Noting that both sides have revealed their aspirations not to let politics continue to interfere with economic cooperation, Yakunin noted that on Russia's part, the desire is sincere. "As the head of one of our largest [state] companies, I have never faced any barriers [from part of the government] on the development of relations with Western companies. I would very much like to see Western governments come to the realization that sanctions [only further] hit at the already difficult economic situation in Western Europe."
Only Washington Benefits From Moscow-Berlin Divide
Commenting on the harmful effects of sanctions on Europe, Yakunin postulated that in the present situation, only the US benefits from the continuation of sanctions.
"Russia is not a competitor for the European economy, and likewise with China. The European economy does not have any competition in Latin America or the Arab countries. Political scientist George Friedman, the head of the private intelligence group Stratfor, bluntly stated that the US would consider it a nightmare if the idea of an economic union between Germany and Russia were even tabled. The combination of German technology and Russian resources would create an enormous competitor for the US. And so the cooling of relations between Europe and Russia is beneficial to the American economy and to American bankers."
Yakunin also explained that Russia is inalienably a part of Europe, interacting with other European countries and cultures over the course of many centuries, developing together, experiencing both antagonism and cooperation. "Russia is a resident in the European home," Yakunin noted. The railway chief also voiced his belief that Russia's recent expansion of cooperation with China does not at all mean that cooperation with Europe will end.
Yakunin noted that despite government policies, the European business community continues to look for ways to cooperate with Russian Railways. Commenting on his April visit to the representatives of the German Chamber of Commerce, Yakunin noted that he "was asked many questions about the prospects of implementing several mega-projects, including the modernization of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Baikal-Amur Mainline, and high-speed rail. I cannot guarantee that all of these projects will be developed at the pace that was planned prior to the sanctions, but there is no question that they must be completed."
At present, Western European companies have problems with financing, including issues with the transfer of funds for completed projects. In Yakunin's view, such actions, which serve only to harm Western companies, "cannot be called anything other than masochism." Nevertheless, Yakunin noted that Russian Railways' cooperation continues on a number of large-scale projects, citing the company's cooperation with Siemens, which is involved in the creation of an automated train control system in the port of Ust-Luga on the Baltic coast, and in negotiations on the localization of the production of the Siemens Desiro passenger train.
On the Conflict in Ukraine and Its Roots
Asked by his interviewers whether he really believes that outright fascists are in charge in Kiev, Yakunin noted:
"I wouldn't say so. But I will note that in the relationship between the unarmed man and the armed man the armed one is always right. If Western media gave an objective picture of what is happening in Ukraine under the influence of the Right Sector, you would see how the [post-Maidan] parliament was formed, how armed men came to visit public prosecutors, literally throwing them into garbage bins. The West underestimates the dangers stemming from the processes which occurred and which continue to occur in Ukraine. In the West too groups have formed which learn from the case of Ukraine how to achieve their goals. But the seizure of weapons and their use in political life cannot become an acceptable norm."
Asked about what he considers to be Russia's mistakes in its reaction to the crisis, Yakunin noted that:
"For many years, we were incorrect in our assessment of the processes occurring in Ukraine, and did not react to them. This was true under [Prime Minister Yulia] Tymoshenko. It was our mistake to succumb to the illusion that the problem was purely an economic one. At the time when our relations with the West were good, we were not able to persuade them about the dangerous tendencies emerging in Ukraine. Everything was reduced to the idea that Russia wanted Ukraine to remain in its zone of influence, while the West sought to take Ukraine into the EU with open arms. But everyone knows that the West does not want to see Ukraine join the EU, with all its debts and its ruined economy. The real question is not about who Ukraine will choose, but about why all of this happened. And here both sides made a colossal mistake."
Regarding the solution to the crisis, Yakunin believes that "the key to finding the solution to the conflict in Ukraine lies not in Minsk, not in Kiev, and not even in Moscow, but in Washington."