Sputnik has discussed the arrival of the British Royal Navy warship in the Black Sea with Professor Anatol Lieven, an international politics expert at Georgetown University in Qatar.
Sputnik: Now, Moscow has called the British ship a spy ship, while the BBC said, the ship is used to collect data from the ocean. Wikipedia writes that her majesty's ship Echo is designed to conduct survey operations in support of submarines, or amphibious operations. So, could the ship be used for spying and if so, why, in your view, is the BBC choosing to mislead its audience?
Sputnik: Professor, in your opinion, is Moscow making a mistake by continuing to hold Ukrainian ships and sailors?
Anatol Lieven: Well, I think, Moscow has made its point about how Russia controls the Sea of Azov. As far as I can see, it might as well now show generosity and a desire to reduce tensions by releasing the ships and the sailors. Again, while of course, Moscow will need to make clear that, if the Ukrainians do this again, then Moscow will do the same thing.
Sputnik: Professor, you mentioned Petro Poroshenko. How does this situation affect his election campaign?
Anatol Lieven: Obviously, if he can introduce martial law across large areas of the country, where opposition to him is strong then the fear is that he can use this to suppress votes even rig the elections, discourage opposition candidates, all that kind of thing. I mean, it's not clear that he's done so yet, but there are certainly very well based fears that this is his intention.
Sputnik: Professor, what is your take on the US promise to send additional millions of dollars to help Ukraine build its navy. How significant is this aid?
Anatol Lieven: Insignificant. I mean, it's a sign, once again, of sympathy and continuing concern. Ten million dollars, it's enough to carry out minor repairs on one ship. All this is another signal that America takes what happens seriously. It's far, far, far short of giving the Ukrainians anything serious. Fortunately, there is still sufficient opposition, I think, in Washington above all in the US uniform military to arming the Ukrainians; because, obviously, after what happened in Georgia in 2008, if this would lead to the Ukrainians into doing something much more active and this lead to another war, well the Ukrainians would lose.
America would not take part and, once again, this would be a humiliation for America and NATO. You know, as I say, fortunately, there are people in Washington, who see that and who are still, therefore, being cautious. It must be said, this long predates Trump. This is not the result of Trump's administration. This is the result of sober military calculations by the Pentagon and by sensible American diplomats.
Sputnik: Professor, in March of 2019 Ukraine will choose its next president. How high are the chances that we may see, if not reconciliation, at least a thaw in relations between Kiev and Moscow?
The moderate opposition, which desires compromise with Russia, is very broken up and, of course, whatever influence the USA has, is also going to be used against it. As things stand today, I must say it's not at all clear to me what's going to happen.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Anatol Lieven and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.