From the archives of the Voice of America. Vladimir Bukovsky: the Kremlin can play into a powerful nuclear power
Report launch | Russia after Putin: How to rebuild the state
Dissident and human rights activist speaks in an interview with the Voice of America about the myth-making of the Russian authorities
MOSCOW – Prominent dissident and human rights activist Vladimir Bukovsky is unable to obtain a Russian passport: officials at the Russian consulate in the UK tell him that «everything is decided in Moscow». Friends of the well-known public figure addressed a request to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the end of last week, and a response is expected. Russian service «Voices of America» talked with Vladimir Bukovsky about his problems with his passport, and how, in his opinion, the Kremlin builds for itself foreign policy myths, by which it then lives.
Danila Galperovich: To begin with, please tell us what is happening with your Russian passport?
Vladimir Bukovsky: My passport expired, its five-year period ended in 2012. I turned to the Russian consulate with a request to extend it. And they answered me: «Now there is a procedure when a passport is expired, you must specially go through the procedure for confirming citizenship» – some kind of nonsense that requires all sorts of questionnaires, copies of this, copies of this. I submitted all this in March. It seems, according to their rules, they are obliged to solve it all in two months..
March is long gone, already November – and nothing new. Several times my friends in London contacted the consulate and asked – are there any news, shifts. They were answered – there is nothing, everything is decided in Moscow. And the last time an acquaintance went to them, began to scandal and say, what have you been pulling since March! They told her – and let him drive on an English passport. But I already went through this — For 15 years, they didn’t let me in on an English passport and demanded that I have a Russian one. Now everything has turned upside down.
D.G .: Do you think this is such a usual bureaucratic red tape, or you are not given a document on purpose?
VB: They don’t want me to go there, I know. The last time I was there in 2010, at the verdict in the Khodorkovsky case, which was postponed as a result, they put two cars with two task forces behind me. And these groups followed me day and night, 24 hours a day, were on duty at the house where I lived — at Sasha Podrabinek’s. And when I was already leaving, I was detained at passport control, they said that something was not clear with my passport, they say, wait.
And they kept it exactly until the moment my plane took off, and then they said – come in, everything is in order. The hint, as they say, is nowhere thicker. They don’t want me to go there, I understand that very well. We have now asked Sergei Lavrov through deputy Dmitry Gudkov, this is the idea of Volodya Kara-Murza. I know that as long as this regime is in power, I will not be allowed to go there anymore. When it collapses then I won’t need any passport.
D.G .: This is, in your opinion, revenge, as they say, for the old, or they fear you as a threat to them?
VB: This is political, although they, of course, greatly overestimate everything. I am an old sick person, I have not been engaged in any activity for a long time, now I have no such connections as I had in the past. What I can? Nothing. And they have myths. Once we broke their car, and they still look at us with horror. They are myth-makers. Defectors, in particular, Sasha Litvinenko and another, told me that at the KGB school they study my case as an example of an internal enemy with whom they could not do anything. Can you imagine ?! Generation after generation of KGB officers are learning from my business.
D.G .: If we are already talking about myths: recently there have been a large number of reports that NATO planes are rising to intercept Russian planes, Vladimir Putin is talking about missiles, these missiles are demonstratively launched, and so on. Do you think that Vladimir Putin by these actions simply inflates the mood in the society? «we are again a great power to be feared», or is he really ready to use nuclear weapons against the West?
VB: Putin really lives in the illusion that he can replay the end «cold» war. That there, they say, all sorts of traitors, the Gorbachevs, the Yakovlevs, they surrendered everything, but in fact it was possible to win. But this is about the same as Corporal Schicklgruber had the impression that Germany did not lose the First World War, but was betrayed. From his position, Putin could not know what was happening at the top, that the country had gone bankrupt, how could he know that in Dresden?
And so he has this illusion, and he rushes forward, but, of course, this is a bluff. I do not think that he will go to a nuclear war, hardly. At the same time, they also have some myths all the time, just recently about some kind of tectonic weapon that can cause an earthquake. Like, America will disappear, and we will also be shaken, but not so much — some already obvious delirium.
D.G .: And in the Kremlin, in your opinion, they imagine where in such a game takes place «Red line»? They may, by exploiting the Soviet nuclear club, but at the same time having all the known problems with corruption and negligence, not notice or realize that this «Red line» will be crossed?
VB: They can play too much, it’s easy. They do not fully understand, for example, that if they climb to Latvia (and they are clearly aiming at this – arrange there «little green men», especially since there is a really large percentage of the Russian population), then in return they will receive a war. Because NATO has nowhere to go – either it must dissolve itself, or fight, and it will fight, with a guarantee it will use aviation, the navy, and so on. And Russia is now in such a flimsy state that it has one click — and it will fall apart.
D.G .: To what extent are those who are not included in the most «inner circle» Putin, are you ready to play all these games further? Sometimes observers in Russia get the impression — I judge by publications in social networks and conversations with political scientists — that even people absolutely loyal to the Kremlin, for example, Sergei Lavrov, all this begins to seem too dangerous.
VB: Lavrov is hardly an ideological person, he loves to live, like many there. And if they haven’t plotted yet, they will. Putin may have decided to go all-in, bluff to the end, «forehead to forehead», these are his habits «boys». But they understand that «at the end of the road that block with axes». And they don’t want to go there, they want to steal a lot of money and live.
Therefore, I think they will surrender him, he is already very much across their throats. Stalin tried to prevent this in relation to himself, but there is quite a lot of evidence in favor of the fact that he was still poisoned. There was a medical report, where they wrote a completely clear symptomatology of poisoning, they just did not draw a conclusion, out of caution, of course.
D.G .: All this may lead to the fact that the country collapses before the regime?
VB: Maybe. In general, this was the case in 1991 with the USSR. — bankruptcy has come. And as a result of bankruptcy, the regime collapsed. And now there is bankruptcy: oil is falling in price, and gas is falling, and the ruble is falling, and there is no investment, and money is running..
D.G .: But Vladimir Putin recently argued in Sochi that although the sanctions are felt, Russia still has enough money.
VB: I, again, proceed from our experience with the Soviet Union – we have always overestimated its strength. We knew that it should collapse, we wrote about it, talked about it, but anyway, it collapsed earlier than we thought. It turned out to be much weaker, and it amazed us.
We tend to overestimate the strength of the enemy a little, which is correct – this should be done just in case, but it let us down with the forecasts regarding the USSR. I thought that they would collapse at the end of the century, and I was mistaken for 10 years. Well, yes, you can, for example, jokingly say that they will not survive the second 17th year. And that seems to me to be pretty accurate