Cold War continues: US uses Ukrainian issue to demonize Russia in EU eyes
Marcus, how could comment on Vladimir Putin's statements he made during today's press conference? Is it safe to say that his statements poured cold water on all those who demonized him in connection with the latest events in Ukraine?
Well, President Putin presented Russia's case on the crisis in Ukraine. And President Putin's version of event would be very-very difficult for an objective person and a person that knows the region intimately to disagree with. And of course, there were essentially three areas that President Putin highlighted. They are very-very important areas and the areas that are rarely cited in the West, and if they are, they are discarded very casually.
First of all, President Putin highlighted the points, and correctly, that the people ruling in Kiev at the moment are there illegitimately. And we need to make this point very-very clear, that the so-called Government in Kiev came to power through a coup, and it was a Western-backed coup. They overthrew a democratically elected President and a democratically elected Government, and that is a deplorable situation. That point needs to be made time and time again throughout the world, and by ordinary people, because what is at stake in Ukraine is, partly, democracy.
And that is something that we hear Western leaders talking about, that the West will always be the guardian of democracy. Well, that's not entirely true, because in Ukraine there was a democratically elected President and a democratically elected Government who happen to believe that Ukraine's economic future lay with Russia. And because that went against what the West wanted, they therefore financed and helped logistically armed militants come to power in Kiev. And that's what President Putin highlighted and he is absolutely correct.
The second point is the nature of the people who are now making up this so-called Government in Kiev and the people on the streets in Kiev. Many of these politicians who are now being given Government positions in Kiev, they come from the Svoboda Party, and from the Right Sector Party. And both of these parties, both of these movements, they hold some repugnant views, absolutely disgusting views. They are anti-Semitic, they are ultranationalists, they are anti-Russian, they are anti-Communist and they praise the Third Reich in having invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.
And we need to be clear for people listening to this interview. Some of the people that the Svoboda Party and the Right Sector praise are people and organizations that holocaust historians have very clearly documented as having taken part in the holocaust. Stepan Bandera was an ultranationalist leader that collaborated with the Nazis following the Nazi invasion of the USSR and his organization – the Organization for the Ukrainian Nationalists – and the military wing of the organization for the Ukrainian nationalists – the Ukrainian Insurgent Army – they fought alongside the Wehrmacht.
And not only they did assist in the killing of Soviet Jews, Soviet civilians and Soviet prisoners of war, but they also led the way in many instances. And the other point is that a lot of the camp guards at Nazi death camps in Poland, for example, the Sobibor, they were Ukrainian nationalists from, for example, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army or the Organization for Ukrainian Nationalists.
And these are the sort of people that are being praised by the politicians who are now in power in Kiev. And that poses a very serious threat to the rest of Ukraine. And then, on the streets of Kiev, the mob, these militants, once again, they hold the same views. And when President Putin said today that these radical politicians, that these militants on the streets of Kiev, when he said they pose a threat to millions of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, and millions of Russian-speaking Ukrainians, he is absolutely correct.
And when Western politicians and Western journalists discard that and say that's an exaggeration, they say that because they are ignorant of what the Soviet Union experienced during the WW II. They are ignorant that Hitler fought a war of extermination against the Soviet people and, as a result nearly 30 million Soviet people perished in the WW II.
And when you talk to an ethnic Russian in Ukraine or a Russian-speaking Ukrainian anywhere in the country – in the west, in the central Ukraine or in the east and the Crimea – when you say to them the words "ultranationalism", "anti-Semitism", "the Third Reich", "Stepan Bandera", that installs absolute fear in them. And that fear stems from what happened during the WW II. But people in the West are largely ignorant of what the Soviet people went through in the WW II. That's why they say President Putin is exaggerating these comments, when he says there is a real threat towards millions of people in Ukraine.
The third aspect of President Putin's statement, once again, he highlighted a threat to a large part of Ukraine and he highlighted a threat to the territorial integrity of Ukraine. You have people in power in Kiev, who've been passing all sorts of laws which are sidelining millions of the Ukrainian people. These laws they've been passing are targeting ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians. And these laws include banning Russian as an official language and they are also discussing banning the broadcast of Russian-speaking television stations and radio stations in Ukraine. How on earth that is conducive to human rights and to a civil society is beyond me.
So, President Putin made Russia's case. It was very clear, it was very-very clinical and, as I said at the beginning of this interview, any objective commentator, any person that intimately knows the history of Russia and Ukraine and intimately knows the people will understand that President Putin's statement was accurate.
Marcus, and what sort of reaction could we now expect from the West?
One of the realities of globalization is that countries, governments and business people, they are all dependent on each other. This is not 20 years ago, this is not 30, 40 or 50 years ago. The economies of the world are so interconnected, so intertwined with each other that if you place a sanction on one country, that is going to have an effect on the country that is placing that sanction.
So, I think there is very little chance of Western economic sanctions on Russia, because that will have a severe effect on those Western countries that are placing these sanctions. And I think that also includes the US as well, but more so the European countries.
And certainly, the country that I live in – Britain – has very-very strong trade links with Russia. And there is no way that the British business community would tolerate the British Government taking any steps that will jeopardize the trade between Russia and Britain, because those British business people will walk into 10 Downing Street and say to Prime Minister David Cameron that if you place economic sanctions on Russia, that is going to have an effect on Britain and that will have an effect on Britain's economic recovery. So, I think economic sanctions from the West are unlikely.
I think two things will come from the West. There will be an intensification of the PR attack on Russia, there is no question about it, that the West – its politicians and its journalists – will up the ante in portraying Russia as this barbaric, expansionist, uncivilized country that is seeking to devour one country after another. It is a ludicrous image but, no doubt, that that is what the West will do.
But we have to remember that the West has historically seen Russia in a very negative light. Whether Russia is tsarist, whether Russia is communist or modern day Russia, Russia will always be perceived negatively because of its size and because of its power.
But, nonetheless, there will be an increased PR attack against Russia. And I would argue as well, that the US Government's plans to install a missile defense system in eastern Europe, undoubtedly, those plans will be strengthened in the eyes of Washington and Brussels, and the need for this missile defense shield will also be strengthened in the eyes of Washington and Brussels. So, it could be that the plans to build this missile defense shield are sped up. The American and European politicians will say – look, we are dealing with a very aggressive Russian state and we need to install this missile defense shield.
Now, once again, that is ludicrous. Russia does not pose a threat to Europe. But, nonetheless, the Americans in particular will use that argument to speed up the plans for the construction of this missile defense shield, which, of course, in the long-term is going to cause a very-very serious problem and will cause tension between Russia and the West again. This missile defense shield, the Americans say it is aimed at Iran and North Korea, which is nonsense, it is actually aimed at Russia's strategic nuclear deterrence. And the Russians will not tolerate the nuclear balance between America and Russia being tilted in favour of America, and quite rightly so.
So, what the Americans don't realize is that by building this defense shield and speeding it up, because of how they see President Putin's actions in Ukraine, it is actually going to cause tensions in the long-term.
Taking into consideration all that you have just said, can we say that it is the beginning of the Cold War or it is already in its full bloom? How would you estimate the relations between the US and Russia? And what could be the consequences of this PR attack and installing missile defense system?
You know, did the Cold War ever end? Well, on the one hand, it certainly did end. The ideological standoff between capitalism and communism – that certainly did end and that is dead and buried, no question about it. But there was another aspect of the Cold War was the faceoff between the two superpowers – America and Russia. And I think that continued after the collapse of communism in the eastern Europe and after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
I think the reason why people in the 1990s went talking about it so much was because Russia was extremely weak, Russia was on its knees economically, politically and militarily. But since President Putin came to power Russia has clawed back much of its lost superpower status. And that is the problem for America, that Russia is back, is standing on its feet and is projecting Russian power and influence in the world as any country in the world has the right to do.
So, I think that the problem is with the Americans, that the Americans do not wish to see their global supremacy challenged. They do not want Russia to be able to form close relationships with countries in Latin America, for example Venezuela. They don't want Russia to maintain close relations with certain countries in the Middle East, for example Syria. And they don't want Russia to form or to resurrect close relations with certain countries in southeast Asia, such as Vietnam, because they see it as a threat to American political dominance in the world and American economic dominance in the world.
So, if you follow American-Russian relations, what's happened in Ukraine isn't a surprise. It certainly is not a surprise to me. But I say this, now, this is just the beginning and things like this will continue happening. It could happen in Latin America. It is happening in the ME, because, let's not forget, in Syria the reason why the Americans are backing Islamist militants, is because Syria maintains close relations with Russia and is trying to eliminate the Russian influence in the ME. And they would achieve that by bringing down the Syrian Government.
So, it's happened in the ME and, undoubtedly, it will happen in southeast Asia, as Russia starts to resurrect its close relations with countries like Vietnam. So, I think it is a very uncertain world we live in, it is a potentially very dangerous world we live in, but the fault for this lies firmly and squarely with Washington.
And how do you think the situation in Kiev will develop further?
That's down to the illegitimate authorities in Kiev and their Western backers. The illegitimate authorities in Kiev are saying that they want to have good relations with Russia. Well, good relations with Russia mean not banning the Russian language in Ukraine, it means not destroying Russian monuments in Ukraine, it means arresting any person and any politician on the streets of Kiev that call for the killing of Russians, communists and Jews, anyone that praises Nazi Germany, anyone that praises Stepan Bandera – the wartime Nazi collaborator. That's the way you would start building a better relationship with Russia and reassure millions of Ukrainians.
But also, as well, if we take it one step further, at the moment we are hearing the West talk about EU loans to Ukraine, IMF loans to Ukraine. The problem with that is this – the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, they are not going to accept those EU measures, they won't accept the IMF measures, because they know it will be disastrous, it will mean that their industries will collapse and it means that millions of people in the east and in the south of Ukraine will be unemployed.
And we need to make this point very clear, that the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine don't need the western regions. Remember, the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, they are the backbone of the Ukrainian economy. The eastern and southern regions can very well on their own, it is the western regions that need the east and the south. And that is very-very important to take into consideration.
Marcus, thank you so much.