Our Society 20 january — 15:39

Mikhail Gusman: 'In big politics, one mustn't lose one's sense of danger' (Series of talks with Gusman)



'Now there is a formation of a new world order. And all states should take part in the construction of the new system. Everyone will have a place in the new world order,' such confession of one of the greatest diplomats of the last century, Henry Kissinger, in Mikhail Gusman's program 'Formula of Power' caused a great resonance in world public opinion. Indeed, one of the architects of the post-Yalta world system, the ideological inspirer of detente between the USA and the USSR, Kissinger last year recognised in an interview with M.Gusman the collapse of a unified system of balance of power...

Our conversation with one of the prominent representatives of Russian journalism M.Gusman on the eve of his anniversary shifts from the plane of actual challenges and threats in the post-Soviet space to the directions of modern world political thought, the laws of distribution of spheres of influence and the potential threat of world war in a new terrifying form of hybrid confrontation.

Last year, Kissinger assured Gusman that the Cold War was not endangering peace. Today, Gusman assures me that there is no potential danger of a major war in our region, even after the treacherous assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

We present to readers of Azeri Daily the second part of the conversation with the First Deputy General Director of TASS, the author of the world renowned Formula of Power series, Mikhail Solomonovich Gusman.

The first part can be found at this link http://azeridaily.com/society/53455

- So, unpredictability does exist in American politics. And you say that predictability is the most important thing for Americans.

- On the day of the election of the US president, I was in Baku. I was leaving by night flight from Azerbaijan to Moscow, and Hillary Clinton was still the leader. And in three hours the situation has completely changed. Trump began to win. But US elections have their own specifics. Despite the defeat, Hillary Clinton has proven that a woman can become the President of the United States. After all, she gained three million more votes, losing to Trump by electors count. Clinton proved that Americans can vote for a woman.

Trump is not the hero of my novel, I am not a fan of him. Moreover, I've discussed with many in the United States the results of Trump's first term, becoming amazed that he is attributed with the successes of the economic boom. In the US, economic growth does not depend on the president. However, of course, Trump shook the American state system. All the dust rose from the bottom. This year's campaign will be very hot.

- But to this day, the Democrats are not able to put up a worthy candidate against Trump. And among the Republicans he is the first among equals. Who! Who can beat the eccentric president? 80-year old Biden or another old-man socialist Bernie Sanders?

- I don't agree with you that the Democrats are not able to nominate a worthy candidate. First, there are always candidates. Second, there are still not well-known young candidates. I don't dare to judge who the Democrats will choose during the primaries: an unknown young candidate or Biden with Sanders.

Judging by the latest information, Biden has a reducing number of sponsors who are ready to financially support the election campaign. But according to polls, Trump is leading.

- I return to my previous question. Speaking about the ups and downs of American and world politics, we still mention the struggle of leaders, but not the clash of ideas. Thus, we recognise the crisis of socio-political views, the devaluation of value systems and a purely pragmatic struggle on the real politic platform. The liberal world has realised the fallacy of Fukuyama's conclusion about the end of history. Is history just beginning?

- I agree. But so many people, even entire generations, have built their lives on this teaching, being convinced of this truth. It turned out that Fukuyama was mistaken. And with him the generation was also mistaken.

- You noticed that milestones and epochs begin with significant events, and not with calendar dates. The landmark event of the year that began was the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, a politician of planetary proportions, the Islamic Che Guevara. For the first time, the US president claimed responsibility for physically removing an official of another country. In fact, it was a planned attack. It seemed that the world was on the verge of a global war. But in the last moment prudence prevailed. What saved our region from an apocalyptic scenario?

- Who called him Che Guevara of the East? You? This is an extraordinary stretch. Soleimani was anyone, but not a romantic.

- Have you seen the apartment in which he lived? He was an ascetic person and a true warrior.

- Modesty is not a sign of romanticism. Soleimani was a deeply pious and religious person. And for believers, the desire for luxury and wealth is unusual. All holy scriptures prescribe modesty. The romance and ideas of the Latin American revolutionaries of the last century are incompatible with the radical ideas of Soleimani.

Of course, any physical violence or murder of a person outside the legal field is a crime. That is, this part of the question cannot even be challenged. But there is a second aspect of the issue raised. It all depends on the analytical angle. From the point of view of the guys from the CIA bunker everything is fair. But analysts from the IRGC consider this event from the opposite point of view. Our position and our understanding is the third angle. There is no absolute truth. I do not want to say that in this matter everyone has their own truth. But on this event, everyone has their own position.

We must not express our position by virtue of our sympathies or preferences. We, as impartial analysts, should consider this issue without emotion and with a cold mind. Therefore, I said that unlawful killing is evil. But each side has its own position, and we must take it.

As for the second part of your question, after the assassination of Soleimani, the world was not on the brink of war. I am absolutely sure of that. World War I did not start because of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This murder was a pretext, the last straw, for the world was already ready for war. And now neither the United States nor Iran want war.

On November 16, the legendary Ambassador of the USSR to the USA Anatoly Fedorovich Dobrynin would have turned one hundred years old. He worked as an ambassador in Washington for 24 years. I dedicated a documentary '24 years and 14 days from the life of an ambassador' to him. Be sure to watch this film. Recently, the premiere took place in Moscow at the 'October' cinema. The film is fully devoted to the Caribbean crisis. We were allowed, and we declassified a whole bunch of documents in the USSR and the USA. From these documents it becomes clear that neither Kennedy nor Khrushchev wanted a war. Indeed, during the Caribbean crisis, it seemed to all of humanity that the world was not a step away, but hours, minutes from an irreversible nuclear disaster. And it was so indeed. The world was literally one step away from disaster. And only the political will and sanity of John F. Kennedy and Khrushchev, as well as the outstanding diplomatic talent of the president's brother Robert Kennedy and Ambassador Dobrynin on resolution of the Caribbean crisis saved the world from the nuclear plague...

And now about our reality. The killing of Soleimani was fully calculated. He was sentenced to death a long time ago. I will tell you frankly that the assassination of Soleimani was designed to develop centrifugal forces and internal political tension in Iran itself. This is not an easy killing, but a multi-level political message to the leadership of Iran.

Check out Trump's latest twits. The American president openly stated that Khamenei should be more careful in his statements. If the leader of a superpower addresses the leader of another power with such a warning, then this is not perceived in the form of a rashly spoken phrase. I repeat, in America itself they staked not on a war with Iran, but on the transformation of the political regime. Recent events in Iran have once again convinced the need for internal reforms. In the modern world, it is impossible to disconnect one country from the global information space.

Three months ago, I again visited North Korea. Before that, I was in Pyongyang in 2017. Even there is a transformation. If I had not been there in 2017, I would not have noticed any visible changes. For example, then, while driving through the streets of the capital, military detachments came across my eyes everywhere; and military service in North Korea was 15 years! Imagine, grey-haired uncles marching everywhere with the young in the same ranks. In North Korea, after all, they have a huge army. The last time I never noticed these moving units. Another example: the best souvenir from Pyongyang are anti-American posters in the spirit of Soviet propaganda of the 1950s. Well, very funny posters! Now there are no such posters anywhere. What will happen next, I don't know. Maybe in two years these posters will appear on the shelves again. Quite possibly. But today these posters are gone. I can't imagine how it is possible to completely isolate entire societies in the modern world...

- In the 'Formula of Power,' if I am not mistaken, ex-President of Iran Rafsanjani was also your vis-a-vis?

- No, Ahmadinejad.

- What impression did he make on you?

- Well, absolutely no impression. Honestly, he generally seemed to me a random person. You know, I don't like talking about the participants of my program who did not impress me properly. I try not to talk about them. Ahmadinejad is an ordinary populist... For example, I met with Speaker Larijani and Foreign Minister Zarif. These Iranian leaders made a much higher impression on me.

You know, in Iran there is a smell of tension in the air.

- The smell of gunpowder?

- No, not gunpowder, but strict rules and restrictions, unfreedom. The feeling of control. It's like someone is watching you, someone is listening. Although, maybe I'm wrong, but it was unpleasant. Indeed, during the reign of the Pahlavi dynasty, it was an absolutely free country. The shah pursued a skilful foreign policy, manoeuvring between geopolitical centres. He had excellent relations with the USSR, the USA and Israel.

- Excuse me, even under Pahlavi, Iran remained a kind of a Vatican of world Shiism. The influence of Qom was great, which since the time of the Safavids was the religious centre of Shiism. And the influence of the clergy did not weaken even during the reign of Pahlavi. Many Western analysts mistakenly believe that the theocratic regime in Iran is only 40 years old. Iranian theocracy has dominated for six centuries, since the Safavids! Therefore, all attempts to turn this country into a secular European-style state are doomed...

- Nobody thinks of turning Iran into a European country. But during the Pahlavi period, religiosity did not so dramatically affect regional and international politics. For God's sake…

But Pahlavi was a very enlightened ruler.

- But what about corruption, the deepest economic crisis, social discontent? And all this under the enlightened ruler?

- You are talking about corruption, the economic crisis and social discontent under Pahlavi. A counter question: doesn't all this exist in modern Iran?

- It does. But in modern Iran there is social justice and civil equality. That which was not under Pahlavi.

- I don't know. I am not a great expert in Iranian domestic politics.

- I remember well your interview with the ousted President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak. Moscow has often warned, and continues to warn, of the misfortunes of the Arab Spring. They say, colour revolutions came to our borders. But you also communicated with the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, who saved his country from chaos and destabilisation. What did destroy Mubarak, and what did save Abdullah? It seems that at first glance in these countries there were identical regimes of personal power...

- Do you know why I like to talk with you? Each of your questions requires a separate conversation for an hour. I had great respect for the personality of Mubarak. I met him twice, and I highly appreciate the scale of this person. What did destroy Mubarak? He gradually lost control of the state. In addition, he underestimated the degree of danger of discontent in Egyptian society. Mubarak would have been able to save Egypt from great upheavals, if he had found a successor and transferred power to him democratically. In this case, there would be no revolution and Mursi would not have come. Of course, it is incredibly difficult to analyse that difficult situation in Egypt retroactively. In addition, history does not like the subjunctive mood. However, I have such confidence.

As for the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, I consider him a brilliant personality. Although Jordan has many problems. But compared to Egypt, Jordan is a small country. And don't forget, Abdullah is the direct heir to the prophet, he is the anointed of God. And the king relies on the fantastic popularity and authority of his late father, King Hussein. Moreover, Abdullah deftly manoeuvres in such an explosive region and pursues a balanced and well-adjusted foreign policy. I met King Abdullah II three times. We have a very warm relationship. By the way, he is already preparing his son as a successor. I'll tell you a curious story.

The king is so kind that for 15 years every year on New Year's Eve he sends me a greeting card with an image of the entire royal family. The whole family of the king is depicted on the photo card. And suddenly, last year, contrary to tradition, for the first time I get a new photo card. It depicts the king's father, himself and his son. A few months later, in the spring of 2019, I went for an interview with King Abdullah. And I immediately asked him if I was not mistaken in my conclusions that he was preparing his son Hussein as his successor. And I guessed right.

It is very important for the ruler to feel the change in the political situation. And few succeed. Remember the parable of a frog jumping out of a hot cauldron, but dying in a cold pan, which gradually heats up. I would compare the volatile public mood with a slow fire heating cold water in a pan. In big politics one must not lose vigilance and an intuitive sense of danger. You must not allow a degree of public discontent to the boiling point.

It was naive to believe that power in Tunisia was replaced due to the self-immolation of one seller by greenery. One episode cannot cause a tectonic process in the country. The process of destruction develops over the years, and maybe decades.

- Recently, communicating with Western analysts, we came to a common denominator that the current situation, place and role of Azerbaijan in the system of regional security and world politics is very reminiscent of the position and role of Jordan in the Middle East. A peculiar Caucasian Jordan in the light of modern challenges, geopolitical risks and threats. How relevant is this parallel?


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