Russian Navy

Alexander Pokrovsky: "If anything happens, we'll be caught asleep"

Photo is taken from personal files of A. Pokrovsky
China perceptibly menaces Russia from the east, and it becomes apparent that one can not revive defense industry in our corrupted country any more. What Europe and NATO could help us with? Known novelist and ex-submariner Alexander Pokrovsky proposes how to surmount the crisis.
Alexander, does China really pose a serious threat to Russia?

Well, I guess in context of defense capacity any country should be considered as potential enemy, just to make sure that no one was overlooked. Asia-Pacific region rapidly develops, and particularly from military point of view. Especially China. Recent Chinese military exercise nearby our borders displayed that in case of an armed conflict the odds will be in China's favor. The world moves eastward. Global recession slightly touched this region. China dominates there. Once we conceded the frontier point on Amur River. There is nothing to prevent them from next claims. I heard that Chinese children are taught at history classes that Russia is a sort of aggressor which had seized the indigenously Chinese lands.

And some our politicians express their thoughts about validity of those claims.

So far we have common economic interest with China, but appetite comes with eating.

Of course, nuclear weapon is good deterrent, but the sands are running out. Who knows where pendulum of nuclear disarmament will swing tomorrow. To my thinking, now China's superiority over us is obvious not only in manpower but in troops control, too.

So, you think China rattles the saber?

It does, I suppose. And very masterfully. China has patience. To reach natural resources, China came to Africa. Note, well before us and Americans.

China will simply take wherever it is possible.

If there is need to wait before taking, China will do it.

To expand its territory, China will continue to move the bank of Amur River with bulldozers and watch our reaction and whether it is possible to move forth.

It will make millimeter-long steps, but always in the right direction.

And every time it will watch our reaction.

It turns out that China's economical expansion into Russia has already started?

Long ago. It is merely can be defined as a war, but forests of the Far East are grabbed and taken away to China in predatory manner. Both by the Chinese and Russians. If all I was told is true even in half, it is a terrible plunder. It's like a death-hunting.

Chinese schoolteachers tell children that some time ago it was a Chinese village instead of Russian city of Blagoveshchensk. So, Russians depopulated and dislodged villagers and founded Blagoveshchensk. Perhaps, that is fudge but the fact of brainwashing in Chinese schools is proved out.

What about reform in our armed forces?

What happens to Russian military now is a continuous and hectic reorganization. That is a separate topic, and it's very sad. This reshaping is distressing because everyone knows that if anything happens we'll be caught asleep.

You mean, the government simply has no time?

The question is who will win, either epidemic corruption or the state. They can't get on together. It is not a state which budget is pilfered. It is not a state where kickbacks are lifestyle.

And everyone see this bribetaking. It is clearly seen who takes, what, how much and in what manner. This process is carefully monitored; there are plenty of signs like "we're watching you". Slap! Eleven guys are deported and their accounts are blocked. So, one fine day all accounts can be blocked. What a great way to surmount the crisis!

Our bureaucrats end to be ours long before, they're quite easy to manipulate.

The U.S. has a good grip of this situation.

China will not even bribe our bureaucrats. It will simply wait. What's the use of feeding poisoned bait rat?

Corruption is a poison. Now it is impossible to revive our military industry, since it is capable only to pilfer budget. One can't reeducate a criminal into a law-complying person. He has a thief's mind. He won't build submarines. He will only "milk" the system.

Corruption is no longer grease for the wheels of state. Glut of grease caused a wheel slip.

In your opinion, what should we do in this connection?

When Russia was threatened by the Swedes, Peter the Great transferred the capital closer to Swedish coast. And the Swedes got him right – Russians will defend this backwoods to the last gasp.

So, you think we should transfer the capital?

I think we should do what will be advantageous to the country and its every single citizen. If national security requires the transfer of our capital to the middle of nowhere and turn over a new leaf, we should do this.

Russia is spread along eleven time zones. Sure, it is possible to reduce them down to five zones, but that would unlikely improve flexibility of government, I guess. And again, if they said the Far East should be developed, it must be developed.

They transferred the capital in Kazakhstan almost to the wastelands. Did the evolution stopped after that? To my mind, Kazakhstan began to develop faster. Many countries transferred their capitals, for example Brazil. I don't think this would cost more than current epidemic corruption.

You mean that transfer of a capital is a political housecleaning?

A sort of. Transfer of a capital always implies breaking of corruption links. In Russia those links are as huge as pipelines.

Look, every year some new bureaucrats settle in Moscow, since the officialdom continually changes. All of them obtain and privatize apartments. But their predecessors also stay in Moscow. That looks like a swelling.

If I could, in a new capital I'd give dwelling to an official in neighboring room of his office and only for a period of official duties. When you're retired, get off the chair and apartment, please. That would be money-saving.

Speaking of military reform again, do you think it is in progress?

It's just in the same progress as the whole country is. It's always easier to break than to make. Unfortunately, military industry is the same state institution like others; budget vanishes like in the black hole here, having little or nothing in the output. Now we import armor and perhaps will import entire vehicles soon.

You think it's bad?

I don't think so. The world is a one big business and arms industry is not an exception. To acquire access to 21 century's defense technologies, it is reasonable to establish military alliances. If integration with NATO is necessary for strengthening our defense capacity, I would immediately join NATO.

Would you join China then?

China is a country with millenniums of history. China is the East, and everything you consider dishonest is normal there. So don't ever turn your back on this country. China will always think only of China. To me, Europeans are more democratic and even naive. We do have something like common values with them.

Another fact – in China people are treated like expendable material, just like in Russia. The only difference is that China has ten times more people.

Sure, we can and should cooperate with China. However, we have to assume that winds can change there any time.

China is developed too seriously and fast to pay attention on such small issues like adherence to treaties.

We have common frontiers with China and Japan. So, we will always have claims to each other.

It comes out that rearmament of our armed forces is only possible while cooperation with the West?

Exactly. I think that invention of homemade bicycle is worse than buying new electromobile. Our defense industry has no rivals. Absence of rivals needs budget money. That's obvious. We need 10 years to build a sub but, nevertheless, our subs are not exactly what we want. Then we deliver those subs to the Navy for "trial operation". Five years of tests and then – "trial operation"? So, is our defense industry fit for nothing?

I'm not talking of Bulava. I even want to forget about it. Billions are thrown to the wind. Billions and three ballistic missile subs remaining without missiles. Who needs SSBNs without missiles? Our "strategy" is supported by subs BDR and BDRM inherited from the USSR and still in service.

However, everybody is talking of modernization, rearmament, new tanks, new aircrafts, and so forth Yes, we need technologies, but they are business. Nobody will give you technologies without agreements with NATO. You may join NATO if you want; if not – be alone without technology, with dying industry and decreasing population…

In short, soon we will come to an end.

Yes, I would rather choose Europe to cooperate with, but not China.

Europe looks forward to working closely with us, and I think we must not ignore this.

Indeed, we're going to buy Mistral.

Yep, there are persistent talks on this matter. This ship is good only for landing operations, say, on African coast to fight against a spear-armed aboriginal tribe. Even if they are armed with AKM rifles and grenade launchers, Mistral would be good. And nothing greater. This vessel is quite good as hospital ship, but her air defenses are so weak that this point is not worth even talking about. All right, Mistral carries 16 helicopters and 40 tanks, so what? The only thing she can do is to stay somewhere off Somalia scarifying pirates by copters.

Mistral would have been good as a mother ship for Soviet submarines deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. But now we don't have so many subs to dispatch a depot ship to the Mediterranean.

Hence, buying this grey-painted cruise liner is the game of politics and has nothing common with the military, I guess. It's like a Gloucestershire kindness, right?

So, you think we're really going bad?

I think? Look, UN says we hold 71st place as of living standards. Ten years ago we were 65th or 66th. That's all. We're moving on but take the dust. We produce gas and oil, although it has no impact on living standards. Moreover, it seems to have no influences on anything at all. Neither on education, nor on medicine, nor on culture, nor on preservation of monuments, nor on agricultural growth, nor on industrial and business development, nor on ruble strengthening, nor on financial system, nor on reserve funds, nor on crisis, nor on pensions, nor on defense – nothing.

We're simply going downhill. And nobody attacks us just because our territory, gas and oil are not what they need at this stage. But this is a matter of time. Some day things can change in a flash.

Europe is seeking hard for an alternative to hydrocarbon-type economy. And it will definitely find an option. First will be nuclear energetics, solar batteries, wind generators, waste recycling into biogas, poplar wood alcohol production, and heaven knows what else. I assure you, they will find an option.

Energy-saving technologies and so forth.

There is not much left. They will find an alternative and we will fall behind with our horse-and-buggy oil pipes.

Then comes controlled thermonuclear fusion, and energy will be almost free.

Everyday Russia looses movement rate, resources, technologies, education, people. And culture. There are no nations without culture.

Culture is all what we were talking about today. Again, there are no nations without culture.

We lose our nation everyday.

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