Brandon Weichert on U.S.-Russian Relations

American Greatness contributing editor Brandon Weichert joined editor and publisher Chris Buskirk to talk about Russia: just how much of a threat does Vladimir Putin pose to the West and who—or what—might come after Putin inevitably leaves the stage.

Chris Buskirk: I am Chris Buskirk, he is Seth Leibsohn. Our guest in this hour is Brandon Weichert. He is a contributing editor to American Greatness and the proprietor of The Weichert Report. You can find that at Brandon, welcome back.

Brandon Weichert: How ya doing?

Buskirk: I’m doing well. How about yourself?

Weichert: I am fantastic. I spent the last week being a Putin lover, so it’s been fun.

Buskirk: Is that meant as a compliment or a slur?

Weichert: Clearly it was a slur and I took umbrage with it but I-

Buskirk: Why were you called a Putin lover? Did you have Russian dressing on your pastrami?

Weichert: Downed with some vodka! No, I have those Russian nesting dolls every … No, I’m kidding.

Buskirk: Caviar. It’s your caviar intake.

Weichert: No, I gave a lecture at the Institute of World Politics and I said that Russia was not the threat that our intelligence agencies were making it out to be. Or, rather, that our media and two intelligence agencies were making it out to be and I explained why and they didn’t like what they heard. But it’s been fun.

Buskirk: Okay. You brought it up. Okay, what are the two agencies and why is Russia not the threat that they’re making it out to be?

Weichert: Well, the two agencies are the big ones that we’ve been hearing. The CIA, and the DIA now. I would also add probably the FBI. We’ve been dealing, obviously, with Russian espionage but we’ve been dealing with that since the 1930s and so, I mean, it’s nothing new. What I said the issue with the threat is that, yes, Putin’s a pain in our neck but if you look at the demographic charts of Russia, their fertility rates have been collapsing for 40 years. They are in a hopeless tail spin. Their economy’s in free fall because they’re married to the petrodollar and the price of oil has been plummeting, generally. They’re basically … Putin’s in a race against time and his big issue is he wants to stabilize his Western periphery. That’s the border with Europe. He wants to stabilize the Southern periphery so he can extract energy from the Middle East. Then he wants to pivot to the East because he’s scared out of his mind that China’s gonna gobble up that resource rich far Eastern Siberia area.

I said that if you’re sitting in the Kremlin, yeah, you’re worried about America and you’re gonna keep poking us in the eye when you think we’re doing something wrong, but your big threat is, you wanna stabilize relations with the U.S. and focus on China. They didn’t like that. I guess, it was too reasonable, too based in history. I don’t know.

Buskirk: The population of Russia is 144 million.

Weichert: Yeah, it’s 146 million now that they’ve added Crimea. Compare that to America and…

Buskirk: Yes, I’m not supposed to laugh when you say that, right?

Weichert: Yeah. Well I certainly do when I read it because when you just look at the break down, you go this is … Then if you look at the actual health of the population, the average male life expectancy from birth in Russia is 64 years of age. That’s if you’re lucky. Women in Russia, at 74 but compared that to Poland, woman in Poland, they’re at 80. So Russia . . .

Buskirk: What are men in Poland?

Weichert: . . . they’re, you know what, I don’t know actually. I should know that.

Buskirk: Was it about, presumably, the same sort of order or a magnitude higher?

Weichert: Yeah, it’s insane. So if you’re Putin . . . Rather than looking at Putin as Stalin, Part Two, I’m looking at him as the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, desperately trying to cling on. As I said in my lecture, and they didn’t like this either, I said that just like the Ottoman Empire was the sick man of Europe in the last century and the British and the French were desperately trying to keep it together, ’cause they didn’t want to deal with the aftermath of what happens when it collapses. I said the same thing is true of Russia today. It’s the sick man of Eurasia, and we should be trying to figure out how best to stabilize relations with Putin because whatever comes after Putin, is gonna be a lot worse. Whether it’s the dissolution of Russia or if it’s the complete … A new Putin type character taking over who would probably be this guy Viktor Zolotov, who’s even worse. Nobody wanted to hear it, though it was-

Buskirk: Even worse, meaning what?

Weichert: It could be an Islamist because they have a largely rising population of Muslims there, which that in and of itself is not a problem, but the fact is you have the return of these guys who are fighting in Isis, they’re coming back to Russia. There’s about 2,200 ISIS fighters. They’re all coming back into Russia. They’re reintegrating with the local Russian Muslim populations. You’ve got this guy Kadyrov running Chechnya, who’s Putin’s guy, but Kadyrov is a fanatical Islamist himself and he’s out there slaughtering the gays in Chechnya and the LGBTQ community. The alternatives to Putin in Russia are either complete collapse of the Russian state, which is gonna be terrible or you’re gonna get another strong man, who’s even more bloody minded, or you could even get a jihadist.

Buskirk: Are you suggesting Zolotov is sympathetic to the Islamist or that he is one himself?

Weichert: Well Zolotov is tight with the Islamist leader in Chechnya because the Islamist leader in Chechnya is Putin’s pick and so Zolotov is a Putin crony. He’s worked with Putin since the 1980s. Zolotov is not an Islamist. No, I’m saying Zolotov would be like Putin, only times 10, but the other guy in Chechnya, the Islamist, he’s even crazier. Mike Tyson loves this guy so whoever Mike Tyson loves, I tend to be a little suspicious of. That’s what I’ve been dealing with all week.

Buskirk: Brandon, it strikes me that the longer term, the strategic competitor, I will not use the term enemy, but certainly the strategic competitor to the United States is not Russia, it’s China.

Weichert: Yes.

Buskirk: Right? And so-

Weichert: I would use the word enemy. If I [crosstalk 00:06:01] use the word.

Buskirk: I’m content with that word. That maybe, I don’t have a problem with it. I’ll put it that way. But right now, they’re not an open enemy. They are a veiled enemy, right? They are certainly a strategic competitor of the United States.

Listen to the entire interview.

Image copyright: Irgit / 123RF Stock Photo


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