Dan Banik and Kathryn Stoner discuss the invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s role and purpose in a new global order.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already caused untold suffering to millions of people and upended the global order as we know it. The international community, apart from a few exceptions, has been largely united in its condemnation of this attack on a sovereign country’s ability to decide its own future. And several sanctions have thus far been imposed on Russia, many of which also target President Putin, senior Russian officials, and their rich financial backers. President Putin has tried, although without much success, to justify what he terms to be a military operation (and not an invasion). President Zelenskyy of Ukraine has refused to flee his war-ravaged country, and this, together with his regular morale boosting social media posts, has made him a household name in many parts of the world.
What kind of threat does Ukraine pose to Russia? How did we get to this point? Can President Putin withstand the backlash from this war? What is Russia’s role and purpose in a new global order, and how has it managed to develop an outsized influence in international politics even though it does not have the traditional means of power possessed by the United States or China?
Kathryn Stoner is the Mosbacher Director of Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL). She is also a Senior Fellow the Hoover Institution and a professor of political science. She has conducted extensive research on contemporary Russia and has a new book: "Russia Resurrected: Its Power and Purpose in a New Global Order". Twitter: @kath_stoner
Professor Dan Banik, University of Oslo, Twitter: @danbanik @GlobalDevPod
Banik Kathryn, I'm so delighted to see you. It's been so many years since I last saw you. Welcome to the show.
Stoner Thanks so much for having me, Dan. It is wonderful to see you too.
Banik Well, I wish we were speaking under better circumstances. I have to say I am stunned by what has happened. Russia's invasion of Ukraine. I did not foresee this. I did not think about Russia actually carrying out an outright attack. There's a war going on and it's just so nice to be able to speak with somebody like you who has so much knowledge on this. I have really enjoyed reading this excellent book that you published last year. And in a recent op-ed in the LA Times, I really enjoyed reading that because you argue that what Putin fears in Ukraine is not NATO expansion on Russian borders. This is what a lot of experts are saying. It's NATO, NATO, NATO. But you're saying it is the fact that Ukraine is an existential threat to Putin's personal and autocratic regime. So, help us understand this. It's not the fear of NATO membership that has provoked Russian aggression. It is the fear of a resilient, robust, pluralistic democracy next door. Is that the explanation?
Stoner Yeah, so I do think that is a very big part of the explanation. It's upfront to the way Putin runs Russia and Russia has become increasingly oppressive over the last 10 years. But the last year and a half in particular with the arrest and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny. Very hard to demonstrate on the streets, to come out in public. And so, as we watch Russians do so this week and weekend against the invasion of Ukraine, those people are risking being put in prison for very long periods of time in their lives, losing their jobs, their lives being made miserable. Because there was an anticipation on Putin's part that crowds would come out to protest, and so they've had the riot police ready. So right, since the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, almost exactly as you and I are speaking now, Ukraine has had a history of a very active civil society that has actively protested and turned out its government in the Orange Revolution. That's in the early 2000s and then again in 2014 with Yanukovych being sent out of office over the year of Euromaidan. Whereas the Ukrainians called it a revolution of dignity. He fled to Russia, and the reason he was turned out of office by his own people was because he failed to sign an EU accession plan in November of 2013 and instead took loans and credits from Russia offered by Mr. Putin to try and hold Ukraine in Russia's orbit, rather than turning west toward Europe in its future. So that's actually what sparked his ouster and the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, and that wasn't about NATO. There is no stomach within Ukraine for joining NATO at that time. And now in 2022, despite what Mr. Putin is saying, Ukraine was not on the edge of joining NATO. It doesn't even have a membership action plan. Although you can see right now why Ukraine would want to join NATO. And why the Baltic republics are members of NATO and must be quite nervous. You're sitting up there in Norway. Hopefully, things are fine for you guys. But Finland and Sweden are now interested in joining, so it's not as though the membership was imminent, right? But that's the excuse that Putin has used for this attack on a democratic, peaceful country. But I do think a lot of it is the demonstration effect and also Mr. Putin showed us on Monday with his long, strange, rambling speech. His very particular interpretation of Russian-Ukrainian history.
Banik In 2004, when the so-called Orange Revolution was taking place you had President Yushchenko in power, but even then, Ukraine wasn't pushing for NATO membership. There wasn't any interest, I suppose in Ukrainian society at that time. In 2010, you had Viktor Yanukovych being elected, and there was absolutely no interest in NATO. What has changed?
Stoner And democratically elected, by the way, right? So, that just shows you the robustness of Ukrainian democracy too. Right, they have the Orange Revolution. They have this dramatic ouster of Yanukovych. Yanukovych loses the election to Yushchenko. Yushchenko and the Ukrainian opposition have a very difficult time governing. If anything, Ukraine is hyper pluralistic. So, the exact opposite of Putin's Russia. They fight amongst themselves a great deal. It's a very as I said robust democracy, lively, fractious even. Then because of their failures to address things like corruption and failure to, more or less, get the trains run on time. Incredibly, Yanukovych is elected openly, democratically, freely, and fairly in 2010. He makes a promise that he will sign this EU accession agreement. So, that is a plan to pull Ukraine further out of Russia's orbit. At the last minute in November 2013, when he was supposed to sign that on Ukraine's behalf, Mr. Putin comes up with this alternative offer. He really wants Ukraine instead to join the alternative bloc that he is forming with some other post-Soviet states. He's essentially bribed by Putin into doing this. It's a very similar, increasingly autocratic regime under Yanukovych that looks more or less like Putin's. A little less, I guess. But people come out on the streets in protest in November 2013 again in Ukraine. And Yanukovych ultimately leaves office at the end of February 2014. Then, Crimea is annexed by Russia at that time. And then we have two more elections for president in Ukraine, ultimately getting the current President Mr. Zelenskyy in 2019.
Banik Can we be absolutely sure that Ukraine, even if it joined NATO, would not be a credible security threat for Russia? Is that an argument that we could easily dismiss, or is there some truth to this scene from Putin's side? I mean is it not NATO at all? Can we just dismiss that as an explanation?
Stoner I do think we can dismiss it because the timing is literally out of the blue, Mr. Putin's timing here. There was no imminent plan for Ukraine even under Zelenskyy to join NATO. There was a statement made at the 2008 Budapest meeting of NATO nations. And this was insisted upon by George W. Bush, the US president at the time, that Georgia, which had just also been invaded by Russia, the northern parts of Georgia. That Georgia and Ukraine would “someday be made members of NATO”. But someday has never been defined. And neither of the countries had a membership action plan. And on average it takes 8 to 10 years or so, even when a country gets a membership action plan to join.
Banik And NATO allies did not seem to be very interested in Georgian membership either.
Stoner Georgia in particular, as a country that's far smaller than Ukraine. And realistically, you have to be careful adding members of NATO. Because Article 5of the NATO Treaty requires members to treat an attack on one country as an attack on all. And so, there's an obligation to come to the defence or rescue of another member. So, here in the United States one issue with NATO expansion is have we just diluted Article 5 so that it's meaningless? The most recent member to join NATO in 2020 was North Macedonia. I'm willing to bet most Americans, first of all, probably can't find Ukraine, which is after Russia the second largest country in Europe, bigger than France, but the size of Texas, 44 million people. They're not going to find North Macedonia on a map. And we're not going to go to war with Russia over North Macedonia. So, this was not about NATO expansion. The most recent countries to expand on Russian borders were actually the Baltic republics in 2004, which was 10 years before the first war and incursion into Ukraine by Russia.
Banik And what you say actually sounds correct when you think about the recent years during President Obama. It didn't appear that then-President Medvedev or Prime Minister Putin were actually objecting to NATO expansion. So, it seems very strange that they're objecting to it so vociferously now.
Stoner Right, when there's nothing big that has changed here. And one thing that Mr. Putin mentions all the time is these missiles. And basically, they're anti-aircraft anti-ballistic missiles that NATO did put into Romania and Poland. But as he knows those are not capable of taking down what Russia has. They have hypersonic weapons now too, which go seven times the speed of sound. And this is another complaint that he has. But people should have no illusions. Those are not aimed at Russia. They wouldn't do harm to Russia. They're aimed at Iran, so this is a ruse. It's really about, as I said at the at the top of the show, the challenge that Ukraine presents, an example potentially to Russian people. If Ukraine can have a democracy, transparent open press, competitive regular elections. Why can't Russia? And I think that's the worry that is an existential threat to Putin. And then there's his weird history. Selective history.
Banik Well, as we speak today, it is Sunday evening here in Norway, Sunday morning in California. The whole world is talking about sanctions. Whether some of the sanctions that have been announced are going to be effective and earlier today, I was reading a piece in the Guardian where the author was questioning the wisdom behind sanctioning the oligarchs close to Putin. A lot of people are wondering whether these sanctions will have an effect on Russian policy. If these oligarchs are sanctioned because the relationship between these extremely rich people and the President seems to be somewhat one-sided. That it is when the President wants resources like during the Sochi Olympics or something else, these oligarchs are supposed to contribute money. But these very rich people don't really have much influence in terms of Russian policy. That it would be far more effective to sanction the ruling class members of the Duma, the Senate, the Presidential Council, top defence, and security officials, propaganda people like state TV. What are your thoughts there about sanctions?
Stoner Well, why not do it all? Which is what the US and Europe, and I should mention Canada, my homeland, have done, right? The European Union did sanction about 350 members of the Duma, although closer to 400 voted in favour of the recognition of the Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republic, which you'll remember those two provinces in Eastern Ukraine that Mr. Putin made a big deal about recognising as well. And that was really the “genocide” that Ukrainian forces were allegedly perpetrating. I'm sorry I'm laughing because it's just so preposterous there was the pretext that Putin used to go into Ukraine. That “defending the Russian brothers and sisters” there, which is absurd. But this is also what he did with north of Abkhazia in 2008 in Georgia. Anyway, we're doing all of those things, right? So, it doesn't have to be either-or. The very rich people, many of them in Russia were under sanctions from 2014 on. Not all of them but some of them. It has made life uncomfortable and that was the goal then. But what we've done more recently, as I mentioned, the EU and I believe the UK have sanctioned those Duma members. And that has an effect on them accessing. Obviously, they can't travel anymore to Europe and the UK, the US has not done this yet. Their families also cannot.
Banik So, they can't enjoy a western lifestyle.
Stoner Right, and so many of them, not all in the Duma to be sure, but many of them have assets, homes in France or London. Which is sometimes referred to as Londongrad. That's very wealthy people there.So, you guys did do that. Then most recently, the Europeans and the US have also sanctioned very powerful people around Putin and now of course Putin himself. Foreign Minister Lavrov, Mr Patrushev, who's the head of the Security Council in Russia, Sergey Shoygu, who's the Minister of Defence. And in some cases, their sons. You might say that seems weird, but these are adult children who run, for example, the main Russian diamond export. So, we've done both things. I just don't see an either-or. And know sanctioning Putin himself. Well, on paper he doesn't own that much and so that's more symbolic than anything else. But some of the people who we have sanctioned around him, the very wealthy people. Timchenko and Rotenberg. They hold some of the wealth that Putin has accrued from years and years of stealing from the Russian state and the Russian people. That is in effect sanctioning him.
Banik Let's talk about your book. I really enjoyed reading it because I've been studying China, I've been studying India on the African continent. And for me, Russia is interesting because in relation to say, Africa, there have been all these Russia-Africa summits. And this projection of power to newer regions. And what I really enjoyed reading in your book is the argument that even though a lot of analysts are saying that Russia has a weak hand in international politics. You're saying it actually plays it well and that Russia's cards are not as weak as some people say they are. And so, the question is, what according to you explains this quest by Russia for more influence in the post-Cold War period. And it seems to me that Moscow under President Putin, of course, has reasserted itself as one of the leading powers they want to be. Perhaps a great power. So, is it because they're doing it in defence of historical and geographically defined national interests? Is it the competition with the US and China? Why? Why have these ambitions?
Stoner So, I think there are a bunch of reasons. On the one hand, there is a worldview on the part of some of Russia's leadership. And of course, Mr. Putin is paramount among those that it's often quoted, his statement that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”. But in the book, I try to point out the rest of that sentence is that “anyone who wants it back has no head, anyone who doesn't miss it has no heart”. And so, it's not that he wants to resurrect the communist system. Of course, he's quite a capitalist. In fact, he likes capitalism without rules and believes that the skimming of money from the state and state contracts and handing that out. When you said earlier that the oligarchs were asked for money to build Sochi. Well, actually, they get money from doing that. They get big. They inflate the costs of building something like the Olympic facilities in Sochi. They'll say it costs 50 million when it only costs maybe 30. And then they pocket the difference. And so, this is a scheme that if you read Catherine Belton's book on Putin's people, you'll see this is a scheme that has been used a lot by former KGB guys to protect the security services even after the Soviet Union collapsed. After 2014, though, you asked what's the point of this? Well, after 2014, of course, Russia was under pretty severe sanctions in a couple of really important areas to them. And one of them, of course, is energy, oil and gas exploration, and extraction in particular. And so, we in the US had a number of big contracts. Our countries, I mean companies, private companies did. As did BP British Petroleum to help with that exploration and those were frozen under sanctions. And so, Russia has to look elsewhere for investment and for markets. And its economy last year grew about 4.4%. So, common perception is it's a mess. Well, how does it do that under sanctions? It has to find new markets and new opportunities, so it sells weapons in the Middle East. As the book shows, second-biggest provider of high-tech weapons in the world. The first, the biggest is us, the US. They sell them to China, India, Saudi. They sell them to Saudi Arabia, and they'll sell them to Iran. Turkey, member of NATO, S400's, building relationships in other words with countries that are also traditional enemies of one another. The Iranians and the Saudis don't exactly get along. And then they sell nuclear power plants, energy plants to India and China, as well as weapons systems. When you sell a weapons system, it comes with Russian engineers to make sure that the systems function. So, it creates a long chain of relationships, and this is what they have been doing. And also amassing foreign reserves, which incredibly we've just put under sanction and moved a lot of those out of their reach, which is going to hurt. I think this is why we're seeing Mr. Putin's really strong reaction today about it and asking to put their nuclear forces on alert this morning.
Banik I totally buy your argument. What I found puzzling is the sense that when I study China or India and I see them projecting soft power trying to get investments in other parts of the world. Promote Bollywood, yoga, whatever. It is often based on some sort of attraction. Joseph Nye was on the show recently talking about soft power. That some cultures are attractive, and so there's this kind of model of development that China talks about. We've solved these human development challenges. And what I found, among the many interesting things in your book, is that Russia, despite that astronomical economic growth that it experienced for some years, human development in terms of life expectancy, in terms of poverty reduction, in terms of literacy, it hasn't really catapulted the country to new heights. So, it seems to me that there's a lot of inequality. Russia wasn't perhaps able to project itself as having solved all these problems at home. And thereby, some are helping other countries to solve them. So, it seems that apart from infrastructure, investments, etc. What you argue and I found this to be particularly interesting is that the West has perhaps overlooked the domestic aspect of why President Putin is doing so. The domestic political motivations that you say are more compelling. Have we been caught off guard by this? Have we ignored the domestic legitimacy motivations of Russia's actions?
Stoner Yeah, I think so. I think we have. That's partly why I wrote the book. I became sick and tired of hearing people describe the Russian economy as “in a shambles”. And I should say that they've actually come a long way down with poverty reduction. I think when Mr. Putin became president, it was about 30 percent. Now it's down to around 12 or 13 percent. It has popped up a little bit because of covid, but everyone has suffered there.
Banik So, have I misunderstood? They have been pretty successful?
Stoner On some issues. But as successful as they've been, they could have been more, right? They underinvest in healthcare, for example, and we saw the effects of that with covid. They have a lot of doctors per capita, but they are not very highly trained. They are actually really good on orthopaedics. If you need a prosthetic arm, there are a couple of places in Russia that are quite good at that. They're actually very good at chemicals and pharmaceuticals. And this is one relationship of many that they have with India in terms of production of vaccines and pharmaceuticals. They are one of the world leaders in aluminium production and sales. Ironically, their agribusiness has recovered because of import substitution such that they're the number one exporter of wheat in the world. That hasn't happened in the last 100 years. So, you're right in that. This is not though, because they have some kind of great model of development to offer the world. Some of this is definitely on the back of high oil and gas prices, especially from 2003 to 2008. However, GDP and oil prices decoupled around 2012 or 2013, and GDP kept going up even as oil prices were going down. Much of that is on the backs of the other things that they do sell, and I think again, there was too much focus only on China. And as well as I think that the Biden administration has handled other things, one of the things I think that was a mistake was this announcement that we're going to focus on China and get “Mr. Putin to calm down”. That was like an invitation. Why in God's name would he do that? Especially if he knows you don't want them to. Domestically, there are people who agree with this perspective that we need to build ourselves back after the catastrophe of the collapse of the Soviet Union. And some of the things I try to do in the book is to use Mr. Putin's own words stemming back to 2002 and 2004 all the way up to 2020, saying “at last we're back on the stage as a world power that countries can respect”. And Russia moves differently in the international order than China and the United States. And one of the reasons, to the extent that it's attractive as a partner to some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia is because when it sells weapons systems there aren't strings attached with ideology. As there were in the Soviet period. And that we in the US and Europe are attaching in terms of human rights concerns, right? You want those weapons, fine, Central African Republic. We will give you those weapons and in return will help you market your diamonds, and we'll take a cut off the top.
Banik So, the domestic levers on Russian foreign policy are a mix of this development narrative that we need to somehow continue economic growth and export, but also this identity issue that we are a great power, and we need to reclaim that place in the world. Is it that combination that explains this recent assertiveness?
Stoner Yeah. Great power, great culture. But there is the kind of social compact I suppose that Putin is said to have had with the Russian people to the extent the Russian people even know was that we will keep the economy going. And people's real incomes tripled year on year between 2003 and 2008 and Russia got less free. So, here's freedom and economic growth working in inverse relationship. Well, once the economic growth stops, then the worry is people will want to have that freedom part come back up. And so, we did see when Putin came back into power in 2012, a lot of protests against him. And Navalny showing in his videos, the corruption of the elite around Putin, and Putin himself with that infamous palace that he has on the Black Sea.
Banik Yes, that viral video.
Stoner Yes. With the hookah lounge and the stripper pole and the underground hockey rink and wine tasting. Just this fabulous wealth he's alleged to have. And so, as well as Russia has done economically. Without him, imagine if hundreds of millions of dollars were not being stolen by him and those around him by their preferential access to the state in the state contracts. Imagine how well Russia could be doing. You mentioned life expectancy. Actually, it's gotten better, a lot better. It's kind of stabilised, but there's still a huge gap between men and women in Russia, about 12 years. It's still 10 years younger even than China. Average life expectancy. Even though Russia spends more on healthcare, it's inefficient and corrupt. It's not a technological leader. Underinvesting in research and development compared to other OECD countries, underinvesting in education. One of the great things India has done in the last 20 years or so, it has increased the quality of its educational institutions. Indian engineers are all over Silicon Valley here in California, for example. Well, that's not true of Russia. Yet, it's a very literate, highly educated population. So, as well as they've done, he has not created a basis for robust growth in the future. And so, that means he's used more repression at home. The most important thing for Mr. Putin and those around him is staying in power and the big fear isn't NATO. It's people coming out on the streets as they did in 2012, as they did in 2017, as they did last year, when Navalny was imprisoned. When he returned from recovering from state poisoning in Germany.
Banik But even the last few days people have been protesting in Saint Petersburg, in Moscow, and these are very brave people. There are academics on Twitter saying “I disagree with this war. I may soon be banned from Twitter”. So, you have this protest. I think something new is happening in the sense that there is this feeling that because it is Ukraine, because it is the little brother, because there's so much shared culture and history and the border. That there isn't much support for this aggression at home, right?
Stoner Well, we haven't seen polls on it because it is not a great idea to do them right now. But presumably, we will see them in the next couple of weeks and it doesn't seem like there is. Certainly, the most recent polling that we saw about this in December, in January it was very low, below 10% in favour. But before the 2014 incursion, you would have gotten very low numbers too. And then they shot right up again in terms of approval. So, partly it will depend on what people are seeing on Russian television and what they're seeing is that it's all going really well and they're not hitting Ukrainian civilians. And the Ukrainian government is, as Mr. Putin said, and this just sounds crazy, “fascist and Nazis and drug addicts”. So, some Russians will believe this. How the Jewish President of Ukraine is a Nazi? It is a bit of a mystery to the rest of the world. But educated others who get their information from the Internet and the Internet is still relatively open, they don't have a firewall like China. They'll know that this isn't true. I noticed also and I can't confirm whether this is true or not, but the hacking group Anonymous hacked Russian state television and websites. And so, for a while, Russian state TV was showing videos of what was actually happening in Ukraine. And telling viewers they are being lied to. Again, I don't know that that happened. I did see that on Twitter. They had tweeted it out, Anonymous. So, we are seeing incredibly brave people down as you mentioned, come out on the street. I just saw a good friend of mine I've known for over 30 years Leonid Gozman tweet a picture of himself in Moscow. He's both academic and had worked for Rusnano, the investment firm that invested in nanotechnology on the part of the Russian government. Really interesting guy out there holding a sign saying NO WAR and Putin should resign. Very brave people out in mass in Saint Petersburg and in different kinds of protests in Russia in other cities. Because it's illegal to gather with that many people. This is one of the many oppressions that Russians have been suffering for the last two or three years under Putin. I guess the one thing I would want to make sure I said is that it is 30 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991. It is 30 years since Russia embarked on a really aggressive economic reform programme in 1992. And that's really when my book starts. And so, it's truly tragic for the Russian people that this is happening. They are being terribly, terribly misgoverned and lied to by Mr. Putin's government. And Russia is not Putin. Putin is not Russia. He has tried to diffuse his personal interests with those of the Russian state, but it's very hard to see how this could possibly be in Russia's national interest. And hopefully more and more Russians will understand that as they begin to suffer the brunt of these sanctions and their exclusion from other countries and global markets.
Banik Among the many things I learned reading your book is the enormous scope of Russian power. I would think, originally Russian influence was the near abroad. But in the book, you discussed not just Ukraine, not just Lithuania, the Baltic republics. It's also Israel. It's also Iran. It's also Eastern and Western Europe. It's also Latin America. We've discussed Sub-Saharan Africa.
Stoner Venezuela, Nicaragua.
Banik Indeed. And you mentioned Turkey earlier. I notice something interesting. Erdogan has taken a stance against Russia that India and China haven't.
Stoner India is a real shocker. It's so interesting. Turkey is fascinating on this under Erdogan because they've had a frenemy relationship. Remember that Putin was very supportive of Erdogan during the so-called attempted coup against him. And then Erdogan was more or less supportive of the first Russian incursion into Ukraine. And then most recently, Turkey accidentally shut down a Russian aircraft over the Turkish-Syrian border. So, there was some chilling of the relations about 5-6 years ago. Since then, they rebuilt the relationship, things were OK, there had been sanctions. A lot of Russians vacation in Turkey, it's affordable, it's not too far, it's nice weather. Those sanctions have been lifted. Erdogan and Putin seemed to be rebuilding relationships. And there's a pipeline running through Turkey that's new from Russia into Europe. But the more recent clash of this kind of breakdown of the tight relationship there started with Azerbaijan and Armenia. And in 2021 reigniting the dispute, ongoing decades long dispute over a region between them, Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan supported by Turkey. Armenia supported ostensibly by Russia. And really, Russia got Armenia to back down because of the strong support Erdogan was giving Azerbaijan. So, that was this first big inkling that something was off in the relationship. And then now, Turkey has been supplying Ukraine with drones and now promising more assistance. Turkey is a member of NATO, and the interesting thing here too is that Erdogan had really gotten into trouble with NATO because two years ago he signed a contract to purchase Russian S400s, which as an anti-aircraft missile system. And as I mentioned earlier that comes with a bunch of Russian engineers. And the worry was that to maintain that system, will they have access to some of the systems that NATO has also? In Turkey it just seemed like an easy way for the Russians to spy on NATO that way. But here its Erdogan turning in another direction.
Banik But I suppose the really interesting question is China.
Stoner Although India is really interesting too.
Banik And India too and the Security Council. Neither country actually supported the Western initiative, but it seems almost like President Putin told President Xi they are not going to attack Ukraine during the Olympics in Beijing, but now that it's over.
Stoner Yeah. No notice. Remember he went to the Beijing ceremony.
Banik Exactly. One of the few world leaders. The position that China will take is going to be crucial. And seeing it from an American perspective since you are in the United States now. Is it that fear that there is a new alliance that can form with Russia and China that is perhaps holding President Biden somewhat back? From the European perspective, there's this feeling that America isn't on board with everything, is somehow dragging its feet. What is the sense in Washington, in California about this potentially new alliance? Is that what the US is worried about?
Stoner I think the US is worried about a lot of things. As I said earlier, Mr. Biden's foreign policy team, led by Jake Sullivan, where they were very keen on doing a pivot to the east and very public about this. And so, we're hoping Russia would calm down and that they could manage Russia. And I think this was a huge mistake. My colleagues here at Stanford, in history, have been saying that Russia's relationship with China is the best it's been in 300 years. It's not new. It's been up and down. Right now, it's really up. And I think we underestimated the extent to which there's mutual dependence, the kind of throwaway line that you will hear from commentators who haven't been following what Russia and China have been doing together in the last 5-10 years. We'll say it's not a very important relationship for China. It's really just important for Russia. Actually, it's really important for both. Yes, China has a much bigger economy than Russia. A lot more people than Russia. But Russia has some things that China really needs for exactly those two reasons. And the big thing is energy. And it's not just oil, but it's also natural gas and liquefied natural gas. And that is not easy to switch your supplier quickly for technical reasons. And then coal. China also needs coal to keep its economy running, it needs those things. It also needs the nuclear power plants that Russia has the capability of building. And then it also supplies China, as I mentioned earlier, with high-tech weapons. China makes some of its own, but it imports a lot from Russia. So, in return, Russia is getting investment from China or has been as we have pulled back since 2014 in Europe because of the sanctions. It has also been very interested in establishing a Northern Transportation Route through the Arctics. Directly relevant to you there in Norway. And Russia has a big fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, biggest in the world, that can break ice in front of those freighters. So, there is a lot that China and Russia coordinate on. And I really think that's been underestimated and mischaracterized as dependence rather than interdependence.
Banik Kathryn, congratulations on a fantastic book which I really enjoyed reading and it was such a pleasure to see you again. Thanks so much for coming on my show today.
Stoner Thanks Dan, it was a pleasure. Thanks for your interest.