In the first part of his interview, Sergej Chelemendik, PACE member from Slovakia, spoke about the impact of the global financial crisis on Europe, about Russia’s image in European eyes and liberal superstitions influencing European mind. In the second part of his talks in Bratislava with RPMonitor’s senior staff writer Marine Voskanyan, Mr. Chelemendik presents his view on Russia’s potential role in the post-crisis world and ideas that Europe could borrow from Russia under new historical circumstances.
Q: What do you think Russia could propose to the post-crisis world as an idea, and what is its advantage before neoliberalism?
Sergej Chelemendik: I believe Russia could propose the idea of a strong, organized and militarily supported power that protects its part of the world from rivals. That is what China and the United States cannot propose. China is a self-locked civilization which is uninterested – at least today – in active foreign policy and export of any ideology. China’s ideology is to be China. In the United States, imperial ideas, once imported from Britain, have got into the hands of illiterate and ambitious persons who have distorted its essence. In this degenerate version, this imperial idea is reduced to printing dollars and buying up resources of other nations. Today, their exchange commodity is good for nothing: with banknotes, you could at least fire a stove.
I guess Russians don’t quite understand the change that happened – that money in the definition of Marx does not exist any longer. America has created a world of substitutes. America’s ideology is Coca Cola: we sell you poisoned water and you give us money.
Q: Still, the United States continues to export democracy and the image of “American dream”. Can Russia propose an alternative to this commodity? In fact, Russia has not yet formulated an articulate national idea even for domestic use.
S.C: Some persons in Russia have adopted liberalism but that is a tiny minority, if compared with Europe. Vacuum cannot exist for a long time: it will be filled with an adequate concept. Today’s “sovereign democracy” is not the best formulation but already a claim for an ideology of Russia’s own. Ideas emerge from real life. The new Russian idea is unlikely to develop from the existing constructions – Christian values, or leftist ideas. Today, Europe is interested in Russia as a reliable energy exporter. In a few years, Europe will face the problem of food, and Russia’s resources will become vitally important. In this situation, Russia, if its collects the required political energy, could introduce the idea of strong power.
Q: Will Europe really demand the idea that looks like the very totalitarianism that had been declared the enemy of the civilized society?
S.C: In the Europe of today, power as a possibility to compel someone to do something he wouldn’t like, does not exist. All the European schemes of seeking common solutions – tolerance, multiculturalism etc. are designed for a quiet oasis of well-to-do consumption. It is in fact the same as the consumerist version of communism.
The original concept of democracy was the idea of elected power of warriors which suggested that a person can pay his life and fate for his choice. Today’s European citizen is a person with a certificate, not more.
But in the times when European well-being is coming to an end, harsh decisions will be required – of which nobody in Europe is today capable.
Several months ago, groups of Albanians and Serbs collided in a physical fight in one of the quiet commercial streets of Vienna. Policemen were staying a side, not knowing how to intervene. What is Vienna, with the whole background of its imperial past, can do with this – while every eighth Austrian is an immigrant from the Balkans?
In fact, the Balkans were designed as a detonator for exploding Europe. There will be more mine fields. The European home will start to fall apart. Under these conditions, absence of power is fatal.
Q: Thus, Europe will require the same methods that it had taught Russia to get rid of?
S.C: The Europeans will have no alternative. The nations like France and Germany that have a tradition of strong power will revive it. For the rest of Europe, it will be hard to realize that we are returning to the age of larger and smaller wars.
Today’s France is the only European nation that still has a real military potential, and that is why it was reluctant to re-join NATO for so many years. France has got the Foreign Legion that is involved in real warfare. The Germans are the strongest European nation, but the shape of their army is miserable.
In the post-crisis world, Europe will be strongly interested in the idea of a strong centralized power resting upon a strong army. Russia will attract interest as the center of power of this kind, as it hasn’t lost the understanding of power. Russia will attract interest as a center of military industry, possessing also vital resources including oil, gas, and fresh water.
Therefore, Russia will also be compelled to correspond with this image, as otherwise it will be destroyed.
Q: Unfortunately, the idea of strong power often transforms in arbitrary rule of local officials, and thus discredits itself in the form of corruption.
S.C: This phenomenon is rather an indirect result of liberal influence. Corruption is a typical feature of today’s democracy, which in fact is nothing but division of money, collected from taxpayers, between a few major business players of a particular nation.
Most powerful business structures acquire the possibility to control part of the budget and distribution. Thus, Russians should not believe in the myth that European democracy is a remedy from corruption.
Q: It is true that many Russians believe that civil rights and decent behavior of officials, physicians, police inspectors etc. is available only in a “non-authoritarian” society.
S.C: I know that such illusions exist. But if Russians want to imagine the most refined implementation of today’s democracy, let them look at the powerless disaster of Ukraine.
Q: What would you say to a young Russian who believes that Europe is a society of fair and well-to-do life where individual rights are really guaranteed?
S.C: These young guys could acquire those illusions from a superficial impression of European life. But the world is rapidly changing, and young Russians will have to reassess the reality. They will have to ask themselves why the Russian and European stock markets are simultaneously collapsing, and why the recently powerful oligarchs are going bust one after another. They will have to ask themselves what to do when the American casino that everybody was playing has caught fire, the owners have promptly escaped with cash, the roulette is still turning but the whole thing does not work. And they will make their conclusions. They will change their attitude to the world and their life.
It will be a hard revelation. In my young age, a European citizen could chose between a cozy quiet life and struggle for big success. The youth of today will get a more limited choice .
We are facing a time of harsh decisions, mobilization, and common fight for survival.