From Argumenty i fakty, May 5, 2021, p. 3. Complete text:

Editors’ Note. – On the eve of the [May] holidays, a meeting of the committee of security council secretaries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) countries took place in Dushanbe.

[In this interview], Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev answers AiF’s questions about how it went.

* * *

Afghan failure.

Q. – Nikolai Platonovich [Patrushev], this meeting of the security council secretaries of the CSTO states paid special attention to Afghanistan. Is this related to the US decision to withdraw [its] troops by September? Has the US dropped out of the “Afghan game,” and is Russia preparing to seize the initiative?

A. – The thing is, it was the Americans who started this game, trying to use Afghanistan as a springboard to project their geopolitical influence in the region. It was the US, which is now actively curtailing its military presence in Afghanistan, that created the Taliban to counter the Soviet Union. This resulted in Al Qaeda (organization banned in the Russian Federation – Ed.).

Many decades later, Russia and its partners continue to deal with the burdensome legacy of American geopolitics in Afghanistan, and for years [they] have been working to stabilize the situation in that country. And [all] this time the Americans have been playing all the same destructive games. And, alas, the lives of civilians, suffering from the continuing terrorist activity and the unfavorable socioeconomic situation, serve as the bargaining chip in them.

As for the issues of settling the Afghan [conflict], Russia has never lost the initiative. For several years now, [tracking] the developing situation in Afghanistan and stopping the threats that emerge from there has been a top priority for the CSTO. Russia supports the efforts of all stakeholder states to reconcile the parties involved and to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan. The main thing is that it should be real work aimed at solving fundamental security problems.

Q. – US Secretary of State [Antony] Blinken said that Washington is withdrawing its troops from the country because all the tasks there have been completed –

A. – Let us recall what exactly the tasks were. The main one was eliminating terrorists, including those from the groups [I] mentioned. To this day, however, Afghanistan consistently tops the lists of countries most affected by terrorist attacks. In the first three months of this year alone, over 3,500 people fell victim to them, including more than a thousand in March. In addition, the militants are not limiting their actions to Afghan soil; they pose a threat to neighboring countries.

In dealing with the task of fighting against drugs, the Americans and their allies have also reached some negative milestones. Since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, the scale of heroin production in this country has increased tenfold. And today, Afghanistan continues to provide about 80% of the world’s illicit opiate trade.

The declared task of training and educating military personnel for the Afghan security forces, launched in 2015 under the auspices of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, has not been accomplished either. The Afghan national security forces remain severely understaffed; they suffer heavy casualties every day, and desertions are on the rise.

Thus, the US is leaving Afghanistan and the Afghan people in a very difficult position. During the time the Americans have been in the country, the situation has only worsened. At the same time, Washington is invariably trying to shift the responsibility for its failures onto other players. An especially profound example of this is the false statement that Russia allegedly paid the Taliban to murder American servicemembers [see Vol. 72, No. 27‑28, p. 19]. After almost a year, there is naturally no evidence [of this because] there cannot be any. But this was an official statement by American intelligence. And this is not the only example of when the White House has formed its policies on the basis of rumors and gossip. In fact, they choose the culprit first, and then try to fabricate the facts.

Can the US be called a democracy?

Q. – You recently indicated that you are quite constructively inclined toward the prospect of cooperation with the US. But after that, Washington introduced another package of sanctions [see Vol. 73, No. 16, pp. 4‑7]. [US President] Joe Biden told Congress that the move was required by the “extraordinary threat to the national security” posed by Russia. After such actions by the Americans, are we still ready to start interacting with them?

A. – With each such démarche, there are fewer and fewer real opportunities for cooperation with the US. The main condition for intergovernmental relations is trust. Trust is either there or it is not. When partners assure us of their readiness to establish a constructive dialogue and immediately declare that they will take unfriendly actions against us anyway, this can hardly be regarded as a promising signal. They say one thing and do another. At the same time, we are still ready to establish equal and constructive cooperation with them.

Q. – One of the US’s key grievances is that Russia allegedly undermined the foundations of American democracy. What is your take on these accusations?

A. – There’s no call for that. The American elites are the ones undermining their country’s statehood. For example, when they use street protests for their own interests. They flirt with fringe groups who rob shops under noble slogans. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement earlier announced the creation of the “[Free] State of George Floyd,” [a reference to a sign at the intersection in Minneapolis where Floyd died – Trans.] where white people would be banned from entering, and local gangster groups would take over police functions. Do you think this can happen in a healthy and prosperous state?

Q. – So you think that the US can no longer be called a democracy?

A. – Democratic countries do not engage in blackmail and threats against other sovereign states, and they do not interfere in their domestic affairs. They do not violate international law and do not bypass the UN to use military force and economic sanctions. They do not violate human rights and do not restrict freedom of speech on their territory and abroad. They do not try to use racism of all stripes to solve domestic problems, and also do not lure extremists and terrorists over to their side for geopolitical purposes.

They do not allow multinational corporations to interfere in the work of the government, imposing their own interests on the country and society, much less to block the legitimate head of state in social networks and the media [a reference to Twitter’s blocking of former US president Donald Trump; see Vol. 73, No. 1‑3, pp. 5‑6 – Trans.]. In democratic countries, the new administration in power does not disavow the decisions of its predecessors just because personal antagonism has developed between [the new and old presidents].

Decide for yourself whether the US can be called a democracy today.

They sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

Q. – Let’s go back to your assertion that the American elites are actually the ones undermining the statehood of their country. What do you think is the reason for this behavior?

A. – Washington has trumpeted to the whole world for decades about adherence to high moral values. But in fact, it has pursued a policy that has nothing to do with these slogans. Sovereign states, whose governments enjoyed the support of their people, were simply destroyed. And who came to [stand on] on their ruins? Radicals, extremists, and often outright gangsters who for a fee are ready to swear allegiance to the US authorities, follow their instructions and receive recognition of their legitimacy from [America]. The examples are right in front of you. We have already talked about Afghanistan, but let us recall other episodes. The Americans crushed Iraq and Libya; they tried to do the same with Syria, and what emerged was ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Sham] (banned in the Russian Federation – Ed.), which almost created the first terrorist caliphate in history. They decided to change the government in Ukraine, and the neo-Nazis raised their heads there. But while this was happening somewhere overseas, it didn’t bother anyone in America. Only now, similar events are already taking place on American soil. They decided to play with the radicals at home, and as a result they got street fights pitting neighborhood against neighborhood, and the country split into warring camps.

Q. – It has been said that entities that once participated in organizing “color revolutions” around the world were also involved in the street riots in the US. For example, the infamous Soros Foundation. Is that a coincidence?

A. – Hardly. As you know, they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. However, the same Soros Foundation would never think about wrapping up its projects. On the contrary, it is going to implement them on a systemic basis.

Soros and his henchmen are leading the way to establish the criteria by which states are declared objectionable – with all the ensuing consequences. I think that the time is not far off when the West will impose sanctions and even launch military strikes against sovereign states based on recommendations from NGO reports. We have already seen something similar on display in Syria, which was bombed after some White Helmets reports. Preventing such lawlessness is now one of the key tasks for sovereign powers that are not ready to live by rules imposed from outside.

Q. – But Soros has always been especially focused on Russia –

A. – Not just him. It should be remembered that Western Russophobia did not emerge yesterday. It has a very long history. They have been slinging mud at our country for centuries. Take, for example, Ivan IV, who for some reason is called “Terrible” in the West [in Russian the epithet is Ivan Grozny, which means fearsome, like thunder – Trans.]. The black legend about him as a cruel tyrant began to come into circulation even during the life of the tsar, at the suggestion of Western chroniclers who wanted to divert the Europeans’ attention from what was happening in their countries. They were displeased that the Russian tsar did not recognize their political and moral leadership. Because even in those distant times, Moscow was watching the West carefully and saw what was happening there. Massacres on religious pretexts, the Inquisition, the witch hunts, the monstrous colonial enslavement of peoples, and other deeds that the West would now prefer not to remember. Here you can see a clear analogy with the present times, when the US and the European Union use all available means to suppress dissent and restrict civil rights of those who are not ready to support so-called Western values, while calling [Russia] the main threat to freedom and tolerance. Generally speaking, Russophobic practices remain the same today as they were hundreds of years ago.

Q. – I would still like to clarify: Do you believe the statements from the White House that it is sincerely disposed to preserve and normalize dialogue with Russia?

A. – We respect such statements by our American partners. However, we prefer to believe in deeds, not words.