Interview with Zalmay Khalilzad, former US Permanent Representative to the United Nations and currently the President of Gryphon Partners
I immediately exposed Russian Intentions to the World
Question: How would you assess describe old and new actors in our region, their interrelation, political role played by our region and its relevance in today’s ever-changing world?
Khalilzad: For this region new or potentially new actors include big states like China and India. Their interest and power is growing. They both are paying attention on the west of their border. The Chinese have been active, more active earlier, but the Indians are becoming active. An old actor Russia has become more aggressive and you have a change in the relationship potentially from Iran where the internal developments point to potential conflicting views and it remains to be seen, which action Iran will take. Then there are sub-state actors, and all states are concerned about extremist and terrorist networks, which are important actors. I think potentially longer term factor is the regional connectivity, to tide this region together and whether there will be cooperation between the big actors to facilitate the connectivity, or will the big actors become more rivals, competitors, even antagonistic and therefore this network of connectivity, rode, railway, pipeline, fiber, would become additional instruments of competition and conflict. Where would road go, who’s project would succeed, those are interesting new issues, but the biggest question is – what will US and the west do after American election. It’s unconceivable not to take into account a 500 pound gorilla in the room, most powerful actor of the world must be reckoned with.
Question: There are election in US this autumn and everybody follows this process with big interest, what should we expect from new administration?
Khalilzad: I think that no matter which of two candidates will become the president, the US will be more active than the current president is in this region. I think after Bush’s extreme activism I and involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American public is in a mood of retrenchment. We had this pattern of over activism and then retrenchment, kind of zigzag. We have been during Obama years in a face of retreat and retrenchment and I think we will be more active in this region, not hugely different, but more active then we have been in recent years.
Question: How do you see Russia’s role today, when it is expelled from Big Eight and seen in the West as a main instigator of conflict in Ukraine? How are Russia-West relations developing?
Khalilzad: We have seen more aggressive Russia…
Khalilzad: That is what Foreign Minister of Russia told our secretary of state Condi Rise, that “Saakashvili must go” and there should be change in Tbilisi and I immediately used that to expose Russia to the World and I know that the Russians were not happy that I exposed that. The purpose for that exposure was to make impossible for them to achieve that goal by asserting it. I said that that’s what they are saying to us privately, what they are seeking, because they wanted cooperation to bring that about; but at the same time it was highly unusual to do that, because usually such conversations are kept in secret and the circumstances that required that unusual step were that exposing that was the only tool not to let Russia achieve that. As you have noticed, they didn’t deny that fact. What we see now is a paradox, because on the one hand Russia is weakening, because its economy is shrinking, compared to what is happening to the rest of the world, Russia’s position is falling behind, but militarily it’s aggressive, perhaps believing that there is a window of opportunity with America retrenching and at the same time Russia having a strong military power. Eventually, if economy declines, the military power will also decline, so it is using this window and its power to assert the zone of influence, in all Soviet Union.