Vladimir Yakunin: “A strong Russia is one of the means of protecting peace, as this is the only force that can stop US aggression again”
Vladimir Yakunin is one of the most influential people in the country. He is the president of Russian Railways and is someone from Putin’s inner circle. He reveals his world outlook in our article.
He is in charge of 1.2 million “infantrymen”, which is even more than the Russian army generals command. The President of Russian Railways (RZD), someone from Vladimir Putin’s inner circle as well as his namesake, Vladimir Yakunin is undoubtedly one of the most influential people in Russia. 85,000 km of Russian railways transport not only over a billion passengers but just as many tons of freight annually. RZD, as its president acknowledges, is also a wonderful geopolitical instrument that can, if necessary, put disobedient neighbors on their knees or open the arteries that will make it possible to connect Russia and Asia.
In March, after Crimea was annexed by Russia, the US included Vladimir Yakunin in its list of Russian officials who are subject to sanctions. But Europeans did not follow America’s example: since Yakunin became the head of the Russian railway empire in 2005, he has received the Legion of Honor in France and other equivalent honorable titles in Europe and Central Asia. For large industrial groups, such as ABB, Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier, the question of participation in the modernization of Russian railways is calculated in billions of dollars.
Yakunin has long known Vladimir Putin. In the 90s, both chose the shore of Lake Komsomolskoye near St. Petersburg to build their dachas. Their friendship was so close that they and six other neighbors decided to form a “fenced-in” community. That’s how the Ozero cooperative society was formed. Today, the majority of its members are in the spheres of political and economic power, moreover, Washington directly refers to this group’s existence when forming the list of people subject to sanctions.
Vladimir Yakunin met with Le Temps at Chernomorye health center in Sochi, in the city where the company received huge contracts during preparations for the Winter Olympics (total value: $ 9.2 billion). Chernomorye was a kind of “health factory” where Soviet railway workers came for rest during holidays. Like the majority of resorts in the region, today it has become a luxury hotel on the Black Sea shore, surrounded by swimming pools and palm trees.
In addition to his industrial activities, Yakunin is actively engaged in the political arena. In particular, he founded the St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation which, incidentally, is located on Rue du Rhône in Geneva and promotes the interests of the Orthodox Church and the Kremlin. Promoting the preservation of Russian traditions, protecting the role of family and Christian values, this foundation has become a central element of the system that strives to protect Russian values from the antagonistic influence of Western ideas of liberalism and democracy.
Le Temps: You established your Fund in Geneva. Does Switzerland hold a special place for you?
Vladimir Yakunin: Historically, Switzerland was considered a very safe and honest country for placing capital. But today, banks are controlled by Europe and the US. We didn’t have many options when trying to choose where to locate our foundation’s accounts. We chose your country out of respect for it. However, at present Switzerland can no longer be considered financially safe.
– Do you regret such changes?
– I regret to see that today we face a dominating power that imposes its sense of human values and its paradigm of economic development on other countries. This force makes the rest of the world follow these very specific views, while I personally, supporting the dialog of civilizations and the independence of each country, cannot accept them. If we talk about the banking sector, today we have an outside force trying to impose its legal system, which I see as loss of sovereignty for other countries.
– Do you often visit Switzerland?
– I have friends in Switzerland with whom we have joint projects, but I have no business in Switzerland.
– You use your two funds to stand up for the dialog of civilizations and at the same time a return to traditional Russian values. How do you reconcile these two approaches?
– We think that today’s world consists of civilizations whose borders and policies are just reflections of each other. In this world we face a lot of abuse, oppression, and inequality. Our idea is that we have to find a new paradigm to achieve peace and stable development. For this we have to preserve the heritage of different cultures and knowledge. What we see today is a model of consumerism, the only accepted one in the Western world. Consumption is not bad in itself, but I am Russian and I value our cultural heritage, and I would like my children to be Russians who respect not only our language but also the history and culture of our country. In Russia we have always put family relations first, which, in effect, conforms to natural priorities. But today, as opposed to the natural course of things, there are attempts to promote the idea that the fight for democracy should only concentrate on the fight for the rights of the so-called minorities, especially sexual ones. Do you know that little children in Denmark are told that they should not say “boy” and “girl” or “mother” and “father”, but should use the words “friends” or “parent No. 1” and “parent No. 2”… Why should I pretend it’s right if I don’t think it’s right?
For me this is a shining example of the realization of a very aggressive policy in regard to an artificial definition of what democracy is.
– Is that aggression?
– These people started hunting us directly, seeing us as enemies. When we discuss the law in Russia [on homosexuals], this is always the choice of the Russian people, who are, in fact, making the decision. Why should others impose their opinion on us?
– Can the current situation in Ukraine be considered a war of values?
– Yes, combined with the war of political interests. Historically, Ukraine has never been independent. It was a part of the Russian Empire, where the Slavs found refuge for many reasons. Trying to find the roots of the Ukrainian people in ancient tribes as many are doing now is intellectual fraud, a disgusting lie. This whole territory has always been problematic, it was claimed by Poland and Hungary. From a religious point of view, Ukraine is first of all Orthodox. We are talking about the law of faith, which existed long before the appearance of international law.
– And the political reasons?
– From this point of view it has nothing to do with the decision of Ukrainians themselves. I have never considered Viktor Yanukovich [former Ukrainian president] as a suitable leader. But he was elected President by Ukrainians themselves, and the fact that some foreign powers overthrew him on the basis of the declaration of will of several hundred or thousand demonstrators does not seem possible to me. Can you imagine that the head of the Russian Parliament would go to Berlin to stir up crowds against the government, or some organizations funded from abroad would work in that same government?
In reality, being unable to best Russia in another way, attempts are made to pit one part of the Russian people against the other, just like Otto von Bismarck recommended once and as was directly mentioned since those times in some American circles. The current administration and the powers behind it are the forces of the world’s financial capital.
The development of countries is not important to them, they care about the percent of financial profit they receive. They implement their consumption paradigm and build certain channels of capital inflow. I must say that these back room forces are very powerful and very decisive. What cultural products, films, books today spread such human values as compassion, protection of children, what good and evil is? Today’s discourse in Ukraine is to kill Russians just because they are Russians. And the whole world keeps silent! If this is not Nazism or fascism, tell me what it is?! We are of the view that we protect sovereignty and the right of civilizations to existence.
– Do you believe your positions concerning your world outlook are close to Vladimir Putin?
– You know, being President is first of all a function, a concept. Can you be close to electromagnetic waves? Based on his comments and considerations, I think the President trusts me. I think both of us are a result of the evolution of Soviet society into Russian society and we share common values. The President and other Russian government institutions give me the privilege to express my point of view about events. It doesn’t mean that I am right, but I always express my opinion openly. It is undoubtedly for this reason that the President and the government favorably regard my activity in the public sphere.
– In your opinion, is the Russian government preparing for a wider confrontation?
– The war in Ukraine is not a small, isolated war. There was Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ecuador, Vietnam before. There is nothing unique about it. World domination, built by one superpower, inevitably leads to a clash of civilizations. If people continue to accept this domination, we will enter a very dark world. Terrorists cannot be considered good terrorists just because they are somehow connected to one superpower.
– Your closeness to President Putin has recently resulted in your inclusion in the blacklist of Russian officials by the United States. Do you feel any effects of this decision?
– I don’t want to say that I’m not concerned. I do serious work in the railway sector, and the words they say about me in newspapers or the actions taken against me on a political level surely relate to me because this affects both my professional image and the image of Russia. This is also the reason for a spate of malicious publications against me. But I don’t think it will work: no one has turned their back on me yet because something bad was written in newspapers.
– Do these sanctions have any influence on the Russian economy?
– If the Europeans cannot resist American pressure and do not stop introducing new sanctions, it will surely affect the economy. But it may have an ambiguous effect. The negative side is that Russia will need some time to adapt its economy due to the sanctions. But the positive thing is that we have to change our model anyway: we need to do away with the illusion that the West would accept Russia as an equal, respecting its historical heritage, including 26 million who died in World War II protecting the Orthodox and Christian civilization as a whole.
– How do we change this model?
– We have to create not only a stronger economy but also a stronger society and state united by Christian values. We have to find new partners in the world among those who do not want to be destroyed by the financial oligarchy supported by the United States. This is the only way to avoid war. In the end, during the Cold War it was the possession of a powerful nuclear arsenal that prevented attacks on the USSR and its allies. A strong Russia is one of the means of protecting peace, as this is the only force that can stop US aggression again. China is still weak from a military point of view, but I hope that a tighter alliance with it and with former Soviet republics, Brazil and Asian countries will help to create a better world. Regardless of the propaganda, we are already seeing resistance to the policy of American domination, be it in some Arab countries, Asia and Europe. If Americans want to survive, they have to change their policy.
The best option would be cooperation of the European Union and Russia, which would make it possible to oppose American competition, but unfortunately today’s Europe lacks real leaders who would be ready to defend their civilization instead of following the orders of a foreign capitalist oligarchy.
– Being at the head of the influential Russian Railways, do you consider yourself to be a general taking part in this battle?
– We are a civilian organization, but the interests of railways will always be secondary to the interests of the state. That’s why we are an influential instrument in politics and we fully understand our role. We have an international platform that tries to unite representatives of governments, financial and industrial sectors. It attracts a lot of companies from many countries, including the United States. All this makes it possible to considerably minimize the impact of economic sanctions…
Swiss French-language newspaper Le Temps
interview with Vladimir Yakunin
translated from French