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Shcherbak: The world needs equal and constructive dialogue

I have to say that all these major conflicts are a result of the imprudent policies of Washington and Brussels, which are trying at all costs to strengthen their dominance in the world politics, not allowing the establishment of a multipolar world order

The Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Macedonia, Oleg Shcherbak, in an exclusive interview with “Republika” speaks about the developments that happened in the world in 2014 and his expectations for 2015. Apart from the relations between Russia, the US and the EU, the Ambassador also speaks about the Macedonian-Russian political and economic relations, announcing that Macedonia will be part of the new gas pipeline known as Turkish Stream, which is expected to be completed before 2025.

Mr. Ambassador, this is your first interview for our magazine in the new year. How do you, generally, evaluate the results from 2014 on political plan and what do you expect from 2015?

SHCHERBAK: Last year was a period of serious temptations for the modern system of international relations. Unfortunately, new challenges has been added to the many problems that already exist – Syria, Iran, the Middle East, the rise of international terrorism, the expansion of weapons of mass destruction, the world economic crisis phenomena.

A particular threat is the civil war in Ukraine, caused by the coup, which has claimed more than seven thousand lives, as well as the emergence of  the, actually, new phenomenon in international practice – the terrorist country ISIS. I have to say that all these major conflicts are a result of the imprudent policies of Washington and Brussels, which are trying at all costs to strengthen their dominance in the world politics, not allowing the establishment of a multipolar world order. The rejection of the Western countries, despite our numerous proposals to start building a system of equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic region, their course of gradual conquest of the geopolitical space in the East, their bet on force and creation of more and more new hot spots, significantly destabilize the conditions in the world. All this led to serious complications in our relations with the Western countries, freezing cooperation in various areas. I think such policies are dangerous for everyone and there is no future.

What to expect from 2015? I would like to believe that, after all, common sense will prevail and the already started “war of nerves” by the West, with all kinds of sanctions and blockades, will be replaced by a constructive and equal dialogue and mutual respect in all matters of world politics. I am convinced that we have an opportunity to change the negative trend of the past, to get out of the spiral of confrontation that is being imposed by some Western partners.

That requires abandoning the vicious logic of unilateral action, the interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, contrary to the Charter of the United Nations, the “double standards” of organizing “colored” revolutions and geopolitical games with “zero score”, the trial to alter the situation in different regions according to their narrow-profit interests, including through the use of violent methods. Such actions only lead to increased mutual mistrust and instability in the international relations. Russia is not interested in confrontation with the West, it is ready for cooperation in all formats and will continue to contribute to solving the real, not imaginary problems, jointly on the basis of equality and mutual respect of interests.


How would you assess the current situation in terms of the relations between Russia and Macedonia?

SHCHERBAK: With pleasure I notice that, even in these uneasy conditions, the traditionally friendly relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Macedonia are developing very successfully. We appreciate the balanced and responsible approach of your country to many international problems, the respect towards the norms of the international law, the efforts to enhance the cooperation with all countries, including Russia.

Such pragmatic and multivector policy provides favorable conditions for our cooperation in 2015. I personally believe that it has great potential in all directions, and, among other things, in trade, economic and investment sphere. Moreover, we will actively work in order to effectively realize this potential. I think that in the new year we will have good grounds to expect substantial increases in the export of Macedonian agricultural products to Russia, a successful implementation of a series of projects in the field of gasification and energy, industry, intensifying scientific, humanitarian and interregional connections.

What is you comment on the Stratfor analysis, according to which the change of government in Ukraine and the Ukrainian crisis are counter-response of the US to Russia’s stance over Syria?

SHCHERBAK: I understand your interest in the opinion of this well known private intelligence organization, which in the United States is often called “The Shadow CIA”. Stratfor’s assessments are sometimes very useful because, as recently one of the popular experts in the US joked, what Stratfor says, is actually what Washington thinks. But joking aside, it is quite possible that the success of the Russian diplomacy, which played a key role in resolving the crisis over the chemical weapons in Syria using political methods, could cause discontent in the influential circles in Washington accustomed to solving foreign affairs problems by using military power. However, I believe that this version of the head of Stratfor, George Friedman, is only one part of a much larger puzzle. If we carefully read his interview, in which he admits that it is the United States that organized the change of government in Ukraine by “the most transparent coup in modern history”, we could conclude that the formation of the extremist regime in Kiev by the Americans, who also control it, is another step in a multi-target-moves combination. Its strategic goal is to destabilize Russia and prevent bonding between Europe and Russia, which have the potential to create a new powerful center of power, fit to effectively compete with the United States. According to Friedman’s revelations, the bloody crisis in Ukraine and on that basis the discord between Europe and Russia, encouraged by Washington, aim at increasing the tension in Europe, final submission of the European countries, giving a new breath to NATO, activating the arms race in the interest of the US military industry and thus stimulating the US economy and enabling its hegemony in the world.

The fact that this dangerous game, which already devastated the territorial integrity of Ukraine, is destabilizing the situation in Europe and has brought the world to the doorstep of a cold war, does not seem to worry Friedman. The logic of the American exceptionalism considers such risks as collateral damage, not more than that. If it was not for Syria or Ukraine, there would be another occasion to increase the tensions. Besides, the head of Stratford talk about this without any scruples, as well as about the fact that in the last 100 years the United States only set off from the principle of its own benefit. Too bad that Europe itself still does not understand all these specifics of the US foreign policy. I am convinced that sooner or later Europe will ask itself whether it is well worth it, without thinking, to support the adventures of the United States to its detriment ?


What is your position on NATO enlargement in the Balkans?

SHCHERBAK: Life shows that NATO enlargement, which goes contrary to all previous agreements, it is not in the least in the interest of enhancing regional, European and global security. Everybody knows that in its entire history this alliance has failed to resolve any crisis, but has repeatedly been used to destabilize the situation in different parts of the globe, demolish and destroy entire countries. There are too many examples of this: Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq. The result of the NATO’s 13-year-old mass stay in Afghanistan (with 22,000 civilian casualties), can hardly be regarded as an example of creating peace.

The enlargement of this military-political bloc, which is aggressive in its essence, results in the emergence of new dividing lines, increases the mistrust in the international community, violates the geopolitical balance and the balance of forces, which is the basis for a stable and strong peace. The essence of the current NATO doctrine aims at bringing their military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders. In a way we can also understand the Washington authors of this extremely dangerous idea, who have egotistical perception of good and evil. In this case, the US armed forces, including the nuclear, receive extensive opportunities for the so-called preventive attacks on the territory of Russia from other countries that are members of the Alliance, and thus disperse Russia’s resources in terms of reciprocal attacks on the territory of the United States itself. However, a logically question rises, what do the European countries gain from all that? According to many experts, the answer is obvious – their safety reduces, the risk of becoming involved in the conflict increases, while the additional costs for NATO “defense” program significantly burdens their economy. Of course, to support or not to support NATO strategic efforts is a choice which the member states of the Alliance themselves have to decide of.  This equally applies to the prospects of NATO enlargement. In this context, each country has to resolve the issue with a view to its national interests. Russia invariably respects the opinions of the other countries, regardless of whether we like it or not.

I am convinced that the entire international community would gain something only if, instead of NATO enlargement to Eastern Europe, the Balkans or anywhere else, our Western partners would have taken care to create a system of a real collective security, which would take into account the interests of all countries. Russia is ready for practical steps in this direction, advocating for substantial dialogue between the Eurasian Economic Union and the EU with a view to realize the project “Integration of integration” and to form a single economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, based on the principles of equal and indivisible security. We believe that the realization of this initiative will allow strengthening of mutual trust, real strengthening of peace, stability and constructive cooperation.

After the economic sanctions, price of oil on global market collapsed, and Russian currency is now endangered. It caused serious problems to the Russian economy. Did Moscow expect these moves and have you prepared a response?

SHCHERBAK: I am not that young to believe in accidental negative coincidences. It is evidently a coordinated attack on the Russian economy from abroad. Financial-economic sanctions are part of those attack, as well as speculations regarding oil price and ruble collapse. Naturally, we review all possible scenarios under such circumstances. Nevertheless, I am surprised creators of this attack act this roughly and by pattern, forgetting to take the potential of our country and its specifics into consideration. Russian economy has huge reserves, Russians are creative people, they are not afraid of challenges and know how to deal with them. Russian will undoubtedly exit this situation even stronger than it was. At the same time, as people say, one should see the silver lining in every cloud. Up until 2014, Russian business community – influenced by the myth of inviolability of the principles of World Trade Organization and those of global economy – paid very little attention to diversification of the economy and believed it was more rational to supply most of the products in Europe and the USA. Such illusions have now finally sunk, which is absolutely good for Russian economy. It was a powerful incentive for internal development and to reinforce ties with more reliable foreign partners. For the West, this is not only a lost of hundreds of billions of dollars, but also lost a major share of the gigantic Russian market.

However, that is not the most important issue. Even more serious problem are long-term consequences from our partners’ anti-market moves. By imposing illegitimate sanctions to Russia (allow me to remind you that according to international law, sanctions can only be imposed following a decision by UN’s Security Council) and by disgracefully breaching global economy principles, Western political elites have actually created the mechanism for collapse of world economy ties system, the system of banking and transport infrastructure, which has been constructed for decades, and deeply undermined confidence in western institutions. Which normal country, what normal businessman will export to and pay orders from Germany, France and the other EU countries or the USA, when all it takes is one phone call from Washington or a call from Senator McCain for the largest companies from these countries to refuse to fulfill their contractual obligations, they block the delivery of products that have already been paid for, and banks block transactions? Who would risk billions of dollars of investments in long-term infrastructural and industrial projects in times of nihilism and unpredictability? Who would believe analyses and forecasts of western political analysts of rating agencies, whose assessments are previously placed political orders?

I think this and many other questions are currently concerning business structures in many countries which suffer major losses from Brussels and Washington political adventurism. Russia strongly pledges for respect of international law norms, market economy principles and finds crashing of their foundations extremely dangerous for everyone. Such imprudent moves push the world into chaos and permanent instability.


How would you access the initiative for normalization of USA-Cuba relations?

SHCHERBAK: This is a step in the right direction. Every initiative for normalization of interstate relations is much better than taking steps to derange them. For 50 years, Washington has been trying in various ways to change the Cuban government, which the USA found undesirable, from direct military intervention to organizing assassination attempts on Fidel Castro. To achieve this, it has been using the cruelest political, trading-economical, financial, humanitarian and other sanctions. That policy has completely failed and Barack Obama was forced to openly admit it. I am glad that Americans, at least in terms of this issue, are starting to show some common sense. Unfortunately, it only took Washington half a century to realize the blockage of Cuba has no perspective. I do hope Americans would need much less time to grasp the nonsense of such activities regarding other countries. If they do, they will win over everyone else, but mostly USA itself.

Russia has recently stated it is impossible for “South Stream” to keep developing in its previous form. What urged such decision? Is it possible for the new gas pipeline route to go through Republic of Macedonia territory? Which phase is this idea in?

SHCHERBAK: Russia has been doing its best for sic years for the realization of “South Stream”, which would provide continuous gas deliveries to South and Central European countries. In that manner, not only that all of those countries, including Macedonia, would secure their energy supply, but would also have a chance to buy the gas at lower price. “South Stream” construction was, normally, of Russian national interest, as well as beneficial for all other countries involved in the project. It would be a powerful additional incentive for their economic and social development, major investments, thousands of new jobs and an opportunity to successfully resolve their dangerous ecological problems which are currently present in the region.

Unfortunately, “South Stream” was blocked by Washington and Brussels, which – led by their own political and economic interests – unprecedentedly putting pressure on countries which are part of the project. At the same time, Russia got some quite absurd requests: “Gazprom” had to build itself a gas pipeline of 18 million dollars, and only the EU would get to control it. Bulgaria, as a key transit country, was most submitted to foreign influence. After a few years of delaying, it did not issue “Gazprom” official permission to build “South Stream” on its territory and in Black Sea economic zone. By the end of last year, it has become clear that “South Stream”, in which Russia has already invested couple of billions of dollars. cannot remain in captivity of Washington’s and Brussels’ geopolitical games. Under such conditions, Russia was not only forced to alter the gas pipeline route, but to also alter the entire gas delivery concept in countries from East and South Europe. Turkey is the new transit partner in the new project. It will be the gas distributor with 63 billion cubic meters capacity, but gas pipes from Turkish-Greek border to Europe will be constructed by EU member states themselves. Also, the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine is planned to completely transfer to Turkey. All technical and economic aspects of the project are currently being reprocessed. It is very possible for Macedonia to become one of the transit countries. I would also like to point out that regardless of future development of the entire project, Macedonia’s gasification process, which has already begun, has a sufficient resources base for many years. The gas pipeline, which already functions here, can secure a delivery of 800 million cubic meters of Russian gas per year, and if necessary, this number can increase up to 1.2 billion cubic meters. According to experts’ assessments, it would be enough by at least 2025. I am certain works on the new project will be finalized long before that.


Russian President Vladimir Putin recently stated no one can destroy the connection between Russia and Slavic nations in Europe. Could you add something to the President’s statement and further explain what will Russia do to prevent that. How far is Moscow prepared to go to protect these traditional ties?

SHCHERBAK: I do not think it can be broken. Multilateral and multicentury ties among Slavic nations are too deep. History has recorded many attempts to break Slavs apart, to weaken them and to even force them to confront each other. But, the fact is that when tough times come – despite some disagreements of political elites – Slavic nations have always been standing together. There is no doubt it will remain the same in future. That is exactly what the Russian President referred to.

Nevertheless, it is important that we understand we live in a fast-changing world. we live in the age of information technology, which creates unique, brand new opportunities for changing human self-awareness. Given those conditions, it is very important for all ethnic groups, not just the Slavs, to not succumb to temptations to dissolve in the global melting cauldron, to learn to distinguish fake and real values, to preserve their own identity, language, rich national and cultural traditions. Slavic people are the largest ethnic group in the “big Europe”, they made significant contribution to global civilization and without the Slavic historical and cultural code, Europe will lose its diversity, its positive traditionalism and will no longer be Europe. Russia is inseparable part of European civilization and, naturally, is not interested in such perspective.

What would you wish to Macedonian citizens in the New Year?

SHCHERBAK: From the bottom of my heart, I wish Macedonian citizens the same as I wish everyone else: peace, good, steady and successful development, prosperity, safe future to them and their children.


By: Nenad Mircevski

Photo: Aleksandar Ivanovski