James Jatras : How do we stop the struggle for power and control over Ukraine?
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has admitted that relations between Russia and the US are on the downside and that trust between Moscow and Washington has significantly decreased.
Addressing Russians in his annual televised phone-in, Putin said the mutual trust between Russia and US has diminished and that Moscow was not responsible for these strained relations.
The Russian president also referred to Washington’s misplaced rage at Russia over Ukraine saying the US is blaming Russia while it allows itself to invade other countries such as Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and former Yugoslavia.
Regarding the Ukraine crisis he mentioned that holding dialog is the only way to deal with the current situation in the country. Putin also urged the Ukrainian Government to open dialogue with Ukraine’s eastern communities.
“The coup-appointed government in Kiev needs to come to its senses before we can negotiate,” said Putin.
He also denied Moscow’s backing of pro-Russian protesters who are currently active in the southeast regions of Ukraine and warned Kiev about using force against them.
Press TV has conducted an interview with James Jatras, a former US Senate foreign policy analyst from Washington D.C., to shed more light on the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine and its bearing on US-Russian relations.
Below you are provided with a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: James Jatras, our guest there, Peter Sinnott, I do not know if you agree with him on the fact that this straining of relations has been gradually happening. I mean they have been at odds, have they not? Over a range of issues.
You can tell us more, perhaps the US missile defense plan and the NATO expansion, Syria, you could talk about Iran. I mean trust was lost even before Ukraine’s crisis, don't you think? That reset button really never happened, the one between Clinton and Lavrov.
Jatras: I do agree with that. I do share Mr. Sinnott’s cautious optimism. It sounds like, from the news coming from the Geneva, if there is an agreement to treat the Ukrainian crisis as one that requires a domestic dialogue within Ukraine, some kind of a constitutional reform, maybe decentralization, some form of federalization perhaps, that would be a milestone instead of pitting this as Ukraine against Russia, which is a gross oversimplification.
And the larger question which you are asking, is the relationship between the United States and Russia and the West and Russia…, you know I can remember being at the state department serving at the Soviet Desk…, frankly one of the few anti-communists who is actually there, and we always thought that the most important thing would be to have a change of government in Moscow where instead of an ideological state based on Marxism, Leninism, we had a conventional state that had limited goals, rational national interests unlike the ideological goals of communism.
We finally got that in the early 1990’s and I can tell you that people in Russia were widely pro-American in those days, but what happened was we expanded NATO, we bombed Serbia and almost overnight you saw a change in public perceptions, people saying to me: I never used to believe the lies that the communists told about the United States and NATO but now I see that it is all true.
In a kind of an odd inversion the United States seemed to become a kind of unlimited ideological state where it was our historic mission to “spread democracy” across the entire world.
In addition to that we seem to have become like the paragon of a kind of a godless social order based on, you know, gay rights and things like this, that are very, very unpopular in a conservative country like Russia where the Church for example has been restored to a place of prominence, in Russian sight it would seem alien now to hear us in the United States.
It seems that we are going one way toward a more Soviet order, if you will, and they are going in different direction.
I hope that we can start to bridge that gap in places like Ukraine instead of this kind of ideological approach that Washington seems to take on, on almost every issue.
Press TV: James Jatras are you not surprised by how…, for example we have Peter Sinnott, an independent scholar, sharing the view with many others that it is Russia that has been provoking this situation; where it really has not exactly been the case.
Some examples of disinformation, what is going on in Ukraine, the US narrative, what is going on in eastern Ukraine would not be happening without Russian disinformation and provocateurs fostering unrest.
We could then talk about what about the 100 or 150 mercenaries reported to be sent, belonging to Greystone, that is a subsidiary of the Z Services formerly known as Black Water. I mean Russia has not been the one pushing this situation, and we can go back to when protests broke out in November.
Jatras: well, that is right and of course I am not in the position to verify whether these mercenaries, I guess for want of a better word, are there; you recall just a few days ago that the ousted president or still the legal president, depending on your point of view, Viktor Yanukovych, was the first one to mention publically that the US CIA Director John Brannon was in Kiev just before this so-called anti-terrorist operation began a few days ago, a remarkable coincidence, if it was one, and I do not think that it was a coincidence, this is something that had not been disclosed and then the White House then admitted that was true, rather odd that nobody thought to mention that, I assume was just a routine visit of some sort.
I think quite to the contrary you have heard from the Western media, this kind of boogeyman conspiracy story that there is a Russian hand behind everything that happens in Ukraine rather than looking at what anybody, quite to the contrary, knows that this is a deeply, deeply divided country between east and west that any attempt by western Ukraine, which is essentially what the ouster of Yanukovych in February tried to do, to force the West mastery over the east and south of the country and drag the country kicking and screaming into the NATO, which is still on the table. You hear this from many people among the Western elites, even though 70 percent plus, of the Ukrainian population is against this, that rather than having, I think, strategic designs on Ukraine from Russia, what we are seeing is a reaction to the Western strategic offensive to pull Ukraine into a Western anti-Russian orientation, which frankly most Ukrainians do not want. Some Ukrainians do, some Ukrainians do not, because they know that it would tear their country apart and that is what we are seeing in the last few months. So the question is, how do we stop this, how do we stop this struggle for power over Ukraine and cooperate on putting it back together, which I hope today’s announcement from Geneva lays the groundwork for.
Press TV: James Jatras, earlier in the month the US Secretary of State John Kerry told the US legislators that the dispute results in punitive sanctions against Russia; that the things are going to, as he said, get ugly fast and go in multiple directions.
You have the Russian President Vladimir Putin today saying that he may send in troops into Ukraine, and he is not going to count that out.
Where do you see this situation heading? Are we going to look at the worst case scenario as a possibility?
Jatras: Well, I hope not. I think delivering threats from either side is really not helpful. Let us go with the optimistic path. I think that Mr. Sinnott actually, laid down some of the complexity that we are dealing with here but let us keep in mind too that the question with disorders that started November over Mr. Yanukovych, delaying, not refusing but delaying, signing of an association agreement, not membership offer, from the European Union, it was not going to do Ukraine any good, economically that would have been a disaster for them and a disaster for their trade relationship with Russia, which was essential to them and what he was proposing and frankly it is what the Russians consistently have been offering as well, is that Ukraine should have good trade ties with both the EU and with Russia and in fact should be a catalyst between a Russian-led Eurasian union and the European Union, and there is nothing that I know of, in the Russian concept that is aimed in some kind of an autarky, which would seal Russia off from the European Union but they openly talk about a trade bloc that would be from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
That would be the best thing for Ukraine, to start with, much less between Russia and Europe.
So let us go, maybe, with a positive agenda here, and how we can help encourage that, rather than people getting to their respective corners, dig in and look in terms of conflict.
Putin's annual Q&A session April 17, 2014: He speaks at length on Ukraine Crisis :