Euronews has spoken exclusively to Victoria Nuland, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs,
The ongoing conflict in Ukraine dominated discussions as did the effectiveness of Western diplomacy.
When the interview was conducted it was not clear that it was a civilian airliner that had been shot down on Thursday and Nuland, believing it was a Ukrainian plane, called it “tragic”.
She said: “It is a symptom of the increasing escalation and the increasing violence in eastern Ukraine and the willingness of Russia to increase its support and aggressive methods and this is why we and the European Union felt that we really needed to send a very strong signal to Moscow. “
James Franey of euronews then asked: “What are the concrete achievements this approach has brought about in terms of changing Russian policy?
Victoria Nuland: We might have had a full scale invasion, we might not have had an election at all. Russia does continue to destabilise eastern Ukraine and it does still hold Crimea, but they’ve also paid a very severe price, which Russians – the citizens who vote in Russian elections – need to think about.
“The economy is completely flat, and in recession by some accounts. They’ve spent 10 percent of their sovereign wealth fund defending the ruble. Some $100 billion – guesstimated by the IMF – in capital flight this year alone. We’ve thrown the Russian economy for a loop and we do believe that it will eventually affect decision making, either that or the Russian people.”
euronews: “You believe the Russian people will turn their anger towards Vladimir Putin in the end? Because his approval ratings are sky high. They seem to approve with those policies that he’s carrying out … that you say you want to change”
Nuland: “He is feeding them with nationalist rhetoric, but that doesn’t bring them better schools, better roads, better opportunities, better economic conditions in their own country. At a certain point, they are going to have to ask what is the point of hemorrhaging all this money to destabilise our neighbour when conditions at home are not improving.”
euronews: “Is Crimea a lost cause? Do you now accept that it is going to remain in Russian hands for a very long time?”
Nuland: “Neither the Ukrainian people, nor the US, or the EU countries will ever accept the violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Interestingly, we’ll have to see what the people of Crimea begin to think as their economy begins to shrivel up. Tourist revenues are down severely in Crimea. There are difficulties getting credit. This is an area where the EU has really led in terms of ensuring that there cannot be investment and integration with Crimea as a result of the choices Russia has made.”