Anthony Charles Kevin is former Australian public servant and diplomat (1968-1998), and since 1998 – an independent non-fiction author with five books and numerous articles published on diverse political issues. He is a controversial figure in Australia because he is very critical to the policy of the Western countries and very friendly to Russia.Recently he has come to Russia to see the country and to tell Russian audience about his new book «Return to Moscow». In the Moscow Museum of Contemporary Russian History he gave a lecture in which he spoke about current prospects for East and West detente. The lecture was part of the RIAC and Museum’s joint course «Outlining the New World Order», planned for 2017/18.
Tony Kevin has a huge experience in diplomatic work. In 1968, he joined the Department of Foreign Affairs, Canberra. Later he was posted to Australian Embassy, Moscow as Third, later Second, Secretary, reporting on domestic Soviet affairs, from October 1969 to October 1971. From 1973 to 1975, he was posted as First Secretary, Australian Mission to the United Nations, New York, representing Australia on the First Committee (responsible for arms control and international security issues). In 1976 he transferred on promotion from the Department of Foreign Affairs to the International Division of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, where he worked until 1986 as a Section Head and later Branch Head, under Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke. Kevin advised on diverse foreign policy issues of interest to the prime minister. He returned to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1986, to head the Policy Planning Branch, reporting direct to the Departmental Executive at a time of great changes in the world order. From 1991 till 1994, he was Australian Ambassador to Poland, adding non-resident accreditations to Czech Republic and Slovakia from 1992 to 1994. From June 1994 till September 1997, he was Australian Ambassador to Cambodia.
It should be obvious that after 30 years of such experience a former diplomat has to be loyal to the authorities in the questions of foreign affairs. However, Tony Kevin is not an ordinary person. He is a man, who wants to have his own opinion based on real facts and who is not captured by any propaganda.
During the event, Tony Kevin gave an interview to the "International affairs" journal, in which he spoke about whether the division of the world into West and East remains relevant in the context of globalization, why he disagrees with the policy of the Anglo-Saxon world and why the world should be multipolar.
International Affairs: Dear Tony Kevin, at the height of the Cold War (from 1969 to 1971) you were a diplomatic servant in Moscow. Having witnessed the events of those years, can you say that it is correct to speak about the renewal of the Cold War between Moscow and Washington today?
Tony Kevin: This thesis is correct only to a certain point. For sure, the West pressure upon Russia, as well as the info-war that has been launched are all the Cold War elements. Besides, there is also military pressure upon Russia, much stronger than in the second half of the 20th century. Today in connection with its expansion eastward NATO has approached almost closely the Russian borders and is only several miles away from St. Petersburg and Pskov. The well known events in the Ukraine only aggravate the situation. In a certain sense the position of Russia is even worse today than at the time of the Cold War. But there are also positive moments. Today Russia is not conducting any ideological campaign and is not trying to change the world. The only thing it wants is having safe and stable international relations. At the same time Moscow understands perfectly well that in order to live in the safe world, it is necessary to be a strong country in military, cultural and economic spheres. As soon as military strategic capability of Russia weakens and it loses its self-belief, the West, without a moment's hesitation, will crush it like a tank. Drawing an analogy to gambling, Kremlin does not have a lot of trumps today, however it plays a cleverer game in comparison with its opponents. Russian leaders demonstrate high professionalism in their work. Putin, Lavrov and Shoygu know how to steer "the ship during a storm" safely. In general, in my opinion, the Russian and Chinese governments pursue the most careful and balanced policy in the world today, and the western political elite has become rather weak.
International Affairs: Why has the western elite lost its strong strategic thinking?
Tony Kevin: There are several reasons here. First of all, the West, regarding itself as the winner in the Cold War, has relaxed a little. Specifically, the American political elite are sure that the USA is a certain exclusive force in the world that defines everything. However fundamental changes have been going on in the system of international relations for a long time. Secondly, the quality of political specialists in western countries began to decrease. It is true not only about the USA where at the recent presidential elections the Americans did not have much choice between Hillary Clinton, advancing the interests of big corporations, and unpredictable Donald Trump. The same way in Australia, during the last 20 years there has been no strong political management. I think that the whole world suffers from such state of affairs.
International Affairs: Churchill’s speech in Fulton in 1946 can be considered as a certain signal to start the Cold War. The British politician urged the West to side against the USSR that threatened its hegemony. Today China acts as the main contender for being a new superstate, and it is increasing its military, economic and cultural potential. However we don't hear similar loud speeches concerning PRC, its frank "demonizing", sanctions, etc. There is an impression that for the West Russia remains the main competitor in the world domination fight, but Russia doesn't claim to be the global leader at all. What comments will you make about it?
Tony Kevin: I think it is the result of russophobia which appeared long before the well known Churchill’s Fulton speech. Fear of Russia and of Russians has been alive in the minds of western countries establishment for nearly two centuries. Napoleon was defeated by Russia, not by Europe, and Europeans, especially the British (Russophobically affected most of all), remember it very well. They see force and therefore danger in Russia. It is necessary to say that the huge territory and rich natural resources are not the only components of the Russian state force. Russian technologies, science, culture are highly esteemed in the world. You mentioned China as one of the competitors of the West and the contender for being a new superstate. Yes, from the economic point of view Beijing is strong. It is certainly increasing its military resources. However, to obtain such nuclear potential that could be comparable with the Russian one, China will need decades. It is necessary to remember that today the world is saved from the total war only by the nuclear control system. I hope that the balance of nuclear capacity of Moscow and Washington will remain.
International Affairs: Do you consider China to be a dangerous competitor of Russia?
Tony Kevin: For Russia it is very important to find the correct balance with China today. In my opinion, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are running the correct policy in this regard. First, they don't try to compete with each other in the military sphere. Secondly, Russia allows China to become the leader in the development of infrastructure projects in Eurasia ("One Belt, One Way" project). Thirdly, Beijing doesn't prevent Moscow to support strategic leadership in all Post-Soviet republics of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, etc.). Russia still remains the most important strategic partner for these countries. In this regard there are all necessary conditions for further development of the bilateral relations between Moscow and Beijing.
International Affairs: The lecture with which you have come to Moscow is called "Prospects for improving relations between the East and the West". What are the criteria according to which it is possible to refer this or that state to the West or to the East? Is such classification relevant under the globalization conditions?
Tony Kevin: Good question. I think that such classification remains relevant for the West. In spite of the fact that the Warsaw Treaty Organization does not exist anymore, NATO has not disappeared. Today in the Alliance, including 29 states, the same thesis is repeated every day, "Russia is a threat, Russia can attack NATO". I identify the West countries as the states that are afraid of Russia and demonstrate aggression against it. It seems Turkey is going to leave the Western world. I think soon Greece will also separate from the West in connection with its financial hardship in the EU and will be very glad to develop relations with Russia. Some countries in Central Europe (for example, Slovakia) sympathize with Russia. Japan might leave the western camp soon. Today Japanese would like to move towards more independence from Americans in security issues as are afraid of unpredictable policy of Trump on the Korean peninsula. If the war starts, first of all South Korea and Japan will suffer from it. Unfortunately, my country (Australia) is a loyal ally and "little friend" of the USA. The Australian government does not debate on the question of force balance in the world, does not seek to develop relations with all countries to the full extent and to use its middle power potential, and it frightens me.
International Affairs: The Anglo-Saxon world forms the core of the western camp. And as we know, it includes the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. According to many experts, the states forming it pursue the policy that is coordinated with the USA interests. Are there any contradictions and disputes in "the English club"? Can certain members (London, Canberra or Ottawa) influence the policy of Washington?
Tony Kevin: I think that Canada would like to be more independent from the USA, and the acting Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is moving his country in this direction. New Zealand is rather independent. It said no to American nuclear navy presence in its harbors. At the same time New Zealanders cooperate with the USA in the field of intelligence. Here it is also worth mentioning the Five Eyes organization created for cooperation in the sphere of ensuring technical interoperability of the Navies of the Anglo-Saxon countries. It is necessary to say that the American government does not pay enough attention to the relations with Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Obviously, Trump is not interested to know what they think about in Canberra, Ottawa or Wellington. However he pays much more attention to London. Britain is rather an extraordinary state having nuclear weapons and constant membership in UNSC. In my opinion, Washington and London are the main generators of russophobia. You won't see it so much in Paris, Bonn or Rome. Yes, russophobia is present in Scandinavian countries, but the main impulse nevertheless goes from the USA and the United Kingdom.
International Affairs: What place should Russia take in the system of the international relations? Should the world be multipolar?
Tony Kevin: I believe in the multipolar world. It is the safest paradigm for the system of international relations. I think that we should return to the Vienna congress of 1814 when after the Napoleonic wars all the interested parties sat down at the negotiating table and agreed what rules need to be followed to avoid wars with each other. The impressive result was achieved after that– Europe stayed without serious wars for almost a century. Of course, there were wars on other territories (the Crimean war, some colonial wars), but in Europe there were no wars from 1814 to 1914. In this respect, I am impressed by Sergey Lavrov’s philosophy who said that the participants of international relations must return to respect of sovereignty of each other and agree about the rules of conduct on the international arena. By the way, these rules are stated in the Charter of the UN. The problem is that my people (Anglo-Saxons) establish and change the rules of the game as they want. The well-known events in Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya are bright confirmation of that fact. The same violations happened in Syria where Americans placed their contingent of troops without having the permission of the Syrian government. That is they violate the rules all the time. And when Putin and Lavrov say that they want to follow the rules of the international order, I trust them. When Bush, Obama or Trump speak about it, I don't trust them.
"I believe in the multipolar world. It is the safest paradigm for the system of international relations”. (T. Kevin)
International Affairs: How many people in the Australian parliament think the same way as you?
Tony Kevin: Practically nobody. If they think this way, their career will finish quickly. Everything that I can do is to try to support dialogue with ordinary people through social media – my website or my page in Facebook. In the USA the insignificant number of people resists propaganda, but I will continue doing my job. At the same time every year it is becoming harder and harder to struggle with the American paranoia concerning "the Russian threat". My former colleagues with whom I worked in the government treat me with respect. But do I have any influence on policy? I don't know. There is a big danger for freedom of speech and discourse. We risk to appear in the situation described in the novel by George Orwell "1984", "The big brother watches you".
International Affairs: What are the circumstances under which the relations between Russia and the West can be improved?
Tony Kevin: The relations can be improved through the diplomacy of the second track. People who don't represent the interests of their countries officially, but who are very well informed in the current state of affairs (scientists, experts or former diplomats), coming together, can offer non-standard, and what it the most important thing, effective solutions of this or that international problem. Professional diplomats are not free in their actions – they have to adhere to that policy which is dictated to them by their government. Even Trump does not have full control over the American policy today, he “has his hands tied” by the military establishment that gives orders to him what to do. Provocative speeches are his only weapon. In these conditions the only way to influence policy is a lot of patience and diplomacy of the second track. There are quite a number of examples of successful work of such diplomacy. In the 1980s it was very productive. For example, in the nuclear sphere the discussion was going on about making the world safer separating nuclear weapons from conventional ones and many other things. We must develop the dialogue, speak in a constructive manner, reveal problems and speak about them frankly.
International Affairs: Why have you decided to write the book about Russia?
Tony Kevin: One of the reasons I started my book "Return to Moscow" was the desire to tell about my way from "a little soldier" of the Cold War to the critically thinking researcher. After terminating my diplomatic career, little by little I started to keep myself away from the tunnel thinking and began to study what is really going on in the world avoiding the filter of western propaganda. My experience of being the ambassador in Cambodia taught me much. At that time I understood that the western camp tried to dictate to the small states what to do, it didn't respect their sovereignty, it didn't give them the chance to make their own decisions and what is no less important, to make their own mistakes. My book is an attempt to explain the Russian point of view to people in the West. I explain that Russia is the country that we should try to understand, respect and that we shouldn't be afraid of. My purpose was to influence public opinion in Australia, Europe and the USA. The total of 2000 copies of my book have been sold. Today I am glad to present my book in Russia. Many of my friends asked me how I managed to understand the Russian culture, the Russian originality? And I don't know how it happened. It just came to me as inspiration (laughing).
International Affairs: Tony, thank you very much for the interview! We wish to believe that the East and the West will not slide into the next Cold War, and your book will soften Russophobic moods in the Anglo-Saxon countries.