RT: Vladimir Putin has admitted the presence of Russian forces in Crimea. Is that going to undermine Russia's agenda?
Lode Vanoost: No, I don't think so. First of all, this is not really new information. What he did was confirm what was already known. Let's not forget that the Russian troops had a right to be there through a treaty between Ukraine and Russia. The only thing that he has now sort of admitted is that they were indeed actively engaged in preparing the new situation in the Crimea. But that doesn't change the basic facts and won't change the agenda. There will be of course some harsh statements on the side of the EU and the US, but basically it won't change the agenda or the course of negotiations.
RT: President Putin said making Crimea a part of Russia was called for because of the threat to Russian nationals there. Should a similar threat be perceived in Eastern regions of Ukraine, is something similar possible there?
LV: I don't exactly know because you should not forget that everything that has been said so far hasn't been put in the right perspective. We are not talking about the Russian Navy in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, we are talking about their own borders and the whole thing about Russia now taking it in its own hand, it's just defending its own position. Everybody who takes a little bit [more] objective look at what has happened there can only admit that it has a right to defend its own positions.
RT: The President spoke about taking counter-measures to NATO's actions at Russia's doorstep. Is this going to become a new Cold War?
LV: The long-term consequences of what is going on really can lead to some kind of a new Cold War. You cannot make this historical comparison for several reasons. One reason being that the Russian economy is well-tied with Western economy and vice versa. But the tensions will run high. I even believe that the present situation has in it a danger of an escalation to a real war as well. I'm not trying to do doomsday thinking here, things like that happened in the past without worse things happening. But I believe that the approach from the Russian side is the most careful one considering the circumstances.
RT: Western powers have repeatedly threatened Russia with political isolation - are they prepared to make good on those threats?
LV: This is the usual tactics of people who have no other options. I don't believe it will work. Listen how the Kiev government got the international blame when the troops went there and some of the soldiers went away or changed sides. It's just measures to give the impression of there being lots of Russian spies and agents there. I have no reason to doubt that there is a Russian presence there. But the real reasons for anything happening is people protesting against the government they do not recognize as legitimate. I don't believe that these people want a secession or want to join Russia in the first place - they are worried about economic conditions, they are worried about the neo-liberal program that this government is preparing. They know the example of what happened under Yushchenko who tried to Ukrainianize the whole country against the will of the Russian-speaking people, and they are concerned that this might happen again. So I think what is portrayed in the Western media is aimed at creating an image where there are the innocent people and there are all these outside agents. This tactics is not going to work.Read More »