Vladimir Putin’s close associate, Vladimir Yakunin, looks forward to the restoration of dialogue between Russia and France.
Emmanuel Macron? “He’s a star”. During his interview in Paris, Vladimir Putin’s close associate and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Berlin-based Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, Vladimir Yakunin, didn’t conceal his certain admiration for this “quite young politician who started his movement a little more than a year ago. Apart from winning the presidential election, he also formed a large majority in the National Assembly”. According to the former President of Russian Railways, it’s still quite difficult to “foresee future changes in the situation”. Nevertheless, the replacement of 75% of the deputies in the National Assembly looks like a real “cultural revolution, which undoubtedly will lead to changes in the political thinking as well”. Macron’s “ambitious idea” about the creation of a Russian-French forum, which would “contribute to the further mutual understanding between the civil societies”, is “positive” in any case. Vladimir Yakunin considers that the French President “stands his ground”, considering the country’s relationships with Russia, “just like Vladimir Putin”. Such firmness of opinion shouldn’t, however, prevent “discussion or the search for common ground. It’s not necessary to completely share each other’s opinions to hold a dialogue. If Emmanuel Macron, together with Angela Merkel, can find new ideas for European politics, a window will open and our planet will be able to breathe”, Vladimir Yakunin said, using a metaphor. The thing is that he is sure that “differences of opinion” won’t just disappear. “States will always compete with each other, just like there’s competition between cities within the same country”, he added.
On Syria, Ukraine and the Crimea
As there are serious differences of opinion on Syria, as well as on Ukraine and the Crimea, the European Union decided to prolong anti-Russian sanctions. Although Vladimir Yakunin sees them partly as an opportunity too, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron implicitly criticised the new sanctions suggested by the US Senate, because if they are applied, they will hurt European companies that have energy-centred relationships with Russia and, indirectly, the new gas pipeline project “Nord Stream 2”. Repeating Moscow’s official statement, Vladimir Yakunin said that he “doubts” that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will be able to put Minsk ceasefire agreements concerning Eastern Ukraine into action and oppose Ukrainian nationalists. According to Chairman of the Dialogue, who has himself been a subject of the sanctions of the American Treasury, President Donald Trump feels “heavy pressure from certain political circles both in the USA and in Europe resisting his attempts to improve relations with Russia”. “Unlike many of my fellow countrymen, I wasn’t glad that he became president, as I have always considered him a nationalist and a major businessman, even though he’s not from inside the system”. However, Vladimir Yakunin added that Trump, like any other president, cannot make any decision on his own. He doesn’t agree with the widespread opinion that President Trump is going to cooperate with Russia. “This is a lie. Mere baiting”. The American President “faces accusations because he’s not one of the political elite, and he even spoke out against that elite during his pre-election race”, he added. Concerning the hackers’ attacks in the USA, Yakunin said that he doesn’t believe that “Russia has the kind of resources needed to control all those things and influence the population’s political thinking”. He also reiterated that Hilary Clinton’s emails were published by WikiLeaks and that there is no software “with the help of which it is possible to determine where the attack came from”. In any case, he doesn’t doubt one thing, which is that Vladimir Putin continues to enjoy “great support from the Russian youth”, even when taking into account those young people who oppose him. Though, in his opinion, Alexei Navalny, [who was announced “unelectable” – editor’s note], isn’t serious opposition, “gagging every opposition source is neither in the interests of the authorities nor those of Vladimir Putin. This is a trust issue”.