Seeing Through the Eyes of “Our Enemies” and Paving a Path Toward Peace.

Conversations with Ivan Katchanovski, Dimitri Lascaris and Radhika Desai. (Transcript included)

By Michael WelchDimitri LascarasRadhika Desai, and Ivan Katchanovski

Global Research,

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“Having talked to people, having talked and participated in primarily economically-focused conferences, I would say that the Russian economy has been extraordinarily resilient. I mean, if you consider what Joe Biden wanted to do: reduce the Ruble to rubble and, you know, sanction the Russian economy back into the 19th Century. Well, none of this has happened.”

– Radhika Desai (From this week’s interview)

“It is highly irresponsible for the leader of Ukraine to be, you know, inculcating in the population this delusional belief that this is a part of the, you know, the contested regions of the country that can be retaken by force. Because that – if they believe him, if they take him seriously, they’re going to continue to support a war which will ultimately end in Ukraine’s destruction. And that’s exactly where this is heading.”

 – Dimitri Lascaris (From this week’s interview)

Click to download the audio (MP3 format)

Since Global Research’s inception more than twenty-one and a half years ago, the website has been dedicating its efforts to delivering crucial information buried in the mainstream media narratives, documenting NATO imperialist ambitions, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the growing risk of a nuclear war. We uphold truth, peace and justice! [1]

In the case of the current Russo-Ukraine war, especially following the recent talks at the G7 meeting, NATO members are now announcing even more weapons going into Ukraine, and the U.S. granting its Western allies an allowance to supply advanced fighter jets, including America’s F-16s. And they refused even to commit to concrete resolutions to eliminate nuclear weapons or even the right to use them. The summit was ironically conducted in Hiroshima! [2]

But on a grander scale, it seems that Canada, given a history of emphasizing diplomatic tendrils toward other nations, either allies or enemies, is now increasingly abandoning the principle, quoted inappropriately to Winston Churchill as “jaw, jaw is better than war, war.” Canada was the lone G7 country to not engage in any dialogue with Russia over the build-up to the February 24th invasion. Even the top diplomat, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, had not accepted the open invitation to visit Russia. [3]

There are however many Canadians who are advocating intensively for peace talks and a ceasefire negotiations. The peace crusader Tamara Lorincz made a trip to Moscow in defiance of Canadian government sanctions and travel advisories in the name of meeting with the people there. The need to broker a dialogue now by grass roots citizens is necessary if government officials won’t do it.

On this week’s Global Research News Hour, like the rest of Global Research, we are endeavoring to see the conflict through the eyes of Russians and others not drowning in a sea of media propaganda about finding a way to peace, rather than “fight Russia to the last Ukrainian.”

Appearing on the show is Canadian political scientist Ivan Katchanovski who studied much of the data around the Maidan Massacre in February of 2014, and reveals the role of fascist elements of the Maidan and their higher level contacts abroad in a coup d’etat! He then talks about the implications at the heart of the war and the prospects that the conflict can possibly reach a peaceful conclusion. This is followed by two other “Canadian ambassadors to Russia” – Dimitri Lascaris and Professor Radhika Desai – about their own journeys recently to “Putin-land,” and what they learned most prominently about what the people on the ground, in official fora and in the streets had to tell them.

Ivan Katchanovski is a Canadian Political Scientist originally born in Lutsk Ukraine. He teaches at the school of political studies at the University of Ottawa and specializes in research in democratization, comparative politics, political communication, and conflicts, in particular, in Ukraine, and especially the origins of Russo-Ukrainian War.

Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer, a journalist and an activist. From 2004 to 2016 he was a member of Canada’s leading class action law firm Siskinds LLP. He now works pro-bono legal cases. In 2020, he ran for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada and placed second with  45.5% of the membership.

Radhika Desai is  Professor in the Department of Political Studies and Director of the Geopolitical Economy Research Group (GERG) at the University of Manitoba in Canada; she edits, a project associated with GERG, and is the Convener of the International Manifesto Group.

(Global Research News Hour Episode 393)

Click to download the audio (MP3 format)

Transcript of Dimitri Lascaris and Radhika Desai, May 23, 2023

Part One

Global Research: Thanks to both of you for joining us. Maybe you can each give us a sketch of the economic situation in Russia. I mean, Radhika, you’ve been to Russia before. Now that sanctions have been levelled against the giant power – the West’s attempt to punish them for their behaviour – what have you noticed about the situation in the centres you visited? I mean, how impoverished are the people? Are their businesses shutting down? Or is there any other major changes from the last time you were there?

Radhika Desai: Sure. I mean, so obviously, there are some big brand name shops which were indeed boarded up, but they were actually few and far between. What I was surprised by is the number of Western firms that are still operating there. Like we saw shops, you know, of Subway and United Colours of Benetton, and then we also saw Citibank branch. So, it’s amazing how many Western businesses are still operating there. So, that’s just on the completely, you know, subjective observational point of view.

But more generally, you know, having talked to people, having talked and participated in primarily economically-focused conferences, I would say that the Russian economy has been extraordinarily resilient. I mean, if you consider what Joe Biden wanted to do: reduce the Ruble to rubble and, you know, sanction the Russian economy back into the 19th Century. Well, none of this has happened. Yes, the Russian economy took a bit of a – back in 2021 – you know, I think it went down a couple of percentage points. But nevertheless, it has proved extremely resilient.

It’s defence production, of course, has been far better than Western countries and it has been brought under planning. And if you ask me, one of the criticisms I heard of the government there, was that it could do a lot more to mobilize the economy on a war footing. And had Putin done that, it wouldn’t even have had a two percent drop, it would have actually boomed. And so, this is the sort of broad picture I’m looking at.

GR: Okay. Dimitri, could you add anything to Radhika’s analysis? I mean, did you see anything that surprised you or impressed you in any way about the state of the economy post-sanctions?

Dimitri Lascaris: Well, I saw no evidence of economy crisis or stress. You know, the shops were full, the shelves were full, the grocery stores were full. The prices, by Canadian standards, I thought were quite reasonable. Also, by European standards, even more reasonable. I completely concur with what Radhika said about the continued presence of, you know, major Western corporations.

I think that my overall impression of the economic situation in Russia is that the country has done remarkably well in adapting to the, you know, a set of sanctions which were quite plainly designed to destroy the economy. And in fact – and I think James Galbraith, an eminent US economist, progressive economist commented recently – what these sanctions have done is actually forced, obliged the Russian government to adopt structural reforms which in the long run are going to make Russia’s economy stronger, more self-sufficient. And if anything – and this is something that The Guardian of all newspapers, it’s intensely pro-Ukraine – acknowledged through its principle economics columnist – his name escapes me for the moment – in an article this week, you know, the sanctions are a failure. And the fact that they’re tightening the sanctions is in fact a sign of how much they have failed.

GR: Now I know that there’s an economic forum, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, it launches next month actually. But it will host not only the BRICS states, but 81 other nations. Yeah, so much for a nation abandoned by the international community, but… The de- dollarization seems to be under discussion which would be devastating under the current circumstances for America, I believe. You know, given with the bank failings or the major banks that are going under. You know, is the – is that economic forum on Russian mines the way, say, the G7 meetings of last week are the talk of the town out here. And is, in particular, is de-dollarization in particular more of a talking point than it is here? Radhika Desai, I know this is right up your alley, you talk about it on your regular show regularly. What do you think?

Canada’s Fight for Ukraine: Investing in Peace and Avoiding Illegal Recruitment to War

RD: Well, first of all let me say that the person that Dimitri was thinking of is Larry Elliot. And indeed, for Larry Elliot to come out and say that sanctions are not working is a pretty big deal, particularly considering that as Jimmy Galbraith also said, there is a certain kind of, you know, mutually reinforcing consensus that everybody just sings the same tune in the West, and so, everybody believes the lies that are being put forward.

So, that’s one thing. And secondly, I just wanted to say, these are the sanctions that – you know, there is a very interesting column if you look for Nicolai Petro and sanctions against Russia I’m sure you’d find it. He basically says that the sanctions have not worked, they are not working, but more and more of them keep being slammed on. Why? And he says, they – it’s just like a shaman, you know? That they think that they are going to have an effect. But the effect of these is – there is no effect. But they have no other tricks up their sleeve, so they keep imposing more sanctions. So, you have to understand what a psychological bin d we are – the West is in, you know? They are not working.

Anyway, on SPEC , yes, I would say that it’s a pretty big event and for the Russians, I would say that I’m sure they will be keeping a keen eye on which countries are coming. There is definitely a sense in which the Russians feel that the Western nations have abandoned them. So, they are working double-hard to try to get more allies and more support in the rest of the world. Indeed, one of the other things that happened in one of the conferences I was attending is that the Russians have coined a new term. It’s called the “world majority.” Because the Russians are trying to define what is the grouping they are joining. They are very aware that Russia is not a third world country. Russia is, you know, has a much better, higher standard of living than the overwhelming majority of peoples – of countries that are called “third world.” They have a huge technological sophistication, a very, very highly trained workforce, et cetera. So, they have decided to dub this grouping that they are now joining the “world majority,” which I think is a rather good way of putting it.

And so, I think they will definitely be looking to see who attends, and so on. And I think that, you know, there will be, you know – I think more and more the West is beginning to have to admit, as Larry Elliot’s column shows that, sanctions are not working. And I think the West will have to open up a lot more. There will probably be more Western presence there than we imagine.

On de-dollarization, Russian interest in de-dollarization is not new. I have been there many times, and every – almost every time I ask to speak on a subject that somehow relates to de-dollarization or write on the subject of de-dollarization itself. It’s very important for Russians and I think for the whole world. Because the dollar system – I mean, I have argued in my book Geopolitical Economy that the dollar system never worked. But somehow, this ramshackle machine kept going for a while, but it is actually about to come apart. It’s about to come apart for two reasons: number one, its internal contradictions are mounting.

One of my points I’ve made in various places about the debt ceiling negotiations is it doesn’t matter if they come up with an agreement on the debt ceiling. The fact of the matter is that the market for US Treasuries, which is the foundation of the dollar system, is already deeply troubled. And as the United States – the political dysfunction, economic decline continue, it can only get worse. And I should also add to that, financial mismanagement continues. And financial mismanagement continues because everything has been staked on a low interest rate regime, and now, the financial sector is facing increasing interest rates and that is already leading to bank collapses, bottom following out of various asset markets, and so on. And this is already going to mean that the rest of the world is not going to put its dollars in the dollar system anymore, in the US dollar denominated financial system. And the less that – and this has been going on, by the way, since 2008. The more this accelerates, the closer we come to the end of the dollar system.

One final point – sorry to go on for so long, but one quick final point: the dollar system will not be replaced by another currency taking its place, it is not possible. The dollar system itself was without foundation because it was already not possible when the dollar system was attempted to – it was imposed on the world. And somehow, through various contrivances, it has continued so far. But it is not going to be replaced by any other currency, but by a series of arrangements, inevitably regional, because the US will not take part in them. They will inevitably be regional, but they will be a serious of different arrangements which eventually will, I think, acquire political gains.

GR: Well, for sure. Certainly it was the fact that the dollar was such a powerful force for the United States for so long and it looks like that era is coming to a close. Dimitri, I believe you and Radhika and Al had actually met there for a time. It was concerning the dollarization. I don’t know if you have anything to add, but I wanted to also get you on the question of Crimea. I mean, Zelensky himself had said that his forces would liberate Crimea from Russia and return the people back to Ukraine, but… Talking to the Crimean people there, did you get a sense from anyone that you visited as to the attractiveness of that suggestion?

DL: Not a single person. You know, I don’t want to qualify my answer, but I say that of course, I didn’t conduct any kind of a scientific poll while I was there. I spoke to a few dozen people. Some of them just, you know, ordinary citizens going about their daily jobs —

GR: Were you just in certain areas or did you go pretty much all across the region?

DL: I was all over Crimea. I went to Yalta, I was in Simferopol which is the capital of Crimea. I was in Sevastopol which is, of course, the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, the Russian Black Sea Fleet. I went up to the north, the border of Crimea and Kherson region and spoke there with people who were volunteers in a refugee transitional centre, you know, from all over Russia: from Siberia, from St. Petersburg, from Moscow. And I did not encounter a single person who expressed a desire to see Crimea returned to the rule of Kyiv. And in fact, everybody was intensely hostile to that idea.

But at the same time, and this is something that I thought was most impressive, was that I didn’t encounter a single person who expressed hostility towards the people of Ukraine. Their revulsion was directed entirely to the government of Ukraine, and one word that I heard over and over again to describe Zelensky was “comedian.” Nobody takes him seriously, people think that he’s a buffoon. And this notion that the Ukrainian military is going to retake Crimea by force is not one that I think – certainly not one that anybody I met – took seriously.

And I’ll tell you, you know, Michael, based on what I saw, I’m not a military expert. I think the idea that Ukraine is going to take – the military of Ukraine is going to retake Crimea by force is delusional. You know, they’re – the peninsula of Ukraine is attached to the mainland, you might call it, of Ukraine, the peninsula of Crimea is attached to the mainland of Ukraine by two narrow channels of land, each of which is heavily fortified. There are multiple lines of trench works and tank obstacles. They’re flat, they’re wide open, there’s no tree cover. There are no mountainous areas. Each of them is flanked by large bodies of water. And if, you know, the Ukrainian military tried to insert large numbers of forces into those, one or both, of those two narrow bits of land, I imagine that they would be massacred. They would get bogged down and they would be met with ferocious artillery assaults and it would be a pure bloodbath and it would be completely irresponsible for any military political leader of Ukraine to attempt that.

The only other way to retake Crimea would be by an amphibious landing. The problem with that, of course, is that Ukraine has no navy to speak of, whereas Russia has a very powerful naval force, the Black Sea Fleet, circling the waters around Crimea. So, I think that that also would be equally suicidal.

So, you know, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can listen even to, you know, prognostications of people like Antony Blinken and Mark Milley and other pro-Ukraine Western military experts who have, in the last several months, expressed, you know, considerable skepticism about Ukraine being able to take Crimea by force. And I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again: it is highly irresponsible for the leader of Ukraine to be, you know, inculcating in the population this delusional belief that this is a part of the, you know, the contested regions of the country that can be retaken by force. Because that – if they believe him, if they take him seriously, they’re going to continue to support a war which will ultimately end in Ukraine’s destruction. And that’s exactly where this is heading.

GR: Hm.

DL: It cannot be said enough: this war is going to end in the destruction of Ukraine. And the harder Ukraine tries, that its military and its government tries to retake territories that are practically beyond their ability to re-conquer, the more Ukrainian people are going to suffer.


Part Two

GR: Could you talk a little bit about the media? Because I know polls suggest that Putin is way more popular today among Russians than either the Canadian prime minister among Canadians or the American preside nt among Americans. One of the reasons cited by sources is that – the Western sources is that the Putin – Putin’s misinformation is going out on its networks, so the Russian people are not as informed about the war in Ukraine as we in the West, I guess. Based on media you were exposed to while in the country, did you get that sense of patterns of misinformation on the airwaves or any false information appearing or shady facts or anything like that? Radhika Desai?

RD: Well, no. I would say that in Russia, there is a – there is no doubt that there is a section of the population that is not comfortable with the war. There may be certain, shall we say, members of the globalized classes that are, you know, chiefly concerned about their image in the rest of the world and their inability to travel and things like that. But on the whole, I would say that the overwhelming majority of Russians are not against the war. If there is any feeling that there is something wrong, it is that they think ‘Why is this taking as long as it is? Why don’t we simply win it sooner?’

And I completely agree with Dimitri. I – and I think this is a fact worth emphasizing: there is no nationalist, chauvinistic feeling in Russia. What they realize is that had this not – had this war not taken place Russia’s security would have been in danger. And so, they are – they support what has happened, not happily, but reluctantly as something that had to be done.

And I would say that also, I have noticed this for a long time, I hardly know any Russians who don’t have some personal connections, often kinship connections, with Ukraine. And there is a great feeling of sadness that what was once a very close relationship, there is a historical, long-standing relationship between Russia and Ukraine going back hundreds of years, a thousand years probably, and that this is being broken in such a way is a source of great sadness.

And I should also add one final thing: in the West, Putin’s speech in which he referred to this historic closeness of the two nations was interpreted as questioning Ukraine’s right to exist. But this is complete nonsense. If you look at what Russia – how hard Russia tried to keep the border, the post-2014 borders of Ukraine intact – and I can go back into that, if you want. But if you think about how hard they were going to Minsk One Agreement, Minsk Two Agreement, simply to keep that country together, provided that there was some autonomy given to the Russian-speaking minority, you would understand what the Russian position is. It is not to question Ukraine’s right to exist.

If any country has questioned Ukraine’s right to exist, or any part of the world, it is the West. Because again, I’d like to reinforce something Dimitri said: everybody who is talking about supporting Ukraine and giving it all the arms and supporting it as long as it takes, is not supporting Ukraine. It is supporting the destruction of Ukraine.

GR: Hm. Okay, well, I don’t know. Dimitri, I mean, did you see any instances of, say, counter-viewpoints to the government line available in the mainstream – in the press?

DL: I certainly didn’t hear any vigorous criticisms of the Russian government from the left. I heard a fair bit of criticism from – about the Russian government. Not particularly intense criticism, but some modest criticism about the Russian government from what might – one might consider ‘the Right.’ And what I mean by that is that, I heard from a number of people that they felt that the Russian government was being too restrained in how it was dealing with, you know, what they regarded as a far-right Russophobic, militaristic and very threatening regime in Kyiv.

And I should add that, you know, everybody I spoke to did not view this as being a war between Russia and Ukraine. They viewed this as being a war between Russia and NATO, or sometimes they referred to it as the “collective West,” and the Ukrainian government was a corrupt proxy of NATO and the collective West. Some people, a number of people, expressed to me the view that the Russian government should have been more forceful. They also expressed the view that the Russian government should have intervened much earlier before NATO built up the Ukrainian military to the point that it became a difficult adversary, and it has evolved into that.

And by the way, one should – you know, we need to be cognizant of the fact that NATO has pumped into Ukraine – putting aside all the weapons they’ve sent there before the invasion began in February of last year – since then, in the last 15 months or so, the dollar value of the weaponry they’ve put into Ukraine is approximately equivalent to the annual military budget of Russia.

So, it’s not surprising that the Russian people, many of them, feel that they are actually at war with NATO and not Ukraine. And they feel that the government needs to be more forceful about this, some of them do. And that it should have intervened more quickly.

Now, having said all of that, you know, it is a difficult environment and I don’t think this is particularly surprising for a country that is at war with the world’s largest and most aggressive military alliance. And that is, you know, genuinely existentially threatened as Russia is, that it’s difficult to criticize in that environment Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. I think that that is something that one ought to take into account.

But at the same time, you know, polls have shown consistently – and I’ll refer people to the Levada Polling Agency which is widely regarded as a reputable polling agency and one that’s very critical of the Russian government – has shown consistently that the level of support long before the military intervention in Ukraine last year, the support for Vladimir Putin was, you know, never lower, I think in his entire tenure as the president of Russia, than 60 percent. And it’s currently hovering around 80 percent, which obviously is much higher than the, you know, the kinds of approval ratings we see amongst Western leaders. And if you compare the circumstances, the conditions in which Russians lived in the ‘90’s under the drunken buffoon and Clinton-vassal Boris Yeltsin to the living conditions in Russia today, it shouldn’t surprise anybody, frankly, why so many Russians feel a level of appreciation for the president. And not just the president, but the people who surround him, who formed an important part of that government over the past 20 years.

Living conditions in Russia is something that’s not talked about in the West at all – not at all – have improved dramatically during the time that Vladimir Putin has been the president of the country. That’s just a fact. You can consult the World Bank statistics yourself and that will bear it out very clearly. So, we in the West need to start having an honest conversation about why the Russian people support this government and whether it actually is democratic for us to be trying to overthrow it.

GR: Okay. I just have one last question, because I know you’ve got to go in a minute. But I just wanted to know: were you asked a lot of questions about what Canadians are thinking and how did you respond to that? Go Radhika first, and then…

RD: Well, I think that, you know, I feel that obviously, if you look at our mainstream media, whether it is the Globe and Mail or the CBC, there is an unrelenting barrage of anti-Russian propaganda which, at the same time, is exceedingly flimsy. Because there is often never any fact, it’s always ‘Kyiv says this,’ and you know, it is believed that, and sources say this, and so on. So, I would say that, on the one hand, there is this barrage and undoubtedly for a lot of people who may not be thinking, they just end up believing this.

But I have also no doubt that there is a very large section of the Canadian population that does not take the government and dominant media version of things for granted. And indeed, that is why we have seen that there is a lot of interest in alternative news media websites, such as for example, Michael your own, and many others. Because, you know, the fact of the matter is that we’ve been interested in alternative media going back to the 1990’s because already then it was clear, there’s more and more people around the world that are – certainly the Western world – that the dominant media is not giving us the truth. And with this war in Ukraine, the level of smoke and mirrors, the disinformation, the systematic fake news produced by the dominant media has taken on a new level of reality and I think that people realize that.

GR: Okay. And Dimitri, quickly.

DL: On the one hand, I was treated very respectfully when I told people that I’m a Canadian. No one expressed hostility to me because of the fact that I’m Canadian. But I frankly didn’t have the impression that people in Russia are particularly concerned about what Canadians think. And they were very candid about this because they think, and with considerable justification, that the Canadian government, at the end of the day, is just going to do what Washington does. And so, they think the real decision makers in the collective West are in Washington. And it’s not just about Canada, it’s also about, you know, European states, that they are going to follow the lead of the Biden administration. And that’s the real interlocutor and the real opponent of Russia today, the Biden administration.

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  3. Allan Woods (February 25, 2022), ‘Canada supports Ukraine, but why aren’t we talking to Russia?’, The Toronto Star;

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