We are not the Soviet Union but we are capable of deterrence’

By Maliha Nasir

The Council of Foreign Affairs Karachi and Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) hosted an interactive session on the ‘Current Stage of International Relations and Information Policy in context of Russia and United States’ on Thursday 5th April 2018, in which diplomats discussed the tricky relationship between the two countries.
MGIMO Vice-Rector Evgeny Michailovich Kozhokin was invited to present his views before the council and later the floor was opened for questions and answers. “Presenting before the Council of Foreign Affairs of Karachi is a great pleasure. We are thinking of the possibilities to develop relations between the students at our universities and the students here in Karachi,” he told the audience.
Moving on to discussing the thrust of US-Russia relations, Kozhokin gave a brief historical overview of the post-Soviet Union outlook on relations between the US and Russia. Speaking about the turf between the Cold War rivals, he said, “Some issues are well known, whereas some are not highlighted as much.” He went on to say that “In the middle of the 19th century, some of the most populated countries were in Europe Spain, Italy, France and Germany,” he said, adding that by the 20th century it was only Germany and now, the demographics have changed altogether.
“Ethnic balances have drifted because people from Arab countries settled in Europe. Now in California the white Anglo Saxon population is a minority, Latinos, African Americans and South Americans are the majority,” he remarked. “The US is a great country, it is a superpower and there is certainly some admiration we Russians owe to the superpower in the field of military and economy but a problem for the US is rising China,” said Kozhokin.
Talking about the recent trade war between the US and China, the vice-rector said that the low-profile Chinese economy is by some estimates bigger than the American economy. He added that China is entering the markets of the rest of Asia, South America and Africa. “Initially, South America was the backyard of the US but now China is tapping into those markets,” he said. “At the same time, the Chinese military budget is also increased, standing at $700 billion worth of military expenditure. We divert $156 billion to military funds. It is comparable to India,” he added.
Speaking about the domestic politics of Russia, Kozhokin said, “We have political stability. Our leader is an absolute majority leader.” In so far as influence of sanctions on our economy goes, our industries have thrived despite heavy US sanctions, he added. “We are not the Soviet Union and we know that but we are still adept at developing strategic depth. We are still capable of deterrence,” he warned. The vice-rector drew the council’s attention towards the initial aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. He contended that US aggression and alienation towards Russia precedes the Crimean crisis and the mysterious case of double agents like Sergei Skripal.
Building on the discussion of the trade wars, council member and representative of the Russian Federation Mustafa Kamal Qazi asked Kozhokin about what steps Russia plans to take in order to minimise the exorbitant privilege enjoyed by the US on account of its high value currency. “Russia is the largest exporter of oil and gas, whereas China is the largest importer of oil and gas. Can the fossil fuel magnates not save the world from US sanctions and false fly operations like the Salsbury attack?”
Kozhokin replied saying that “in principle it is possible, but in reality it is not easy because the US dominates by cultivating other economies.” A former diplomat asked about what the future holds for the bilateral relations between Russia and Pakistan and how the potential will be realised. “We are already initiating student exchange programmes and a second delegation will soon be reaching Karachi from the city of St Petersburg in Russia,” replied the vice-rector. “We are looking for cooperation in different spheres and we want to strike a balance of good relations with both Pakistan and India.” Kozhokin made clear that while Russia would not compromise on its good relations with India, it will also not miss any opportunity to harbor new avenues for cooperation between Pakistan and China. A former diplomat, Hasan Habib asked how Russia preempts the future of smaller states, given the context of advanced nuclear capabilities and the global strike strategy paradigm. In response, Kozhokin said, “Let us talk about your country. You are a nuclear power and this differentiates you from other countries. It must be noted that many countries are outnumbered in terms of nuclear capabilities.”

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