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Interfax.com  |  Interviews  |  Ronald Lauder: It is important that Putin committed to fighting threats to...



Interviews


April 21, 2016

Ronald Lauder: It is important that Putin committed to fighting threats to Jewish life in Russia


World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about issues that he discussed at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, about how the inflow of immigrants has influenced the situation with anti-Semitism in Europe and about attempts to rewrite the WW II history.

Question: What were the main subjects you discussed at your meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin? What was the most important thing for you at that meeting?

Answer: We touched upon many subjects, and I am grateful that President Putin took so much time to exchange views on them, including the situation of the Jewish community in Russia, the growing threat of Islamist terrorism, the rise of anti-Semitism in some parts of Europe, and the situation in the Middle East. I found it particularly important that President Putin expressed his strong commitment to fighting any threats to Jewish life in Russia. We have seen real progress when it comes to anti-Semitism, and the resurgence of Jewish life in Russia is encouraging.

Q.: Radical parties and movements are growing in strength and popularity in Europe, due partly to the influx of refugees from countries in Africa and the Middle East. Does this tendency cause you any concern and will it result in growth of anti-Semitism in the Old World?

A.: The rise of anti-Semitism is a reality, and there are a number of factors contributing to it. The situation differs from country to country. But the rise of populist, xenophobic and racist parties can be observed in a number of countries. They are not just a threat to Jews, they are potentially also a threat to our open democratic societies. We should also not ignore the threat coming from far-left parties, some of which has helped to stir anti-Jewish sentiment by advocating a boycott of Israel and questioning the legitimacy of the Jewish state. But the biggest threat today is certainly that posed by Islamists, by jihadist terrorists, by Muslim fanatics. We saw what they did in Brussels andParis, where Jewish sites among the targets. In many European countries, Jews do not feel safe and sufficiently protected today. It is important that governments address this problem.

Q.: In which regions of the world are the rights of Jewish communities infringed upon most? How do you assess the situation of Jewish communities in Russia against this backdrop? Can you see any strengthening of anti-Semitic sentiment in Ukraine?

A.: There are many countries, mostly in the Islamic world, that once had thriving Jewish communities but where today a Jew could not live without fearing for his life. Overall, however, I think the situation for Jews in Europe is a mixed bag. On the one hand, there has been a stunning revival of Jewish life in many countries since the end of Communism, especially in Central and Eastern Europe and including Russia, where Jewish communities are thriving and anti-Semitism is relatively low. On the other hand, countries with large Jewish communities such as France have witnessed a strong rise in anti-Semitism recently. As for Ukraine, I dont see that anti-Semitism is on the rise there. Just last week, a Jew was appointed as prime minister, and the extreme-right Svoboda party has receded in recent years. So, when it comes to Central and Eastern Europe, I am rather optimistic.

Q.: What is your attitude to the fact that neo-Nazi movements are operating freely in the Baltic countries and organize demonstrations?

A.: We call on the governments of these countries to take action against such groups wherever possible. It is not always possible under a countrys constitution to ban rallies and marches staged by pro-Nazi groups, but at the very least, all democrats should denounce and condemn them.

Q.: In your view, how should attempts to re-write the history of the Second World War be combated? Is enough being done in this area today?

A.: Whats important is education of our children. The people trying to re-write history, those who obfuscate or deny what happened during World War II, can only be defeated if our children learn in school and in the media what really happened then. Very soon, there wont be any witnesses left who can give first-hand accounts of the terrible events 75 years ago, so its all the more important that we put efforts in place to preserve the memory and to ensure that history is not re-written, because that would be the first step toward allowing these terrible events to be repeated.

Q.: What do you think about the Russian operation in Syria?

A.:I dont want to be drawn into this discussion. Syria is obviously the biggest humanitarian problem today, and the international community must come together to do everything to stop the bloodshed.

Q.: Do you consider the issue of the Schneerson library to be closed after the public was granted the opportunity to view books from the collection in the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow?

A.: There are rulings of U.S. courts on this, but I hope the issue can eventually be resolved through diplomatic channels.



Interviews
 

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U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman, who will leave his post in early October, has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about exchanges at the highest level between Moscow and Washington, a possibility of Russias return to G8, as well as his vision of the future of U.S.-Russian relations.

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty on that is expected on August 2, about Russia‘s response to the U.S. and NATO possible deployment of missiles banned by the treaty, and about whether the Cuban Missile Crisis may repeat itself.

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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will hold negotiations on the sidelines of the Petersburg Dialogue forum in Germany on Thursday. Maas has given an interview to Interfax ahead of the forum, in which he speaks about prospects of settling the conflict in Ukraine, Germanys preparations for ensuring security in the absence of the INF Treaty and attempts to save the Iranian nuclear deal.

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German Ambassador to Russia Rudiger von Fritsch, who is leaving Moscow after a five-year mission, told Interfax about the state of affairs in bilateral relations, Germanys position on the Nord Stream 2 project amidst sanction risks, and assessed prospects for settling the crisis in Ukraine under the new authorities in Kyiv.

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U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about results of the trilateral meeting on Afghanistan settlement that took place in Moscow on April 25, prospects of the intra-Afghan meeting in Doha, and Russia‘s role in the Afghan issue.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has given an interview to Interfax ahead of the Alliances 70th anniversary that is to be celebrated on April 4. He speaks in the interview about the NATOs vision of future relations with Russia, its attitude to the situation surrounding the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Treaty and the New START Treaty, as well as further plans of expanding the Alliance.

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British Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about the current situation in the relationship between the United Kingdom and Russia, the impact of the Skripal case on it, the restoration of the numbers of diplomatic staff, exchange of information on counter-terrorism, possible introduction of sanctions over the Kerch Strait incident, the INF Treaty, and British-Russian economic relations.

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