In the past ten years as a journalist and commentator on current Russian affairs, I have had the pleasure of breaking new ground in the field. Following Russia’s implementation of counter sanctions on Europe in the tit for tat economic war that resulted from Russia’s occupation of Crimea in the spring of 2014, I was surely the first outside observer to visit Russian supermarkets and farmers’ markets to report on how Russian agriculture was coping with the challenges of import substitution. My firsthand inspections were subsequently taken up by a number of different Western mainstream outlets. I am delighted to be copied.
I broke new ground in coverage of Russian media in 2016, the year in which I was invited onto all channels of Russian state and independent television channels to participate in political talk shows. Why 2016? Because the Trump phenomenon was a conundrum in Moscow and they were eager to hear about it from the few of us Americans who could offer explanations on air in Russian. My appearances began with a vignette appearance on a Russia 24 show hosted by Yevgeni Popov, who is today co-anchor of the widely watched program ‘Sixty Minutes’, as well as a newly elected Duma member. It reached a high point in September 2016 when I was a panelist on the country’s most respected talk show run by Vladimir Solovyov. In the warm-up room before going on air I got an answer from Solovyov on whom the Kremlin preferred to see as winner in the American elections and why. On air in that show I crossed swords with the ever venomous Vladimir Zhirinovsky,a frisson-evoking experience.
I was the first to write about the talk show genre as a litmus test on freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Russia. I published these articles on my website, then republished them in my book of essays Does the United States Have a Future? (2017). I am pleased to see that in the past year the BBC Media Monitoring has from time to time picked up the theme and published its own surveys of Russian political talk shows and of Russia’s leading news program, another of my long time preoccupations, Vesti Nedeli, hosted by Kremlin insider Dmitry Kiselyov. I remind the reader that formerly Western journalism took no interest in what was being said on Russian television, because it was all assumed to be state run propaganda exposing no diversity of views.
During the years 2018 to 2020, I admit that Russian state television lost its interest even for me. ‘Evening with Solovyov’ and the other talk shows put up the same few commentators chewing the fat over the same predictions of imminent collapse of the Kiev regime or recounting the hardships of Lugansk and Donetsk residents under Ukrainian artillery barrages that violated the ceasefire. This year, when the suffering in Russia from the Covid pandemic approached European and American levels, when the anti-vaxxers came out of the closet and the government struggled to raise the vaccination rate, that subject introduced some vital diversity into the talk shows. But the intensifying political-military crisis around Ukraine which in the past few months has brought about two summits between Presidents Biden and Putin, one face to face and second virtual, not to mention yesterday’s telephone conversation between the two leaders, has not only put spice into Russian state television but made close monitoring essential to any understanding of what lies ahead for us all. The case in point is the December 28th edition of ‘Evening with Vladimir Solovyov,’ which had the provocative subtitle “War or Negotiations.” ( See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–zY5H9lYcI so far only in Russian).
In what follows below, I offer my own partial transcript of that one hour forty-six minute show. It is partial, because even by removing some of the empty cross-chat which was meant by the host to be amusing and by sticking strictly to what is informative, the result still comes to ten typed pages, and may strain the patience of readers.
My transcript is as complete as it is, even with these cuts and with summarizing sentences in some places rather than full word-for-word translation, because I believe it is important for Western readers to see, to the greatest extent possible, the thinking processes of some of Russia’s best analytical minds as they appraise what may be expected from the negotiations in Geneva over Russian demands to revise the security architecture in Europe to the status quo before the alliance’s expansion to the East in May 1997. It is especially illuminating to hear the commentary of the host, Solovyov, on what measures Russia may take if the talks in Geneva are a stale-mate and Russian demands are not satisfied. I frankly admit that what he says is entirely different from what I till now predicted and from what I have read in the array of commentary from peers in the alternative media, not to mention mainstream.
Host Vladimir Solovyov opened the show with a pessimistic assessment of the chances for success in the meetings to be held between Russian, American and other teams of security experts in Geneva beginning on January 10: I quote:
The negotiations haven’t even started, but nonetheless there is the feeling that we are on the threshold of war. On the 10th, talks between US and Russia. On the 12th, a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council. On the 13th , a meeting of Russia and the OSCE. Best of all, here and now we are beginning discussions among friends.
It is difficult to forecast what results the meetings in Geneva will bring. But there is not much reason for optimism. This brings to mind the talks that went on before the outbreak of WWII. The British sent their people to us.
We are thinking now – don’t play games with us. We will not play games. For the moment, the make-up of the U.S. delegation is not clear, though it has principal importance.
We sent the Americans the papers on what we want to discuss. They say they want to talk about arms control and about the situation in Ukraine. But why would we talk about Ukraine? What do we have to do with Ukraine? There is a civil war going on there. If they have questions, they can discuss them among themselves with Donbas. We want to talk about NATO.
They want to talk about strategic stability, but that is not about arms control. They are absolutely different questions.
Are the Americans trying to say they are hard of hearing? Everything can fall apart at any moment. Sergey Lavrov very correctly said that the only adult talk can be between Putin and Biden. We have to listen to our military men who say that the entire structure of NATO is being built up for a large scale war with Russia.
Why do we want to talk only with the USA? We hear Estonia shouting, ‘don’t start talks with Russia.’ But how many atom bombs do they have? They all start shouting. But do they have their own armies? I mean something more than a military band? The only real military constituent force in NATO is the USA. Without the nuclear arms of the USA, NATO presents no threat. We want to speak only to people who can take decisions. Am I being too harsh?
Solovyov then passed the microphone to the most senior political personality in the room, Vyacheslav Nikonov.
Nikonov is probably best known to Russian and foreign audiences for hosting a “tele-bridge” Moscow-Washington weekly hour long talk show on Russia’s Channel One. This started in 2018 and ran for several years.The program was internationally accessible on youtube.com. Nikonov’s counterpart in Washington was Dmitry Simes, a former Nixon aide, later director of the Nixon Center for Peace, which more recently took the name Center for the National Interest. On what was called The Great Game, they discussed current events in bilateral relations together with invited guests.
Others have heard of Nikonov for his being the grandson of Bolshevik leader Molotov. However, his right to privileged use of the microphone on the Soloviev program is by personal merit not family relations. He was for several years director of the Russky Mir foundation that provided financial and other assistance to the Russian diaspora. He is a Duma member of long standing, presently holding the rank of deputy chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. He is, of course, a member of the ruling United Russia Party.
I have given this detailed introduction so that his words regarding the forthcoming US-Russian talks in Geneva will be appreciated for what they are: coming from a Kremlin insider who speaks for a substantial segment of the Russian power elite. In matters of national security, national prestige people like Nikonov naturally set the limits on what Vladimir Putin can do. The notion of an Autocrat acting on whim, so widespread in ideology-driven American discourse, is nonsense.
Nikonov opened by invoking the principle of Occam’s Razor: discussion of the forthcoming negotiations must be stripped to the essentials, which amount to talks between two countries only, the United States and Russia. I quote:
It has been at the request of the United States that separate meetings are being organized as well with NATO and with the OSCE. From the Russian perspective, this can have but one purpose: to change the question from NATO’s unacceptable expansion to Russian borders, which is what prompted the Russian ultimatum of December 17, or “hard demands.” The United States wants to shift the agenda to arms control, which it presents as the key to ensuring strategic stability. But for the Russians, that is all wrong. Moreover, convening a meeting between NATO and Russia in the guise of the deliberative body from which Russia withdrew several months ago after its diplomatic personnel were expelled from Brussels, is an exercise in futility. A security treaty must be agreed with Russia’s opposite number, the USA.
Inviting NATO to hold talks with us makes as much sense as it would have been for Kennedy to negotiate with the Warsaw Pact in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The only ‘adults in the room,’ in his view are Biden and Putin.
As for the OSCE, there is even less reason for it to hold parallel talks. The security dimension of the OSCE was over the years since the Helsinki Acts reduced to nil by the Americans.
With respect to the draft treaties passed by the Kremlin to Washington on December 17, the West has not understood the main point: they are not a menu from which you order a la carte, accepting some dishes and rejecting others. They are a fixed menu meal which you eat as set down or you kick over the tray.
In conclusion, the negotiations will be very interesting. In the West, they have not understood that the rules of the game have changed. This is not Russia backed into a corner. We have set the rules now. If there are separate meetings with the OSCE and with NATO, these will be one time meetings only, without any continuation. We meet and part ways, because we have nothing further to discuss with one another. As for the US-Russian talks, they will continue, because the Americans are not ready to say “no.” If they wanted to say “no,” they would have done so already. They haven’t decided what they want to extract for themselves from all this. Do they want Russia to slam the door and solve its problems with Ukraine by military means, in which case everyone will pile on sanctions against Russia. There are many in Washington who would like this.
As an illustration of how the rules have changed, we now have no interest in proving to anyone what Baker said or didn’t say regarding NATO moving to the East. We are just asking them to sign the piece of paper. That is what the talk is about. If you don’t want to sign, then goodbye. If they say ‘no,’ then we have a full-scale crisis.
Our embassy compiled a list of the US legislative acts imposing sanctions on us. There are 48 of them. If they add a 49th now it will change nothing.
That is one scenario. However, I am certain that there are people in the National Security Council and other agencies who are not happy with this scenario, they are not happy that Ukraine will collapse. It’s not that they care about Ukraine; it is useful to them only as a military staging area against Russia. It is not a dagger held to our neck. No, it is dynamite that can be blown up once and only once, after which it ceases to exist.
I think that in Washington they are sitting and considering what they can expect from us. A whole array of publications has come out on what Russia may do. The range is over how many hours Russia will need to finish things up in Ukraine. The West mistakenly thinks Russian actions following a breakdown in negotiations will be precisely in Ukraine.
The discussion opens as the panelists ask whether a showdown with the United States now will lead to a new isolation of their country, a return to Soviet life: no travel abroad and domestic repression. The answer is a clear ‘no’. All believe that the Putin government will defend the open society they now enjoy.
The next speaker, Andrei Sidorov, is a heavyweight in the Russian academic and think tank world, who is invited rather frequently to Solovyov’s talk show. Sidorov is Dean of the Faculty of World Politics at Moscow State University. I quote:
Arms control is the topic that the Americans want most to put forward during the coming Geneva talks. But arms control is only part of the equation of strategic stability. The Americans want to talk about hypersonic missiles, about the removal of Russian short range missiles from Kaliningrad in return for which they will not introduce their missiles in Europe. However, we will not agree to such talks now.
As for the American negotiating team, it appears to be driven by the State Department, where the boss, Blinken, is not a serious person. I had counted on Jake Sullivan at the Security Council to take the lead, I am now disappointed in Sullivan.
There is a paradoxical situation surrounding Russian relations with NATO. Officially, Russia is still in a partnership with NATO for the war on terror. How will we talk with NATO? It will be one against 30, where any one of the 30 has a say.
As for the OSCE, the only structure left from the system of European security, it is now a balloon without content. The OSCE had a “basket” labeled “economic cooperation.” “Economic cooperation” does not allow for sanctions. For the OSCE to come into play, they have to remove the sanctions.
We propose to go back to the situation in May 1997, that is the basic concept. Can we do this? Not now. It would be easier just to speak of the dissolution of NATO. And the Americans will not agree to this because NATO is very necessary to them as an instrument.
Solovyov interjects: but NATO wasn’t necessary for Trump.
Sidorov: Yes, Trump wanted the USA to rely only on itself. But now again NATO is needed to apply constant pressure against Russia. Meanwhile, in U.S. national security considerations under Biden, it is likely that the number one adversary will be named as China.
The United States is practicing a Cold War against us. In the year gone by we began to resist, leading up to the present tough confrontation. And if the United States does not go along, then we must act according to our own interests.
Solovyov then turned over the microphone to another regular panelist on his shows coming from the Liberal opposition camp of Russian politics, political scientist and historian, Sergei Stankevich.
Stankevich’s biography is colorful. He was close to power early in the Yeltsin years, then had a falling out with Yeltsin which led to his flight abroad to avoid prosecution for bribery, on the basis of what he called fabricated documents. After a brief stay in the USA, he spent three years in Poland, which refused to act on extradition demands from the Russian State Prosecutor. He returned to Russia and to political life only at the end of the millennium. In the past twenty years he has dabbled in opposition politics and made his living in business, where he is on the board of directors of numerous substantial companies in food processing and other industries. During the 2018 presidential elections, he was a close advisor to candidate and business ombudsman Titov. During several of the televised debates, Stankevich stood in for Titov, who was traveling in London, where his family lives.
The New Year gives grounds for cautious advance optimism. I will try to explain, because you are all talking about war. What has happened is what I long foresaw – the opening of a dialogue under pressure. The United States and its allies long refused to enter into dialogue about collective security, but now they have been compelled to do so. We gave them two serious documents. Very good. There is a certain breakthrough. Now we have to apply pressure again during the negotiations to achieve results.
This is so because there is a danger of their being drawn out, of the agenda being changed from those set down in the two documents drafted by Russia. I see two criteria to judge how serious are the United States and the whole Euro-Atlantic side. In 2022, there are plans to start construction of two naval bases in Ukraine: in Berdyansk and Ochakov. This is crossing a new red line. Formally the bases are Ukrainian but the ‘filling,’ equipment and personnel, will be entirely British and American. They are clearly aimed at Russia. The distance from Ochakov to Crimea is less than 100 km. The British have already signed agreements to supply their own rockets. So far these missiles are for deployment in aircraft and naval vessels. But land deployment will surely come. This activity is a move towards attack. The second criterion is what NATO does in Madrid in June 2022 when it will set down its new strategic doctrine. Will they identify Russia as an enemy? Will they repeat their traditional slogans about everyone who wants to join can join NATO?
Nonetheless, the negotiations open up certain possibilities. I agree that the meeting with NATO has a more or less ritualistic character. I think the U.S. insisted on this to show that they consult with their allies, that they are not acting unilaterally on Russia. I think of Martin Luther and his theses nailed to the church door. We might have nailed our lists to the door of NATO in Brussels.
I see more reason for expectations from the direct U.S.-Russian talks in Geneva which start on the 10th. Then there will be direct talks with the Americans on the 12th and 13th. The Americans will want to shift the subjects. They want to talk about Ukraine, for their domestic public, to gather support.
Solovyov interjects: And how will Biden sell Ukraine to the American public. They see it is a corrupt country. They don’t respect Zelensky. See what the New York Times writes.
Stankevich: For Biden it is important to say to his home audience that he intervened and prevented an invasion.
Solovyov: How will this influence American voters. They couldn’t care less about Ukraine. Americans are now worried about the thousands of homeless war veterans.
Stankevich: The Americans can give us a guaranty of security. That will be good for a start.
* * * *
Solovyov then gives the microphone to Dmitry Kulikov, an analyst within the agency Russia Today. I quote:
I don’t feel any optimism about the negotiations. And for that reason I am full of optimism. I have optimism for my nation, my state, my people and our possibilities. The Americans tricked us and claimed they won the Cold War. But they have also deceived themselves. They did not defeat us. They only persuaded the world that they had defeated us. Their supposed victory is the foundation for their global hegemony. And now if they go into reverse then the whole structure starts to come crashing down.
As soon as we see they are using delaying tactics on concluding a peace, we will take that for a refusal, “with all consequences flowing from that,” to quote from our official declarations. Look at Soviet military strategy in WWII, which began with fierce defensive fights in Stalingrad, Kursk, etc before we went onto the offensive in 1943. The same situation prevails now: we are at the point of taking the strategic initiative.
The United States has already lost Ukraine. The question now is how to formalize this. The U.S. has to launch a big PR campaign to cover up the loss. There are those in the States who want to push us into armed conflict with Ukraine to bring down the Iron Curtain on us, to take us back to 1949.
But history does not repeat itself. So what can we do? I am not a military man. If they refuse to sign a peace with us, then we can go and sign a military-political alliance with China. And what if some other Eurasian states join this alliance? Theoretically, what then happens to the Empire and its hegemony?
When he was asked what we will do if the Americans refuse, our President said we will ask the opinion of experts. We have a rich understanding of the word “expert.” Another term rich in meaning here is “military-technical” means.
The year 2022 will be more difficult for the economy than 2021. This is very important for them.
Yes, they are trying to drag things out. This meeting with NATO – maybe we will go to it, maybe we won’t.
We don’t know what powers to decide Biden has. We know about Estonia, Poland, about Mr. Borrell.. There will be a lot of shouting from the sidelines, but the negotiations will be with the USA. They will decide to accept peace or not.
From our perspective, the power of Mr. Biden to do something is very doubtful given the situation in Washington today. We understand perfectly well that this may lead nowhere. What comes next? I won’t venture a guess, but we have to think clearly about it.
Next to speak is the military affairs journalist with the official daily Gazeta.ru, Mikhail Khodarenok, who has the rank of colonel in the reserves. I quote:
A few words about the military strength of the United States. People talk about its having nuclear weapons. But then so does the United Kingdom, France. And even that smaller level of weapons they possess is quite enough to turn upside down European Russia. Only there will be no one left at the end to draw up the scoreboard. The strength of the USA is the most up to date intelligence, most up to date management, leadership in high technology warfare. There are very few countries around the world which could resist the USA for more than two weeks.
Solovyov intervenes : And what about Afghanistan?
Khodarenok: That was not a military defeat. Where was the enemy? By daytime they were ordinary citizens. By night they became Taliban fighters.
Solovyov: And what about our hypersonic cruise missiles, our mach 27 missiles, our Poseidon deep sea nuclear armed drone?
Khodarenok: Nonetheless, it is a big mistake to underestimate your opponent. Now as regards some representatives of our political class who are sometimes too hot, too emotional and are ready to enter into an armed conflict: I will now give them a cold shower. We don’t need a war right now in whatever form.
Solovyov: Why not? In a year or a year and a half two bases will be built on Ukrainian territory. Rockets are moved in there. In a year or two the Americans will have hypersonic missiles of some kind. That is to say we will lose the advantage we have now in armaments. So will it be better then, in a year or a year and a half? And in this time military airports in the Baltics will be renovated, Poland will be strengthened with new equipment. Will then be a better time for us to wage war?
Khodarenok: Given our strategic nuclear arms, what are these two naval bases to us? One blow and they are gone. I cannot imagine a conventional war being waged between Russia and NATO. It will start with use of tactical nuclear weapons and then proceed to full scale war.
Solovyov: And how much warning time do we have when an incoming missile is detected for us to decide on a return strike?
Khodarenok: It depends on the missile and where it is fired from. If from the continental USA…
Solovyov: But if it is fired from one of those bases in Ukraine?
Khodarenok: No time at all, just a few minutes
Solovyov: That is what I am talking about and why our strategic power will be irrelevant, because they will destroy us before we have a chance to even take a decision.
Khodarenok: But before January 10th war will certainly not break out.
Solovyov: Besides, we are on vacation.
Khodarenok: As for these political –military questions, I would like to be an optimist. But the fixed menu will not be accepted, for sure.
Solovyov: They have sweet-talked us and taken bite after bite so that now they are at our borders. In this way they have begun to influence our internal military doctrine. And what if they exacerbate the conflict in Donbas?
Khodarenok: I think that is highly unlikely. That would not be in the interests of the Kievan authorities. Although they have significantly raised their military preparedness, still to take on a major military power…. Personally I don’t expect an attack on Donbas.
Solovyov: But we have to be ready for everything.
Khodarenok: Our political leadership has already spoken: we will defend our citizens there.
Solovyov: And if they attack in two years time? They will be still better prepared then. And the people of Donbas will be still more exhausted. Will it be easier then to perform the tasks that our leadership has set?
Khodarenok: So you consider that the present moment is the best time to attack?
Solovyov: I believe problems like this are solved by having the political will. Back in the days of Maidan, Yanukovich lacked the political will and he lost the country called Ukraine. Look by contrast at Lukashenko who took his son and both went out onto the streets carrying Kalashnikovs. He won because he was ready to die and those who came out against him were not ready to die. People understood that with Yeltsin that you could do what you wanted, just pour him glass after glass. And he said, ok, let Poland join NATO. People understood that Gorbachev gave up the national interests of the country. And with Putin, people understand. He has said that’s all, we will not retreat any further. We have no room to retreat. And they understand he is not bluffing.
Khodarenok: Our appraisals of the situation basically coincide. We only differ on whether we should begin soon or….
Solovyov: Russia never begins wars. But we finish them. Was it the start of war when Israel made an air strike on Latakia and destroyed freight which it believed threatened the national security of Israel? Was it the start of war when the Israeli air force flew into Iraq and destroyed a nuclear installation under construction? Was it the start of war when Turkey sent its armed forces 30 km inside the border of sovereign states of Syria and Iraq? So does this kind of solution satisfy you?
Solovyov: So we will behave in exactly the same manner as our Western partners…
Sidorov: We don’t have to use the word “war.” We will take a political action with limited use of armed force.
The next speaker is political scientist Dmitry Estafyev, specialist in American studies, military-political issues, professor in the (liberal leaning) Higher School of Economics. He is a graduate of the Institute of the USA and Canada, Russian Academy of Sciences. I quote:
We have now overtaken the political initiative from the Americans, having already overtaken them on the military side. I think they understand this very well and want to take back the initiative. The big advantage the US has generally and what may allow them to prolong their dominance is in logistics. No one can rival their capacity to move freight and men anywhere. Let’s start from the assumption that our adversary is malevolent, crafty, sneaky and strong. If it turns out that he is a fool, then that will be a pleasant surprise.
I return to the political side. I understand why the US wants to have NATO there in the talks. They want to be surrounded by their people. But it reduces the value of the meeting. As Ambassador to the EU Chizhov has said: the Europeans want to participate in the talks on security without having purchased an entry ticket.
This period reminds me of 1984-85. Absolutely empty negotiations on arms control. The treaty on nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction ran into a dead end. The period 1983-85 was a period of considerable risk and tension starting with the Boeing that was shot down.
We should begin to talk about war. The Americans haven’t heard that before and will begin to understand this is serious. We should begin to speak to Western society not about peace but about war.
Solovyov: We understand that in America there is absolutely an anti-Russian consensus. The American political system is very stable. Each state makes its own decisions. They don’t see how anything occurring thousands of kilometers from their borders can affect them personally.
As for China we have excellent relations but nothing has been put to the test.
Sidorov: I don’t say rely on China, but American elites are very concerned about China.
Solovyov: Americans may look like us but mentally they are structured entirely differently.
Next to the microphone is passed to Nikolai Zlobin, president of the Center on Global Interests, a Washington-based think tank focused on Russia that is host to events frequently broadcast on C-SPAN. A dual national, American and Russian, he appears frequently on Solovyov’s talk show and is the traditional outside, critical voice from America meant to challenge the consensus of Kremlin insiders and to be defeated by them time after time in debates.
Americans know there are always crises and one has to be prepared. They know you have to be competitive. They know that sometimes you lose in a competition. There is no weak point in the USA that will bring it all down. We are approaching the moment of truth when we must fight. None of us will fight. We are not in the age group. I ask does a war now serve the national interests of Russia?
Solovyov: Why do you assume a war means moving in tanks?
Zlobin: After a war on Ukraine, the pressure on Russia will be much greater than now.
Solovyov: You are talking about Ukraine, but the question is much broader. We will move back the military infrastructure as we see fit.
Zlobin: I like the way the draft treaties were compiled and presented. They are not about collective security but about the security concerns of Russia. We have set out what we want and in negotiations can come to compromises
Solovyov: But this is not an a la carte menu. There is no room for compromises.
Zlobin: The Americans will also present their demands, many of which may be unacceptable to us. I say it is better to have 10 years of negotiations than one day of war. No one will die from negotiations. But in one day of war a huge number of people may die. Someone has said that Russia would like to go back to 1945, Yalta, and today divide the world the same way. For its part, the United States would like to go back to 1991 when it had complete control. So they will not agree.
Solovyov: So what happens next?
Stankevich: The Russian position is already clear. We go to counter-threats.
Solovyov: We have said we do not want to have NATO infrastructure on our borders. Putin has said – ‘move it away.’ So we remove that infrastructure which threatens us. What can the Americans do about that? Are they going to go to war with Russia? Will NATO go to war with Russia? There will be no NATO infrastructure in Ukraine!
Nikonov: Over the past 30 years the question of Russian security did not follow a straight line. There were moments when Russian security grew stronger, a great deal stronger. In 2008 we forced Georgia to sue for peace. Then when Crimea became ours we sharply improved our security situation. And then in 2015 we took steps to force a peace and destroy the Islamic State in Syria, and that greatly improved our security. And remember back in 1962 Khrushchev forced the Americans to withdraw their missiles from Turkey and from Italy. And the Americans assumed the unilateral obligation not to attack Cuba. Why? Because the Americans were very worried over the Soviet nuclear devices in Cuba.
Khrushchev took steps that concentrated their minds. During the Caribbean crisis, the correlation of forces was much worse than now. The Americans had ten times more carriers of nuclear bombs, warheads, etc. The Americans only understand the language of power. You shouldn’t look to negotiations about conditions with them. Our position is very simple: our proposals amount to the demand – “leave or we will move you.”
I hope that Ryabkov, who will be leading the talks for us, will decipher our message. Our arguments on the table will give the Americans the basis to accept our menu. Remember the vulnerability of the USA, Wall Street. I am sure our arguments will be persuasive – don’t push things to war.
I have no doubt that one or more of the exchanges in this talk show were agreed in advance, although my experience as a particpant in the past showed no prior commitments from panelists to say this or that, and free use of the microphone subject to interruptions and shouting by other panelists. As to “choreography,” the exchange between Khodarenok and Solovyov showcases the latter’s explanation of what Russia may do to resolve security threats by force. This may be assumed to be an unofficial message from the Kremlin of its intentions if the USA does not order the ‘full menu’ and sign on the dotted line. That the talk show would have been used in this way in no way diminishes its importance, on the contrary.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2021