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Former Putin Adviser Warns Of 'New Munich Agreement'

Andrei Illarionov (file photo)

Andrei Illarionov (file photo)

Andrei Illarionov, who served as an economic adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin until 2005, testified recently before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs as part of a discussion of U.S.-Russian relations. Afterward, he discussed his testimony with RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Lyudmila Telen. This is an edited translation of that interview.

RFE/RL: How did you end up participating in this discussion organized by the U.S. Congress?

Andrei Illarionov: I received the invitation to appear before the Committee on Foreign Affairs just a few days before I appeared. I understood that Congress thought it was important to hear the opinions not only of American expert, but also of a Russian expert in order to get a wider gamut of impressions about the state of U.S.-Russian relations. My statement was rather long and it is posted on the website of the U.S. Congress and at my personal blog.

I would draw attention to the explanation there of my status and how my statement should be interpreted. I am a citizen of the Russian Federation and a former state official of Russia. At present, I am employed by the independent, nonpartisan Cato Institute, which does not receive funding from the U.S. government or any other government. I do not intend to give anyone any advice -- not the Russian government, not the U.S. administration, not the U.S. Congress. My views must be considered exclusively my personal opinions.

I consider it the best interest of the Russian people to be on the path of the creation and development of Russia as a democratic, open, peaceful, and flourishing country, a respected member of the international community and a reliable partner for other democratic countries, including the United States.

RFE/RL: Tell us more about the prognoses you outlined regarding what might happen if the approach outlined recently in Munich by Vice President Joe Biden is completely fulfilled.

Illarionov: In Munich, Biden proposed "hitting the restart button" and beginning relations with a clean slate. I think this amounts to a new Munich Agreement, which has certain [echoes of] the Munich Agreement of 71 years ago, in 1938.

This statement from the U.S. administration is being taken as a capitulation to the Russian "siloviki" because it removes completely all the demands, all the criticisms, all the expressions of concern that were expressed by the American authorities -- however unsuccessfully, however incoherently, however ineffectively, but which were all the same articulated in recent years.

Essentially, this would represent an acknowledgement by the U.S. administration of the Kremlin's right to carry out the policy that was declared by the Russian siloviki last summer, on the existence of Russia's so-called privileged interests in the post-Soviet space.

That would effectively give a green light to carrying out the silovikis' aggressive and expansionist policies -- not only in relation to Russia's citizens and the institutions of Russian civil society, but also in relation to neighboring countries. The [U.S. Congressional] hearing itself was titled "From Competition to Collaboration" -- so we're talking about collaborationism. So I would say that this collaborationist proposal -- even using that word -- says that we are not speaking merely of a retreat or even a policy of reconciliation, but one of complete surrender.

The word "collaboration" has a precise historical connotation with the events in Europe during the mid-20th century. This signifies that the new U.S. administration is seriously considering initiating a process of collaborationism and becoming a collaborator with a regime that publicly states -- not only states, but implements -- the revision of internationally established borders in a unilateral way. Those who would aspire to peace will end up with a war -- maybe even more than one.

RFE/RL: Your presentation was given some coverage in the Russian press, and you have said your message was not interpreted correctly. Do you think this was intentional disinformation?

Illarionov: It is hard for me to say whether this was intentional or not. A correspondent from RIA-Novosti ascribed to me a phrase that I did not say. [That correspondent] reported that I called on the United States not to cooperate with Russia, with the Russian authorities, and urged them not to make compromises. In my written statement I directly contradict these assertions, saying that it is not my goal to give advice or urge anything on anyone, particularly the government of the United States of America.

However, I personally consider it not only possible but necessary to address appeals and advice to Russian citizens regarding what can and should be done in relation to the Russia political regime, including calls not to cooperate with it or to make compromises with it. I consider that both acceptable and necessary. At the same time, I don't think it is my role to urge or advise any government anywhere to do or not do anything.

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