At the presentation of the Russian edition of his book “Enemy stereotype Russia. History of a demonization” Hannes Hofbauer spoke to Sputnik about America's sanctions and the ambiguity of US politics under Trump, Germany's double game, football and politics.
Sputnik: Mr. Hofbauer, how has Russia’s image in the West changed since your book was published in 2016? Has it become friendlier?
Hannes Hofbauer: The image of Russia hasn’t become friendlier. With the first sanctions in March 2014, there was a certain amount of surprise from people that Russia was suddenly being sanctioned. Many didn’t understand that. Above all, the economies that trade with Russia suffered. But even ordinary people didn’t understand why Russia was suddenly being portrayed as an enemy. Since then, this hostile image has become solidified in the media. It’s not so obvious that you are against it. People have considered the sanctions nonsense for a long time. But they don’t hurt us. Now the Americans have tightened the sanctions. The opposing voices are softening.
On the other hand, with respect to the US and Donald Trump, there’s not one policy but different positions. The American Deep State is absolutely anti-Russian. Donald Trump himself is not anti-Russian. However, since he can’t pursue his own policy, Donald Trump keeps sending out signals about pursuing balanced policies regarding Russia, such as his demand to reinstate Russia in the G8, which was immediately rejected by Germany. It's a double game, and the public is already tired of this information. That's a problem.
Sputnik: You said that Trump's policy is contradictory. There’s talk of a Trump-Putin meeting, and Vienna has already offered to host it. What’s your take on that?
Hannes Hofbauer: That would be great if it came to such a meeting. Actually, it would be logical, of course in a time when there’s such a dangerous situation. We have two wars – in eastern Ukraine and in Syria between the American-led NATO on the one hand and Russian allies and Russia on the other – these are more or less proxy wars. It’s high time to organize such a meeting. It can’t lead to anything bad; it can only lead to something positive, even if not very much may come out at the first meeting. I should say that the positions in the West are different. I was surprised, for example, that Angela Merkel immediately said “no” to Donald Trump's suggestion of getting Russia back in the G8. She could have consulted with a number of people from her circle or even with other EU countries, for example, the new Italian government, which obviously no longer wants hostility towards Russia. But she spontaneously said “no,” and that's not a good sign. A Putin-Trump meeting is all the more necessary now. 3.28
Sputnik: Why is Angela Merkel behaving like this? She spoke recently with Putin in Sochi, and it seemed that the situation between Germany and Russia has improved a bit.
Hannes Hofbauer: The European Union is no longer a unified force. That's been known for a long time. There’s no European foreign policy; everyone plays their own piano. But meanwhile, there’s no single American policy anymore. That's something new. At least in the last few years it has become new, because a president is in power who is not connected in any way with the military-industrial complex. And in my opinion, the military-industrial complex has a lot of power in the USA. It’s clearly hostile to Russia, and Donald Trump is obviously incapable of, perhaps unwilling, to change anything about it.
However, the tightening of sanctions by the Senate and Congress this year has made it clear that the US President can’t lift the sanctions on his own. [A system has emerged] that is in complete contradiction to the American President’s authority.
Sputnik: We're talking on the eve of the opening of the World Cup in Russia. Some politicians want to come to Russia for the occasion. But the British politicians are calling for a boycott of the tournament. Is football politicized?
Hannes Hofbauer: It’s always said that sports shouldn’t be exploited politically, but it has always been the case. You don’t have to indulge in illusions. The only question is: which direction. Are the powers that be using sports to support political unity, or are they driving more wedges between Russia and the West?
In the West, the latter seems to be true. That’s bad. On the other hand, it ultimately depends on who’s playing in the final! I wish, [jokingly], that participation in the final round is limited to countries whose leaders decide to come to Moscow. Unfortunately, Austria won't be there.
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