Researcher Peter Pomerantsev believes that Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy is not limited to rational consideration of his national interests. His attitude is also part of a destructive mental unemployment threatening Ukraine and Europe.
“Peter Pomerantsev specializes in deciphering Russian propaganda. Born in Kiev and now a British citizen, the former television producer, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, is the author of two reference books on the subject, including Nothing is true, everything is possible. Adventures in modern Russia (St. Simon, 2015).
How did you feel about being born in Kiev when the war broke out in Ukraine?
Helplessness and guilt, like many Ukrainian friends who have since joined the army. I got a photo of one of them, a reporter for Hipster Magazine too; He picked up the weapon. The same thing for a sociologist I often work with. Both are aware of not being good soldiers, but they want to put themselves to good use. I also try to be, conducting research on living conditions in Russia, talking to independent media and potential donors. And then I work on war crimes in Ukraine in “The Reckoning Project Ukraine: Evidence and Testimony from Ukraine”, a project led by my colleague Janine de Giovanni, with the ambition to get justice in court, but also [d’informer] Public opinion.
One month before the attack, you wrote in an op-ed published in “Time” that Moscow’s foreign policy had not diminished in the logical interest and that it had also come under “family intimacy”. What does it mean?
I was referring to how Russia talks with Ukraine, such as with an older brother. Kiev is referred to as the “mother of Russian cities”, then downgraded to prostitution sold to the West, or subjected to “essential” rape. [par la Russie]. It’s a language associated with a family reference – in a very unhappy family. The most unfortunate! We can go further by studying the given definition of the sphere of Russian influence, which does not point to rational national interests, but accumulates frustration and humiliation. The territory that Russia deserves always changes: one day it will be a neutral Ukraine; The next day, it was the whole Russian-speaking area. It is a restless desire, which cannot be extinguished. Russia is like a child who misunderstands his own limits.
Mention of sexual violence is often heard in Moscow in the case of Ukraine … these references are above all. In 1999, Vladimir Putin had already promised to “kill terrorists.” [tchétchènes] Downstairs in the toilet. “Mikhail Bakhtin, Russian cultural historian [1895-1975] Wrote extensively on the “carnival language”, which is the language of the genitals and the mall. It is partly a classic populist strategy, the aim of which is to indicate that one belongs to the masses. Donald Trump and [le président brésilien] Zaire Balsonaro also uses it. Russia, more than sex, has a certain stature on defecation. It is a matter of control. We also notice this in the permanent use of the verb срать (“to shit”). Russia’s ambassador to Sweden used it when referring to Western sanctions. There is something strange about this repetition. “
Interview by Piotr Smolar (Washington, Correspondent)
Thanks to Edith Ochs
Peter Pomerantsev, a British journalist, writer and television producer of Soviet descent, is a senior fellow at the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics, where he co-hosts the Arena program.