‘Cutting the diplomatic ties would hit Ukraine a lot’
RT: The White House claims the referendum happened under "threats of violence and intimidation." You were there, is that all true?
Manuel Ochsenreiter: I was there and what we were allowed to witness was a geopolitical earthquake or a geopolitical tsunami, because this is a big loss especially for the US, for the EU, which are now trying to protest against that. I was at the referendum, I saw how it took place and it was a completely peaceful election. It reminded me a lot of elections that took place in Germany, in communities for Stuttgart, for community parliaments and so on. The referendum was pretty much ok. It’s interesting that all the analysts of the West who seem now to be a kind of psychologists, say it can be never true that so many people voted “yes” for Russia. I was there and I spoke to the people and can say it was almost impossible to speak to somebody who [didn’t vote in] the Russian Crimean region.
‘There are two international communities now’
RT:If the international observers' mission deems the referendum to have been free and fair, could this persuade the international community to recognize it?
MO: Yesterday evening I was meeting some international observers from Austria and we were discussing this and they also said that the referendum was completely ok; there were no troubles wherever they visited the voting points. But the fact that it’s not recognized by the West shows us that there is a hypocritical approach towards politics in such things. We know the difference - that there is another approach to Kosovo than to Crimea. In many other things if something is happening not in geopolitical sphere of the West, then it is criticized as not legal and not lawful. And we should get used to it because what happens right now is that there are two international communities existing.
Before that the international community was somehow a camouflage word for the West, but now we see that there is another international community, and this is the international community around Russia, around Moscow. And when Moscow recognizes the independence of Crimea on the basis of the referendum of yesterday it is pretty much ok, they shouldn’t care about what people think in Brussels, in Washington, in Berlin, in London.
RT:Washington and Brussels have already imposed sanctions, but they're considered relatively mild. Do you believe the West is ready to really tighten the screws? And how long these sanctions will last for?
MO: Frankly speaking, I think it may be the first wave of sanctions; the West shows that it will use sanctions. What happened up till now is not so hard, but they show that they are willing to use sanctions. I think it’s a symbolic thing now. But at the end, the point we’ll have to look at who will be hit by sanctions when there are economic sanctions against Russia – of course trading partners of Russia will be hit much more, and Germany who is the main trading partner of Russia in Europe.
RT:Is it possible that Ukraine cuts all ties with Russia?
MO: Cutting the diplomatic ties would hit Ukraine much harder. But Ukraine, in my opinion, can’t just do it because Ukraine hopes for a very strong and massive US support for this decision and we don’t know how it will work out later. But Ukraine wouldn’t [make] such a really big step for its country because the main ties Ukraine has are with Russia. We shouldn’t forget that they were not just [speaking about] cutting diplomatic ties, they were also cutting contracts; they can do it only if they can rely on the support of the EU and the US.
‘Military action would split the Ukrainian army’
RT:What’s your take on the fact that Ukrainian military forces are moving to the border with Russia? Do you think the Ukrainian army can start fighting against Russia?
MO: Maybe they would have a chance to fight against the Swiss Guard of the Vatican, but of course not against the Russian army and Russia. The Ukrainian military is facing right now many problems and one of the main problems might be that in case of war, when the military would really get into hot actions, it might be that those members who are from Russian or more Russian regions of Ukraine will be not loyal to their commanders and to their troops. So war would simply make the Ukrainian military fall apart.
RT:Why is Ukraine pressing towards joining NATO? Is it Washington that [wants] Ukraine to become a NATO-member?
MO: Ukraine applied already in 2002 to become a member of NATO. Later on, with Yanukovich in 2010, this procedure was stopped. Of course, when we speak about the NATO member Ukraine, it’s much more sensitive, also for the West, than for example NATO-member Poland or the Czech Republic, because it’s the country which really was one of the founding members of the Soviet Union and it was one of the heartlands of the Soviet Union, so the NATO border would come very close to Moscow.
RT: One of the new leaders of Ukraine, extremist Yarosh, called for blowing up Russian gas and oil pipelines that go through Ukrainian territory. For sure that would seriously hit not only Russia but the EU as well since it imports Russian gas. Given this hostility and reluctance of Kiev to hold friendly ties with Moscow, what to expect from Kiev in regard to Russian pipelines and billion dollars contracts with the EU?
MO: There is a figure of speech pacta sunt servanda (Latin for "agreements must be kept"). It means it would be not accepted by any other state if the state would threaten the international community not to keep anymore contracts with it, which shows again that we are in a geopolitical war where there is no law, no real politics in terms of ideology anymore; it’s simply about the one side getting the advantage on the other side. But on the other side we have to see that there are other projects, we have the Nord Stream gas project with a gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea and the Northern Sea between Russia and Germany, and other gas pipeline projects going around Ukraine. For the short term this might be a problem but there could be also other solutions, it’s not excluded.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.