'Western powers do not intend to go to war over Ukraine'
"The pressure that needs to go on the NATO powers now is to use the influence with the people they support in the government in Kiev to make the compromise that is essential for the people in Ukraine, which is about federal autonomy, which is about making clear that Ukraine is not going to be drawn into the Western military alliance and continue the process of NATO expansion that has been so provocative and distractive over the past ten or fifteen years," Milne added.
RT: In your last article, you call NATO a threat to peace. Tell us what you mean?
Seumas Milne: If you look back over the last decade or more, since the end of the cold war, NATO has expanded out of its traditional areas in its so-called "out of area" strategy. It moved into the whole of Eastern Europe and also into the former Soviet Union. It has begun to take action in other parts of the world like Afghanistan and Libya to calamitous effect. And now we have got a crisis in Ukraine which is triggered in large part by the attempt to push Ukraine into the Western camp, not only into the European Union but also into the structures of NATO. Of course that is being spelled out in the crisis now. So the attempt to draw Ukraine into NATO and into the Western camp is at the heart of the crisis that is now being played out in the eastern part of the country with such terrible bloodshed.
RT:In your opinion, which actions should be taken by the Kiev government to settle the conflict in the east of Ukraine?
SM: I think that the whole tendency in Ukrainian politics, in Kiev politics at the moment, is to shift to the right and the shift to a more nationalistic position. And there is a competition between Ukrainian politicians to go in that direction which is making the likelihood of a settlement more and more difficult. And what is needed, it is clear what the basic elements of a settlement would be. There needs to be at the very minimum the full federal autonomy for the Eastern part of the country, there needs to be a clear commitment that Ukraine is not going to be a member of NATO that it is going to stay a neutral country which is what the majority of Ukrainians want, as one opinion poll after another has shown. And there needs to be a wind down of the conflict on both sides. But I am afraid unless there is pressure from the sponsors of the Ukrainian government who are currently meeting in Wales at the NATO summit to settle the conflict and to compromise, I do not think right now there is now any prospect of that realistically.
RT:In The Times today, David Cameron and Barack Obama stressed that NATO needs to keep its forces permanently in Europe - should the commitment be so open-ended?
SM: They are talking about a rotation of the so-called “Rapid Reaction Force” throughout former Warsaw pact countries and parts of the former Soviet Union including the Baltic States as some kind of deterrent to Russia. But in reality that is going to really inflame the situation further. What we need to see is a winding down of the conflict, less provocation and understanding that there will not be a winner who takes all the settlement in Ukraine. And the only alternative is the continued fragmentation or break-up of the country and a lot of suffering and deaths in the eastern part of Ukraine in particular.
RT:David Cameron also recently compared Vladimir Putin to Hitler. How much of a concern is it that such a senior world leader is resorting to such insults?
SM: If you look back in history since the World War II every single opponent of Western power has always been compared to Hitler. That goes back to Abdel Nasser in Egypt, Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Milosevic. Any number of them, they are all compared with Hitler. It has become a sort of joke; in a way that anyone who opposes Western power anywhere in the world becomes a focus of conflict with the NATO powers is always compared to Hitler. It is absurd, and it is of course insulting to the people who suffered at the hands of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime, many, many millions of whom were in the former Soviet Union and Russia itself. I am afraid that is just a part of the script of media management of conflict in the Western world and has been for decades.
There has been a winding up of the Western media coverage of this conflict in a way that really obscures to people here what has actually been going on. I am afraid that it is also happens routinely whenever the Western powers are involved in conflict. Of course it happens in the other parts of the world as well. And we saw it in Afghanistan, we saw it in Iraq with the non-existent “weapons of mass distraction,” we saw it Libya two or three years ago. But it is obviously unhelpful from the point of view of trying to get a settlement. But actually you will see that public opinion in Britain and also in the other parts of the Western world is not in favor of winding up the conflict. People here don`t support Western arms are going to the Ukrainian government because they have had enough experience in recent years of the failure of aggressive Western military policy particularly in the Arabian Muslim world but of course elsewhere as well. They have seen it hasn`t worked but it has led to catastrophe and they don`t want any more of that. And one of the problems NATO leaders have is that public opinion is not with them in more aggressive military and strategic policies in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, or any other parts of the world. But I think that is a hopeful sign because it is a pressure on them to restrain some of those forces within not only the United States but in Europe as well who want to press for more hawkish approach to what is going on in Ukraine, what is going on in the Middle east, what is going on in North Africa.
RT:What is the NATO summit? Is it really a huge event where the solutions to the serious political issues could be found?
SM: This is a show. What is going on in Wales in Newport is a big international summit and the NATO leaders are all grand standing and they want to show themselves to be tough, that they have got a strategy on Ukraine. We already know what this strategy is - it is about this “Rapid Reaction Force”. But I think the underline reality is that we know that the Western powers do not intend to go to war over Ukraine. There is not going to be a full scale confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine. And what we are seeing is a stalemate that is going in the eastern parts of the country which is being filled by western support for the Kiev government. And Russia is effectively supporting the rebels in the eastern parts of the country. We need to wind down that conflict but it takes two to tango. And the pressure that needs to be on the NATO powers now is to use the influence with the people they support in the government in Kiev to make the compromise that is essential for the people in Ukraine, which is about federal autonomy, which is about making clear that Ukraine is not going to be drawn into the Western military alliance and continue the process of NATO expansion that has been so provocative and distractive over the past ten or fifteen years.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.