have to correct me when we get there — Moscow State University. Chief editor of the left Marxist journal Alternatives Russia, an academic journal dealing with problems in political economy. He’s also vice president of the World Political Economy Association and one of the organizers of the Russian Social Forum.

So, please, welcome Aleksandr.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Thank you very much. I’m very glad to participate in this dialogue with you, Paul. Of course, New York Times put not a good picture of the reality. Well, first of all, it was really big demonstration. Big number of people, but maximum 10,000 people in Moscow; I think much less. And, it was also protest actions in many cities and towns of Russia, but mainly in big cities and with much less number of participants, and in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Of course, this is big and very important fact in our history. But we have much more strong demonstrations and opposition activities. It was a big number of rallies against the growth, against pension reform, when we, not we, our government increased ages from 60 to 65. It was also many thousands of people in all over the Russia. We had similar demonstrations in 2012, and it was much bigger demonstrations last time. In any case, this is not so important.

The most important question is: What was the main slogan of people who came to the streets? Navalny was just formal prerequisite. Majority doesn’t support him. When he made attempt to be candidate for one or another elections, he had a few percent, 2%, 3% of support, nothing more. And there are reasons. He is representative of right-wing liberal circles. He started as nationalistic leader with some even fiercer slogans in, it was seven, eight years ago. Then he was together with United Russia. This is the ruling party; let’s say, Putin’s party in Russia. After that, he became leader of liberal opposition. Also in his movies, he’s using a lot of photos, videos, which can be made only with assistance of secret service. In Russia, it’s impossible to use such, I don’t know, planes or helicopters or anything to make photos of palaces. Very often this is not true. So he is a representative of one of the wings of our establishment.

They have more conservative wing and we have more liberal wing. And Navalny is symbolic person. He’s not even the leader. He is a symbolic person of one of the wings of our officials. 

Paul Jay

Now, when you say liberal, what does that mean in the Russian context?

Aleksandr Buzgalin

It’s very important to explain. In Russia, liberal doesn’t mean the same as in United States. It’s not Democratic semi-left opposition, and so on. Liberals in Russia are supporters of neoliberal social and economic policy; no progressive income tax. For example. Even Trump, with 35% income tax for billionaires, will be communist in Russia, because in Russia, only leaders of the Communist Party can propose 30% income tax for rich. President Putin,  equal for everybody, 13%.

By the way, Navalny’s the same. We don’t have real strong industrial policy. We have semifeudal regulation. And what he’ll do, Navalny, or his leaders, his supporters, if they have power,  will be the same like in Russia in 1990s,  when we had 50% decline of production and more than 30% decline of income — for majority even 50%.

Paul Jay

Well, that’s my question. Why is the West such a fan of Navalny?

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Because, not Navalny himself, but neoliberal policy of open gates for Western capital will be profitable. Plus, Russia will not be competitor in the geopolitical games. Now, Russia is trying to play — not Russia — Russian government is trying to play role of counterforce in big politics, in world politics. Of course, Russia is not as strong as the United States or China, but still in Syria and some other places, Russian government are trying to create some alternatives to NATO, to U.S. activity. And they don’t like this. But nature is the same.

And you’re absolutely right that modern government in Russia state, Russian state, Russian officials are representatives of big capital like in the United States, like in nearly in all countries of the world. There is small difference. In our country, the force of army is a force of military-industrial complex, the force of secret services, we have a lot of them, is much bigger than, in maybe, in Europe. I’m not speaking about United States.

It’s big question for me who is the real owner: big capital or bureaucrats and secret service in the United States —  who is stronger. In Russia maybe state bureaucrats are a little bit more stronger than capital, but they are representative of the capital. They could put to the prison one or another representative of big capital, but they will never attack interests of big capital. They will never introduce big restrictions for big capital in favor of people.

And, about people who came to the streets, were a different people, were a different goals. Some came just because they are, let’s say, real supporters of formal bourgeois slogans, freedom of speech, and so on; this is really important slogans. But many people came because life in Russia is terrible. They have stagnation more than 10  years. They have a lot of people who are in poverty. Twenty million have $150 per month and less. And prices are more or less like in New York in many cities.

For young generation, there is another motivation. They don’t have social lifts, they don’t have social mobility. And they have artificial, I want to say artificial, artificial hopes that if liberals will come to power, they have a lot of chances to be rich tomorrow because they are so smart, they’re so talented. And, by the way, they’re educated on the basis of neoliberal economics, neoliberal political ideas. That is, I don’t know, I can say even stupid.

Paul Jay

By that you mean free market against public ownership?

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Yes, additional propaganda. It’s one of the paradoxes of modern Russia. We have so called patriotic ideology, and we have textbooks written by U.S. liberal politicians and economists, even more right than in the United States, not Keynesian, but, I don’t know, monetarists, still. And, this is one of the reasons. But majority of people who came to the streets, they just want to be subject to the history. They want to be not nobody. They want to be person, man, human being, who can act, who can decide something, who can control these bureaucrats, these oligarchs.

This is a real explosive of the energy which is oppressed by state, by capital, by life, everyday life.

Paul Jay

The demonization of Putin as this extreme autocratic dictator, that Western perception, how do you balance that, which seems exaggerated? On the other hand, there’s very legitimate reasons for the Russian people not to like Putin’s government.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

In Russia, we have much more complex situation. A lot of contradictions. A few years ago, Putin’s team, I do not speak about person; he is just symbol. He is not real master of Russian life. Himself, he cannot do anything which will not be supported by top officials and big capital. He doesn’t have big power, by the way, in reality. He is symbol of bureaucratic structure and huge power of big capital.

But, sometimes, by the way, state corporations — they’re semi-state, semiprivate — and his power now is, I don’t know, caricature on the situation in Western European countries, in the United States, and so on. He is not different in the real content of his power. It’s demonization, of course. And, as far as population is concerned, we have strange contradiction. If you ask, do you like Putin personally, I think 50% will say maybe yes, yes, not bad,  something like that, not against. And this is not only official opinion polls. This is opinion of people. There are different reasons. One of the reasons is his independent foreign policy. Russia was, when it tried to be semi-colony of the United States, you have a terrible form of externalization: attack on Russian culture, Russian national spirit, the pride of Russian people. And it was very negative. And it created opposite reaction.

And when government led by Putin made some steps in foreign policy, independent steps, and showed that we are not slaves of the NATO, we can act independently, it was big support from below to this policy. Now it is not the case. People are tired. And finally they want to have changes in economy and social life and culture, and we don’t have anything. And, that’s why if you ask, do you support modern economic policy? Absolute majority will say no.

Do you support social policy? No. Do you support measures of state and education? No. And so on and so forth. So, it’s very strange paradox. Went to senility. So, so. But real actions of state only negative estimations, or mainly negative estimation.

Paul Jay

Why did Putin and the Russian state get into direct confrontation with the U.S., particularly in Syria? The Chinese have been very smart about not going into direct confrontation with the U.S. Why did Putin do it?

Aleksandr Buzgalin

It’s better to ask Putin, of course, not me. There are different reasons. One of the reasons I already mentioned. In Russia, we have legacy of Soviet Union. And, by the way, now we have a lot of memory about Soviet Union and not bad things which we really had in past, including our culture. We have a lot of Soviet movies. We have big memory about victory in World War II.

And it was really great battle against fascism. It was big victory of the antifascist forces in all over the world. But I may be wrong, but I think it is, first of all, the victory of the Soviet people. And this memory created an image of our country as country which can and must participate in the world relations in order to bring more justice, to oppose imperialist forces. And inside Russia, all activity of our state abroad is shown as anti-imperialist activity in support of anti-imperialist forces.

And it created the big support from below to Putin’s policy and to Putin’s government — not the government — the whole apparatus, the whole state. From another point of view, there are some real reasons because of the aggressive behavior of NATO countries and the United States. We don’t have pictures, but maybe you find on the Internet, there is a wonderful picture of Russia and of NATO bases around all (of the) countries, a lot of them. What will be the reaction of U.S. citizens if Russian weapons, tanks, soldiers, airplanes will be around United States, everywhere — in Canada, in Mexico, in the Pacific Ocean, in the Atlantic Ocean, everywhere?

I think it will be a huge, strong growth of nationalism and the slogan: Pentagon must be strong; CIA must be main agent of our policy. And so on and so forth.

Paul Jay

We get that without Russian tanks surrounding the country.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Yeah. So, it’s unfortunately bad joke. But this is reality. There is threat. And there is pressure. And also, by the way, one of the main supporters of the Putin state, state apparatus of the Putin policy in our country, is U.S. propaganda. You created from Russia, a country of, I don’t know, devils or stupid devils, all the negative pictures: Russia is terrible, Russia is aggressive, Russia is dangerous, nothing positive.

And because of it, it’s very simple to create an image — we are in a fortress, around only enemies, so we must love our side or it will be terrible catastrophe. And, instead of Putin, we will have Obama, Trump, or anybody else, and NATO soldiers instead of our soldiers. So, if you read The New York Times, you will understand that Russia is a terrible country. One time, if the U.S., not left media like your website, like your resource, but, if mainstream, I don’t know, media in the West, could –  it’s a fantasy – could write Russian government is authoritative, Russian economic policies were neoliberal, why don’t you (Russia) make positive steps in the direction of social justice, planification, state regulation, the development of education, more spending for social needs, and so on. Even in West  European countries, we have some social protection. In the United States, we have, I don’t know, maybe you have nothing. But you can say that you have something, at least progressive income tax.

Such critique will be absolutely understandable for our people. And if you add, but we like Russian culture, we think that Russian people are working hard, and so on and so forth. And we think there are some reasons why Russia can participate in world politics, not only in the United States. It will be another image.  And it will be much less support inside Russia to our officials and much more peaceful relations towards Western officials, establishment and media.

But when it is only anti-Russian propaganda, it creates opposite reaction in Russia.

Paul Jay

But there’s a problem with that.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Yeah, so… 

Paul Jay

 There’s a problem because if American media covered Russia that way, how would they explain the need for a trillion dollars in modernizing the nuclear-weapons program? How would they explain 14 new Ford-class aircraft carriers? How do they explain a trillion-dollar military budget? I don’t think we can go there.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Yeah, absolutely. The right economic-class reasons for such type of propaganda, and for opposite reaction in our country. In Russia, it also creates opportunities for the development of military-industrial complex and spendings for police secret services, and so on. 

Paul Jay

That’s a morbid dance they do, the Russian military-industrial complex and the American. They love each other. They couldn’t exist (without each other). I mean, also, let’s throw in the Chinese military-industrial complex, too.  In fact, I was seeing recently that five of the 15 largest arms manufacturers in the world are now Chinese. So, there’s a three-way dance going on here.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Russia, we have such funny performance. When one man making from one place, one person from another,  and another person, and they’re fighting each other. But really, it’s one man.

I think it’s military industrial complex of U.S. and the Russian.

Paul Jay

Although I must say the Americans are so much bigger and so much worse than either the Russians or the Chinese. No one has committed as many crimes on the world stage as the Americans have. But anyway, let’s go back to Russia.

To what extent is it true that Putin’s government — I know they try to make it all about Putin, but let’s say Putin’s government — is authoritarian. It’s described in the West as practically like a police state. And this report from The New York Times, they talk about demonstrators being crushed and arrested. Apparently three or four thousand people were arrested on Sunday. So what is the truth of the lack of democracy, for example, as compared to the United States?

Aleksandr Buzgalin

First of all, it’s difficult for me to compare with the United States. I was not beaten in the United States by police. But I think you and your friends have this experience. I have experience with Russian police. So as far as these demonstrations is concerned, I saw an attack of police on demonstrators in the United States. These water machines, bullets, gas, and also a lot of arrested people. It was in France, yellow vests. It was in the United States, Black Lives Matter. And so on.

In Russia, first time it was less violence than typically in the West, by the way. Today, it was really violent attacks, but again, it was no all this water machines. It was maybe one time gas, but maybe not. Nobody knows exactly. Three thousand people were arrested, but  majority of them were liberated in one, two hours. They were arrested just to destroy the demonstration.

So, it’s bad. Of course, it was necessary to give permission to organize rallies in the open square without all these restrictions and without attacks of police. Of course. But this is unfortunately normal for the United States, for France, for many other countries. We don’t have a much worse situation than in other countries.

I had one time a dialogue with Western journalist, I think U.S. journalist, and he said: You don’t have freedom; you cannot say that Putin is son of a bitch. I said, might be on central TV I cannot say this, but in the Internet, I don’t know, thousands of websites and resources are telling these terrible things about president, even stupid things. But, I ask, can you on the First Channel (Russia’s most popular channel) of U.S. television say that Putin is good guy?

Paul Jay

The conversation we’re having now, to my mind is realistic, balanced. Neither is Putin the devil. Neither are we claiming anything, fantasy. You could never have this on any television channel in the United States.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Yeah. By the way, in Russia we have not main TV,  central TV channel. One of the TV channels is the so-called social TV of Russia, public TV of Russia, maybe ninth or 10th in the rating of main channels. And I have open-air, 10, 15 minutes, five minutes nearly every week. I cannot criticize directly the person (Ed. Putin). What I can say that state policy in the economic sphere is terrible. I can say that we need changes in education. And so on.

 I tell the same as here, only without his name. Name is nearly forbidden to pronounce (i.e., to say). This is a formal difference. In the U.S., in Europe, you have more formal liberties. In our country, less formal liberties. But the nature of the system is everywhere the same. And you said it’s the power of big capital, together with top bureaucracy and the secret police, and so on, and media, mainstream mass media. And manipulation is a real tool for the organization of all political, social, cultural life,  — permanent manipulation.

By the way, it’s not only in politics. It’s in economic life when everybody understands that it cannot be Christmas without Coca-Cola. You know, that that that that Coca-Cola, that truck for I don’t know. Do have they said they have every Christmas, this terrible story in that. So it’s manipulation. Every corporation organized this system of manipulation and (the) state. In Russia, it has more primitive forms, I can say. And maybe not even so efficient as in the United States, but nature is the same.

Paul Jay

You could see it in the United States. It serves the American elites for the media always to make this about the person of Putin and not the oligarchy and capital and the vicious exploitation of Russians by Russian oligarchy and capital. Exactly the same way CNN and MSNBC, they love to make these personal attacks on Trump, and certainly he deserved it. But they never wanted to talk about the sections of big capital and the oligarchy that were behind Trump.

And I’m not only talking about the right-wing billionaires, you know, the Robert Mercers and Sheldon Adelsons, who almost never got connected on mainstream media as the people that helped make Trump president. But big capital on Wall Street that so benefited from the tax cuts and such, including companies like BlackRock that are traditionally actually pro-Democratic Party, loved Trump for most of the time he was in office. At the end, he had outlived his usefulness, and they got rid of him. And what I think, I’m calling it a coup within a failed coup. I won’t get into that now. But the same thing, you make it all about the person, never about how the system operates and how classes operate.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Yeah. I know it was money, money, money, money.  Unfortunately, big capital, together with violent bureaucratic structures, they are together, and they are rulers of the world. And it’s more or less the same in different countries. Of course, Russia needs to have more freedom, positive freedom. I can say even not freedom, but liberation, because freedom has different contents and contexts. But social liberation is extremely important. We have terrible labor court. It’s nearly impossible to organize strike.

By the way, we have a leader of left movement, of one of the left movements, Nikolai Platoshkin; he is professor,  intellectual. He was arrested four months ago. No court.  Nothing. Where is cry, I don’t know, voice of the Western fighters for human rights. Professor is arrested for nothing. Absolutely nothing. He tells that we need new economic, social, political course. We need socialism. We need a new president, not Putin. Nothing illegal. He is not under the court. He is in his home, arrested, sick. He has a heart attack because of isolation, and so on. Where is the protest? Nothing. Navalny is, honestly, a son of a bitch. He is much worse than the majority of Putin’s officials as far as his economic, social position, nationalist, and so on. But he is useful. He is a good puppet in the hands of manipulators.

But, I want to stress, in our country there is a typical critique of all these protest actions, saying this is the only result of the U.S. government, European Union government’s propaganda, and so on. It’s not true. Of course, U.S. officials, press, secret organs, secret police, and so on, made lot of efforts to support the opposition. But real reasons are internal. It’s the same like in Belarus, by the way. I don’t know if I can say, but we wrote with Andrey Kolganov article in critical sociology journal Political Sociology, and we made the release of Belarusians contradictions.

In Russia, we have very similar situation. And this is internal contradictions. And  the people are tired from absence of subjectivity, political subjectivity. They want to be actors, not puppets. And this is what’s important. And, by the way, I think protest in the United States, protest of yellow vest (in France), was also interconnected not only or mainly with racism and poverty, but with some understanding, maybe not understanding, but feeling of people that they’re just puppets. They’re nobody. They’re not persons.

And people are tired from this. In academic language, this is alienation, social alienation. People are tired from social alienation, from this dust atmosphere, atmosphere of swamp where we are like frogs, but even is forbidden to say quack, quack.

Paul Jay

You talked before about there’s more formal democracy in the United States than in Russia.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

I said, maybe.

Paul Jay

No, no, there is. And I actually think it’s important to stress that there is, because the American people have fought to defend as much as they can certain amounts of this formal democracy. And it still does exist. It’s less than at other times. Certainly Trump and his forces wanted to get rid of even the veneer of formal democracy. Trump wanted to get militarized, completely militarized, the police. He would have thrown protesters in prison for 10 years.

This is not to say the Democratic Party is not, did not also promote a certain militarization of the police. But at the level of certain cities and certain states, there is room. And the courts and the judicial system operates, to some extent.

I can’t say it’s fair, because there’s inherently nothing fair about the whole system and the way it operates. But that level of formal democracy, there is still a judge here and a judge there will actually follow the Constitution, and a certain amount of due process does take place. We’ll see with this Trump-appointed Supreme Court how much that lasts.

This election was relatively fair, at least in the counting process. Of course, there’s nothing fair in the way money gets spent. But we’ll see.

The Internet has changed the financial side,  too. Bernie Sanders was raising as much or more money than a Hillary Clinton.

The place is in flux, and the elites are a little split, because a section of the elite is for the more Trumpian — and I don’t want to individualize this too much, because this was just as true for Ronald Reagan as it was for Trump — for a much more coercive, more powerful state and suppress the left.

There’s a reason why Trump had so much anti-socialist, so much anti-left rhetoric, as did Reagan, is because they really do fear and hate the left. The Democratic Party (is somewhat different), I think not because the corporate Democrats are nicer guys, it’s because they depend on big cities for electoral support. And the big cities are simply more progressive. And there’s a real left, like in New York, there’s been some significant left victories electorally at the congressional level, at the state assembly level.

So, I think that level of formal democracy in the United States, while it’s nowhere near what they pretended it to be, it is something and shouldn’t be minimized.

And I think in places like Russia, certainly in China, you don’t have it. It’s not that there’s nothing, but not as much as there is in the U.S. or a Canada or a Western Europe.

And it’s an important distinction because people do need to fight to defend this, at the same time without exaggerating it or demonizing what goes on in a Russia or a China.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

I agree we need more formal democracy. But, of course, it’s better to have not formal but real democracy.

Paul Jay

That would be, that would be better.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

But even some formal democracy is little bit, more formal democracy will be useful, of course. The problem is if we have a victory of so-called liberals in our country, we can have not more but less formal democracy. They have this experience in past. We have one of the main sources of propaganda, of liberal ideas and so-called opposition in our country, radio Echo of Moscow. And in this radio, I had a lot of debates. And very often the radio journalists, very well known, were saying that we need Pinochet for Russia.  Because to defeat all this old Soviet traditions, we need the real strong power. And Pinochet was no dictator. He was good guy. He made the real protection of market. He made the real protection of private property. And so on and so forth. That’s why if we have such person as Navalny,   with his authoritarian, nationalistic slogans a few years ago, we can have even less formal democracy than we have now. We can have more dictatorship. This is a real threat.

As I said, when we had Yeltsin’s government, formally very democratic, with big love from the United States, from Europe, and so on. It was in 1990s. But when parliament, not opposition, parliament, decided to make  law against terrible, brutal privatization in favor of more social economic policy, it was blockaded. It was terrible attacks on demonstrators. A lot of people were beaten, arrested, and the demonstrations were much bigger. I  participated in them. It was hundreds of thousands of people in the streets.

And finally, when we destroyed blockade, people destroyed blockade, Yeltsin brought tanks, and tanks were  shooting to the parliament. And thousands of people, as I said, were arrested, and so on, and killed. Hundreds were killed directly. So we know what does it mean for more liberal democracy in Russia. We already have this experience.

Paul Jay

And let me add to what I was saying about the United States and formal democracy.

The preponderance of the elites in United States defend formal democracy in the United States. But they have no problem with the most vicious dictatorships everywhere else in the world as long as they’re pro-American dictatorships, and not only in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where they have supported dictatorship after dictatorship. The Americans supported dictatorship in Greece after World War II. They supported dictatorship in Spain after World War II. In Portugal.

There’s no place that they don’t mind a dictatorship as long as it’s pro-American and it’s suppressing the left.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Yes, it’s true. That’s why we have an ambivalent situation. We have less formal democracy; we need formal democracy;  we need more formal democracy. But, what I am afraid, if we don’t have real movement, real struggle from below, if we don’t have social changes, social orientation, at least a little bit more social orientation, but not minimum, but more social orientation, economic life, if we don’t have opportunity to create real independent, strong trade unions, self-management in the regions, in the cities, without that, formal democracy will be not very useful in our country and everywhere. This is first.

And second important aspect. It’s contradiction. Our officials are less democratic in formal way than in the United States. But this is one part of the reality. Another part of the reality is that in culture and ideology we have a little bit more memory about anti-fascism, about Soviet experience and some forms of, let’s say, support of culture, not of formal marketization of everything.

In our country, we have domination of market, yes. But little bit less than in the United States. You know, it’s impossible to say that in our country everything is for sale. We have some values and the memory about heroic decisions of Soviet people even, and so on. So this is not so simple. And sometimes I think Russia now plays a relatively positive role in international politics, at least as counterforce to the U.S. imperialism, and, in some respects, ambitions of other countries who are satellites of the United States or in alliance together with the United States.

So this is important to remember. And when we criticize Russian state — and I criticize all time, even in foreign policy — we must remember that we must in the future, if we want to have progress, to increase this anti-NATO, anti-imperialist line in the foreign policy, not to say we are friends of NATO and we like everything that NATO is doing,  and now we’ll be satellite of NATO, and we want to have NATO troops in our country.

You know, this is an important aspect, I think.

Paul Jay

I think it’s too complicated right now to get into a serious situation. I’m not so sure the Americans or the Russians, it was anything positive about what they did in Syria. But I certainly agree with you on the NATO. There’s simply no justification to even there being a NATO now. It’s nothing but another excuse for arms expenditures and having this aggressive positioning towards Russia.

I mean, it’s ridiculous to think, in fact it was always ridiculous to think the Soviet Union planned to march into Western Europe. It never planned to do so. There’s no evidence of it.

You know, I’m doing this documentary now with Daniel Ellsberg, and part of his transition from being a cold warrior to being a critic of U.S. policy was when he discovered that the, you know, he was working for RAND  Corporation as a nuclear-war planner. He actually was helping write the nuclear-war strategy for the United States in 1960. And he came to understand that the Soviet positioning was defensive. There was nothing offensive in the posture of the Soviet Union. And I think it’s the same thing today. To think that Russia is going to come and march into Western Europe is just ridiculous. But that’s the picture that gets painted. It’s a continuation of the Cold War mythology.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Yeah, it was necessary to create invented enemy. It was necessary to find enemy anywhere. They decided that Russia is not bad because it is big, big territory and still a  big nuclear power, strong army, a relatively strong army,  and relatively independent foreign policy. So, we’re a good object to create invented enemy and then to have a basis for the growth of military-industrial complex, in general the militarization of our life. The same we received in our country. So, I don’t know who was the first, but, as we said, it’s together. And this is extremely dangerous, the politics.

And, by the way, now it’s time for the renewal of the peace movement. And today is the last day of the World Social Forum. It was a big event on the Internet, but still it was a very big event. And the peace, anti-NATO agenda was very important in this process. It was huge rallies with a lot of listeners, viewers, people who were watching this program on peace. And I think it is time to think again about the struggle against militarization, against the threat of the war and so on.

Paul Jay

Well, I think that has to merge with the movement on climate change. The threat are both existential and the solutions are more or less the same.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Yes, you’re absolutely right. I agree completely. Yes.

Paul Jay

All right. Well, I’m glad we found each other again. It’s been a while since we interviewed. Let’s do this regularly,  and we’ll do our small part to try to make this Western and Russian dialogue a little more rational.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Yes, I’m very glad. And let’s be in touch. We have a lot of interesting events and not only of such as demonstrations. We have some positive, constructive processes, and we are very glad to talk about this. I mean, opposition in Russia has many constructive initiatives, positive initiatives. Let’s also discuss these questions.

Paul Jay

Well, we will. Thanks very much, Aleksandr.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Thank you very much, Paul.

Paul Jay

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  1. About Syria, why should Russia not have come to the aid of Syria and Iran when they was being threatened and surreptitiously invaded by jihadist fanatics financed by the west? Paul Jay, you seemed to be saying this was a mistake by Russia.

  2. Well noted, but will add Russia isn’t big enough to justify the continued 20% per annum increases in turn over the MIC demands. That why China is on the plate, and at this rate of growth I expect something will have to be done to turn the EU into another threat to justify spending levels required by 2030.

  3. You need a “like” button, like on Youtube, sometimes I dont want to comment, but just to show my appreciation. Great interview!!!

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