Some “pearls of wisdom” from Leonid Reshetnikov, a retired SVR general, director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISI), and an advisor to Vladimir Putin in a recent interview include: what is occurring in Ukraine is not a fight between Ukrainians and Russians, but “a war of world systems;” US “creates, feeds, provides for and then gives orders” to terrorist groups like ISIS; and that there is no possibility that “Novorossiya” will be part of Ukraine ever again.
He also rules out the likelihood that the territories of the “Donetsk Peoples Republic” and “Luhansk Peoples Republic,” with their “millions of people,” could become something like a Transdniestria, a partially recognized country within the borders of another country recognized by most.
And thus he suggests that the immediate future is more war and the longer term future is the annexation of these areas and ultimately the rest of Ukraine and much of the former Soviet space into a new Russian state that will combine “the best features” of the pre-1917 Russian Empire and the USSR.
These are just some of the views that Reshetnikov offers in the course of a wide-ranging interview he gave to Aleksandr Chuikov, a journalist for “Argumenty Nedeli.”
Reshetnikov says that his institute which began as a secret part of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) has long specialized on “the analysis of available information on the far and near abroad,” information “which is needed not only for intelligence but for the structures which define the foreign policy of the country.”
“However strange it may seem,” until very recently, “there were no such serious analytic centers in the Presidential Administration of Russia,” the former SVR general says. Instead, what the Kremlin had too many of were “’institutions’” which consisted of “a director, a secretary, and the wife of the director” but without the staff that could make them effective.
RISI is different, he continues. It was created by Vladimir Putin, “and all government assignments for its investigations are signed off by Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Presidential Administration.”
When RISI was set up as a separate institution in 2009, Reshetnikov says he thought then that if Moscow would finance it the way Stratfor or RAND are financed, he would be in a position to leave Western analytic centers in the dust because “Russian analysts are the very strongest in the world.”
“I can say this with confidence,” he adds, “on the basis of 33 years of analytic work initially in the First Chief Directorate of the KGB of the USSR and then in the SVR.”
Reshetnikov says that his institute was one of two that has been working most intensively on Ukraine. (The other is the Institute of CIS Countries.) “From the very beginning of our activity, we wrote analytic reports about the growth of anti-Russian attitudes in central Ukraine and the intensification of pro-Russian ones in Crimea.”
He says that RISI was not alarmist about this but rather urged that Moscow take steps to use NGOs in both places to promote pro-Moscow feelings, something the Russian embassy in Kyiv did not do as much as it should have and as Russian embassies are now doing thanks to the intervention of President Putin.
The probability that there will be more war in Ukraine in the coming months is “very high,” Reshetnikov says, because the idea of the federalization of Ukraine has been rejected by Kyiv which is operating under pressure from the United States which wants a united Ukraine so that it can put cruise missiles there to be directed at Russia.
That is so important to Washington, the RISI director says, that “the US will fight for the Donbas down to the last Ukrainian.”
When Yanukovych was ousted by the Maidan, Moscow lost its “SOB” in Ukraine, even as the US installed its “SOB,” he says. But both Russia and the US received “compensation.” Russia got Crimea and the resistance of Ukraine’s south-east, even though “the enemy also received an enormous territory which was part of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire.”
At the same time, Reshetnikov says that it is “too early” for Moscow to go for broke and attempt to seize all of Ukraine. That is because Putin understands that “in Europe there are taking place certain processes which are hidden for outsiders,” processes which “give hope that we will be able to defend our interests by other methods and means.”
Putin understands as many do not, Reshetnikov says, that the US has organized a plan to dismember Russia – something he says is “not propagandistic but real” — even as it keeps its dominance over Europe. Washington is acting in Central Asia as well as Ukraine. Indeed, the US may strike first at Turkmenistan using various proxies, as some in Moscow have suggested.
According to Reshetnikov, Russian-American cooperation in the struggle with terrorism is “a fiction,” because the US “creates, feeds, provides for and then gives orders” to groups like ISIS for its own purposes. “Perhaps,” it will shoot attack one group of terrorists but only to be in a position to better control the others.
But all these American actions, the RISI director says, are part of a general plan and thus they must be countered as a whole rather than responded to piecemeal. That affects how Putin acts in Ukraine, even if many do not recognize the reasons that he does one thing or another, Reshetnikov adds.
According to the RISI director, what is occurring in Ukraine is not a fight between Ukrainians and Russians, “but a war of world systems. Some consider they are ‘all Europe’ but others that they are Russia. For our country is not simply a territory; it is a separate and enormous civilization which has brought to the attention of the entire world its views on world organization.”
The next year is going to be difficult for Russia, he continues, but “in the course of the next five or six years, we will see” the restoration of “a Russian empire as a model of eastern Slavic civilization. The Bolsheviks destroyed it,” but they brought “a new civilization idea.” Now, Reshetnikov says, Russia is moving toward “a good symbiosis” of its two predecessors.
The West understands that and consequently, “an attack has begun” on Russia “from all sides,” he says. That attack is being made by American presidents, but the real power lies with “secret forces,” including “transnational financial corporations” which want to define the new rules of the game.
But both the attractiveness of what Russia is offering and the ugliness of what the West is doing is leading to “an explosive growth of anti-American attitudes,” in Hungary, Greece, Italy, Austria, France and so on. “If Russia holds out now,” he says, “then processes will occur in Europe that will not be helpful to those now seeking world domination.”
At the end of his interview, Reshetnikov says that he is “extremely” opposed to the idea of uniting the SVR and the Federal Security Service (FSB). Were that to happen, he argues, the number of sources of information available to the president would be reduce to one, and thus he would be subject to distortions that that one would almost inevitably introduce.
He says that when he was a captain in the KGB in Soviet times, he was aware of “such manipulations with information” by his employer.
Chuikov appends a biographical sketch of Reshetnikov. The RISI director was born in Potsdam in East Germany in 1947. He graduated from the Kharkiv State University and did graduate work at the University of Sofia in Bulgaria. From 1974 to 1976, he worked at the Moscow Institute of the Economics of the World Socialist System.
Then, from 1976 to 2009, when he became RISI director, Reshetnikov served in the analytic sections of Soviet and then Russian foreign intelligence. His last post was as chief of the SVR’s Information and Analysis Administration. In addition to his native Russian, he speaks Serbian and Bulgarian and can communicate in Greek.