‘Long-term cooperation between Russia and the West shouldn’t be wasted because of Ukraine’
RT:The EU and the US openly supported the Ukrainian uprising, and recognized the self-appointed government. So why not recognize the referendum in Crimea, which followed democratic procedures?
Peter Truscott: That’s really for them to answer. What I would say about the referendum in Crimea is clearly the will of the people in Crimea has been displayed, their voice was very clear, with over 90% or 97% according to some figures that the people want to be with Russia. I think what a lot of people are forgetting in this debate about sanctions, and the position and President Putin, the EU and the US is what the people of Crimea do actually want. I made a comparison before with the referendum which we have here in the UK, in Scotland, and the only real difference between the referendum in Scotland on independence and the referendum in Crimea is that the one in Scotland has been agreed by London and the one in Crimea wasn’t agreed by Kiev.
Now if you think about this kind of fact it means that if London didn’t agree with the referendum in Scotland, it means that Scotland has no right for self-determination. I think it’s a moot point. But I think we need to move on instead of having these tit-for-tat sanctions. I think we need to focus on a diplomatic solution to this crisis and think about the relationship that we have between Russia and the West and how productive that has been over the recent years. Namely, cooperation over Syria, over Iran, containing its ambitions for a nuclear bomb, Afghanistan, Taliban, international trade in drugs, a whole series of issues (including fighting international terrorism, arms control) and all these issues, including nuclear arms control – on all these issues Russia and the West were very well together over the recent years and it would be a sad thing if all this would be put off to waste and we turn to a Cold War.
RT:Brussels and Washington both threatened to cripple Russia politically and economically. How far do you think they're prepared to go with sanctions?
PT: What I would ask is what they are trying to achieve through these sanctions. Everyone talks about deescalating the conflict but in fact what we see is escalation. And I think that is counter-productive. At the end of the day sanctions, particularly trade and economic sanctions, will damage not only Russia but will damage the West. And the danger that the Western economic recovery in Europe and in the US will be put at risk. This is not a cost-free option and I think the negotiating tactic of threaten to shoot itself in a foot is not the best way for it.
RT:The current government in Kiev is partially controlled by nationalists. Doesn't this concern Brussels?
PT: That begs a question why isn't there a more diplomatic negotiation going on. The discussion having a contact group, where the West has suggested a contact group, Russia has discussed having an international forum to debate these issues. I think the whole debate about the nature of the government in Kiev, the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, and the whole strategic security issues, means that these questions can only be solved if the parties sit at the table and negotiate. That's what they should be doing instead of threatening each other with sanctions they should get around the table and negotiate a diplomatic solution to this crisis.
RT:Ukraine's almost bankrupt, and the EU has offered it 15 billion dollars which surely is not enough to save it from default. Will the EU really go ahead with that payout, given all the internal problems it faces?
PT: I think they will offer financial help to Ukraine, the question is will it be enough? You mentioned a figure of 15 billion dollars, 35 billion dollars has also been mentioned. There's also the question whether Ukraine will be able to continue to pay for its gas imports from Russia. Something like 1.9 billion dollars is owed to Russia by beginning of April, the discount for Russian gas is going to end. Is Ukraine going to be able to survive and is the EU able to give it the sort of economic support it needs in the times like this. I think it's debatable at the moment and Ukraine could certainly be facing a very serious economic short-term crisis.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.