'Ukraine is pretext for US lobby to go on with sanctions against Russia'
RT:The EU has extended individual sanctions but refrained from new economic restrictions. Why haven't they gone further do you think?
Neil Clark: Well, it’s interesting, isn’t it? I think this reveals to us the split that there is within the EU. Because what we’ve got really, we’ve got the hard-line countries led unfortunately by Britain, countries like Poland, Lithuania and some others who really want an extension of sanctions. And then we’ve got the more realistic members, the countries that actually want to see these sanctions lifted. Of course, we remember just three weeks ago Francois Hollande, the French President, said that the EU hoped that sanctions would soon be lifted. And of course that would have caused a lot of horror among the anti-Russian camp. So I think what we saw [on Thursday] is the evidence of a real split. We haven’t had these measures that some people wanted, for example some of the more anti-Russian elements have been calling for Russia to be banned from the SWIFT banking system. And what we’ve seen is an extension of the existing sanctions so I think that this reflects the split within the EU at the moment.
RT:Russia's been under American and European sanctions since last March. How much has it helped resolve the Ukrainian crisis?
NC: Well I think it’s very important to realize…Ukraine is really a pretext for these sanctions. What we’ve got is an anti-Russian lobby, a neo-conservative lobby in America which has for years wanted to sanction Russia. You go back to 2003 and you got neocons calling for Russia to be sanctioned. …This campaign for Russia to be sanctioned stepped up after the events in Syria in 2013 when Russia blocked a war against Syria…And then the Ukrainian situation kicked off as it were.
So I think it’s very important to realize it really that it has really nothing to do with the situation in Ukraine. These sanctions are being imposed, I’m afraid, because of a hard anti-Russian lobby in America and pressure’s been put on certain European countries that are very close to America to go along with these sanctions and to persuade other countries to go along with these sanctions.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that when we talk about Ukraine the offenses launched by the Ukrainian government forces coincided with visits of high-ranking US officials. And I think that there would have been quite a lot of concern among this anti-Russian lobby in Washington when Francois Hollande did say three weeks ago that he would like to see sanctions lifted.And then what happens? American officials go to Ukraine and we get another offensive against the people in the East. Then the fighting there is used as a pretext for continuing on with the sanctions.
RT:There have been calls for the West to arm the Ukrainian army. Is that on the cards?
NC: It all really depends on what happens in Europe. It is actually crucial at the moment. We saw last night that vote at the Council of Europe - just how divided it was: 35 to 34. So I think there are certain countries in Europe… Poland has been called the 51st state of America, Poland is following the American line, and Britain unfortunately is. But there are other countries, Austria for example, who don’t really want to go down this road, who want to have a return to proper working relations with Russia, because Europe needs Russia. Europe needs a good working economic relationship with Russia. So it’s all a battle going on within the European Union now as to which fraction will actually prevail… So I think the hawks would love to see hard weaponry going to Ukraine, would love to see this conflict continue. But the more sensible countries in Europe want to see an end to it and get back to normal relations with Russia which is in Europe’s interest.
RT:On Wednesday two Russian bombers were detected flying over the Channel which provoked an outcry in the British media as they supposedly 'disrupted UK aviation', though these bombers didn’t violate other countries' borders. What do you think about this situation?
NC: Well I think it’s very interesting, isn’t it, that this big news story happened when the EU was discussing the issue of sanctions with Russia. And I think it happened before, when we had…this debate about whether to extent or deepen sanctions, increase sanctions on Russia…And headlines that come up, you know “Russian bombers over the Channel”, but then we found out that it wasn’t exactly as it was first reported. So I think that in this anti-Russian climate we‘ve got to be careful when we look at the news headlines. There is an agenda going on, there is anti-Russian lobby in the West unfortunately which wants to keep this going and to keep more excuses and pretexts for the sanctions on Russia. So I think we have got to keep cool heads and you know look at bigger context of the stories and it seems quite interesting that every time we are getting these discussions about sanctions on Russia, that this sort of incidents seem to occur.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.