“Nuclear escalation may open Pandora’s box, but it will also free the world from the 500-year-long Western yoke”
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Sergei A. Karaganov

Professor Emeritus
National Research University–Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia
Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs
Academic Supervisor;
Council on Foreign and Defense Policy
Honorary Chairman of the Presidium


SPIN RSCI: 6020-9539
ORCID: 0000-0003-1473-6249
ResearcherID: K-6426-2015
Scopus AuthorID: 26025142400


Email: [email protected]
Address: Office 103, 17, Bldg.1 Malaya Ordynka Str., Moscow 119017, Russia

Interview to Ukraina.ru

Sergei A. Karaganov, Professor Emeritus, Dr. hab. in History, Academic Supervisor of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, Higher School of Economics, speaks in an exclusive interview with Ukraina.ru

— What are your impressions from the discussion with Vladimir Putin on the nuclear issue at a SPIEF panel session?

Unfortunately, the time was limited and we could not discuss all topics, but I and I hope all of us got answers to many questions. As for the discussion [on the nuclear issue], I think it was quite productive. Vladimir Vladimirovich elaborated and clarified his position on several issues, specifically on the upcoming updating of the nuclear doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons. We had provided relevant suggestions earlier. So, let’s wait and see. In any case, the dialogue was another step, very peaceful and low-cost, up the ladder of nuclear deterrence. We suggest calling it fear inspiring. Let’s see how the adversary will react. Hopefully, sooner or later―better sooner―it will crawl away.

   —  You have written that global war can only be prevented through greater reliance on “nuclear deterrence-fear inspiring-sobering up.” You insist that this will require lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons in our doctrine as soon as possible and convincing ourselves and our adversary that we are ready to launch multiple nuclear attacks against a number of European countries that act most aggressively in supporting Kiev. Could you elaborate on how this can work in practice?

First of all, it’s very good that we have finally come to understand one simple thing. The United States are a hundred times more vulnerable than we are in the use of any type of weapon, including nuclear ones. The President spoke about this. Therefore, the use of non-nuclear weapons by someone against American targets abroad is one of the stages of escalation. Incidentally, there are several more stages of escalation before this step is taken, if necessary. This will be translated into a specific policy one way or another.

Secondly, I believe that the nuclear threshold will be lowered granting our president the right, not just formal but real, to order any retaliatory strikes if any weapon is used against Russia, is common sense.

I repeat, I strongly hope that such amendments to our nuclear doctrine will be made. They are not only possible but even likely. The president mentioned it.

— Theoretically, as some experts suggest, we could demonstratively detonate a bomb, for example, over the Arctic Ocean, without great risks for ourselves or people in other countries. Will this affect Ukraine’s resistance and the West’s aggression?

— We are at war not with Ukraine and the unfortunate and stupefied Ukrainians, who have been thrown by their corrupt elites and their masters into the meat grinder. We are at war with the West. Of course, we will continue to strike at the Ukrainian army, because it is basically a mercenary army, but our main goal is to sober up the West and make it retreat strategically.

The best way to do that is to give the West, at least the Americans, a chance to retreat without losing face. Otherwise, they will have to flee in shame or/and suffer huge losses.

The Ukrainian people have put themselves in the position of cannon fodder in the conflict between the West and Russia. We feel sorry, of course, for our close relatives. They made a mistake just as Andriy Bulba once did. But he at least did that because of his love for a beautiful Polish woman. Now this is just a wild goose-chase after a lecherous old woman with a brilliant past in pursuit of her wealth, which is rapidly diminishing. It’s their trouble but also their fault. I hope that the situation will change, the sooner the better. The faster the Kiev junta is crushed, the better it will be for future generations and those who live in Ukraine today.

— So, do you think Russia is ready to use nuclear weapons against NATO or is it not? Or we just won’t dare?

— I think we need to watch the situation and NATO’s actions for another year or two. If the bloc and its mercenaries in Kiev keep throwing new hundreds of thousands of people into this meat grinder and supplying them with new weapons, then we will have to move faster up the escalation-deterrence ladder. In this case we might be forced to deliver nuclear group strikes on countries that are helping them. But naturally, there will be other preliminary steps first, including, perhaps non-nuclear strikes.

I hope, I pray, I work so that it never comes to a nuclear strike, and our distraught Western neighbors sober up, because the use of nuclear weapons entails heavy moral damage, including to ourselves, even if justified and even advantageous from a strategic point of view. Besides, stepping over the nuclear threshold can open Pandora’s box for the world.

A Difficult but Necessary Decision
Sergei A. Karaganov
Russia and its leadership seem to be facing a difficult choice. It becomes increasingly clear that a clash with the West cannot end even if we win a partial or even a crushing victory in Ukraine.

— America and the Soviet Union (and then Russia) concluded a number of treaties on the limitation of strategic and offensive weapons. Looking back from today, how effective were they?

— They are gone. They were useful from a political point of view but their usefulness was limited from a military-technical point of view in that they saved little and, on the contrary, often actively spurred the arms race in some areas.

Politically, these agreements calmed people down and made the situation more predictable. But when the Americans felt that they were losing their global leadership, they decided to dump all restrictions in the hope of restoring military superiority, the foundation upon which the West’s dominance in other areas had rested for five centuries, and most importantly the possibility to syphon off world wealth. But it didn’t work out, and it won’t. Russia’s hypersonic, Poseidon and other systems have ruined these hopes.

They abandoned the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles [the treaty between the USSR and the USA, signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan on 8 December, 1987 during a Soviet-American summit in Washington]. They unilaterally renounced the Russia-NATO Founding Act, the ABM Treaty, and so on.

Instead they have got a war that they will lose either in disgrace or otherwise. It’s regrettable that we will have to sacrifice our men for that…

However we will ensure our security and sovereignty, and we will also free the world from the 500-year-long Western yoke.

I hope we will stop at nothing to make sure that the threat of war never comes from Europe again. Europe is the spawn of evil for the whole world. This is where both world wars started, during the life of one generation, the sin, which has long been forgotten by the Europeans, who are also apparently losing their mind on top of it all. Europe’s current ruling circles bring the feeling of disgust and disdain. Let’s hope new ones will come to take their place.

European countries are debating whether or not to allow Ukraine to use Western weapons to strike inside “old” Russia. Elections to the European Parliament have taken place. Is there any hope that the EU unity in supporting Ukraine will falter?

— No. Nothing will change there in the foreseeable future. This is quite obvious.

The European elites forgot God first. Then they forgot the fruits of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason. We will have to revive their belief in hell but hopefully without suffering moral losses because innocent people will die as well.

— You have pointed out in your writings that the high nuclear threshold clears the way for the use of cyber weapons, biological and genetic weapons. How soon will we have to prepare for such conflicts?

— Such conflicts are already brewing and taking place in all areas. Cyber and biological weapons are becoming more effective. Have you noticed how much the world is afraid of the next pandemic? Fears are being deliberately whipped up. A new pandemic is being prepared, although the previous one turned out to be double-edged.

But the main thing is different. If we block the theoretical possibility of victory in a possible war, then there will most likely be none. It is pointless to try to build up the potential of biological, cyber or conventional weapons, if you know that you will face complete destruction by nuclear weapons in return.

Nuclear weapons have a large number of functions, and one of them is to block a conventional and other non-nuclear arms race. We have weakened this function because of our rather lightweight and carefree doctrine. But it has also been weakened by objective factors.

When the nuclear threshold is lowered, a potential adversary will begin to understand that a conventional arms race cannot be won. In other words, you win a conventional arms race but get a nuclear strike. So it makes “race” useless.

— The United States intends to make its nuclear program more aggressive…

— Let them upgrade it and see where they will get with it.

In general, we are interested in establishing a multilateral nuclear deterrence system in the world. So I am personally not worried by the emergence of new nuclear powers and the strengthening of old ones simply because reliance on people’s reason doesn’t work. There must be fear.

Conflict in Ukraine and Nuclear Weapons
Dmitry V. Trenin
The “nuclear bullet” must necessarily and demonstratively be put into the “revolver drum” the U.S. leadership is recklessly playing with. To paraphrase a now-deceased American statesman, we can say: Why do we need nuclear weapons if we refuse to use them in the face of an existential threat? There is no need to scare anyone verbally. It is necessary to prepare for a possible use practically.

— Finland suggests blocking the Baltic Sea for Russian tankers. Do you think the Baltic can become the arena of a new war?

— This is a pure casus belli―the reason to start a war.

One can only imagine what will happen to poor Denmark or Sweden if they try to block our entrance to the Baltic Sea. They will most likely cease to exist. But I do hope that, despite all the madness that has engulfed modern European elites, it will not come to that.

— What, in your opinion, should be a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian issue that will not be disgraceful for the United States to accept and that will fully meet our interests?

— I think that the best option for the United States would be to refuse to further finance the Kiev junta due to, for example, fiscal, tax, or financial restrictions. After that, we will be able to achieve our goals with fewer losses.

Eastern, central, and southern Ukraine (that is, the original Russian lands) will return to Russia. The rest will become a fully demilitarized and correct state. Some parts may go to Poland, Hungary, and Romania.

— Will our victory in Ukraine help solve fundamental issues? Or are we heading for a real world war as the only way to get out of the crisis, and whoever wins, will write new rules?

— The Ukrainian issue is just one of the symptoms. Unfortunately, we are heading for a real world war, a full-blown war. The foundation of the old world system is bulging at the seams, and conflicts will break out.

It is necessary to block the way leading to such a war. Frictions will always arise between new and old powers over climate or water, for example. New large-scale migration processes will most likely begin, and so on.

That is why I dared to say in an interview with Vladimir Vladimirovich that he is faced with the task of not only winning the war and saving Russia but also saving the humanity. This is a more difficult task than the one he and we faced 25 years ago.

— In your article “The Age of Wars? Article Two. What Is to be Done?” you say that the UN is “a dying breed, saddled with the Western apparatus and therefore unreformable.” Well, let it remain. But we need to build parallel structures. How do you see the prototype of the future UN? Will we be able to use it to contain the West?

— I think we should build parallel systems by expanding BRICS and the SCO, developing their interaction with ASEAN, the League of Arab States, the Organization of African Unity, Latin American Mercosur, etc.

It is possible and necessary to create food funds within BRICS in order to support Africa or within the SCO to support Asian countries.

The SCO and/or BRICS could create an organization to prevent and respond to man-made and natural disasters. There is no such organization yet. It is quite easy to do that. Joining forces and preparing for this work is all it takes.

Natural and man-made disasters will inevitably grow in number. Therefore, by creating such an organization we will be able to significantly improve the situation of all countries, including the poor ones, and the lives of billions of people.

There are five or six more areas, including economic ones, where parallel structures should be created. Let me say this again: there is no need to disband the UN, because this is so far the only organization in the world where all states are represented.

Someday, in 20-30 years from now, the West will calm down perhaps and take a modest but worthy place in the world system. And then I would not rule out the UN’s renewal. After all, global problems (climate change, environmental pollution, food and drinking water shortage, forest degradation) are multiplying, but there are no solutions yet. Moreover, the climate initiatives proposed by the West are no more than an attempt to solve the problem at the expense of developing countries. Suffice it to say that they are trying to shift the cost of combating climate change and carbon dioxide emissions to producing countries (which are mainly developing countries) but not to consumers, the main, “fat,” of whom are in the West.

You said that the Special Military Operation (SMO) had several implicit goals. This is not only a war against the West for security and against NATO’s expansion. We are rebuilding Russian society and reviving it spiritually, and we are also getting rid of pro-Western elements in our elites. How much has society changed amid the SMO?

—  Yes. Society is changing very quickly. I am sure that the SMO had undeclared goals, and they are being reached. Society has become more patriotic, more united. The traitors have fled not as a result of repression but of their own free will, which is enjoyable. Good riddance.

People’s mentality is changing. They begin to understand that they often lived and believed in illusions. We are moving away from one-sided Westernism, which has long become a sign of intellectual squalidness and backwardness. We are becoming who we should be―ourselves.

We are a great northern Eurasian multicultural power and civilization open to the world. That’s who we are―Russian people in the broad sense of the word.

Naturally, not everyone is ready for this, and there is still some resistance in society. But I think we should not force people as this is an educational process.

It is very important that we are getting rid of one-sided and meaningless economic dependence on the West. Previously, we received very expensive Western goods in exchange for our natural resources. Now less expensive Asian products are taking this niche. But what is even more important is that mechanical engineering is reviving due to the growth of the military-industrial complex, and engineers and skilled workers are in demand again; they are the real elite of the country.

Also, by drawing the West’s fire upon ourselves, we are doing away with the comprador bourgeoisie and the intellectual stratum serving it. Compradors are a contemptuous name: this is how Portuguese colonialists called tradesmen in Southeast Asia who served them.

Our class of tradesmen was huge because of unsuccessful reforms. Now Russia is getting rid of it with the West’s hands as it is knocking out our people and their property abroad. Capital outflow is decreasing sharply.

I think such an outflow should be banned for some time altogether. But this is the next step to take.


The interview was originally published in Russian on Ukraina.ru website (“Russia Today”) on June 21, 2024. URL: https://ukraina.ru/20240621/1055753580.html.
American Globalism Is a Disease. Meet the Doctor
Sergei A. Karaganov
Why is even speaking of negotiations with Ukraine dangerous for us? Who is better―Trump or Biden? Why is Europe worse than America? What are the real goals of the special military operation (SMO)? How can the use of nuclear weapons save the world from World War III? Sergei Karaganov speaks with Argumenty Nedeli Editor-in-Chief Andrei Uglanov on this and many other topics.