By Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
There is no crucial issue today “determining” the situation in Greece, in Europe and the whole world more than the crisis in Ukraine and about Ukraine. In the context of a survey of the stance of the parties of the Greek and European left, we asked former Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos, responsible for foreign policy in SYRIZA and head of the European Left parliamentary group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to clarify the position of his party. We publish here his answers.
We remind our readers we have already published the answers of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) to our questions regarding the Ukrainian crisis ( https://www.defenddemocracy.press/the-greek-left-and-the-ukrainian-conflict/) and we are going to publish the answers of MeRA25 as soon as we get them. SYRIZA, KKE and MeRA25 are the three leftist parties represented in the Greek parliament.
Needless to say that, as is happening more and more often, public opinion, including leftist public opinion, is usually much more radical than that expressed by the political apparatuses of the parties. Often there is a huge gap between what people are thinking and what “their” parties proclaim. A large part of European citizens disagree with the official NATO narrative, in spite of the unprecedented barrage of the western mass media and in spite of the fact most political parties in Europe are following it in a more or less disciplined way.
Interview of George Katrougalos to Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
Question: Recently we have witnessed a very dangerous escalation of the Ukrainian crisis. In Moscow, there was a terrorist attack as a result of which a Russian journalist was killed. The biggest nuclear power station in Europe in Zaporizhzhia is being bombed. The United States has decided on a new arms package for Ukraine, worth three billion dollars. How do you assess those developments? Where are we going?
Answer: As long as the war and the Russian invasion continue and a path for peace is not opened, the situation will get worse. It is obvious that terrorism is a more general and major problem. I do not know to what extent the attack you are referring to is connected with the war in Ukraine. In any case, any escalation of the conflict is a negative development.
Question: Υour party, along with the majority of European political forces, has condemned the Russian intervention in Ukraine. But don’t you think the reaction to Russia’ s actions is totally disproportionate? After all, everybody remembers that the United States and the NATO alliance have bombed, invaded or intervened otherwise not in one, but in a lot of countries. Now an unprecedented anti-Russian hysteria has prevailed throughout the Western world, the broadcasting of Russian media is prohibited, people are persecuted on the basis of their national origin, and even Russian music and literature is ostracised. Anyone who disagrees with western policy is attacked, with practices reminiscent of McCarthyism, if not of Stalinism. Will the European Left take some initiative to oppose this atmosphere?
Ans. The European Left and SYRIZA have held a consistent stance of principle. They have condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an obvious violation of international law and they supported evey initiative to end it.
But, at the same time, we have insisted on condemning any such violation of international law. There is no double standard in international law. Several initiatives have already been taken in this direction, including our own. Most characteristic is the PODEMOS’ initiative, in which, in addition to the parties of the European left, many other figures of peace participated.
Question: Western states have imposed unprecedented sanctions against Russia. Six months later, these sanctions have not helped Ukraine, have not harmed Russia and are seriously harming many countries in the world, including the members of the EU. Greeks suffer apoplexy every time they enter supermarkets and during the coming winter we will not be able to pay for electricity and heating. As a result of the sanctions and counter-sanctions there is a massive shift towards fossil fuels and our drive towards climate catastrophe is accelerating. On the basis of six months’ experience, do you think the sanctions must be revised?
Answer: In these difficult times all diplomatic means must be used to reach peace and this also means sanctions – for this reason SYRIZA has supported them. It is, of course, true that over time sanctions have often proved ineffective for the purposes for which they were established. The sanctions against Russia in particular seem to disproportionately affect European economies, especially in areas that directly and adversely affect European peoples. The Belgian prime minister recently said that in order for them to make sense, they should affect the Russian side more than the European side. “We are not at war with ourselves,” he remarked reasonably. You are also right to point out that they can have irreversible consequences concerning the climate crisis, which is important for the future of humanity. All this must be taken into account in examining both the EU and the NATO strategy. We cannot continue with this strategy.
Question: You criticised the Mitsotakis’ government for sending weapons to Ukraine. But in March the Left voted for a resolution of the European Parliament calling for the arming of Ukraine. Based on the experience we have after six months of war, what is your view today on the arming of Ukraine?
Answer: The people of Ukraine have a non-negotiable right to self-defence when faced with an invasion. But beyond that, the main thing in the Ukrainian war and the responsibility of all the rest of us in the international community is the immediate search for a diplomatic solution, with absolute respect, of course, for international law. Everything that Ukraine is using to intensify the West-Russia confrontation is above all against the Ukrainian people itself, who has already paid hecatombs on the altar of conflict.
Question: Leaders of the Cypriot left, along with many other intellectuals, have advocated an immediate and simultaneous ceasefire, the beginning of negotiations, the lifting of sanctions and the cessation of arming of Ukraine. Do you intend to take initiatives in this direction, together with the other parties of the European left, before the European and global crisis further escalates?
Answer: As I said before, I also believe that the solution to the Ukrainian drama can be only diplomatic, with the first move being an immediate end to the invasion. Several proposals have been tabled so far, with their pros and cons, such as the Italian Prime Minister Draghi’s four-point peace plan. The Left must play a leading role in this effort. And from the position of President of the United European Left in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I am also doing everything I can in this direction.
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