‘Ulterior motives behind sanctions, Ukraine crisis’

April 16, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin answers questions from the public during the annual Direct Line with Vladimir Putin special broadcast live on Russian television and radio (RIA Novosti / Michael Klimentyev)
President Putin’s statement that sanctions won’t be lifted soon is justified as they are just a manifestation of a Western desire to have a geopolitical conflict with Russia, said John Laughland from the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation.

RT:The Russian president said sanctions are not likely to be lifted in the near future. Do you share this forecast?

John Laughland: Yes, I do. I think that the analysis that he gave saying that the sanctions were political, that they had ulterior motives and that they were not connected at all to Ukraine is right. I think what he could have added is that the Ukrainian crisis itself has ulterior political motives. But I think that there is a desire to do Russia down, there is a desire to have a geopolitical conflict with Russia. The Ukraine conflict is one aspect of that desire and the sanctions are another manifestation of it. I’m afraid his pessimism is justified.

RT:What are the chances of the Russian economy turning the sanctions to its advantage?

JL: That’s a big question. I think the Russians are unfortunately very used to struggling through and living in difficult circumstances. They obviously did so for much in the Soviet period and then even more so in the years immediately following the collapse of communism. So there is certain resilience in the Russian character which perhaps other countries don’t have. That’s about as optimistic a reply as I can give you. Of course the sanctions might force Russia to develop her own domestic industries or agriculture. But that’s been on the agenda for an awfully long time. Maybe a crisis will certainly lead to a solution but the fact is that there are a lot of shortcomings as everybody knows, and as the Russian leadership itself admits, in the Russian economy and it will take time for this to be filled. So in the short-term of course for example food imports can come from elsewhere, that’s relatively easy to achieve, but as we know where other industrial products are concerned it’s not so easy to replace those.

READ MORE: Putin's 2015 Q&A marathon LIVE UPDATES

RT:Speaking of the situation in Ukraine, Putin accused Kiev of making mistake after mistake. But with the ceasefire largely still holding, is there still hope for progress in the peace process?

JL: It is very difficult to say. If I had to put a bet on, it I would say that I’m pessimistic and at some point serious fighting will break out again. And this will be used to ratchet up again the Ukrainian conflict, and of course the conflict with Russia that lies behind it. I can’t be certain that will happen. I think it depends largely on the balance of power on the ground. But as we know the Americans are sending in military advisors, the pressure is growing for the Ukrainian side to be armed or armed even more. There is every possibility, even likelihood that Kiev - and Washington behind it - continues to nurture, nourish the hope that in fact that issue can only be resolved militarily. So I think that a flare up of the fighting is unfortunately completely on the cards. There are so many pressures in Europe and in America to have a showdown with Russia that I think we’re a long way yet from being out of danger.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.