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Exclusive Interview: Grassroots Democracies Will Prevail, Says Jeffrey Sachs

Dániel Deme 2023.06.10.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs is the Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York. We have met him at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium’s (MCC) Budapest Peace Forum on June 6, and asked his opinion about the war in Ukraine and US-Hungarian relations.

Jeffrey Sachs. Photo: Hungary Today

Vladimir Putin often speaks of the 2014 Orange Revolution as a Coup that removed a democratically elected government that took power on popular sentiment, and he thinks that it has been replaced by proxy ones that serve primarily the US’s economic and strategic goals. Do you accept this argument, or is this only a rhetoric to explain out aggression?

I think there is a lot of merit in what he says on this because 2014 was a violent overthrow of a government. The US was clearly involved, though we do not know all the details that goes with the secrecy. We know a lot from the Russian interception of Victoria Nuland’s phone call with the US Ambassador Geoffrey R. Pyatt (Ambassador to Ukraine from 2013 to 2016), which was several weeks before the overthrow.  They were already discussing who would be the in the post-Viktor Yanukovich government. She was picking the personalities: this one in, that one out. And the one that she designated as the one leading the next government was the one that came in soon afterwards. I do not think that is a coincidence. So I think the US played a major role in this.

My view is that this is most likely a regime-change operation in which the US played an important role. Rather shockingly, when Yanukovich initially fled to Kharkiv and then to Russia, the United States and the EU did not say that well, he is the constitutionally elected president, he needs to be given security, finish his term, new elections, etc. They said, “no, no, we recognize the new government”. They said that the very first day.

My problem is, I am 68, I have lived through a lot of US regime change operations. I have seen some of them from very close. They were ugly, disgusting,

it is a terrible foreign policy, when you do not like a foreign government, you overthrow it rather than negotiate with it.

So I have seen this many times. What we do not have of course is the documentary record, because so much is confidential. And they are not going to release any of this. There are details that we do not know, but on the whole, the behavior of the United States in this matter was unacceptable in my opinion.

The US had intensified its proxy wars in our region from the elections in Czechia, to neighboring Slovakia, where the current political elite is completely subservient to US interests. Do you think they are using Brussels, the EU, as an instrument for their strategic goals?

One thing I strongly recommend, which has zero chance to be accepted, is that I would like to see the National Endowment for Democracy being closed, because I believe that this is an absolutely pernicious institution. The US does not have the right to fund political movements within countries to win power. If any foreign government tries that in the US, you cannot hear the end of it. And of course we heard phony things said about it with regards to the Russia-gate in the US. The US would never tolerate for one moment what it routinely does and brags about doing all over the world. So my standard is the golden rule: “do unto others what you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6.31, e.n.).

Would you like China to have a National Endowment for Democracy and mucking around in US politics? No you would not. So do not do it in the same way! And that is true anywhere in the world. I have said that to congressmen and senators, but they only smirk. This is an instrument of US foreign policy, and I think it is a wrong one. It is the replacement of diplomacy. Diplomacy is: you do not like the other side, then now we are going to sit down and deal with the other side. This one is: we do not like the other side, we are going to change the other side.

Jeffrey Sachs. Photo: Hungary Today

Still the impression is that the US is using the EU as an instrument to pressure smaller member-states…

I do not known enough about what goes on in Brussels, but I hear about the US lobbying, the corporate role. I know what goes on at NATO, which I find disgusting, because now it is not even subtle. In NATO, which is also in Brussels, the US says: this is out policy, and all of Europe falls into line. Almost all of Europe.

This is really remarkable, that Europe till today cannot find and independent voice.

I have also heard recently a good description of the commercial and financial lobbying going on in Brussels. One person told me very recently that of course, the US pays for those people. The same revolving door that I understand is present in Washington, that you work in the government, then you work in the lobbying, then you work back in the government, so the lobbyist own this. There is a lot of that in Brussels right now, and not only European companies, but American ones. So there is a very strong network of influence.

 I have asked them (European leaders) in the last couple of years, why do not you stand up and say something? And they told, “oh, Washington would treat us terribly”. Even then I do not accept the basic point. What Emmanuel Macron said is right, Europe should not be a vassal of the US. Of course as soon as he said it all the mainstream media went wild. So he backtracked saying “I do not mean it that way” and so on. And of course he is right!

Where is Europe to recognize Europe’s interests and to understand what is going on because that is the other part.

In Europe there is a misunderstanding of the Ukraine war and the mainstream European media have been relentless in claiming that the war was unprovoked, and the US line is the same. Which is false. There was no discussion of Nord-Stream to speak of in Germany, which is incredible, because it damaged the German economy massively. The evidence is overwhelming that the US did it. The evidence is growing that Olaf Scholz knows that the US did it, and everybody is quiet.

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The current US State Department and its allied ideological sponsors are pumping millions of dollars into forces and actors in Hungary whose goal is to undermine and break the democratically elected conservative government. What is their ultimate goal?

I can say first of all more generally, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are basically “GOs”, they are really government organizations, because they are working hand in hand with the government, are actively involved in trying to choose governments all over the world. US NGOs helped to finance the Euromaidan, no question about it. Money poured in, we do not know exactly how much from the US, because the US government made it covertly. But we do know from the so called “NGO community” that a lot of US money went into those events that overthrew Yanukovich. This is completely improper. And, of course, when the governments then react saying “we do not want NGOs mucking in our politics”, then the reply is: “oh, you are against democracy”. Just to say, this would never be tolerated in the US! Not even for one moment!

And so there are a lot of interests that are represented. But the basic is, starting in 1992, drawing on its ideological history, the US came to believe that it was the sole super-power of the world, and it has been determined to keep it that way. It is of course not only and illusion, it is a delusion. It is a fantasy to think that a country that has 4.1% of the world’s population, runs the other 95.9%. But people in the US leadership believe that. They really believe that by the way. They believe that the world can only work if the beneficent US is there to lead it. What we are seeing is this delusion played out in the real world where other countries are saying, “you are ok, but we do not want you leading us”. And this is the most basic point of what is happening.

The government of Viktor Orbán is involved in a David and Goliath battle against a Joe Biden lead woke and vindictive White House. How long can it last before international pressure wins over grass-roots democracy? Can the Hungarian government win this battle in the long term?

I think grassroots democracy can win. The US had tried many times to push away governments that it did not like, sometimes using horrendous means which thank goodness I do not think would apply here. Just as an example: the US, over the last 20 years, absolutely tried to overthrow the government of Venezuela. Non stop. First, Hugo Chavez, we need to throw him out by violence if necessary. That failed. Then Nicolás Maduro, they have tried to overthrow him from the start. They put in sanctions, things that are so childish, that you cannot even imagine, that a grown-up would say it. But here we had the president saying it, we had the US declaring it, Maduro is no longer the president, the president is now the person we named, Juan Guaidó.

Jeffrey Sachs. Photo: Hungary Today

But with all the respect, Hungary is far from being Venezuela. It is a democratic member-state of the EU and the US’ NATO ally…

No, no, all I was saying is even then, with all the pressures, Nicolás Maduro is there, the US could not succeed, that was the point I was making. I find it absurd and cruel that the US could presume to determine the government of Venezuela. But they tried, and they failed. They will fail here, and will do so elsewhere, because they think that they have the tools but in the end they do not.

Having said that it would be better if there was a larger coalition of countries that understood the real need for European policy, not US policy. Also, vis á vis Ukraine, if this war ends through negotiation, the lot of the really destabilizing aspects facing Europe right now will diminish. Wars destabilize the whole neighborhood. That is why I am hoping that Prime Minister Orbán, President Erdogan, and I hope some others in NATO could say clearly to the US and to their colleagues: “you known this approach is not working, you know we have to end this war, you know we have to go to negotiations”. I think even a small group telling the truth like that could make a big difference inside NATO.

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Featured Image: Facebook Jeffrey Sachs

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