Alexander Nevzorov, Russian journalist, film director and former member of the Russian State Duma, discussed the Donbas war and Putin’s ambitions in Ukraine in this interview with Anton Borkovskyi on Espreso TV, March 14
– We have lived through two years of aggression and now we do not really understand what steps we can expect from the Kremlin regarding Ukraine. How do you think the events will unfold?
You know, I don’t think anyone really knows and I don’t think there is any particular development to these events. Do you know why? Because there are several things that have become evident.
The first is the Donbas terrorists themselves. This entire criminal mass of people who keep fighting among themselves, who have stolen everything they could from each other. All these stolen goods have changed owners ten times. Everything that had the slightest value in the Donbas has been stolen, plundered, ruined.
They don’t have any military strength as such for one simple reason: they simply no longer have the primary motivation, which used to exist, even if it is was ideologically false. Nonetheless, it still served as inspiration of sorts and integrated all the criminals of the “Russian World” to it. I say “criminals” because mercenary activity according to the laws of the Russian Federation carries a fairly heavy sentence and is one of the articles of the Criminal Code.
Well they have worn themselves out, but if they were simply worn out there would be nothing very frightening about that. You would simply come in and retake Donbas, but, as I understand it, Ukraine is worn out as well for one simple reason: this rapid exhaustion is not technical and not military, it is ideological. Ukraine could probably capture the Donbas, but blood would inevitably be shed because it is impossible for it not to be shed in this situation and, of course, it would be magnified hundredfold by the media, and by the media from all sides.
Therefore, by recovering its own territories, by reestablishing normal Ukrainian constitutional order in its territories, Ukraine would appear cannibalistic, bloodthirsty, murderous, dictatorial and so on. Is Ukraine ready for this role? I don’t think so, and this is why the Ukrainian army does not want to take any drastic steps and will not take them.
Russia has exhausted itself as well. Exhausted in all the meanings of this word at the same time. The dreary supplying of the Donbas with military, equipment, weapons, ammunition, material resources may continue, but we need to understand there is no longer any enthusiasm. Moscow has understood that it has gotten involved in a very dirty business.
– But has Moscow really understood? All its strange behavior, including the scandal with Nadiya Savchenko, doesn’t give the impression that it has decided to leave Ukraine alone.
No one can leave Ukraine alone since that would be associated with such huge image costs that even Russian propaganda couldn’t handle it. In other words, they understand how to explain aggressions — it is a very simple ideological process — but they absolutely do not understand and do not have the techniques to explain withdrawal. In the palette of Russian propaganda, there is simply no explanation for other motives and other actions. It simply has not been taught.
Therefore, they cannot leave Ukraine alone, but they cannot move ahead either for several significant reasons: first of all, this entire workforce they have confirmed in the Donbas turned out to consist simply of criminals. Russia sees this; it sees that all the material resources it invests in the Donbas are disappearing into the pockets of all these Luhandonites (pejorative term for members of the Luhansk and Donetsk “republics” — Ed.) and other speculators as if into a bottomless pit. Nothing reaches the population; everything is stolen simply because it can be stolen.
But the issue is not even what has been stolen. The issue is that the personnel that could have carried out this beautiful imperial policy, as it is seen in Russia and the Kremlin, simply does not exist. There are no generals Yermolov, no generals Miloradovich (Russian 19th cen. imperial generals — Ed.), no governors-general who, with all their clanging medals, could bring order to the conquered lands again. They do not exist, but there are thieves. And these thieves are poorly managed, both by themselves and by the Kremlin. And the personnel that could have been sent there has been completely exhausted.
All the riches of Russia — designers with criminal inclinations, schizoid actors, all these criminals who were ready to do anything — all these resources that used to exist in Russia are gone. Because the career military may be able to manage certain operations, perhaps destroy another 5,000 people, but they’re not in a position to govern.
And the Russian managers are not at all as skilled as you may imagine from your beautiful Kyiv. They are essentially people who are completely devoid of intellectual interests, who are dull and very loyal to the Kremlin but who are lacking in management and governing skills. They are people who hang on solely on the basis of their loyalty and readiness to come to attention whenever and wherever, although there are a few exceptions, of course.
– But the top man in the Kremlin certainly understands that the situation is at an impasse and that it threatens him above all, let alone any civilizational prospects for Russia’s development?
Well, is this what you’re asking me?! This top man is not accustomed to sharing with anyone and it is not clear what reality he inhabits, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said. It is quite possible that this person exists in a thick ideological fog. It’s quite possible that an informational vacuum has been created where any truth is turned into something pleasant and useful. It is possible that none of this is true, that this person knows and understand everything but is simply what he is. That is, we cannot exclude any of these options.
But the Russian army cannot fight in Ukraine. First of all, because this entire Russian military might is fiction. They don’t have the most important thing — motivation. So, what is the best motivation? As the experience of all recent wars has shown, it is the so-called conveyer belt motivation when the soldier has no choice, when he performs feats simply because it is his duty, and this chain of interactions offers him no choice of how to act. And the Russian soldier always has a choice remaining — an obscene one — either throw away the machine gun and cross over to the Ukrainian side, or throw away the machine gun and go rob houses, or perform some feat, or drink two bottles of vodka and die of alcoholic poisoning or something else.
It’s the same thing as happened in Chechnya, where there was no military conveyer belt, no military war production. There was a group of generals, many staff cars, a bunch of rusty old equipment, soldiers who didn’t understand what they were doing there, who were ready to give up realizing they simply had no other choice. They simply died … at the railroad stations and in the hospitals during what turned out to be a absolutely senseless war.
– Yes, but the war in Chechnya was not stopped then and the necrophiliac dances around the Grad and Hurricane rocket launchers and the Tochka missile complexes continued. This is not strategic armament, but at the tactical level it helps to destroy many people. And we in Ukraine have witnessed what has been happening the past two years. There was no sense to it, the mirage of lies was huge, but the process of killing people continued.
Well don’t forget that the Russian idea throughout its existence has always been the creation of corpses. It cannot be otherwise since Russia does not really offer the world any unique technologies, no inventions, no scientific discoveries. For a long time it hasn’t offered anything and probably cannot do so. It does not offers fashion design, or medical technology, or pharmacology or art.
Russian cinema is failing at the box office. The passionate masterpieces of Mikhailov are barely covering one hundredth of the cost or production. The Orthodox cartoons and the heroic films of Bondarchuk have shamefully low success as well, not to mention the absence of any kind of global impact. Therefore, there is nothing to show except for opportunities to bomb someone or to turn people into tank fodder.
As for the argument that Russia is supposedly a great power, it may be possible to fool the public in Russia for a while regarding Russia’s supposed greatness by using spectacles of the Donbas or Syria type. But it is clear that this play is over that there is and will be no heroic conquering finale to this play. It simply does not exists or has not yet been invented.
Nobody know what to do, and when nobody in the Kremlin knows, they say : “to hell with it, everything follows its own course, we’ll see what happens.” I suspect the same thing will happen now. By the way, my biggest complaint about the Ukrainian leaderships is this nonsense that in 20 years you have not been able to eliminate even the external primitive signs of Soviet mentality. Why take and stupidly advance forces that are not very well prepared for this when there are many wonderful methods and approaches: transuranic elements (radioactive), snipers, sabotage groups that could immediately reduce losses significantly.
– Well, because, on the one hand, Ukraine is post-Soviet to a great extent and there is much evidence on that, and, on the other hand, it is infiltrated by people who all their lives have been tied to the Kremlin and have been active in Ukraine.
Don’t excuse yourselves; it is ridiculous to justify mediocrity. With all my liking for Poroshenko and my enormous sympathy for Ukraine, because it is the object of aggression — it has been attacked — we have to acknowledge the mediocrity to everything it has done during the entire Donbas war. It is impossible to ignore the exceptional cowardice of the Ukrainian military in the Crimean situation.
– I think there was some order given. We have all read the transcript of the meeting of the National Security and Defense Council.
These kinds of orders always appear when everyone needs them to appear. At that time the situation was pretty straightforward and everything was surrendered without even a single peep or shot. At the same time, they all claim later that they were ready.
This is not the issue — the issue is mediocrity, And they continue to profess the same mediocre tactics that are apparent in the Donbas, that supposedly they will demolish someone now. They won’t demolish anyone, and if they do this, they will also destroy dozens of innocent people who ended up there the as hostages of terrorists.
Therefore, until Ukraine finds some non-standard approaches, until really talented politicians are brought in, talented intelligence people who will untangle this web using unconventional means, nothing will change. And there are all kinds of opportunities. All the technologies have already been invented in the world. You won’t have to discover America or invent gunpowder to do it. Believe me.
– And what solution do you see for the “Crimean Problem”? Crimea is occupied but we understand that if Ukraine begins to take decisive steps there that this could turn into a new spiral of aggression. Because at this stage Russia has lost any meaning other than the strength of the “Crimea is ours” idea among a large part of the Russian population. This could definitely become a new “casus belli.”
It may or may not be, I don’t know. But I think that in any case you will get what you want. I can’t speak more directly because there are certain articles in our Criminal Codes and I don’t want to have dealings with some drunk agents. Therefore, I won’t speak very clearly, but I think that everything will end in such a way for you as you want it to and as it, in all fairness, probably should. How this happens, with bloodshed or simply because Russia will become exhausted, I don’t know. Nobody can predict it for you exactly.
The military and human resources and the so-called moral resources are not infinite in Russia. Therefore, everybody understands that this tourist resort has turned out to be too expensive. That it will be necessary to pay for this resort with the well-being of several generations, that they will have to begin eating foul stuff again, to sit behind bars in stuffy houses, to be unable to teach children, to forego attending normal scientific conferences, to give up participating altogether in the world’s civilizational process. The hell with this Crimea; its price is much too high.
Whether this is reaching 86 percent of the population I don’t know. But in general this has no importance. Why?! Because these 86 percent in 1991 voted for the Soviet Union. In 1917 they adored the tsar and kissed the dust from his feet. In general, they always exhibit exceptional loyalty, but at the critical moment none of these 86 percent are visible. And, after a while, they report that they simply had to pretend to agree with the public opinion but really thought differently.
Therefore, how this will happen no one knows and if someone tells you he knows, he is a charlatan. These predictions are impossible. Russia also knows it own potential and the issue is not that there are all these silenced plywood armaments on the Palace square (central square in St. Petersburg — Ed.) but that Russia remembers that it has lost the war even to tiny Chechnya and that it is paying enormous war tributes to it — not only in money and resources but in the Chechens’ ability to do what they want in Russia. If, for example, it had turned out that the bloody nanny was the Moscow relative of one of the Chechen leaders, I think she would have been released immediately with apologies.