Vladimir Yakunin: Russia will not become a pawn for trump

At the end of 2016, when America’s new President “played the card of Taiwan”, when everyone expected a “reset” in Russian-American relations, many international analysts thought trump will make a “move Nixon”, only now choosing another partner, Russia, to suppress China. In early 2017 trump explained its position on the Taiwan issue, and trade war between China and America did not happen. Sino-American relations are thus avoided a marked deterioration, at the same time in us-Russian relations have been more variable. In this situation, “the progress of Nixon with a new partner” seems to have lost its former attractiveness, but due to the high degree of unpredictability of the political situation in recent time, the possibility of such a move cannot be ignored.

Edition FT met in Beijing with Vladimir Yakunina, asking him to clarify this issue and also to comment on the problems associated with the Russian-American relations, the Russian political situation, issues in Central Asia and the initiative “One belt and one road”. V. Yakunin (1948) is a prominent politician, businessman and scientist, which have close relations with Putin. Yakunin previously held the position of President of the Russian Railways, and after retirement went to work in the international expert-analytical centre, which promotes the project of “Civilizational dialogue” and involved in the resolution of international conflicts.

It should be clear that this interview took place before the rocket attack America Syria and to President XI Jinping’s visit to America. These events, of course, had some impact on Russian-American and Chinese-American relations. But since this interview was taken before the above events, it does not reflect the changes that they themselves caused. However, thoughts and arguments of Vladimir Yakunin on a number of issues concerning Russia’s place in the global structure of international relations that deserve attention.

Financial Times: How do You assess the impact of Western sanctions on Russia in connection with Ukrainian crisis?

Vladimir Yakunin: They had an impact on the ability of Russian companies to borrow on the international financial market. But if you look at the numbers, we see that in the Russian economy there has been a small growth, not a recession. Moreover, in terms of Western sanctions, the government had accelerated the reform process. For example, building basic infrastructure, increased investment in agriculture. The sanctions have forced politicians and businessmen to rethink investment policy, and this has a positive impact on the socio-economic structure of the country.

For 20 years Russia is pursuing systemic reform, and now the country using the “project management”, specifically to define the objectives of reform and using appropriate resources to implement them — as is done in China. Putin’s desire to pursue a stable policy guarantees the realization of these goals.

But sometimes the realization of the goals does not depend on the wishes of the people. What specific we can do?

— The economy is a complicated thing, it can not explain one scientific theory. “Reforms of openness” in China was not only on the way economic theory of liberalization, but was quite successful. Now, if Russia will go the way of “pure theory”, that is fully accept all the recommendations of the IMF, it will lead her to a standstill. Or if you use a more pragmatic way: to change in accordance with the situation, sometimes a little veer to the left, sometimes the right. I think that’s right. Russia is now doing exactly, so I’m optimistic about the future of the country.

— The international community is of the opinion that democracy in Russia is eroding. What do You think on this subject and about the political stability in the country?

Democracy guarantees the freedom of citizens, the government protects citizens, provides them with education and medicine. Democracy involves not only rights but also responsibility. In Russia there are some problems, but what country doesn’t? Putin guarantees the foundations of democracy.

Putin has prevented the disintegration of Russia, acting in the interests of the people. He established a stable system, the policy conducted in the interests of Russian citizens. If you say that it only benefits Putin, then they sin against the truth. The stability and development of Russia is beneficial to the whole world, including China.

— Trump is considered “Pro-Russian” the American President. As You look at the development of relations between America and Russia after his election?

— In today’s world any one country is difficult to manage the public mood, public opinion in other countries. Some Americans believe that behind all events is Russia, but this is ridiculous. To say that Russia is affected, “rigged” the election results in America is absurd.

Some Russian too romanticize the image of the trump, is no exception and some members of the state Duma. When the results were announced, many of them applauded the victory of trump. I think this is unacceptable behavior. The Duma is not a theater, you need to take seriously. And, of course, it is time to understand that this victory is not the achievement of only one single person. I think trump is not only continuing in America the crisis, it also reflects the crisis of political order in the world. Victory trump cannot be explained by his personal qualities. It is important that it expresses the aspirations and hopes of most Americans.

I don’t think you can say about trump as the “Pro-Russian” President configured. It is fully “Pro-American” and is in the interests of America. Trump did not scold Russia, but after the election he didn’t talk about it positively. Trump, of course, primarily a realist.

One time, some analysts said that trump can take the “course Nixon”, only with the caveat that now partner of America will be Russia.

Theoretically, one nation could use another country in order to somehow affect a third. But we have to understand Putin, he is a man in politics is very responsible. Knowing his character, his leadership and the policies that he pursues, I believe that he will never allow anyone to use Russia as a pawn to influence a third country. Maybe someone from the political elite in China and worries on this issue, but I believe that it is ungrounded.

— How Russia relates to China’s initiative of “One belt and one road”?

— Russia has always sought to link Europe and Asia, and in this regard, the TRANS-Siberian railway is an important infrastructure element. The initiative “One belt and one road” proposed by China, is not just an economic project it is also a political idea. I think China should continue to cooperate with Russia in construction of basic infrastructure, which will also contribute to the development of the North of China. Use of existing infrastructure will be useful for both countries: it is foolish not to use what is already there.

I want to add: whether the initiative “One belt and one road” or the Eurasian economic Union, they are all linked to one important idea, with the idea of how to develop the strategic partnership between the two countries. The objectives of these projects complement each other.

— Russia is worried that China’s influence in Central Asia increases?

— Russia with the former Soviet republics always lived together. We share with them a common historical and cultural heritage. Now we all need to keep it. If these countries occurs closer cultural and partnership with China, it is very good and quite natural in the modern world. But I don’t think they will turn back to the former friend, betray a common cultural heritage due to the fact that they have a new, stronger and more powerful friend. If so, it will be a political miscalculation on their part. Russia with the countries of Central Asia maintains friendly relations, and this has a positive impact on China.

— After the Ukrainian crisis the Western world many criticized Russia and called it “revisionist” who is trying to change the world order. What do You think on this subject and as I look at the future world order?

— Russia passively reacted to what it called a “revisionist” who is trying to change the world order. This accusation does not fit the facts. Not Russia bombed Yugoslavia, it is not invaded Iraq, and it violated the international order.

At the time, the international situation was changing, it was necessary to create new tools to protect stability in the world. Being a winner in the Second world war, the Soviet Union was one of the pillars of the new world order. Due to its history, its potential, Russia and now performs this role. China is also ramping up the power too change the world. The modern world cannot be controlled some some countries. need to deploy a wide international cooperation, no one should be discriminated against.