Originally appeared at A-specto, translated by Borislav exclusively for SouthFront
Interview conducted by Antoinette Kiselincheva with Valentin Vatsev, an expert on politics, geopolitics and international relations, professor of European studies and political philosophy at the College of Europe and in the Plovdiv University “Paisius of Hilendar”.
After the referendum in Britain when the British were accused of taking a reckless and foolish decision, the world is again shaken by surprising vote. Why did Americans prefer an “unpredictable” Trump vs a “moderate” Clinton?
Mrs. Clinton was never moderate. Rather, she is famous for and proud of precisely the opposite. She is extremely forceful, determined and furious. So the last definition that fits Hillary Clinton is moderate. And Trump is not unpredictable. Your question is deliberately satirizing the liberal propaganda against him. I guess the only thing left to add is that his favorite pastime in his youth was raping his classmates in the school toilet.
The results are not surprising because they are an expression of a very old problem. One problem that we have learned to overlook, but it is real, objective and does not disappear when you think about it. The United States is not only a territory in which transnational corporations hold their legal registration, but is one of the first modern nation-states in the world. Those who created the US government had in mind precisely the nation state. In this sense, I don’t totally agree that the US is an empire, they are a nation-state, albeit with serious problems. What happened, and I do not hide that I like it, is the brilliant victory of Americanism over Globalization. Ordinary Americans who want their country to remain as their national home, found strength and resisted the globalist ambitions of liberals in the Democratic Party and the state leadership. I should specifically emphasize that this is not a victory of Republicans against Democrats. In Bulgaria there have already appeared the ridiculous interpretations that Trump is like Ronald Reagan. Yes, but there is a small fundamental difference. Namely, that Reagan was supported and beloved by the Republican leadership, while Trump became president of the United States in spite of his party’s leadership. We still remember how in the beginning they did not want to nominate him, how they constantly ignored him. They accepted him, and not very sincerely and heartily, only when he threatened them that he would appear as an independent. Moreover, Reagan and Trump have fundamentally different historic missions. In short, Americanism won oven Globalism in the US.
During the election cycle, the media deliberately created an image of the Republican candidate as that of an idiot, sexist, racist, voyeur rapist, etc . The stars of showbiz like Madonna and actors like Robert De Niro also made considerable efforts in this direction. But who is actually Donald Trump?
Look, journalists, sociologists and showbiz people are the children of power. Who was sincere and who is not does not matter. It’s about the power of liberal globalists – this is not the power of Obama, but of the people who believe that the United States is just a mailbox where transnational capital is registered. Obama bears no fault or merit for what happened. In the second half of his presidency he was making desperate and increasingly unsuccessful attempts to stop the intentions of those who nominated him for president, to start a war. How successful has Obama been in his peaceful intentions, is another matter. But at the end of his mandate it was quite obvious that he is not willing to start wars but to end the wars. I have not forgotten the time when with his only loyal collaborator John Kerry, they made desperate attempts to restore order in the departments which under the Constitution are subject to the president. We must not forget how mysterious forces quite provocatively bombed the “wrong side” in Syria. Then it became clear that the Pentagon no longer listens to the President.
Behind Mrs. Clinton stands the “party of war” – and a war with Russia at that. This is the greater and more influential part of the American establishment, who believes that the problems of the loss of hegemony are to be resolved with the export of American problems outside US territory with a “small victorious war”. These people believe that every president is entitled to such a war. The US establishment until yesterday, believed that through a good war it can achieve the transpacific and transatlantic trade and economic cooperation agreements. So America would be modernized again with the cost of de-modernization of the European Union. Trump is precisely against this course of action.
We must remember that power is not a personal event, it has a collective nature and can never be down to just one individual. Even the greatest autocrat, always has around him a reference group – starting with the Pharaohs and finishing with Mao Zedong. Forces in the United States, who have not forgotten the glamor and grandeur of industrial America and who realize that today the United States have no more energy for war are behind Trump. They stood quietly, but acted very effectively. These are different types of people, including rednecks, influential government officials, certain American military and political elite. They understand that an annual military budget of a trillion dollars is now too much even for the mighty American economy. And that the 5,000 military sites (ie. “Bases”), of which 1,000 are located outside American territory, is too much and can break the backbone of the US economy. When there are 70 million people in the country who live on state coupons, having 1,000 military bases around the world is not economically viable and is historically impasse. Many of them realize that in this post-American world, if they want to live with dignity and be successful, the United States must change its overall geopolitical formula. Trump became a spokesman for these attitudes. Yes he’s eccentric, has a peculiar hairstyle and behaves strange. So what?
Do you think Trump will be given the opportunity to continue to oppose the status quo? Despite the current distribution of seats in Congress, is it possible for him to be “restrained”?
I admit, this is the most important and most difficult question. Unfortunately, I can answer only hypothetically. I remember how the presidents before Nixon were restrained or forced to do things they do not want to do. It is known that Roosevelt was unwilling to enter the US in the war. But he was forced and knowingly accepted the decision, although he personally did not approve of it. Because the president is a collective, composite image, he can not act according to emotions. He is a function of collective will that is not always visible. Only at the level of Madonna, do we perceive in the president of America, the sole ruler of the world. Otherwise, political science has know for centuries that power is a trans-personal, collective and often structural phenomenon.
I’m afraid your question has a very deep and nasty meaning. Yes, Trump can be “restrained”, he can be “schooled” and various things could happen to him. Leaving the worst of them aside – to many American presidents have happened things, that leaves only widows. There are less dire cases, such as one in which the whole world learned that an American president had a relationship with his secretary at his workplace in the Oval office. Lest you think that the world learned of these things by coincidence?! Clinton had to make some conclusions and he made them. He had angered important factions, but once he was “schooled” in this way, Clinton also corrected his course.
Yes, the president is entirely dependent on a shadowy will, which sets the general guidelines for the development of the great country.
But for now we see only the victory of Aunt Polly (from Tom Sawyer). We see the victory of that forgotten and dignified America, which has always been harsh, even cruel, but at the same time was the world’s workshop and a worthy participant in international relations, the country with the highest rise of industrialism.
But we recently witnessed how President Obama can not cope with the apparent defiance of the military and diplomats. Before the Secretary of State become his loyal assistant John Kerry, you surely remember who was US secretary of state – Hillary Clinton. She expressed the impulses and attitudes of the shadowy elite of the American States, which with Trump and without Trump will continue to believe that the United States will benefit from a great war. We recently commented that in the days before the elections we could expect some military surprises. And behold, something that Bulgarians did not pay attention to, is that in Ukraine a massive attack was launched by all Ukrainian armed forces against Donbass and Lugansk. Minsk-2 was definitively buried and now a new military conflict is flaring up.
The inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the US is on January 20th next year. Is it possible for changes in foreign policy to take place until then?
The current team will be in power until then. Obama is a lame duck in both feet. Even when he was domineering and his mandate was still before him, his employees did not pay much attention to him. Now, they will probably just not comply with him at all. So we can expect many surprises until 20th January, when the new president will be inaugurated. From the perspective of those that have remained in power in the United States, a refreshing war – like one with Putin, can only have good results. The world has not become more peaceful with Trump chosen as a president. A hope appeared, which if we look at things calmly and seriously, is quite timid.
What course will Trump’s foreign policy take? Are radical turns possible?
Look, the rhetoric of a presidential candidate, and the activities of an elected President are completely different things. In the United States this is well known and nobody pays particular attention to whether a chosen president does as he has promised. This is understandable.
Obama tried, but it turned out that its one thing to promise and another to do it. I prefer to believe that he is a man of good will. But one person, be it even the US president, can not break the trends in Great Power. Because Great Power has its own logic, its own momentum.
On the one hand I am happy that Trump won, but the most important things are yet to happen. I’m afraid that the financial-banking capital does not forgive and forget.
The Bulgarian Ambassador to the USA, Elena Poptodorova predicted that when Trump enters the White House, he will play to the “rules of politics.”
I understand the demagoguery of Mrs. Poptodorova, but behind the demagoguery there is raw truth. Trump will not play by the rules of politics, but by the rules imposed on him by the establishment in America. He needs to either carve a new thread, or screw himself into the old one. Changing the status quo is an infinitely difficult task and I do not even dare say that it is feasible. Currently, the state of power in the United States is as it was after Nixon. He was the last American president who had personal responsibility. Since Nixon, America is run by faceless expert teams, as some well chosen bright personality is placed to depict the face of power. Nixon was the last to feel problems in his soul and to have personal responsibility. You know how it ended. Since then, elites without faces produce anonymous expert groups that define concepts. In this sense, the American state machine is almost a perfect bureaucratic automation for making decisions. It can break the spine of people stronger than Trump. This is not about the nature and mental attitude of someone like Trump. I regard him seriously and with respect. But this is about power!
Another thing Trump was attacked for was “Ties with Putin.” Is it reasonable to talk about this and do you envision a detente in US-Russian relations?
This is a dual issue. On the one hand, it seems to me that the Kremlin has some hopes in a Trump presidency for a very simple reason. One of the first things that Hillary Clinton would do is strengthen sanctions to a supreme degree. These are not sanctions against the average Russian, who confidently showed that he does not give any fuck for any American sanctions, and even states that the real Russian economy may profit from them. Russians oppose sanctions by developing local production forces, etc. But the sanctions against Putin’s circle, who is mostly oligarchic, are extremely dangerous to the personality of the Russian president. Putin has never wanted to be, and could not be the sole ruler of Russia. There’s a classic trinity formula which was articulated for the first time in the era of Emperor Nicholas I – this is the triad autocracy, orthodoxy, nationality. Back then was formed the understanding that there are three major groups in the powerful Russian Empire. First is Father-King, he could be general secretary, president, etc. The second group is the boyars, nobility or oligarchy. The third group is the people. Maybe it would be fun to know that the first time the people were called Count Uvarov, who was performing the king’s task – to seek the support of the people for the king against possible boyar riots.
So Putin is threatened not by the people who very sincerely like him, but by the circle around him. And if he lost favor with the circle around him, his political mandate may be significantly shortened. There is no state leader, who angered his circle and continued to rule very long. Only one is known – Ivan Grozny, and he did in the most cruel way, which today is unthinkable.
The sanctions that Hillary Clinton made no secret she will swell to the last level, had the task of forcing the oligarchic circle around Putin to conspire behind his back, that he is no longer viable. That is, the sanctions were against the Russian president personally. That is what Trump has repeatedly explained that he has no intention of doing. And the reason is not that he likes Putin. He treats him respectfully, as a strong person – strength respects strength. But Trump has other priorities in his operations. He fights not against Putin, but for the building of America, the America he loves and dreams about, and that he wants to return as it was. I’m not sure he would be able to do it, because I think it will remain in the past.
But Trump’s goal is worthy. A worthy goal of a significant politician. The worth of a politician is known by the goals he puts forward. Trump has been accused of being in cahoots with Putin, but not because they are shaking hands under the table or holding secret talks, but because Trump has never argued for a personal jihad against Putin. The second reason is that Trump, who is driven by the culture of Realpolitik, understands that Russia is not a “kingdom of evil” but a political reality which is best left alone. Such an attitude toward Russia is not an invention of Trump. In general, US Republicans have always believed that Russia can not be a target of their jihad. In Reagan’s time, Russia was the kingdom of evil, but even then they wanted the removal of the Soviet regime rather than the erasure of Russia from the map of the earth. On the contrary, democratic elites have not forgotten the geopolitical scheme after the First World War, under which the Russian Empire must first be killed, and secondly be cut into several new countries. The idea for the disintegration of the Russian Federation, to give birth to new states, is even today discussed in major American political publications and theoretical journals. The idea of cutting Russia into separate smaller countries today stands as the geopolitical puzzle of the democratic elite of the United States.
Trump does not share these ideas. Without having studied political science, he knows that Realpolitik means to fight only when attacked and when you have a real interest in war, but not when you are loaded with an ideological mission to save mankind. Trump refuses to see in today’s Russian leadership, and throughout Russia a direct threat. Yes, today’s Russia is threatening the hegemony of the United States. But the main threat to US hegemony is not Russia, but the processes that took place inside the United States.
Do you expect a normalization of relations with Russia?
I guess Trump would want that. I suppose if it were up to him he would make an effort to create a dialogue.
Putin said he is ready to restore relations with the US.
I suppose Trump and Putin are sincere. Look, Trump entered into a special structure that was built not by his wife and his daughter, but by the US establishment. Part of this powerful machine can be seen, but the majority is not visible. Putin is not the sole ruler of Russia’s historical destiny and not a complete master even in the Kremlin. I refer with confidence to the idea that they will try to come to an agreement and may start these days already. But they face objective problems, like the ones in the Middle East. And for their solution they must come up with something new. Moreover, there are purely technological limitations. The old presidential team is still in power, after that there’s the inauguration, and Trump enters the situational room somewhere in the dungeons of the White House, and then listen to reports the CIA and other intelligence of what is happening in the world. So far America has gone crazy over the events that are happening on American soil – for them the elections are the world. But in the meantime world history keeps going. I expect real changes no earlier than the beginning of February.
In Bulgaria most of the “right-wing” are heavily dejected with the outcome of voting in America.
These distinctions – left and right are too conditional. Back when Kisa Vorobyaninov tells him that the black dye is an “absolute contraband” Ostap Bender replied: “I know even where it is made, on Malaya Arnautskaya in Odessa.” I know who is the man who invented the difference between left and right in Bulgaria. As much as the leftists are left, and rightists are right.
Some Bulgarian politicians do not hide that they are highly concerned about the choice of Trump. How do you explain this?
It’s very simple. The same effect could be observed when Republicans won in the 90’s and suddenly they stopped paying attention to the then UDF (Union of Democratic Forces). If you remember, there was such an organization and it was the “hegemon of history” and time belonged to them. Then it turned out that they fought not for time, but to privatize everything and sell it for nothing. When Republicans won in the US in the 90s, Bulgarian UDF wilted. In six months it became clear that they are not interesting to Republicans because Republicans reasonably suspect that this flirtation under the table between the Democratic Party and Bulgarian Democrats was at the expense of their budget. This Bulgarian right is suspiciously reminiscent of leftist globalist liberals of the Soros type.
What right is there in Soros – a man who writes books about the crash of capitalism and the beginning of global statelessness. If the word “right-wing” has any meaning, it has nothing to do with Soros and his freeloaders in Bulgaria. US Democrats (ie American left) has an old intimate relationships on Bulgarian territory with the whole Bulgarian right-wing spectrum. Those who are “left-wing” in America, in Bulgaria are “right-wing”. So when Mr. Tsvetan Tsvetanov and other prominent public and historical figures of the “right wing of Bulgaria” explain that nothing much has happened with Trumps victory, and that it doesn’t affect us because “America is an old democracy”, they do not know what the hell they’re talking about.
The point is that Republicans remember and know for whom works the Bulgarian right. They know that at most senior posts in Bulgaria are placed persons who passed through the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Republicans know full well that the Bulgarian foreign minister is serving the National Democratic Institute. For the Foreign minister of Bulgaria, his job is just an errand. I can list the other people who have been through the American National Democratic Institute.
All this is known in Republican circles. There is someone to explain this to Trump’s team. He will learn about this very quickly. What’s next for Bulgaria? We can let Mr. Tsvetanov and other such bright Renaissance figures like Daniel Mitov and Kristian Vigenin, believe that fate will not affect them. The truth is, however, that there will be a radical change of personnel in Bulgarian high politics, but it will happen next year, probably in February or March. Today’s Bulgarian goverment, which in front of people is called foundation “America for Bulgaria” will face hard times. Especially when the thing we call Bulgarian President, behind whom are the mysteries of power, is reassigned elsewhere. Personnel changes are forthcoming.
And aside from the cadres, there are very important things in store for Bulgaria that come not from the personality of Trump but from the total change in global politics. The reason is that inside America, Americanism won and the headquarters of NATO are desperate because Trump explained that they eat too much and don’t work at all. In other words, he gave voice to those American expert circles who have long wondered: Do we really need NATO?
Now the only salvation for the Alliance is to have a nice war of the irreversible type. A war is very easy to start, and very hard to stop. In this sense, NATO is trying to save the trencher, epaulettes, officers’ salaries, etc.
For Bulgaria follow three things. First, since globalization faced a horrific attack, if there are male politicians in Bulgaria, they must find a political figure to put forward these three issues. Bulgaria should put a veto on European sanctions against Russia. You need to find responsible Bulgarian politician to pull the country from the military organization of NATO, while maintaining membership in the political committee of the alliance. A French general did this once, who is now remember with love in France. Moreover, Bulgaria should start thinking on expert and political levels about the processes in the Eurasian Union. These are the three global political tasks for the Bulgarian political elite.
Of course, I do not suffer from any illusions, because the current elite are not able to do anything of the sort. But the next elite will begin to address these problems.
It seems the “party of war” was defeated. Do you think that the choice of Trump will affect the second round of presidential elections in Bulgaria?
The vote, in which general Radev prevailed in the first round, is a protest vote. Bulgarians are tired not just from Tsetska Tsacheva, who was chosen deliberately to lose the election. This is Borisov’s technology for a coalition government with BSP. Bulgarians are not thinking about that, they are just angry at Tsacheva, and all that she represents.
Of course, General Radev has human qualities immeasurably higher than Mrs. Tsacheva’s, the poor woman is placed there simply to highlight the merits of General Radev. She preserves the old and ridiculous rhetoric of a party secretary, while the General talks about simple, clear and understandable for every Bulgarian stuff – national dignity and new horizons, self-esteem, etc. When – and if – he spoke for a “national unity”, I will be ready for a forthcoming grand coalition with other parties.
So the protest vote in Bulgaria exists independently of the US elections. But it can be assumed that the second round will be affected by events in the US.
Especially if Mrs. Clinton came to Bulgaria to agitate for her people…