Last week I had lunch with Mark Katz in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, in Paris. Mark Katz is an American professor of government and politics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, United States. He researches and teaches classes about Russian politics and foreign policy, revolution, and the “War on Terror”.
We had a club sandwich, a jasmine tea and spoke about Russia, media and diplomacy.
Inside Putin’s head
The problem is that the more Vladimir Putin gets, the more he wants because from his point of view, international law bides Russia. So he can always go further. What he really wants is to destroy an NATO and the EU. He wants to illegitimate NATO’s institutions.”
“Vladimir Putin can always go further”
A different perception of History
“Russian people are really supportive to Vladimir Putin because all Russian leaders before him were losers! They didn’t forget about what happened in Kosovo and today they consider they can do the same in Crimea. But Russian people have a completely different vision of the situation.
On 17 February 2008 Kosovo’s Parliament declared its independence but Serbia refused to recognize Kosovo as a state. At that time, Kosovo was considered as a southern province of Serbia. Today, Russian people make a parallel between what happened in Kosovo and the current situation in Crimea. They consider the referendum as legal and representative of self-determination.”
“Russian people make a parallel between what happened in Kosovo and the situation in Crimea and consider it as self-determination”
Public opinion in Russia
“Russian people see their country as a country that has always been able to bounce back from its suffering. For them, it is a matter of will; if they have the right leader, they can raise. Today they consider Putin as a strong leader. But in my opinion I think we have aliened Putin and the support of his people in Russia can change really quickly. Putin has been a president for years without developing a new leadership.”
The impact of Ukraine crisis on Russia
“The Russian economy has been impacted by the economic sanctions but the crisis also had an impact on oil prices and this is impacting Russia. The country is in trouble. You also must take into account that their population is aging…”
“What is surprising to me is that Russia risks rising a number of crisis that will impact on each other and that will swash it.”
Journalists in Russia
“We must keep in mind that Russian people live in a completely different reality and they truly think that Russia is powerful. For Russian journalists, there are two options if the government doesn’t like what you write. First option? They can kill you. Second option? They can also pay you five times the amount of your salary but you won’t even have to write anything…! Some other people will write for you.
“More and more journalists are corrupted in Russia because they have a family to feed and they realize they can’t make a difference anyway.”
I remember in Moscow I met this young journalist from Donetsk who studied at NY University in Abu Dhabi. He was working for a Russian newspaper where they fired 5 journalists and replaced them by nationalists. So this guy went to Donbas to write about how wonderful it is. And he really believed in it!”
“If you are a journalist in Russia and if the government doesn’t like what you write, you have to options: to die or be corrupted”
On this video Mark Katz is interviewed by the Georgian journalist Sophie Shevardnadze on Russia Today, the Russian state-funded television network. The questions of the journalists are clearly biased:
Mark Katz looks quite surprised when the journalist asks him: “Do you really think Russia’s actions in Crimea have been successful?”
Here is his answer: “Well, I think what happened in Crimea happened so quickly and so bloodlessly. You know, usually this kind of transfer of territory when one side does not agree to it, does not happen this way. So I think in that sense it has been successful and I think that, yes, there have been sanctions but they have been minimal and I think the West has done essentially the minimum to satisfy domestic politics and it’s very clear that Europeans have no real appetite for serious sanctions and I don’t think that the US does either, so I think that he has been successful. Another question is whether I think it is good or bad; but he has been successful.”
© screenshots from Russia Today website