Ex-Czech President Václav Klaus: Crimea Has Always Belonged to Russia
- "the solution can only be found in negotiations, a compromise. Too bad that the political leadership in Ukraine is not able to do that."
- "For me, the conflict is 'Europe and America against Russia,' Ukraine is only a passive instrument in this dispute."
- "But to put the country before the choice of either East or West is to destroy it."
- "It is quite clear that the Crimea was not part of Ukraine, you know it. The Crimea has always belonged to Russia."
- "Without Maidan there would have been no annexation of the Crimea."
This article originally appeared at Die Presse. It was translated using Google Translate
The crisis in Ukraine has now lasted over a year, all attempts to resolve it have failed so far. Do you have a proposed solution?
Václav Klaus: The situation there has been tragic for so long, you have to do something as soon as possible. But that means no external intervention, the solution can only be found in negotiations, a compromise. Too bad that the political leadership in Ukraine is not able to do that.
You know, I've had good experiences with the division of Czechoslovakia. I had lived my whole life there, the idea to divide the country, was nonsense for me, I was against it. But I saw that the Slovaks really wanted to be independent, and since I understood that the only solution is a compromise, there was division. Something similar must also come in Ukraine. No one can win 10:0.
These are not suggestions or recommendations from me. I only speak from my experience.
Do you mean with "the other side" the separatists in eastern Ukraine, or Russia?
The people from the eastern Ukraine. At the beginning you asked correctly about the "crisis in Ukraine", that's not a typical Western European issue. Normally, people are talking about a Ukrainian-Russian conflict, I will correct that every time.
Sure, the conflict takes place on the territory of Ukraine, but it is also clear that Russia is involved militarily.
You mean a kind of proxy conflict?
It originally flared up as a crisis in Ukraine, which has internal reasons. This is a country where the post-communist transformation almost did not exist. Compared with the other Central and Eastern European countries, Ukraine is a failure. This is the cause of this conflict. This is a divided country that has been made artificially. There is no authentic area with a homogeneous population. Sorry. Therefore, the transformation was more difficult than elsewhere. And today's crisis is a result of efforts to force Ukraine to decide whether it belongs to the west or to the east. But to put the country before the choice of either East or West is to destroy it.
No one put Ukraine before such a choice.
But for sure! The idea to bring Ukraine into the EU or NATO, existed from the beginning.
That is the question. For the countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Association has always been an important step towards membership.
The conflict began at the end of 2013, over the dispute concerning the association. But it was made a military one by the annexation of Crimea by Russia, or not?
That is your interpretation. For me, this was not so. I am not a defender of Russia or of Mr Putin, our history during the communist regime goes against Russia. I am seeking the truth. In my opinion, Russia was acting in Crimea in a reaction, there was no action. Play Chess?
Why did Russia have to intervene?
That was the reaction to the Maidan, the events in Kiev, the attacks on the Russian population there.
But why intervene militarily?
There was a referendum, and it is the question of whether one accepts such a referendum or not.
It is quite clear that the Crimea was not part of Ukraine, you know it. The Crimea has always belonged to Russia. I do not think so tragic. The internal crisis Ukraine is the main cause for me. Without Maidan there would have been no annexation of the Crimea.
You were once head of state. How would you react if a neighboring country annexed part of your territory?
This question I can not accept. But I would certainly not accept such developments as in Ukraine in my country. I would start earlier to talk to the opposition. But that was not done by the politicians in Ukraine. This is the reason for me, everything else is a consequence.
One consequence was the sanctions that the EU imposed. Current discussions pick up a part again. As you can see, the previous policy of sanctions?
As I said in my view the cause of the conflict is not in Russia, and why I think the penalties are wrong. The other question is how the sanctions work, what effects they have.
Who do you think suffers more from the sanctions, Russia and the EU?
Fefinitely Russia. Although I know many Czech businessmen who are very unhappy about the sanctions, but certainly the sanctions harm Russia more.
You said in an interview that the EU needs a change of system, a sort of 1989. What exactly do you mean?
I see the situation in Europe is very problematic, even dramatic. Maybe we have because after 50 years of communism and sharper eyes are as sensitive, perhaps oversensitive.
In reference to?
Everything! The economic stagnation, the absence of democracy. This is my main criticism. We need a change in Europe, not just cosmetic reforms. In the last phase of communism there were many reforms, but, I said, we do not need more reforms, but a deep transformation of the whole society. We need something similar today in Europe.
But can you compare the EU with communism?
This is no comparison. The point is not just to change details, but the base of the system.
How does this system, which envision them. If the EU there still exist?
The EU is just a variation of European integration. I'm really for integration, the elimination of barriers at the borders and so on. This was also the dominant principle in the first phase. The turning point came with the Treaty of Maastricht, as was from the EC, the European Community, the EU, the European Union. This radical change from "G" to "U", for me that is the basis for all the problems we see today in Europe.
What's so bad about a union of an ever closer union?
This is the elimination of the European countries, so there are these slogans "Europe of Regions" or "Europe of Europeans". No, I am looking for a Europe of European states.
But these countries do not just disappear from the map. Today there are many problems that a state can not cope alone that can only be solved together more.
No, I say no to. This is only a dream of several European politicians. We do not need the States for many things, but we need them for one thing, and that is democracy. Stateless democracy can not exist. A democratic system at the level of continents is not possible.
This requires a demos, a people. And there is no nation in Europe. We are not Europeans. I do not feel European. Europe is just one of the various identities of my life for me. I'm in Prague, I have my Czech identity, then I am one of Central Europe, cities such as Vienna, Krakow, Milan, which is part of my world, not Helsinki, Lisbon, Athens or Palermo. Then I am also a slave. And then there's Europe, but this European identity is very weak for me. I see no resemblance to a Finn or Irish or Greek.
Her successor Miloš Zeman said after the terrorist attacks in Paris that you should send in their countries of origin migrants wholesale again. Where do you stand?
Again: This is the tenth floor of the debate. The stock number one is something else.
What is stock one?
A dramatic failure of politicians to permit the invasion of migrants here in Western Europe. I understand it, yes, the rich Europeans wanted different activities would no longer make and have invited workers from Turkey and other countries. That was a mistake.
But is this a problem in the Czech Republic?
Not so much. Czech Republic is not yet as rich as Germany. And communism was a closed society, everything was prohibited, including immigration. The nation is still relatively homogeneous, that's nothing compared to the situation in Western Europe. A major problem is the false ideology of multiculturalism, we have to forget as soon as possible, because it destroys society.
After the attacks calls were immediately loudly for stricter monitoring. We do not cease foundations of our liberal society?
Determined. The Patriot Act 2001 was a disaster for America, and I fear that the January 7, 2015 will play the same role for Europe as of September 11, 2001 for America. And I must say, I am not Charlie. Je ne suis pas Charlie, this is a very bad idea.
In what way?
That all write now, they're Charlie.
But since it's all about solidarity with the victims, no?
Of course this was a tragedy that must not be specially emphasized. But on the same day 2,000 people were shot dead in Nigeria, and which nobody speaks. No One. Because it's not here, but thousands of miles away, which is hypocrisy, I can not accept. Also here are my eyes maybe a little sharper. So I'm not Charlie. The tragedy in Paris is a consequence of multiculturalism, immigration and false rhetoric of politicians for me. Something else is the human tragedy of terrorism.
I remember an EU summit, still reigned in France, President Chirac, at that time there were in the Southern European countries, a first massive wave of immigration of Africans. Chirac spoke only about the safety aspect. I then said: Mr. President, you think that all this can help? Is not the original cause of social policy in Europe, which makes people want to come here? Chirac then shouted: Klaus wants to dismantle the welfare state in Europe. Yes! Because that is the root cause: socialism in Europe.
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