Cold War Is Good, Says Russian Analyst

  • By Andrej Matisak

Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer says that the opinion differences between the West and Russia are insurmountable.

Russia assumes there will be a war.  “It would be a conflict over resources that will be in short supply. This has been spoken of publicly by the representatives of the Russian General Staff since February 2013,” said Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer. In the following interview, the expert also explains Moscow's behaviour since Crimea and why Cold War is a good thing.

How will Russia respond to the strengthened presence of NATO in the Eastern Flank of the Alliance?

We also undertake exercises, in preparation for various options. Part of this initiative are large scale manoeuvres that should test how capable we are to mobilise the armed forces. It is actually a preparation for a possible great war.

Do you consider war a realistic scenario?

It is a premature statement. But as the Russian military circles see it, the great war may come around 2030. And we have been preparing for it for a long time. This includes a large-scale modernisation programme of weapons systems and armed forces as well as raising military spending. However, Russia is not currently ready to embark on a large-scale conflict.  Of course, accidental escalation cannot be ruled out. We should make every effort to avoid this. But what is currently happening is not so bad.

So, you do not see the tension between the West and Russia as such a big problem, do you?

Both sides are aware of it, and a measure of institutionalising of the current state has taken place. It's a good sign.  This gives a measure of stability. We should not be afraid of a cold war. The cold war is good. Because what is the alternative? A real war. We need to realise this. But also that currently the opinion differences between the West and Russia are insurmountable. Regardless of whether there will be a dialogue. But Russia is ready for its own compromise.

What does that mean?

It would be something like Yalta II. But even if the leaders have signed it, I do not suppose it could be acceptable to the parliaments of the participating countries.

When you refer to Yalta II, you are referring to a division of Europe. What, in this case, is Russia interested in?

That can be negotiated. Except Ukraine. It is ours. Russian officials speak of the Russian and Ukrainian people as one that is only now artificially divided. But Moscow can be pragmatic. The point is that Russia is interested in a defence perimeter. I have already mentioned that it expects a major conflict, which may occur sometime between 2025 and 2030. It would be a war over resources that will be in short supply. This has been spoken of publicly by the representatives of the Russian General Staff since February 2013, even before the events in the Crimea. Ukraine is important for the Russian defence perimeter.  Euro-Atlantic integration of Kiev is unacceptable for Moscow. Russia believes that right now it is only spoken of, but by 2030 NATO's tanks, missiles and aircraft will be in Kharkov. So Ukraine is ours. Russia does not care what the Ukrainians think but Moscow can discuss other issues. For example, that Vilnius is yours, but Chisinau is ours. Caucasus too. In principle, Russia focuses on the former borders of the Soviet Union and is also interested in a special status for the former Warsaw Pact countries.

What would that special status look like?

Moscow has suggested that the stationing of troops in this region should require consent from Russia.The idea is that Russia could veto any changes related to the military field. I do not know how the future will look like, but at the moment it is unproductive to discuss it. However if Donald Trump becomes the US president, if France is lead by Marine Le Pen or Nicolas Sarkozy, the world would change. Maybe there will be leaders that will want to make such an agreement with Russia. At the moment, however, the ideological differences between President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French head of state François Hollande are greater than those between Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill at Yalta in 1945. Both Stalin and Churchill were imperialists. They both recognised spheres of influence. At the moment a similar agreement between the West and Russia, which both parties would sign and ratify, is impossible. But this does not mean that we have to go to war. It is better to have institutionalised relations close to the Cold War.

Can that work?

In 2014, the West got panicky over Crimea. They did not know what was happening. Today, the response of the West is better thought out. Russia does not want to invade Poland, Romania or the Baltic. However, there are trouble spots such as Kaliningrad. In the Baltic, Russian and American aircrafts might collide and then we have a crisis. Another problem is the east of Ukraine. Direct confrontation between Russia and the West will not take place in the Donbass. But the escalation of the conflict is possible. It is summer, that is war season. Russia still hopes, however, that it will not need to go to a major conflict and Ukraine will erupt from the inside. Politically, socially and economically. Of course, Moscow is willing to push for it.  President Putin's vision of Europe is one of a concert of superpowers. In this regard, he lives in the 19th century. Putin is a man of the past, he does not use computers, he does not like them and does not trust them. He is trying to apply the concert of superpowers in Syria, to persuade Washington that it works. This means, that the US and Russia will decide and the others will comply. You can even keep your democracy; it's not a problem. As Finland did during the Cold War.  It can often be heard in the West that Russia is unpredictable. It is not the case. What it does has its own logic. It does not matter that the West says the concert of superpowers and spheres of influence does not work; this is the concept which Russia is following.

Pavel Felgenhauer writes for Novaya Gazeta and is senior fellow at The Jamestown Foundation

Photo Credit:  Anton Holoborodko