Dr. Gilbert Doctorow: “America Is
Abdelmoumen: What do you think of the situation
prevailing in Syria? Do not you think there is a risk of total war?
Gilbert Doctorow: It's obvious. I watched a video clip of
Stephen Cohen, my colleague in New York, who was interviewed by Fox
News. He gave very specific answers but unfortunately he did not have much
time to explain his opinion. He's a professional in Russian affairs for 50 years
and he says the situation is very similar to that of 1962 in the Cuban Missile
crisis where we were closest to a nuclear war since the Second World War. I
totally agree. The main question is that our leaders, our politicians, our
businessmen, the consultants, the intelligence services who do briefing every
day, have no expertise on Russia. This expertise was lost just after 11/9 when
the US intelligence services were totally cleaned up and most of the people in
charge were specialists in the Soviet Union. It seemed that this expertise was
no longer necessary or useful and they were replaced by subcontractor experts
in Middle East affairs instead of inviting experts to the government. Since
2004, more than 70% of the entire $ 5 billion intelligence budget, which is an
incredible waste, is for subcontractors whose expertise is paid. There is no
bureaucratic inertia, there is no independence of thought, analyzes are
delivered to the customer who pays them. There is no expertise in the US
government. When we subcontract intelligence, we can not subcontract what
requests security authorization, that is, only open sources are used. If you
think that Russia puts in public sources all that it does at the military
level, you are a fool or a naive (laughs). Thus, America has not followed
carefully and professionally what the Russians have done since 2004. It was
during this period that Mr. Putin said "Basta! That's enough! You have
cancelled the ABM conventions, so we are taking all measures to protect ourselves
in this chaotic situation." The Americans laughed while making fun of the
Russians, thinking that they could do nothing. This skepticism towards Russia
and its capacity to defend itself remains a very strong feeling in America.
That is why America is so severe, so cruel and so stupid towards the Russians.
you think Russia is able to retaliate?
was Putin's speech that focused on Russia's ability to completely destroy
America in 30 minutes via new weapons systems which, in effect, reduced the
efficiency of the American system by making it equivalent to the Maginot Line.
That is to say that the 500 billion of dollars is a huge waste because the
American technique to neutralize the Russians is overwhelmed by Russian
technology, including speed Mach 20. There are many reasons why Americans do
not understand Russia, even very competent and independent people such as
Professor John Mearsheimer of Chicago, a well-known political scientist. He is
a realist of the American real political school and against Neo conservatives
who are all idealistic. Even a person like him does not understand anything
about the capabilities and effectiveness of Russian weapons. Mearsheimer is
from the University of Chicago and has co-authored a very controversial book on
the Israeli lobby in Washington, that is, it is a brave person to write that.
He was the first to write something like that and he was attacked fiercely. But
Mearsheimer is ignorant when it comes to Russia. He does not know Russia and he
does not understand that it is not necessary to have the same GDP as in America
to be more powerful than this one. He does not understand anything. Russia also
has a population half the size of America. Russia has a GDP ten times smaller
than that of the United States, and a military budget ten times smaller than
that of the USA. And Russia has the temerity to tell America "Basta! It's
the end of comedy.” Where is Europe, a collective with a GDP higher than that
of America? Where is Europe with a military budget twice lesser than that of
America? Not ten times, twice! Europe is a community of slaves.
said it after making the following conclusions: America does not understand and
does not want to understand the strength of Russia. So, with this
underestimation of your opponent, you risk falling into total war.
are a wise observer of Russia, and you have written several books dealing with
American-Russian relations: “Stepping Out of Line” - “Does Russia
Have a Future?” - ”Does the United States have a future?” etc. How
do you see these relationships under the Donald Trump era?
was for Trump's election, and I was one of the only well-trained, more or less
civilized people, who was in favor of Mr. Trump. The vast majority of American
and European educated people were against this man for many good reasons, but
me, I was focused on one fact: his position towards Russia, to correct the
terrible mistakes that the last three American administrations have made
against Russia. Unfortunately, my expectations are disappointed and it seems
that Mr. Trump is really a man who does not have the intellectual abilities or
the experience required to manage the United States or to manage something of
importance. He managed a fortune and a family patrimony with a team of twelve
people. In the State, there are different management centers composed of
thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of federal employees. He has no
experience, no ability to understand even the challenges. As Mr. Tillerson who
is also a fool said it correctly: Trump is a fool. That's why Tillerson was
dismissed. When the reporters asked him if that was what he said, he did not
deny it. It was the end of the game for Mr. Tillerson. And an other reason why
he was dismissed, it is that he made common cause with general Mattis,
Secretary of Defense, against Mr. Trump. Eventually, Trump decided to cut this
alliance against him, dismiss Tillerson and appoint Mike Pompeo as new
Secretary of State, who is a very close person to him.
President Macron said he had the evidence of chemical attacks in Duma.Do
not you think it's the same scenario as Colin Powel's wielding false evidence
about the existence of WMD in Iraq, and which led to the American intervention
and the destruction of Iraq? Do not Western leaders lie to their peoples?
in Belgium, centrist people like the MR or Défi were all delighted with the
election of Mr. Macron. For me, from the beginning, I heard he was a toy, an
Tony Blair at the time of George W. Bush.
It is the result of the direct intervention of the Americans in the French
elections. What happened with Strauss-Kahn and even with Fillon? Who was
responsible for the Fillon scandal and the Strauss-Kahn scandal? Strauss-Kahn
was the most capable, the most intelligent of socialists. Instead of him, the
French people had Mr. Hollande, the most empty person possible. Mr. Macron is
also empty but he has a smarter face than Mr. Holland. Otherwise, they're in
the same pocket, the one of Washington.
not you think Mr. Macron is a neocon?
don't know, that's quite possible, but I don't think he has any fixed opinions.
He's open to everything. He is very clever, he is intelligent, but on a moral
level, it is better to avoid this topic.
not Western leaders like Macron lie to their people, since he said he had proof
of the chemical attack?
ridiculous. This is exactly the same as the Skripal case. We can prove that
someone was attacked by chlorine, yes, but by whom? The Skripals are attacked
by Novitchok, good, but by whom? These are the main questions. And Mr. Johnson
who went to Oxford gives a good idea of the value of the degree obtained at
Oxford. Zero. It is an arrogance based on a diploma that has no value.
there is a connection between the Skripal case and the Duma chemical attack
is another link. The Russians, including Mr. Nebenzia, the Ambassador to the
UN, gave this link in a speech. But I will put the point on the letter i. The
starting point is Putin's speech of March 1st. The answer in the West, for most
journalists and politicians, was to deny the reality by saying that all this
was bluffing on the part of Putin. They think that the Russians have lost all
the great brains that have gone to the West since the 1990s, that no one in
Russia can achieve anything extraordinary technologically. How many patents of
invention show the Russians? None in comparison with the American inventors.
terms of research, Americans are superior?
it's the idea of Americans and Russians who made their fortune in the West.
They think they are the best and that only the losers have stayed in Russia.
Only, everyone knows very well if he has some experience and some gray hair
that there are many more talents in the world than talent needs, worldwide and
in Russia too. Some have found exile in America, good for them. They left for
the latest IPhone model. But there are many patriots who stayed in Russia with
a brain that works very well.
those Russians who have gone to America say that Russia is not developed?
Only a naive or a propagandist can speak like that. Hence this underestimation
of Russia which I mentioned above. They do not want to know Russia because they
are the inventors from Russia who serve the purposes set by Washington. They do
not want to see reality as it is. You say that I am a wise expert. Yes, I have
my doctorate in Russian history. I did my studies and my writings in this
section of sciences. But that's not all information bases on which I now make
my observations. On the contrary. I worked in Moscow and St. Petersburg for ten
years from 1994. I have an apartment in St. Petersburg. I spend two weeks six
times a year there. I make my observations on all possible subjects with top
Russian journalists; I am invited on Russian television, not for the West but
for the Russians. In Russian for Russians. It is very interesting because I am
surrounded by great Russian political and scientific personalities. And we have
the opportunity to talk to each other during breaks. So I can hear the opinions,
especially from relatives of the Kremlin. But also the opinions of my neighbor
in the small farmhouse that I own at 80 km south of St. Petersburg. So I can
hear the opinions and observe the mentality of the people there, and how it has
changed, especially after annexation or reunification with Crimea in spring
what you have just told me, you do not see, you the American, the Russians as
have to be very careful. The look of the Russians towards the West and America
in particular has evolved very visibly in recent years. The vast majority of
the population was in favor of Europe and the United States but this has
changed since the confrontation from 2012-2014. It started with the Magnitsky
law, the first sanction against Russia that did not bite very severely but was
very unpleasant. But after the introduction of the real sanctions in 2014 that
coincided with the fall of the oil price and with a small crisis in the Russian
economy, the connection between the West and its will to suffocate Russia had
become very evident to the Russian people. And so took place the abrupt change
towards the West, including the United States. And now, we do not think they
are enemies, but it's very close.
not you think that the Cold War still exists, because it seems that if US
administrations change, there is still an anti-Russia feeling?
but a cold war implies very specific relationships that do not exist now.
First, it is an ideological confrontation that no longer exists. The Russians
and Mr. Putin are not communists. They are in favor of a mixed economy:
market-state at the same time.
yes. But at the same time, all the know-how we had acquired during the Cold War
and the knowledge that Russia can destroy us, it has disappeared. Thus, we have
an attitude towards Russia which is badly informed by our choice and very
is to say adventurous.
and much riskier than the last decades of the Cold War.
is more dangerous now?
without a doubt. First, the expressions and characterizations of the leaders of
the Russian political class by the Americans were unthinkable during the period
of the Cold War. Say, as Hillary Clinton has said several times, that Mr. Putin
is a new Hitler would have been totally excluded. This is due to the level of
American culture that is very low compared to the 1960s, 1970s. But there is a
reason. This is not an accident. It is not us, it is the Romans, perhaps even
the Greeks, who gave the aphorism “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts
absolutely”. And America is absolutely corrupt.
has an interest in seeing a war between the West and Russia?
one. But it is not a question of malicious people or arms sellers who want war,
no, they are too simplistic generalizations. But where are we now with this
underestimation of Russian military will and capability? We have the great
opportunity to make an error that could lead to an accident.
necessarily. If something happens on Earth, if there is a loss of life on Earth
because of a miscalculation of American forces or American allies, it will be
the start of a world war. It will not be by the will of some nasty person. But
we not in the last days of Pompeii?
but the last days of Pompeii were a natural disaster. We have something quite
do you think of the appointment of Gina Haspel as head of the CIA?
questions of who is who in the administration do not matter to me because Mr.
Trump is driving but his steering wheel is not attached to the vehicle
mentioned in one of your articles that American generals are reluctant to start
a war against Russia because the situation is likely to be catastrophic. What
is the real balance of power within the Trump administration?
wisest personalities in this environment are the military. Mr. Mattis is a
retired general. He is a civilian today. The Secretary of Defense can not be an
Active General. He has his military experience. But the active soldier is
General Dunford who is the Chief of Staff. He is the head of all military
services. He met his Russian counterpart, General Gerasimov, six or eight
months ago. They met in Antalya, Turkey. They spent two days together. They
know each other very well. I think Mr. Dunford knows very well that there is no
bluffing on the Russian side. What Mr. Gerasimov says is exactly the orders he
received from Mr. Putin. When he says he's going to shoot, that means he's
going to shoot. It is very important to remember that both Chiefs of Staff
Dunford and Gerasimov had a telephone conversation a few days ago. I think it's
the most decisive thing in the decisions the Americans are going to make. Mr.
Mattis has changed his mind. We'll see if it stays that way.
not you think Trump has changed his mind too?
does not count. If I can put the situation in a specific context, Americans
like to talk about "regimes". America now has a regime. We do not
have an elected government, because it does not correspond to elections. Mr.
Trump is a person waiting for his resignation; he is under attack every day to
remove him from everything. And indeed, he is not a person who makes decisions,
and that is our tragedy.
not you think he is dangerous?
has been obvious to me for a long time that Trump has no respect for the
federal service, for the US federal government. For him, there is no difference
between the posts of the administration, because he does not want to follow the
advice of the people who occupy them. He follows another aphorism: “keep your
enemies as close as possible.” He has appointed and is surrounded by people who
are advocating policies contrary to what he wants himself. This situation is
not the Trump/Bolton duo a danger to global stability?
is the best example. Mr. Bolton has a lot of enemies and it is unthinkable that
he has no authority in Washington. Trump named this person for the reason of
having an enemy close to him. To think that he will take into account the
opinion of Mr. Bolton is excluded.
in his administration, Trump has no close friends?
of the same mentality? No. He's a madman in his bedroom with his cell phone.
is an odd situation that America is experiencing...
is a totally strange situation. It is a bad novel. That's why I say decisive
things will come from the wisdom of the military.
you think Mr. Dunford has influential generals with him?
opinion counts for nothing. The evolution of the situation will clarify which
is the real weight of the neoconservatives in the Trump administration?
expelled many neoconservatives out of his administration in the early days. But
that does not change much because we have to dismiss the whole American
government. It must be realized that under the Bush son administration, his
vice-President Dick Cheney has driven out of government all people with some
thought independence. For the last 14 years, they have recruited only people
who think like them. It must be said that when you say
"neo-conservatism", you leave aside the Democrats who are of the same
opinion but they are not neoconservatives, they are simply hawks.
have not Westerners really fought terrorism? On the contrary, they armed,
financed, trained terrorists, especially with their Saudi and Qataris alliesand
we remember the famous phrase of Laurent Fabius, then French Minister of
Foreign Affairs: "Al-Nosra is doing a good job".
counter Russia and to change the regime in Syria. We were willing to pay any
price and all the blame for the loss of civilian lives was put on Assad's back.
change the regime and put a pro-Westerner in the place of Bashar Al-Assad?
are the dominant media silent about the catastrophic war that the Saudis are
waging against the Yemeni people and which does not provoke any international
we here in Belgium, there in America,we do not have a free
press, it's very simple. You know very well as a journalist that this whole
economic sector is in crisis, it is the result of digital technologies. Last
week I was in Rome, I found no newspaper salesman. It does not exist. All shops
now sell useless souvenirs that cost nothing and the whole stock costs $ 5
(laughs). But it is not possible to buy a newspaper. In this situation where
the press does not have adequate funding, it only worsens the issue of freedom
of the press. There is no freedom of the press. We think we are making progress
because today there is no need to have intermediaries. It's the same as saying
we do not need teachers in the schools, we can eliminate the middleman and boys
and girls will educate themselves with Google.
you think that the disappearing of the paper press plays in favor of
plays a huge role, but it is not a recent situation. Mr. Noam Chomsky, the
great American dissident, wrote as co-author in 1985 the book The
Manufacture of Consent. It's a matter of censorship out of censure. Today,
when someone graduates as a journalist and hopes to make a living, to have a
family, there is only one thing to do: go into public relations for a big
company. It requires the same skills for an employer who pays the salary. And
finally, the journalists became corrupt. My wife is a journalist in fashion
world and she knows well this problem. It is not only in Russia that
journalists are dismissed, in Belgium too. There are not many journalists in the
field of fashion or in major newspapers like Le Soir, for example.
Journalists are retiring and it's over, they are not replaced them because
there is no money.
not journalism disappearing and are we not moving towards a press made by the
citizens, like the alternative press?
alternative press is a good thing but it is not the same size and it is not the
same quality, in principle. If real journalism had continued, it would be much
more sophisticated and much more educated than what we have now. We are talking
about fake news. There are many fake news because there are no professional
intermediaries, and even among the major publishers, I do not speak of the
press but of the publishers in general, they sacked the writers. If you are
dealing with a big edition, in most cases there are no real writers. All the
services of an edition have disappeared, that is to say that the professions
are under digital attack. For example, no one in the mainstream media publishes
do not the headlines of the press give the floor to people like you who are
enlightening the public about the situation?
they do not want to have something that is contrary to the propaganda they
receive from the government.
are in Chomsky's consent.
exactly. What he had found in Latin America is valid for all Europe and
America. We get the State Department briefing and it becomes the article.
not you believe that there is a fascist drift in the exercise of this type of
we say fascist, it is a specific political denomination. But it's wider; it's a
kind of totalitarianism. It's wider than fascism. There is a police of thought.
We are on the road to totalitarianism. And we are talking about progress
because there is no intermediary, but it is not progress, it is regression
towards the Stone Age.
Trump has internal problems including with the FBI who has just searched his
lawyer's home, the French President Macron also has internal problems with
immense social protests and Theresa May has internal problems as well. Do you
not think that these Western leaders want to circumvent their internal problems
by provoking an external war?
you are saying is the opposite of what is always said about the Russians and
Mr. Putin. The autocratic heads of State do not have the support of the people,
they have a fear of the people and therefore a political weakness, so they seek
adventures abroad to create a diversion. And now you say it about Westerners. I
agree. This is a political principle that we can find in Machiavelli. But I
make a difference between objective and subjective. I believe that objectively,
yes, you are right. Subjectively, I can not think that the people cited, Trump,
May, Macron, are considering such solutions. They do not conceptualize
challenges like that as head of State. I think they are in the illusion
"we do what we think is right and objectively we act as we think".
And I do not think Trump is so consistent in his thoughts to act that way.
you are familiar with Russia and Russian politicians and high-level officials,
what can you tell us about the situation in Ukraine, because nobody talks about
it in the media?
must say frankly that I am not an expert from Ukraine. I went there twenty
years ago. I can not tell you what the situation is, except what I see every
day on Russian television. One might think that the country is almost bankrupt,
that no one is being paid, and that nothing is working. But at the same time,
if we look a little bit at the reports of the journalists, it does not seem
that it is a disaster, that Kiev has stopped working. It works, there are cars,
life, and the bankruptcy of Ukraine that was announced three years ago, has not
arrived. For these reasons, I do not want to comment on Ukraine.
the other hand, on the issues of Ukraine's relations with Russia, I can
comment. Relationships are terrible. The rejection of any solution to the
situation in Donbass, in eastern Lugansk, by Mr. Poroshenko and his friends is
inexcusable and that gives every reason to fear that there really is a new war
there. I believe that if the crisis in Syria resolves, we can wait for a new
Ukrainian attack in six months. That is, the two issues are linked; these are
America's efforts to sow chaos and to ensure the asphyxiation of Russia by one
way or another.
is, if the situation in Syria improves, there will be something in Ukraine?
that's it. For Russia, the situation in Ukraine is militarily less risky than
the situation in Syria. In Ukraine, Russia has every opportunity to resolve the
issue in three days. That is, to take Kiev and change the government, and
announces the elections in two years, without occupation, just by changing the
government. It is very possible and it is within the reach of Russian military
capabilities. And the West could not do anything at all.
do Westerners, who do not have the means, are they persisting to want fighting
are reasons. And it is not just a matter of president who is a fool, and
counselors who are wicked, there is much more than that. The entire world
system is protected by this foolish president and his wicked advisors, and this
gives a lot of wealth to America at the expense of the rest of the world. As a
Russian politician said on TV, "Americans eat everyone's lunches for
free" (laughs). And that's the case. And Russia has endangered this total
supremacy, this global hegemony, which gives a lot of wealth to America.
you think that the American regime does not want a multipolar world with
Russia, China, etc.?
the moment, it is not multipolar, it is bipolar: Russia, America. Europe does
not count for nothing, and China finally counts for nothing because it does not
take a position. It is Russia and America that make the game now. This will for
the asphyxiation of Russia is the result of this public objection of Russia
against American hegemony. And the lines go through Syria, that's where
confrontation is and that's why both sides don't want to give up. But the
stakes are real and very big, much larger than Syria. Much bigger than the
Middle East. They are planetary. That's why the Russians initially thought it
laughable to accuse Putin of supporting Trump against Hillary, because the
Russians are aware that this confrontation with the Americans has real and important
bases and that the challenges and stakes are great. We change the president,
but we don't change the foundation.
the Obama era, we did not have this risk of direct confrontation.
Obama was mostly cowardly but it was a good thing.
realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
is Gilbert Doctorow?
Gilbert Doctorow is an American professional watcher and actor specialized in
Russian affairs going back to 1965, and a political analyst based in
Brussels, Belgium. Dr. Doctorow is a magna cum laude graduate
of Harvard College (1967), a past Fulbright scholar, and holder of a Ph.D. with
honors in history from Columbia University (1975). After completing his
studies, Mr. Doctorow pursued a business career focused on the USSR and Eastern
Europe. For twenty-five years he worked for US and European multinationals in
marketing and general management with regional responsibility. From 1998-2002,
he served as the Chairman of the Russian Booker Literary Prize in Moscow.Dr.
Doctorow's current research interest is trends in U.S. area studies programs.
He is a Visiting Scholar of the Harriman Institute, Columbia University during
the 2010-2011 academic year.
number of his early scholarly articles on Russian constitutional history under
Nicholas II drawn from his dissertation remain 'in print' and are available
online. Dr. Doctorow has also been an occasional contributor to the Russian
language press including Zvezda (St Petersburg), Russkaya
Mysl (La Pensée russe, Paris) and Kontinent (a
journal sponsored by Alexander Solzhenitsyn) on issues of Russian cultural and
political life. He regularly publishes analytical articles about international
affairs in his blog on
the portal of the Belgian daily La Libre Belgique.