Sputnik: Can you give us your general feeling as to the presidential election result here in Russia, do you feel that the result has made the world a safer place, some of the comments coming out of the Western media, I think the New York Times wrote in its article immediately after the result, that it was a charade, what's your feelings about it?
Gilbert Doctorow: I had the privilege to be an observer of the 2018 presidential elections, and still further to be within a subgroup who went down to visit the Crimea and to supervise and monitor the elections that were going on in Simferopol and Yalta, so I answer your question on the basis of what I had observed about the forthcoming elections when I was still outside of Russia and following debates, and what I observed on the ground as a visitor to the elections in the international monitoring group.
These elections took place in the context of a very aggressive political war and information war on Russia being led by the United States and its Western allies, in that context you have distortions on both sides, you have people who went down and observed elections, as some people in my group did, who were very predisposed to Russia and who came up with statements somewhat outlandish about the Crimean elections being the greatest democracy in the world, well that's a bit excessive, and then you have the other side to the picture, the Western comments, which are all disparaging or actually insulting and untrue, regarding the level of democracy, the level of participation of the Russian people in these elections, and in between these two you have the report which probably has been the most widely circulated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, who had the largest contingent of observers in Russia both before the elections in Russia doing preparatory work and during election day and who issued a press release the day following the elections, which was complimentary regarding the technical administration of the elections and was rather scathing in its criticism on the level of democracy in Russia as exhibited by its laws on assembly and by its laws and practices of free speech, that type of report is actually very distorted because it ignores the information and political war on Russia which always, in any country hardens the position of the population, rallies them around the leader and is bad for dissent and opposition, so that's the overall situation.
Sputnik: Once the result was known, both the UK and Poland immediately placed further sanctions on Russia, is this a sign that the sanctions environment is set to continue, and why is it even though large swaths of the population in Europe are stating clearly that they want closer ties and improved trade agreements with Russia?
Gilbert Doctorow: I agree that the population of many countries in Europe is sceptical if not in disagreement of polices of sanctions on Russia, but how that takes political effect is a different story because in most countries, despite the populist votes that we've seen in the last couple of years, the old elites who are subservient to the United States policies they are in control, where they are not in control, in small countries which can't stand up to Brussels, like Mr. Orban's Hungary or in Slovakia, or some of these smaller countries that say that they don't agree but then when the vote comes they vote for sanctions.What will happen in Italy will be decisive, the election a few weeks which brought the elites to their knees and installed the biggest popular vote, the Five Star Movement and the Northern League, this could lead to Italy adopting a veto on sanctions and Italy is not Hungary, Italy is the fourth largest economy in the EU, it's one of the founding countries of the EU, so if Italy should break with the ongoing policy of sanctions then that will be the end.
However, I'd look in a different direction, I look directly to what comes from Vladimir Putin's speech on March 1st and his presentation of the new nuclear parity between the United States and Russia. That resulted immediately in confusion in Washington, in the Pentagon denial of the weapons systems by Russia don't exist, it's a bluff, and our generals were scrambling to find a suitable response, while they were scrambling these various diversionary activities like the Skripal nerve gas attack story or like the widely spread rumor that Russia had cyber attacked US electrical systems, this sort of diversionary talk swept the news waves, finally, the generals got their arms around what Vladimir Putin presented on March 1st and the consequence was we heard when Donald Trump made his remarks during the congratulatory call to Vladimir Putin and said in passing that the arms race is getting out of control and we have to meet with the Russians to talk about it.
I can tell you right know if this proceeds, and it's not going to be easy for Trump to put this through, but if it proceeds and there are arms negotiations, you can be sure that the precondition of the Russians will be the restoration of normal, civilized relations between Russia and the West, Russia and the United States meaning an end to sanctions. That is the most likely path to ending the sanctions, and it could happen this year.
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