‘West’s aggressive stance pushes Russia to China, threatens Western dominance’
RT: The latest protest by EU farmers is one of many. We’ve seen rallies mounting since Russia adopted its EU food embargo last year. How badly is the embargo, which was in response to Western sanctions on Russia, hurting Europe’s economy?
Mattias Westman: Well, I think on the overall European economy it has limited impact, but of course some of the more vulnerable groups, in farming communities and also particularly in the south and south-east of Europe are suffering more than others.
RT: Key Western leaders have also promoted the extension of sanctions on Russia on numerous occasions. Do you consider sanctions an appropriate way to deal with Moscow?
MW: Well, in a recent article I published in a German magazine I tried to sort this question out from a more usefulness point of view. I would say it’s very difficult to see how these sanctions could have any beneficial effect on Russia or on the situation in Ukraine.
RT: US President Barack Obama has also been weighing in again on numerous occasions. He said that Western sanctions have clearly damaged the Russian economy. Do you agree with that sentiment?
MW: Well, I think it’s not entirely correct. I mean, of course the sanctions have had some negative impact, but the slowdown we’ve seen in Russia in the last year, I think has a lot more to do with the price of commodities; the price of oil has fallen by 50 percent, which inevitably was going to have an effect on the Russian economy, particularly on the ruble. And I think the Central Bank did the right thing in terms of allowing the ruble to fluctuate and to decline with the terms of trade in order to preserve the margins and the competitiveness of the Russian industry.
RT: In your article, you said that the Western approach towards Russia over Ukraine was kind of an ‘own goal’ of historic proportions. What do you mean by that?
MW: Well, I think that there is a lot of talk in the West about Russia being a threat to the global system or the global security. But I think the real challenge to the global balance of power, as it is, is really China, which is a rapidly rising power. And by taking this aggressive stance against Russia, a confrontational stance I should say, you have the effect of Russia and China cooperating further and that only strengthens this more serious threat to the global dominance of the West – of course, if that is a beneficial thing.
RT: You just mentioned China. Amid the sanctions, we saw Russia signing a record trillion dollar deal with the Chinese. Do you think the West is losing a key economic partner?
MW: Well, I think this process is to some extent inevitable because the Chinese and Russian economies are very compatible and there are many benefits from trade between the countries, but I think that this try to politicize the relationships, and driving a conflict, is speeding up that process. And I think seeing Russia and China as strategic allies is not really in their interests, but that’s the effect of the policies that they are pursuing.
RT: What are your predictions for the future? And in terms of sanctions what needs to actually happen for them to be lifted on both sides?
MW: Well, it’s two different things here. The USA is unlikely to lift sanctions anytime soon; it is politically inconvenient to do so – to look weak against Russia and so on. The situation in Europe is quite different. First of all, it requires unanimous decisions to prolong the sanctions when they come up to you again in January, I think. And already in the summer, now, when they were prolonged for six months, there are lot countries who didn’t want to do it. As far as I understand there were about seven hawks who wanted to prolong them, seven doves who wanted to lift them, and the rest were somewhere in the middle. And I think each time it will become harder and harder to bully the countries who want to lift the sanctions. So, of course, the current situation, where things are, after all, calming down a little bit in Ukraine, and you see that the reverse sanctions biting a bit in the south of Europe – I think that increases the likelihood of lifting sanctions. And I also think they (America) probably might not want to spend so much political capital on bullying their countries into agreeing on prolongation very much longer.
RT: Just finally, Russia denies being involved in the military conflict in Ukraine, yet it’s being sanctioned for its alleged role in the war, while Kiev does enjoy a lot of support from the West. What are your thoughts on that overall picture?
MW: Well, of course, it is a very complex question, but I think is unfortunate that the West has taken such a strong side for one part of an internal conflict in Ukraine. And I think there’s a lack of understanding of what the causes of this conflict are. Hopefully – and I have seen some signs of it – that some more awareness is coming on that this is not as simple as it might have looked from the beginning.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.