Yakunin’s prediction that Putin will be the winner in the 18 March election is a common one. But he does not hesitate to state that what Russia needs is not a decision maker, but a “strong new generation, educated and committed”. He characterises Donald Trump as “a fact” and recommends that Greece “take its fate into its own hands” in its relations with its neighbours and argues that current challenges such as terrorism require a new security architecture with the US, Russia and China.
Vladimir Yakunin’s reputation has been known since he was president of the Russian Railways, when he visited Maximos Mansion to meet Antonis Samaras. He has also met Alexis Tsipras. Since then, a lot has changed. The Jacobin no longer has a place in the Kremlin’s corridors: He is founder and president of the Dialogue on Civilizations Research Institute and is head of the Civil Governance Department at Moscow’s Lomonosov University. Kathimerini met him at the Delphi Economic Forum. In addition, on 22 March, his book “The Treacherous Path: An Insider’s account of Modern Russia,” (will be published). It is a personal look at modern Russia – the report of a diplomat, a KGB official, a minister and one of Putin’s closest associates, who for ten years was at the helm of Russia’s largest company.
Crisis of civilizations
“For me, the coincidence was that I was there,” he said, asking about his transition to Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute that he founded in 2005. Yakunin notes that it is not a “mutation” but a “development” of his personality. He insists that the development of a society “cannot be measured solely on the basis of GDP” and believes that we live in a “crisis of cultures” rather than a Huntington-style conflict (of civilizations).
Has Yakunin embraced Sergei Lavrov’s view that the world has entered a transition period?
“The West is in (a state of) disorganisation, but not only that. It is the process of transformation to postmodernity. Someone is trying to convince us that if we want to be fashionable, we have to forget traditions. This is not done. Human beings differ not only because of (their capacity for) thought but also the ability (to have) compassion. It is good to create a civil structure to protect individual rights. But when young people do not care about anything other than themselves, something is wrong. This is an ideology. But ideology has no compromises with other ideologies. Perhaps today we see the creation of a new ideology and its name is neoliberal globalisation. ”
“We do not choose parents or neighbours,” Yakunin said, commenting that the geopolitical environment of Greece is at a critical juncture. “It historically reminds us that the Balkans have always been the ‘hotspot’ of Europe. “It was the battleground of nations. Now the situation has changed, but not dramatically, we are talking again about Americans, Russians, Germans.” And, he adds, “Although I do not admire Germany’s policy, I will remind you of a statement after Trump’s statements that the US will no longer spend enormous sums to protect Europeans when Merkel said that Europeans must take their fate into their own hands. The same is true of the situation in the region. The more Greece sees itself as subject and not as the object of developments, the more it will affect developments. She must inevitably find solutions with her neighbours and take the fate into her hands. This also applies to the issue of name (Macedonia). Engaging more outside forces – the Americans, the Russians, or the Europeans – is not the way to solve the issue.”
Yakunin believes that global challenges, such as terrorism, require a pool of forces. And he points out that “the anti-Soviet Churchill sat next to Stalin by plotting operations against the great enemy”.
“It’s time to forget about ideologies and to cope with the challenges. A new common security architecture must be introduced with the participation of Russia, the US, and China. The previous architects were Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, De Gaulle. This world ceased to exist with the collapse of the Soviet Union. We have to introduce something else, to have mutual acceptance of the risks faced by the world. ” For Donald Trump, he comments that “it’s not just the Trump, it’s a fact we have to take seriously in mind”. And Yakunin refers to the structure of the modern world, as “when the bipolar system that separated into the USSR and America ceased to exist, it was a stir.” As for today, “If everyone is so nationalistic and selfish and they call America first or Europe first, there is no room for cooperation.” And Putin? “I do not hesitate to say he will win the election. But what’s more important is what will happen next. I read that Putin does everything, he thinks everything, that all ideas are his own, that only he makes decisions. That is not possible. In order to promote the ideas that Russia needs, we need a strong new generation, educated, committed. This is most important.”
Respect for Turkey
“Today, Russia, which everyone thought was a defeated regional power, shows that it is a geopolitical one. Iran, Turkey appears to be a regional power, but they are not limited to this role. When Turkey applied for EU membership, I thought it would go beyond its regional position to become, if not global, internationally accepted. The point is how you succeed. Turkey has done so through the development and investment in infrastructure and technology. It was a good move. I admit, if not with admiration, with respect. ”