Ukrainian Buzarov and Russian Buzgalin on the Conflict in Ukraine

In an interview recorded on Feb. 23rd, Buzarov says the Russians have invaded and violated Ukrainian sovereignty. Buzgalin says the people of Donbass have a right to independence if they choose, but a peace movement should be built to oppose the oligarchs and bureaucrats on all sides who are inflaming the situation for profits.

Paul Jay

Hi, welcome to, I’m Paul Jay. We are living in a moment if American media is to be believed, that this is the most dangerous moment in geopolitics since the Cuban Missile Crisis. That’s CNN‘s over and over line. I don’t know that it’s actually that dangerous, but there’s no doubt when there’s nuclear weapons on both sides, it’s dangerous. Now joining us in a few seconds will be a political analyst from Kyiv in Ukraine and from Moscow in Russia, and we’ll be back in just a few seconds.

Don’t forget, please, there’s a donate button, subscribe button, share button. We need your support if we’re going to keep doing all this. Back in a few seconds.

As in all lead up to wars, during wars, almost wars, there’s an enormous amount of misinformation. Even people that are supposed to be on the same side can’t get on the same page. Last I looked when asked, President [Joe] Biden and his national security people are saying a Russian invasion of Ukraine has begun. Last I saw, the head of the European Commission, which is the executive committee of the European Union, when asked the same questions, said, no, an actual invasion hasn’t begun. The Russian troops that are in Donetsk have already been there. So even these people who are supposed to be leaders of the, you would have to call them the anti-Russian camp, are not agreeing with each other, but there’s no doubt the situation has gotten more serious.

The last report I saw, Ukraine is about to declare emergency rule, a kind of Marshall Law. So now joining us to talk about what’s going on is, first of all, joining us from Kyiv is Andrey Buzarov. He’s originally from Donestk. He currently lives, as I say, in Kyiv. He’s a political scientist, security analyst and academic. Also joining us from Moscow is our friend Aleksandr Buzgalin. He’s a professor, Director of the Centre of Modern Marxist Studies at Moscow State University. He’s a vice president of the World Political Economy Association. Thank you both, gentlemen, for joining me.

Andrey Buzarov

Thank you, Paul.

Paul Jay

So, Andre, start off with where are we at? I mean, is it your understanding that there has actually been what is called an invasion and what’s happening in terms of emergency law? But start with, is there actually an invasion or not?

Yes, it is an invasion. It was an invasion. I think this is the most correct description, for what we have now and what we have had during the last eight years. As you mentioned, I am originally from Donetsk, and my mother has been living in Donetsk for last eight years after the beginning of the conflict in 2014. Now she’s here, and she was supposed to go to Kyiv to Donetsk two days ago. Unfortunately, this escalation happened, and there was a very serious political move by [Vladimir] Putin about the recognition of the self-proclaimed territories of Donbas, the so-called self-proclaimed republics, I mean the Donetsk and Luhansk regions which we call generally Donbas. This is a special geographical term from the east of Ukraine.

That’s why for me, it’s a personal thing. It’s a very important negative situation because I’m realizing now the seriousness of the situation because during the last eight years, Russia did not recognize these territories as independent States, and it was a hybrid influence on Russia. On the other hand, all over the world, the majority of the Democratic world and the Ukrainian government, the majority of Ukrainians, understood and understand now that certainly, it was a direct Russian invasion in 2014. Now we have a new phase of the hybrid invasion, the real invasion. During the last eight hours, I have telegrammed a lot of direct messages from the East of Ukraine. We see the replacement of the armed forces of the Russian Federation from Russia to this self-proclaimed territory.

So it would be a really big military base where a buffer zone with the Russian Federation we now see officially. So this is the last news, last facts. It’s very difficult to analyze a long-term forecast, a long-term perspective what would be, for example, tomorrow because we can only analyze this hour and the last hours.

Paul Jay

And you were a little surprised by this, I think. You were interviewed by the show which we ran on the analysis just a few days ago, and you thought this was possible, but you didn’t expect it unless there was a real increase in tension. Was there such an increase in tension? The Russians are saying there was. That Ukrainian armed forces were actually getting more aggressive towards Donbas.

Andrey Buzarov

Well, you know, Paul, that is a very interesting thing about what we anticipated several days ago because subconsciously, I realized that Putin would recognize this territory because this is some kind of new step personally by Putin towards his plan. On the other hand, I did not want to believe, and I did not want to even imagine what the recognition of this territory can cause because I saw the South Ossetian Conflict because my ethnicity is Ossetian and I was born in Ukraine in Donbas but with my fathers from Ossetia and I know how was the conflict in the south Ossetia in 2008.

So if we compare the two conflicts now, the recognition of the South Ossetian [foreign language 00:08:23], which was the territory of Georgia and if we compare the recognition of Lugansk and Donetsk, these regions as self-proclaimed independent States as we saw two days ago, we would see the total similarity of the political steps. There is one important difference the front line. That now, when Putin recognized the territories, he recognized the territories not only within the actual borders of these self-proclaimed entities. He said yesterday he explained that he recognized all the region which is also not occupied, a part of this new self-proclaimed territory.

So it’s a new face of the conflict actually because in accordance with the acts of these separatists, with the Constitution of separatists, the borders of their imagined States should be much bigger than they have now. So Putin actually recognized not only the current situation, the current borders of these two new self-proclaimed republics, but he actually recognized that all the regions which are also now occupied by the Ukrainian government should be a part of these new two Republics. So this is a new face, a new reality which even foreign experts who saw a lot of things in the past and Ukrainian experts cannot understand and cannot explain in the nearest perspective.

Paul Jay

Aleksandr, what’s your take? Why recognize these regions as independent republics at this point? And why recognize areas that are actually currently occupied by the Ukrainian Army? Aleksandr, go ahead.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

So if you comment about language and methodology, when we are speaking about the civilized world, the Democratic world and Russia, this is, first of all, a very specific characteristic. We are Democratic. We are civilized, you are, I don’t know who. Second, people in Donetsk and Lugansk during the past eight years are in the situation of war. It was not an occupation eight years ago. It was an uprising of people who did not want it to be under the supervision of new Kyiv authorities with a lot of nationalist Ukrainian and many other negative features. The separatists and uprising of people who want to be independent from a reactionary government. Two big differences.

Then invasion. When the United States came to Estonia. It was not an invasion. It was an invitation of an army of troops who are our friends. It’s okay, no problem. Here invasion, why? Because there is international law. There is a lot of examples where civilized Democratic governments of NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] countries forgot about these international laws during the last half a century, dozens and dozens of times. So it’s important.

Another very important aspect. So-called geopolitics as the main sphere of analysis. I prefer to analyze social-economic relations, interests of ordinary people, interest of business and big business of different countries, interest of bureaucracy of different countries, and this is another analysis. Let’s ask not if it is an invasion, if it is according or not according to one or another international law.

Let’s put another question. What is the interest of the people of the Donestk and Lugansk? If they want to be independent, why not? I can’t say the same about any region of Russia if they decide that it’s better to be together with Ukraine, okay, no problem. But what will they receive as a result of joining Ukraine? If they decide that this is better inside Ukraine, no problem. If the people of Donetsk and Lugansk think that it is better for them not to be under the supervision of [Petro] Poroshenko or another President and leader of Ukraine together with Bandera groups and so on, it’s their choice, and they can make this choice. If Slovak. People decided not to be together with Czech people in Czechoslovakia. Why not? It can be, I don’t know decision of Slovak people to be together with Russia. Why they cannot be together with Russia and invite Russian troops, not NATO troops. If they decide to do this, why not? Why is inviting Americans is okay, to invite NATO is okay, to invite Russia is something absolutely extraordinary, not Democratic and so on.

So let’s put this question as the main question. During the last eight years, thousands and thousands of people were wounded and killed in Donetsk and in Donbas. Ukraine had eight years to say, we understand your interest, we respect your interests. We want to give you as much independence inside Ukraine as you want. It’s a normal decision, and they did not want to go out from Ukraine. They wanted to be part of Ukraine but with special conditions of self-reproduction as federal republics inside a federal State. Why not? No decision, nothing. The artillery and bombarding, guns, 150 kids were killed. There is a Memorial with names of the kids for what? So these are the key questions. And now the question is not the intervention of Russia. The key question is it better for people of Donetsk and Lugansk to be independent of Ukraine, or is it worse for them? This is the question.

I think the answer which they gave really is better for us to be outside, not inside Ukraine, is their answer. I think we can and must respect the choice of people like in Crimea, like in different countries. It could be in any part of the world, and we must use this basic principle of self-independence, self-determination of nations, of Peoples, of ethnic groups.

By the way, I don’t agree with our President who said that it was the Bolsheviks and [Vladimir] Lenin who enforced terrible construction when any Republic can withdraw from the Soviet Union, it was in the Constitution of the Soviet Union. It was perfect and very Democratic. In some aspects formal, of course, but it was a perfect decision. It’s the only basis for a real Union when everybody is free to leave and when we are together not because it is the obligation, not because there is a big boss who will kill you if you leave, but because it’s better for you. It’s better for economic development, it’s better for technological development, it’s better for human development, it’s better for peace. So this is the first very important social-economic analysis of interests.

Paul Jay

Okay, let’s ask Andre that question that you raised.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

The second aspect, which is very important, it’s more broad and difficult. What is better for world security, for peaceful development of the world? When we have one world policeman NATO with the United States as a power, the center of this power. It’s always better to have two or three policemen who can participate in the decision of world geopolitical problems. Is it better to have competitors for U.S. and NATO or not? Last time I talked with you, Paul, I asked why can the U.S. put a base near the border of Russia and Russia cannot build a military base on the border of the United States and Mexico or in Cuba. 

Why not? In the security of Baltic republics. It’s necessary to have NATO and Baltic republics. Maybe this is the choice of the Baltic republic people, but if Cuban people decide that it’s better to have Russian troops and the Russian fleet in Cuba, why not? This is choice of Cuban people, and in Estonia, according to NATO rhetoric, there is no threat for Russia in the Baltic Republic. If NATO is in the Baltic Republic, there is no threat for Russia. It’s absolutely peaceful, great, Russian based in Cuba, no, a threat for the United States only peace. Or Russia is aggressive because it is Russia and NATO and the United States are peaceful because it is the United States and NATO.

In Russia, we have some imperialist intentions, intentions of big business, intentions of bureaucrats. We have nationalists, chauvinists who want to start really aggressive steps. We have such circles, but this is not official police. We have a terrible economic and social policy of our government, and I’m criticizing this all the time. I’m not a stupid lover of everything which is done by our State. But now I’m talking not about Putin, not about even Biden or anybody else or [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy. I’m talking about People. People in Ukraine, people in Donetsk, People in Russia. What is better for them? This is the key question.

Andrey Buzarov

Thank you for your word. I think we have now a very different position, ideological position between Aleksandr and Andrey. I think it would be a discussion between a soccer player and a basketball player. What is better, soccer or basketball?

Aleksandr Buzgalin

I’m sorry about me for the interruption. The question is if playing soccer or basketball is killing people, it’s necessary to have such discussions.

Andrey Buzarov

I think that now, for me personally as a citizen of Ukraine, the most important thing is what will be next and not what we are during these last eight years. Here in Kyiv and in Ukraine and the people — I’m originally from Donetsk, and I have lived 28 years in Donetsk, and I cannot say on behalf of the Ukrainian government or local some other bodies in Donbas on behalf of Russia. I speak on behalf of myself as an expert, it’s a very important thing. As an expert, as a citizen of Ukraine, I think that the question of what will be next is much more important in comparison with the question of what we are because I know what we are better than many other people and experts. I think that if we analyze the situation now, despite the historical prerequisites, we can also analyze situations before 2014 and 100 years ago.

Now it’s very difficult to foresee, to give a real forecast for the next month. Unfortunately, after the recognition of these republics, whatever was the motivation, whatever was the motivation, it depends on Putin himself. I think that it’s now very probable to see the military escalation.

I always supported any kind of diplomatic efforts, any kind of diplomatic resolution that despite some of Russian society and Ukrainian society and against any diplomatic moves there are Right-winger in Russian expert society which are against any kind of diplomatic steps towards Ukraine. They are very radical. I emphasize a very radical nationalist group in Ukraine which against any kind of consensus. And now, unfortunately, after the last few days, I see that the consensus is now impossible unfortunately. Maybe it can be possible the diplomatic efforts can play some role in a year or in the months, I don’t know. It depends on the following events.

However, now I intuitively feel the tendency towards escalation and I don’t know what will be the trigger, the reason for the escalation, but the probability is very high. The biggest problem now is that we don’t have actually any kind of diplomatic effort or platform under surveillance, under the control of Europeans or the United States or post-Soviet countries. We don’t have a platform or any format for negotiations because the old format, which we used to see during the last eight years, the Normandy format, which wasn’t bad, but I think it died like a diplomatic platform, unfortunately.

Paul Jay

Andre, the Minsk agreement, which if I understand correctly, the Ukrainian government was supposed to allow a significant amount of autonomy for Donbas. Now, if I’m correct, the Ukrainian government really didn’t live up to the Minsk agreement. Is that not one of the underlying issues here?

Paul, the Normandy format, which I mentioned, France, German, Russia and Ukraine, these four countries, created these Minsk agreements, and they created these Minsk platforms for communicating between the participants of this conflict. But it failed. It failed because of the many reasons. If you ask me, I mean the official government of Ukraine or Russian Federation or Germans or France, what was the reason for the failure of these agreements? It would be different explanations why it happened. The Minsk agreements, which everybody recognized, the Minsk agreements were recognized by the United States, by France, Germany, Ukraine, Russian and other countries, even Great Britain. They were not actually fulfilled because of the different reasons. If you ask Russians, they will say that Ukrainians did not fulfill them. If you ask our government the previous one and the current one, they will say that Russians didn’t implement.

So it’s now very difficult to find the truth about many things. The truth now that we have the result of these eight-year diplomatic semi-frozen conflict, I would say because I never called the conflict frozen. So now we see the new reality. A new reality and a new political and, I would say, regional reality.

Paul Jay

So how do you answer Aleksandr’s fundamental question? I guess it actually should be two parts, which is what is better for the people of Donbas? And how do we actually find out what the people of Donbas want? Would you accept that if the people of Donbas want independence from Ukraine, that they do have a right to have that?

Andrey Buzarov

It’s a very strange question I’m not telling you, Paul. I used to hear this question for eight years, and it’s a very strange question because first of all, Donbas is separated into two narrow lines. There is a Ukrainian Donbas, and there is a non-controlled area of Donbas. So if we speak on behalf of all Donbas, you have asked all the Ukrainians. The second thing is that if we speak about those part of Donbas, even the site which occupies now are actually not controlled by the official government. The majority of the people who live there are citizens of Ukraine. It’s a very important thing. Not citizens of the Russian Federation. There are in accordance to the last statistics maybe 1 million people. They are not fundamental questions. It is another question from the [inaudible 00:28:21].

So the people who live in Donbas both sides are Ukrainian. The majority of them have Ukrainian citizenship. So, the Constitution of Ukraine I can tell you like a professional lawyer because I know what the law of the Constitution defends all the Ukrainians, all the citizens of Ukraine. The question which raised Aleksandr is an ideological question. It’s not a geological question, and it’s not a political question. This is an ideological question, and he took eight years, and he said, look, there is people of Donbas, and we listen to them. But if we analyze the history of the conflict, we should analyze all the facts. This is another story, and for me, for the Ukrainian citizen, for the expert for the people who are originally from Donbas, it’s a very sensitive question and if somebody wants to speak with me about this topic, this person should be ready to organize very serious professional dialogue. But now, I want to emphasize and pay attention to the most important thing is what will be next and not what were the prerequisites. This, for me, is the fundamental question.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

First of all, when we are talking about social and plus interest, all the experts are trying to say this is not professional, this is ideology, this is not in the sphere of professional argument, and so on. They will take Constitution. Okay, Soviet Constitution was broken in 1991. All leaders who created independent States in 1991 were criminals who made anti-constitutional steps. It was different referendums, different ideas. It’s normal when Constitution is broken. The world is developing. We had [inaudible 00:30:34]. They were destroyed. We had different republics. They were changing. We are living in a world which is changing. This is normal.

Second, it’s normal to have an opinion poll in Donbas and to ask if these people have Ukrainian passports. Okay, the majority have Ukrainian passports. By the way, the 1 million road document. We want to be citizens of Russia, we don’t want to be citizens of Ukraine during the last days, and maybe weeks, I don’t remember exactly. So let’s ask these people if they want to be inside Ukraine, referendum very Democratic. Is this the ideology about the future development of events?

I want to stress if the Russian government will make an absolutely crazy step and use the Army to move in the direction of Kyiv for any other city of Ukraine. I can tell you in a minute, this is a terrible crime. But if Ukrainian Army attacks now seriously — and not seriously because we had many days when artillery was shooting and people in small villages and small towns and so on were under the artillery attack, which is permanent. The same from Donbas they are answering. But if it will take from the Ukrainian Army — if there is an attack of the Ukrainian Army, I will support all people who are volunteers and maybe not volunteers but officers and soldiers of the Russian Army who will go to protect Donbas.

And I supported it in 2014 people who went to Donbas as volunteers, I know many of them. They were not soldiers. They were not officers. It was a voluntary step. It was people from the United States, from Germany, from Asian countries from different countries of the former Soviet Union who came to Donbas to defend the people of Donbas. It was people in Ukrainian Army who came to participate in this battle with Ukrainians, but for the future.

There is a very simple decision for Zelenskyy or any other leaders of Ukraine. We recognize that Donbas is independent. Now, let’s start economic, social, political, cultural competition. If Donbas people open the border to Russia and to Ukraine, understand that it’s better for us to live inside with Ukraine. In Russia, guys, you have terrible oligarchs. In Russia, we have terrible bureaucrats. In Ukraine, we have a wonderful Democratic government. In Ukraine, we have socially responsible businesses’ who protect our lives, give us good jobs, and give us good wages. We want to be in Ukraine. We made a terrible mistake. Russia is awful. Ukraine is wonderful. 

It’s a European Democratic country with social justice, with strong trade unions, with real political freedom for the Left who are talking about socialism and communism. Who says that the Soviet Union was good and they will not be in prison and in Russia, it’s awful. In Ukraine, there is no Nazi, like in France, for example, where it is forbidden. So Ukraine is wonderful. Russia is terrible. We want to be in Ukraine. We vote for the journey to Ukraine. You win. You have victory. Russia leaves. We are now again part of Ukraine’s very simple decision. Why not? So again, I am against any attack of Russian troops from Donbas to any other territory of Ukraine.

Question two, will you a citizen of Ukraine, not as an independent expert, a citizen of Ukraine, this person with an ideology, or maybe you don’t have any ideology. I don’t know. You have an absolutely objective stance, and you don’t have any ideology. This person who has citizenship of Ukraine, will you support the attack of the Ukrainian Army. A serious attack which will lead to the deaths of thousands, maybe 10, 20, 30, 100,000 people from both sides. Attack the Ukrainian Army in Donbas or not?

Andrey Buzarov

Paul, a fundamental serious question which is about what will be next. The problem is that if you analyze the possibility of military action if you would ask me, for example, three days ago the possibility about the military actions like the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and the Western media set during the last three weeks that it would be an imminent Russian attack of Ukraine, I would say that the attack is impossible because of political and other reasons, or the escalation of provocation would be impossible.

But after the last events which we talked about, the recognition the self-proclaimed republics, now I cannot be sure I have any certainty that the war cannot happen. Why? If you analyze Ukrainian media, you will see, and you will ask, any Ukrainian expert. You will see that we are here anticipating over the Russian invasion. If you ask the citizens of Ukraine who lived in the occupied territory like we called in accordance with the law, occupied territory. They are awaiting of some kind of attack from Ukraine. If you read the Canadian or Western or German or Arab or other media — I analyze all the media all over the world and give interviews every day in different languages. You would see that the Western media always emphasized the inevitable. The war will be inevitable. Despite that, our government official government, unlike the American government, say that the war is less probable like the Western of LSE. So there is a very serious contradiction between Russia, the United States, Ukraine and the United States, Ukraine and Russia. So it’s very difficult to understand what would be the trigger.

I don’t want war, and I think answering your question I think the question, Aleksandr, I think that still, we have a little chance to prevent some kind of bloodshed. But I think that triggers [foreign language 00:38:29], as the international law said can be any kind of provocation or any kind of political decision to make some kind of attack. That’s why it can be everything. Unfortunately, it can be everything. I’m not the representative of the official government, as I said. But now I see that the tenseness is so huge in the Donbas region because every hour I communicate with my relatives, with my uncle who lives in Donetsk, and the tenseness is huge.

Paul Jay

What do they want?

Andrey Buzarov

No, it’s not a question of what they want because if you ask the people in Kyiv, in Donetsk in Horlivka. Yes, in every city of Ukraine, everybody wants peace. It’s logic as well. I also want peace. I don’t want war because I know what it is, it’s terrible. But unfortunately, now the probability of the war is very high. Who will be the trigger of this war? I don’t know. It depends on the many facts.

Paul Jay

But in answer to Aleksandr’s question, you would be opposed to any kind of Ukrainian military attack/assault on Donbas?

Andrey Buzarov

Well, Aleksandr asked me a question which —

Paul Jay

He says he would be opposed to any movement —

Andrey Buzarov

He’s a very intelligent man. He’s an economist. He has a Ph.D. in economics. I have a Ph.D. in philosophy. And the discussion of philosophy and economists is a very amusing story. Because you can ask me a lot of questions because it is your choice. It’s Democratic. But I will give my answers.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Of course.

Andrey Buzarov

Paul, please, sorry for the interruption.

Paul Jay

I’m just saying. He said he would consider it a crime if the Russian Army moved towards Kyiv. Then he asked you, would you be opposed to any kind of Ukrainian military initiative against Donbas, which I assume that if both of you agreed that there needs to be peace, then I can’t see how you both wouldn’t agree with at least that proposition. That the militaries should all stop shooting at each other.

Let me just go one step further. Doesn’t this eventually get one way or the other? Doesn’t it have to wind up with some kind of referendum here? Does there not also have to be an acceptance on the part of Ukraine that if the majority of people, Donbas, want independence, they could have it? And the same thing, there has to be an acceptance on the part of Russia. If they lose that referendum, they have to get out of there.

Andrey Buzarov

You raised the same question as Aleksandr raised, concerning there, so-called referendum because referendum in Crimea and in Donbas, they were not recognized by the Ukrainian government.

Paul Jay

But I’m talking about a future referendum.

Andrey Buzarov

I don’t know to shift to the historical things because it’s a lot of judicial thinking about the future, the referendum. It’s a very uncommon question for me because I don’t think that the future referendum can be the key or some kind of new tool for resolving the conflict. I don’t believe that because of political reasons, it’s possible because I feel what is happening inside Ukraine. I feel what is happening inside Kyiv. I think that there isn’t now, unfortunately, the understanding of what kind of format or what kind of tool can be used to prevent or resolve the conflict.

So now we see even during the last 2 hours I saw the news that we are waiting for the State of emergency. So next step, I would think that would be Marshall law, but Marshall Law not in Ukraine at all, I think in the area. That’s why we see the tendency to the tenseness, not a tendency to the diplomatic efforts and to the other tools because, as you say, the referendum is a result of the diplomatic negotiations which are now in deadlock, absolutely for 100% deadlocked for the diplomacy, at least for today, unfortunately.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

First of all, it’s impossible to have diplomatic negotiations, as Andrey said, because Zelenskyy can lose power if he does not attack Donbas. For him, this is more important than the death of thousands of people. By the way, it’s normal for politicians when they’re thinking about their career, their power, their money. If it is not a political leader but an economic leader, they are thinking about that, not about people, not about the interests of ordinary citizens of one or another country. This is normal for capitalists. Andrey will say that this is ideology. I will agree. This is ideology. This is Marxist ideology, socialist ideology. It’s true.

But you also have an ideology of juridical fetishism. The ideology of the recognition of Western media as the key source for information and so on and so forth. You are not answering on the direct questions because you are afraid to give the answer because you know that really you will say yes, I will support a citizen of Ukraine or at least I will keep silent if the Ukrainian government will attack Donbas or Donetsk or Lugansk. I will not keep silent if the Russian government starts any aggressive actions of this kind.

So this is the difference between us. I’m also a philosopher. I’m a Director of the Centre and Department of Philosophy at Moscow State University. And I published about 100 articles in mainstream philosophy journals academic journals in Russia. So we are on one side here, and you are talking a lot about the economic question. So this is not this question. The key question now is how to make peace.

Paul Jay

Let me ask one question before we go there. Why did Russia bring this to a head now with the recognition of these States? Why now?

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Really, this question is not to me, but I think that it was necessary to make these steps earlier when there was a real uprising in Donbas in Donetsk and Lugansk in 2014. When they had more Democratic leaders, real heroes, not modern leaders which are part of the establishment like in Russia, like everywhere. I think the reason is in political games between leaders of the United States and NATO, the European Union, Russia, even Ukraine. Putin had some negotiations indirect, at least with Zelenskyy and Zelenskyy with Putin. They are playing games, and this is not a very good idea.

The final decision is, I think because the Lugansk and Donetsk people and their leaders finally understood if they will not make any decisive step in the near future, the Ukrainian Army will attack Donetsk and Lugansk, and thousands of people will be killed, including kids, women, old people and so on. I think they are right. It was more and more probable day by day that it will be such a take. I’m not a secret service person, I’m not a spy, I’m not anti-spy, I’m not a KGB agent. Espoo, it’s a KGB Ukraine agent. I’m just a professor. So that’s why I don’t have secret information. But according to the atmosphere, this is the problem. And because of that, this growth of tension and growth of threat of attack of Ukrainian Army against Donetsk and Lugansk because of that Donetsk and Lugansk decided to say we are independent.

Before, they did not say we want to be recognized as independent States. It was not such a requirement, if I am not mistaken. They said we want to be protected. We are afraid that it will be taken again, there will be blood like it was in 2014, when I don’t know how many thousands of people were killed. I think not less than tens of thousands of people were killed and wounded, maybe 100,000 people from both sides.

So to protect this blood, and will it work or not, now depends on the Ukrainian leaders. If they start a military attack on Donetsk and Lugansk, war will take place. If they do not start this attack, and we say Russia and Russian leaders and Russian people are terrible, they occupied our territory and so on but will not attack, it will be peace. If they attack, war. We don’t know what Zelenskyy and his team or anybody in Ukraine will decide peace or war, not Russia.

Paul Jay

Last time we talked, Aleksandr, you were talking about how this tension serves all the oligarchs, the Russian oligarchs, the Russian military-industrial complex, the Ukrainian military-industrial complex, the American military-industrial complex. I mean, all the oligarchs and I include the American oligarchs, they’re all going to make money out of this conflict. There already are hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into Ukraine. The energy prices are going through the roof, which helps the fossil fuel not just in Russia but at the American fossil fuel and the Saudis. There’s money going to be made out of all of this crisis. How much of this is being on the Russian side? How much of this is a factor?

And let me just say, first of all, speaking as a North American, and I’m a dual citizen, I’m a Canadian, I’m American. This very much drives American policy. The military-industrial complex, money in arms. Fossil fuel and arms drive American foreign policy. Frankly, I’m also in Canada right now, and there’s nothing other than trade and fossil fuel politics that drives Canadian foreign policy. So this Western Democratic construct is just as much bullshit.

In fact, the Americans on the world stage have committed far more crimes than any other country in the world. No other country comes even close to what the United States has done. All that being said, how much of this bringing things to such a boiling point by the Russian State. How much is being driven by these kinds of motives?

Aleksandr Buzgalin

It is such a motive. It is such an economic interest. Maybe this is again an ideology I don’t know. But it is true from my point of view. Now I’m talking as a specialist in political economy and social-economic relations in my country, and I talked about this for more than 1 hour during last hour meeting. That’s why I did not repeat this. This is very important.

By the way, when Putin in his speech said about the oligarch bureaucratic regime in Ukraine, he described the same regime in Russia. So he didn’t mention this, of course, but it is understandable for everybody. I have talked to many Russians. They said, “oh, why did he say this is Ukraine. Why didn’t he say that this is Russia.” So it is a bad smile or maybe a smile but bad. I don’t know how to say it.

So, that’s why we have this interest from top officials from big capital in any country who has a military-industrial complex, and this is all big countries. In Russia, of course, this is also a problem, a big problem. Nationalism, great power, chauvinism, the military-industrial complex and so on. This again is a big question. What is better to only now have real policemen? Or to have also Russia, China, maybe anybody else, or maybe a Union between different countries which will confront with NATO in some question, so, we’ll have an agreement with NATO. This is a big question for discussion.

Who will say what is better? For whom is it better? For big business, for bureaucrats, for peace for the majority of the citizens of the world. For whom is it better? So it’s a very fundamental question because I can propose as a person of the Left a very simple decision. Let’s make a socialist revolution in all countries in one take. Great decision, no problems. This is fantasy, unfortunately. What we can propose is a United anti-fascist front, United peace movement, which we had in the 1960s and it was a very important factor which supported peace in the situation of a terrible cold war in the ’50s and ’60s. It was initiated by different people.

Some leaders of the West hated [Joesph] Stalin and the Soviet Union and [Nikita] Khrushchev and all other leaders. They said, okay, we are ready to be with these terrible guys with this terrible Soviet Union but in order to have peace, and the same was in the Soviet Union. We had U.S. professors who are slaves of the big business, but we are with them because they want to have peace. Maybe we can make the same global movement when anybody who will start military action will know that 20, 30, 50 million people all over the world will protest against this.

When it was the Iraqi war, the New York Times wrote, “In the world, there are two powers. The power of the U.S. Army and the power of people who went through the streets of New York and London. In London, it was more than 2 million people in this demonstration. My wife participated in this demonstration against war in Iraq. Maybe if now we have all countries in Western Europe, in Ukraine and Russia, there’s millions of people coming to the streets demonstrating against any type of war. Do whatever you want, but don’t use weapons, not kill people.

Paul Jay

Andre, I saw an interview with a Ukrainian scientist, and she was calling for Ukraine to take the NATO card off the table. That one, there’s no way NATO is ever going to let Ukraine and NATO anyway. The whole thing is such a red herring, it’s ridiculous. If I understand it correctly, there has to be consensus. All the NATO countries are going to have to agree. They never will agree. I can’t imagine Turkey agreeing, and you can name a bunch of other countries that are never going to agree for Ukraine to be in NATO. So why not just take that off the table and Ukraine declared neutrality and let Ukraine say we withdraw any application to be in NATO. Let’s just take this off the table. Now, let’s focus on how to resolve Donbas.

I’ll ask the same question to you. Is the reason why Ukraine doesn’t do this because, as Aleksandr talked about the Russian oligarchs, it’s because the Ukrainian oligarchs are making lots of money out of all this? There’s a serious military-industrial complex in Ukraine, and it serves their interest to have all this NATO, hura-ra because there’s tons of money flowing into the Ukraine as a result of all this?

Andrey Buzarov

Paul, you raised a very serious question concerning our foreign policy. Know that during the last 30 years, we have had a discussion in the expert field and the citizens between the taxi drivers considering the NATO, should we go to NATO or how to get there? And I’m a specialist in foreign policy and graduated from the diplomatic Academy. For me, international relations is a very important sphere. In our society, we have a split decision. We don’t have a unanimous decision about what to do with NATO.

I always was against the integration of Ukraine in NATO and not because if I’m against the United States against Canada, against Western countries, it’s because I’m a realist. I know that because of three reasons, we cannot be in NATO. One reason is the absence of the Solidarity or unanimous decision inside NATO. The second reason is that we haven’t adopted our standards to the standards of NATO, and we don’t even have the status of candidate. So we are not even at the beginning of the integration. The third reason, as Henry Kissinger told many years ago when he gave an interview to journalists, he always repeated one phrase. He always said that Ukraine as a country is a very sensitive thing for Moscow, for Russia.

Henry Kissinger said many years ago that the attempt to integrate Ukraine and Georgia towards NATO allies and some kind of bilateral agreement, it would provoke a Russian reaction, whoever the President will be in Russia. All the strings are very sensitive, and everybody understands that. But what happened in Ukraine in the early ’90s, the politicians and the oligarchs, because all politicians in Ukraine, they financed by the oligarchs, they create this mythology, this political myth about the integration into NATO. A lot of politicians, experts, they use it use this meat every year.

We are actually despite that some politicians made the amendments to our Constitution that we have official calls to NATO, the European Union. Despite all these facts, we are, in fact, neutral. We have military neutrality. There are two pieces of proof for why we have military neutrality. We are not candidates of NATO, and we are not a member of NATO. And the other proof, second, the most important proof is Serbia, the same situation with Serbia. We don’t have any kind of military agreement with any kind of country, Canada or the United States or Great Britain, where they will be stipulated military help if there is some kind of aggression. So if there is a threat, we are by ourselves.

Paul Jay

Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. Biden has made it clear. The UK has made it clear. The thing is that there’s this enormous fight taking place over a fantasy because Ukraine will never be in NATO.

The de-facto, we have military neutrality. But politicians keep on using this topic inside Ukraine and outside Ukraine. I don’t know why it’s a very provocative thing. They keep on talking about, “We will be in NATO,” and the NATO officials, [Jens] Stoltenberg, current Generals or current representative spokesman of NATO. They never recognized, never confirmed, and they are not now. They don’t recognize, and they will not recognize that we will be in NATO 100%. So these are the obvious facts, obvious things, but part of the society doesn’t want to percept it in Ukraine.

That’s why the politicians use this vacuum of understanding they keep on using because of the electorate, first of all, because we don’t have any alternative. I mean, the politicians don’t have any alternative concerning the foreign policy. We used because of the prejudice some experts to see only two vectors, Russia or America. If you analyze the United Nations countries, there are 192 members of United Nations countries. Only 30 countries are members of NATO. So the other they are neutral. They are members of different local Unions. So the majority of the countries are not a members of military —

Paul Jay

I get back to the same point. I think we’re kind of agreeing with each other actually because they won’t declare neutrality because there’s more money to be made out of not declaring neutrality, even though that’s the reality. Okay, let me jump to Aleksandr’s point. He’s saying yes, you have the position of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian oligarchs. You have the Russian government and the Russian oligarchs. But I think what Aleksandr is saying is there also need to be a position of the Peoples. There need to be demands that come of the Peoples, which start with stop all the militarization, stop any possibility of any further fighting and get to a process which resolves this.

But I have to ask the same question again I asked you before. How does this get resolved unless Ukraine would accept a legitimate referendum on independence? Assuming one could even be negotiated to be had. But I don’t see how this ends up any other way unless it just solidifies with Russia. These States are there, and Russian troops are there, and that’s just the way it is for who knows how long. But if there is going to be what I would call a Democratic resolution, there needs to be some kind of Democratic process, which I agree with Aleksandr, and it’s not like in Canada. I fully support Quebec’s right to independence. There’s been several referendums. They’ve been very close, and within the construct of Canadian law, the referendums are legal. If the independent forces had won, Quebec would have separated. They lost by a hair several times. But how is there any other resolution of this that one can call Democratic?

Andrey Buzarov

Paul, I will tell you, this is my last answer to your question. I think the referendum we are talking about is impossible because of two things, because of the two reasons. Why? First, public opinion will not accept it, the Ukrainian majority. And the other thing that the officials or the politicians who can be responsible for such kind of idea of implementation. We don’t have such kind of politician. So I didn’t even hear such kind of initiative from the politician. Maybe some experts can view it, but not politicians. So I cannot understand how it can be implemented, at least now. I don’t know what will be in a year or in a month because the current events are very quick.

Paul Jay

Okay, Aleksandr, let me just say it seems to me you’re saying, yeah, there should be, but the practical politics of it is not within sight. Am I hearing you correctly? You don’t see it as a real political possibility. Am I understanding you?

Andrey Buzarov

I cannot say that it would be an exit, the key to resolution. I cannot say that I support that kind of thing because I know that it can’t be. It’s impossible to implement such kind of thing in Ukraine now. It’s impossible. So the idea of a referendum is a myth, and it’s impossible to implement in Ukraine because of the many reasons I’ve already told.

Paul Jay

Okay, Aleksandr, I think this has been a really important conversation, and I think we should do it again. But I gave Andre the first word. So I’m giving you the last word. Aleksandr, go ahead.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

I’ll try to be brief. First of all, maybe I took a quotation from Lenin, which is for me a very serious expert in political questions.

Paul Jay

This is because you were accused of being ideological. Now you’re really going to stick it in here.

Aleksandr Buzgalin

I’m not afraid to be ideological, but I’m serious. One time Lennon said that politics appears when millions of people are doing something. When we have discussions between leaders, this is not politics. This is political games. Real politics starts when millions and many millions of people participate in the changing of the world, and this is important. I’m not an advisor of Putin. Of course, I’m not an advisor of Biden or Zelenskyy or anybody else. But I’m one of the organizers of the Russian Social Forum. I will participate in the World Social Forum. I participated in the Pacific Asia Social Forum. I was the opening planner. Every time I said we must initiate a real mass peace movement internationally with the participation of Liberals, Conservatives, different types of Left, Green, I don’t know, Rose, doesn’t matter.

Why? It’s very important because now we have growth of tension, from the point of view of political economy. The world is moving in the direction which is very similar to the situation that took place in the early 20th century before World War I. It was a very close, friendly relationship between Nikki [Nikolai II Alexandrovich Romanov] Tsar of Russia from one hand and the Chancellor of Germany, Austria. France Democratic, Britain Democratic, Germany Democratic and the Austrian Parliament, all countries are Democratic, and then 10 million people are killed. Why? Because of economic interest, not because of the games of politicians, fundamental economic interests.

Now we have a very strong movement in this terrible direction. Again, we have new countries which can participate in rare distribution of the economic and political influence. This can lead to the war. That’s why it is time to struggle for peace. Then I think we can stress again and again some principles which were liberated after World War II for the United Nations. If you read the declaration of the United Nations after World War II, it will be like a Communist manifesto. It was an experiment in the United States. The declaration of the United Nations was written, and journalists were asked to sign the declaration, and people said no, it’s Communist propaganda.

So it’s time to start this movement again, and I want to use your program, Paul because there are many people, thousands, millions, maybe, all over the world to say this and discuss this question seriously. In May, we will build a social forum that has many thousands of different international organizations who participate. It is up to 100,000 participants of the forum in the internet space. I think we must put in the agenda. This question is the key question.

If I can make an appeal to the Russian government, to the Ukrainian government, to Peoples, first of all, to the People of Ukraine and Russia. I have, by the way, a chance to talk sometimes on the central TV networks of Russia, and radios and so on. I will repeat again and again, no attack against the Ukrainian people. I think the same is necessary for Ukraine, for Germany, for the United States, everywhere. This is my final remark, and thank you for the opportunity to have this discussion and sorry if I was not correct enough in discussion with Andrey. I hope he understood.

Paul Jay

I think you both worded it very well. Thank you, Aleksandr. Thank you, Andrey. Let’s do it again in a week or two. This situation is very fluid, and we’ll talk about it some more. Thank you, and thank you for joining us on

Aleksandr Buzgalin

Thank you.

Andrey Buzarov

Thank you.


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  1. I’d be interested to know Buzgalin’s take now that Putin has in fact stepped beyond the two conflict regions and shown himself to every bit the aggressor that the west has portrayed him as. As an American sceptic I am hesitant to ever trust the US saber rattling and pretext for war but it’s pretty obvious Putin’s Russia are not in Ukraine for humanitarian purposes. Thanks for this interview thought now very dated, it certainly shows two perspectives very well.

  2. Buzarov says he is a “Philosopher”, not an Economist, but his hostility toward so-called “value judgements” would fit well with the positivism of the Neoclassically trained Economist.

    I wonder what sort of Philosophy Buzarov studied. I doubt whether he’s taken an undergraduate course in the Philosophy of Science because if he did he would learn that it’s not so easy to be scientific and avoid value judgments. (He didn’t want to say that certain things were right or wrong–I suppose because he believes that such language is “unscientific” or merely “ideological”.)

    He professes to maintain a certain “objectivity” as an “expert”–and, yet he advertises himself as someone with personal experience and family ties to the east of the Ukraine. That’s not exactly consistent. Why wouldn’t his personal connections take away from his objectivity? The fact that he mentions it suggests that he thinks it somehow is relevant to his claim of “expertise.” Something here is unclear.

    Bugakin refused to engage with Aleksandr Buzgalin on several levels. Labeling an opponent’s views “ideological” is itself a piece of rhetoric. As I have suggested, Bugakin makes assumptions, undefended methodological assumptions. He is assuming he knows the truth about how to achieve objectivity and knowledge–but those assumptions are undefended. If I were to imitate him, I would accuse him of possessing an “ideology”, but that would not be fruitful. The problem is not that he holds views he is not now defending, or that his views are large in scope, but that the views he is assuming are well-discussed within the discipline in which he claims he has studied–Philosophy, and especially Philosophy of Science or Philosophy of Social Science. And within those disciplines, the sort of methodology he is using doesn’t get praised or recommended as the way to discover the truth about societies.

    Buzrov refused to answer a very plausible quetion posed by Aleksandr Buzgalin, and Paul Jay tried to get him to answer it. Buzrov claimed he was only exercising his freedom. Hogwash! He was refusing to answer a very reasonable question–the refusal to answer decent questions which an ordinary person–not one posing as an “expert”–might present. (There may be an expertise which consists in gathering information from different sources in different languages, but it should not be confused with science–which inevitably employs abstract theories, and seeks for laws which explain the surface appearances.)

    It is true enough that in sciences such as Physics or Biology, the lay person’s question can be poorly formulated, and confused; but those sciences have a way of making the question precise. Buzrov did nothing analogous, and managed to give the (wholly incorrect) impression that Alksandr Buzgalin was confused. On the contrary, Buzrov operates with a Procrustean bed of what can cannot be said, and Buzgalin’s questions were sensible–deserving more respect than they were granted.

    Buzrov is good at summarizing newspapers–apparently he reads in several languages. But if he continues to evade the most basic questions, he will never achieve a real analysis of what he’s read. Another example of his positivism was his appeal to Ukrainian law. (The law says that the residents in the east are still citizens–whether they wish it or not.)
    That, too, was reductive (not explanatorily addressing the real questions) and evasive; but on that point, Buzgalin’s response was right on target.

    I hope my remarks will be understood as equally a defense of Aleksandr Buzgalin and a criticism of Andrej Buzrov. Buzrov might develop into a commentator with true analytic skills, but he would first have to engage in reflection upon the methodology which he currently employs. And part of that task would be learning to avoid slinging terms such as “ideology” so freely, and engaging on a deeper level with those who hold different views or even different frameworks..

  3. Thank you Aleksandr and Andry, my heart and mind are with all Ukrainian including the break away regions. This attack is purely of Putin’s making, from all the polls I’ve read Russians don’t have the appetite for wa

    1. Also thank you Paul for another great interview, keep up the great work I’ve been a long time supporter of your network

    2. “Russians don’t have the appetite for war”, you write; so this attack is “purely of Putin’s making”? Did Pres Putin incite the Ukrainian Army to increase the shelling of the Donbass in the past few days? Did Putin mislead the Ukrainians to believe that he would be understanding and tolerant of their obliteration of Dontetsk and Lugansk ? Did Putin fail to warn everyone that he would not permit that? You have told us where your heart is, “with all Ukrainians including the break away regions (now Republics of the Donbass)”, but where is your mind?

  4. The Russian could speak his mind.
    The Ukrainian had to walk the line.
    Just think, if the Union had let the Confederate States form their own nation
    back in 1860 – there would have been no civil war, and slaves would have had
    a place to escape to. And perhaps the U.S. empire wouldn’t be so evil.

    1. John, I was about to make this same point, but you beat me to it. I’m sure a majority of people in the Confederate states supported secession, but we (I mean, the United States) didn’t let them do it, which I think was the right call! The principle of self-determination cannot be translated so easily to mean any group of people at any time have the right to break away from their country and form a new one. Is there any state in the world which would recognize such a right? The problem is that “breaking away” would affect lots of people other than those who desire it — including the (possibly large) minority in the region who might not want to break away, and the rest of the country outside the breakaway part, who would also lose something.
      What is (or should be) clear is that the question about what to do about Donbas is for Ukrainians to decide. Russia, nor any other state, has no business arming, making offers of citizenship or interfering in other ways in the internal affairs of another country. That is just a basic principle of international law.

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