‘Russia no threat to West, spends a tenth US does on military’- fmr London mayor Ken Livingstone

‘Russia no threat to West, spends a tenth US does on military’- fmr London mayor Ken Livingstone
The simple fact is the West should have got behind Russia once Assad was clearly not going to be overthrown instead of continuing to prop up terrorist groups trying to replace him, says former London mayor Ken Livingstone.

Rebel fighters and their families in the eastern part of Aleppo are leaving the city.

Their withdrawal was organized by the Russian reconciliation center and the Syrian government. More than five thousand militants and their families are expected to be moved out of eastern Aleppo.

Even before the evacuation started, activist groups such as the White Helmets and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed pro-Assad forces shot at evacuees. The claims have been denied by locals in Aleppo.

RT: Despite the evacuation from eastern Aleppo, organized by the Russian reconciliation center and the Syrian government, Western leaders are still blaming Assad and his supporters for all what's going on in the city. Why is that?

Ken Livingstone: We need to remember that when we had the beginning of this upheaval five years ago, America and its allies saw this as a chance to get rid of Assad, close Russia’s base on the coast and make a shift. It was only about America defending its own interest and trying to push back the Russian presence there with their principal ally. They poured in a lot of support to the groups - many of which frankly were terrorists and depicted in the Western media as freedom fighters - and we should have kept out of this. The simple fact is we’ve made it worse; we’ve prolonged it. If we all came together to defeat ISIS which is a threat to every nation on the face of this planet, this fundamentalist Muslim group, we should have done it by an alliance with America, Europe, China, and Russia working together, with troops on the ground. But that was never what this was about.

RT:The United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, has praised the work of the Russian military for helping the evacuation. So, why if the UN's recognizing Russia's efforts, are we still hearing accusations from Western leaders?

KL: I think a simple fact here is we’ve had a sort of very strong anti-Russian agenda over the last few years. It is almost like going back to the Cold War. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Gorbachev promised NATO would never move beyond Germany. Now, of course, we have NATO allies actually on the borders with Russia. America has done an encirclement. Clearly, that betrayal of that promise to Gorbachev has caused a lot of anger and distrust. The simple fact is Russia does not pose a threat to the West because Russia spends just one-tenth the amount America does on its military.

RT: Lieutenant-General Stephen Townsend, spokesman for the US-led coalition operations in the Middle East, has said the situation in Aleppo right now complicates the Washington-led fight against ISIS in Raqqa. How can the liberation of Aleppo complicate the anti-terror operation in other parts of the country?

KL: It clearly doesn’t. The simple fact is the West should have got behind Russia once clearly Assad was not going to be overthrown instead of continuing to prop up groups trying to replace him. We should have got into an alliance to go in with ground troops with Russia and China and defeat ISIS. You need to have troops on the ground. You can never achieve it simply by bombing… As long as we continue with these double standards, it’s almost like an echo of the Cold War coming back to haunt us.

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