Interview with Dr. Sergei Khrushchev
Scientist in the Soviet Space Program,
Naturalized American Citizen,
and son of Soviet Leader
Dr. Khrushchev answers questions from Abamedia for the RED FILES Web site
Abamedia: Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions from us, Dr. Khrushchev. I understand you are leaving for Greece this morning, and I really appreciate your taking the time to do this. Are there any special questions you'd like to respond to first?
Dr. Khrushchev: Let's give you the possibility to decide.
Abamedia: OK, we have some questions from our web producer about the various programs in RED FILES, but also just generally about your ideas and your life. For instance, how do Americans react to your name?
Dr. Khrushchev: There is no reaction. With some of them it's clear, but I don't think that too many people really remember the connection – when you are talking about people who lived in the 50's and 60's . . . mostly to the young people you have to explain who they were. If it is not a college student, even in this case, they're answering that we don't know.
Abamedia: I see. There is a lot of talk about George W. Bush these days in the United States. How would you compare being the son of a former leader in the U.S. and a former leader in the Soviet Union.
Dr. Khrushchev: I think it's very close because when we're talking about George W. Bush, he decided to be a politician, so he has a different career and a different life, but in each country, if you are living at Buckingham Palace, the White House, the Kremlin (I never lived in the Kremlin itself), you are under the control of the people here, they control the press in the Soviet Union; there was no freedom of press, but in any case, the people talk. So you must be very cautious when you are doing something because it will have just affected your parents' life.
Abamedia: Right. How do you perceive the space race today between the U.S. and Russia?
Dr. Khrushchev: When we talk about the space race between the U.S. and Russia, it mostly emanates from the American side on the first part, because on the first part, the Soviet Union designs its missile and then just exploit it and they begin to launch different spacecraft, and Americans tried just to catch up with Soviet Union. In the second period, it was the moon race . . .
Dr. Khrushchev: This moon race began in Russia after my father was really ousted from power, because my father was not too much eager to spend money for this one race, because he understood it. He taught his designer that America is much richer, and we have to save our money because his main goal was to pursue the housing program and agriculture. So it began in 1964, maybe 1965, so it was three years later, and of course the Soviet Union couldn't invest as much money as Americans.
Abamedia: How do you see real values in Russia and the U.S. these days that you can associate with that are similar for both countries?
Dr. Khrushchev: The real common value, I think it is democracy, even if it is still not real democracy in Russia, and I think it reads also the life of the people, because it is most important that they present a good enough life to the people and they pay their salaries, and they pay our salaries, and all this, and I think in this case, Russia is in a very bad situation, because first of all, they're creating not the real productive capitalism, but the economy where people–small group of people are not producing the products that they sell to the market, but trying to run the country through raiding the budget. And because in this case, they are not paying salaries for their employees, and it's creating a very difficult situation.
The second is during the Gorbachev time, it was a tremendous step toward democracy in the country. Now it's gone back, and in the forthcoming elections, it is a big possibility that the Yeltsin Administration would make attempt to prevent new presidential elections because they want to keep Yeltsin in power forever.
Abamedia: We have some questions related to other of the RED FILES films. Going on toward the KGB and spy program, we have a question "Spying is still a part of politics in every country. Where would you draw the lines as appropriate and inappropriate spying for countries that are now Allies?"
Dr. Khrushchev: Well, I think that spying has existed all the time the human civilization existed, so, in spite of this game, you are spying and catching, or we are spying, you're catching. It depends on who will be more effective. What is not appropriate, I think, is when you are trying to eliminate political figures or political leaders from the outside or just overthrow a nation or through payments to the opposition, because it isn't right; it is political life. So I was very upset when I read that America is now investing money and paying our taxpayers' money to remove President Milosevic from the power. He's a bad guy, but he was elected. He didn't say to somebody, I don't like American presidents or others, then they will do the same thing. I think it's a move in trust among countries, because if you are trying to steal nuclear secrets, it's part of the game. If you are trying to remove the political and elected leader from power, it's a dirty game.
Abamedia: Yes, thank you. How were the spies like the Cohens, Philby and others–seen in the Soviet Union? As heroes? Or did people actually know very much about them?
Dr. Khrushchev: Oh, they don't know too much about spies everywhere because the knowledge was coming out about them much later because it's impossible to talk about them; they will be exposed to the opposite side. I think that in each country the spies are heroes because they're working in the interest of their own country.
Abamedia: How do you feel about the way American dominance seems to be taking over in various areas around the world today–like in propaganda because of Hollywood, and the American lifestyle that gets broadcast, and sports and these kind of areas.
Dr. Khrushchev: I think that everything depends on each country. If they want to accept American dominance, it's part of their life and you can do nothing. But, from the other side, when it's important to understand that without clear understanding of the goals of the nation, the dominance cannot live for a long time, or maybe as America thinks, forever; because you have to know what you are doing, and what you are doing to keep the country great.
Abamedia: When you were growing up in the Soviet Union, what place did sports have in your life? Were you a football or soccer player? Did you play hockey, or were you involved personally in sports?
Dr. Khrushchev: No, I was not involved in sports seriously. I preferred to read books. Like all Soviet children, I played volleyball, I played hockey, but not on any serious level.
Abamedia: How did you feel about the money that was spent on promoting sports during the 50's and 60's in the Soviet Union?
Dr. Khrushchev: But it was, if you compare this with all the budget, this money was not so big, and in each country, we're promoting the sports because it's a part of the glory of the country. Even here, remember how it was a big event when America won the world championship in the women's soccer. Even if this sport is not very important in the world, it's just that the country wants to be the first in sports, and I think that each of the citizens of this country wants his country to be the first. It is the same here; it was the same in the Soviet Union. Because the Soviet Union was a centralized society, the sport was much more dependent on the state than in the United States, where it depends on the owners of the different teams.
Abamedia: Right. How long have you been in the United States?
Dr. Khrushchev: How long. I came here in September 1991 to Thomas Watson Junior Institute for International Studies at Brown University, to work as a Senior Fellow, lecturing, writing books, and teaching. And I'm still living here, planning to live here, and I became American citizen last month.
Abamedia: Yes, I saw that in our newspaper here in Fort Worth. How did it feel to get this attention for becoming a U.S. citizen?
Dr. Khrushchev: I was not too much, how to say, affected by this attention, because it's not attention that I am elite as the son of the leader of the foreign country became the American citizen–not such attention with the son of Mrs. Thatcher, the former prime minister from England who became American citizen. He is working in Texas all his life. And so, [people who look at it this way] are still living in the Cold War, it's still the same way of thinking in the Cold War. If I became the American citizen, that means some victory in the Cold War for the opposite side–my defection. Which is not correct to really to decide the Cold War is ended, because I never defected, I didn't betray Russia because I can just live here as any other foreigner who would apply for American citizenship and still visit my own country and then write my former country and then write my relatives and friends to come here. So, it is a sign that really the Cold War is over.
Abamedia: Do you travel to Russia often?
Dr. Khrushchev: Not very often, but I was in Russia two months ago for a month. I was there for a month . . . . my father's memoirs had been published, the full draft, and I spent that full month in Russia, in Moscow, and in Kiev, and Ukraine.
Abamedia: Okay, here's another question: "How do you see in Russia today the links between mafia and politics and mafia and sports?" That has been in the news in the United States lately.
Dr. Khrushchev: I don't know too much about mafia and sports. As I told you, I am not very active in sports. But mafia, or the criminals–not so much mafia, the criminals–and the government and the politics, it's the same. It's very different than here–they have link between mafia and sports or some other sides of the life of the people. They–it's the same people, the criminals of their own government, and government in the world of criminal activity.
Abamedia: As a scientist, how would you compare the state of science in Russia in the 60's and now in the 90's.
Dr. Khrushchev: Oh, it's extremely different, because, in 60's, it was productive centralized economy, and in each productive economy like now in United States, the government, the state, and the enterprises are interested in science because it will help them to develop their production in future. Now, most of these people are interested not in future production, but in stealing something today when they decide it works to do it–to invest in science, or to steal this money, or they decide it is better they will steal this money for their own pocket. So, at this time, nobody is interested in science, and most of the science or scientists tried to escape from the country, or to associate with some different activity, because they really have no money for living. Sometimes they're not paid their salaries for half a year, and their salaries are much lower than the salaries of the bus driver.
Abamedia: How much do you think Russia is relying on Western help, and is this desirable, or is this a problem?
Dr. Khrushchev: I don't think that in reality it is a problem, because the foreign help cannot help Russia. If Russia wants to transform to the productive economy, first of all, they want to change the structure and turn the direction, and then it will be only private investments in these new enterprises that really would help this economy. Because when you talk about $2 billion or $5 billion credit from West, you have to find out in reality how much is needed to transform the Russian centralized economy to the market economy in the direct way. And from my calculation, what's needed in this case is to invest in Russia every year 2.5 TRILLION dollars– not billions–2.5 trillion dollars, not existing in the world. So it does not really make a difference if the help is $1 billion, or $10 billion. It is the same as the lottery -- The chance of winning is not really that different if you buy one ticket or 10 tickets, or 100 tickets.
Abamedia: It's just not enough.
Dr. Khrushchev: It's not enough, and really it has no value on the chances in Russia because it's too small. Even 100 million annual investment in Russia would be too small. It should be enough to help us out, but people who are close to government steal enough money, so it's a different thing.
Abamedia: If you were going to plan for the future, the ideal U.S.-Russian relationship, what should each side do to reach that point.
Dr. Khrushchev: Each side? I don't know really, because it depends on the step-by-step policy and Russia has to do more in the direction of democracy, not in the opposite direction, and they will develop the productive economy. In this case, it will be much easier to deal with each other. And, with United States, they need to be thinking more about real Russian interests and not try to give too many advice.
Abamedia: I think that's good advice from you, and I really appreciate your taking the time to talk with us today, because I know this was a very busy morning for you, and we appreciate all the help you've given us on the film, and we look forward to working with you again in the future.
Dr. Khrushchev: Thank you. Please call me in September.
Abamedia: Okay, we will. Thank you very much.
© 1999 Abamedia, unless otherwise indicated.