Translated by Fort Russ…
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Ms. Wagenknecht, the Bundeswehr has settled on a deployment to Syria; you express concern about a third World War. Exaggeration?
Sahra Wagenknecht: It’s not about scaremongering. But the risks of escalation are huge. There are now 15 countries fighting in Syria, sometimes together, sometimes side by side, sometimes against each other. There is no joint strategy. There is not even agreement on whether the most important goal is the fight against the “Islamic state.” Turkey certainly has other priorities. Germany is stepping into a war that nobody has a handle on.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What is your suggestion?
Wagenknecht: It is crucial to cut off the ongoing supply of new fighters, weapons and money to the IS. In other words, Erdogan has to be put under pressure to finally end his covert support of the terrorists and to close the Turkish border for the IS. The same goes for Saudi Arabia, whose richest families generously finance the Islamic State. If the IS is no longer getting money support, its internal power base has to shrink. Then the armies of these countries can eventually liberate the occupied parts of the country. But the military intervention of the West on the other hand helps the IS. The bombings cause many civilian casualties. This nourishes the hatred. Another problem is the Americans do not don’t want to just fight the IS, but are more interested in going after Assad.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The US air strikes are on Islamist groups, not the forces of the regime.
Wagenknecht: The Americans have been destabilizing Syria for years to overthrow Assad. The Pentagon itself has even admitted that the initial IS support was for this purpose. Of course, Assad is a dictator, but it is up to the Syrian people and not the Americans, who rules in Damascus.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You play on a report of the US Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012, that doesn’t fully match your allegations. What role should the US government play in the Middle East?
Wagenknecht: The US military should withdraw from the region. It was their war, especially in Iraq, which created the IS monster in the first place.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: US President Barack Obama has rejected the deployment of ground forces..
Wagenknecht: … but the US Republicans are clamoring for ground troops. SPIEGEL ONLINE: They aren’t sitting in the White House.
Wagenknecht: Not yet, fortunately.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your explanatory pattern always seems the same: The Americans are to blame. Then tell us about it, what all Vladimir Putin is doing right in Syria.
Wagenknecht: Maybe I’ll start right off with what he’s doing wrong. He’s bombing Syria, too – and here too, the number of civilian casualties is high. What’s correct is his desire for the players to find a common strategy to actually fight the IS. Without Russian pressure, the Vienna Conference would not have happened. It is necessary to go further on this path tords a peaceful solution.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Putin’s airstrikes have so far mainly hit the Assad opposition, not the IS.
Wagenknecht: I think that’s an assumption. Incidentally, al-Nusra and other Islamist terrorist groups are also part of the opposition to Assad, and are no better than the IS.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What is the role Turkey can play?
Wagenknecht: It’s shabby deal, courting Erdogan, while he silences his opposition, persecutes journalists and fiddles with the IS. The EU wants to give Turkey three billion euros for a promise to close the borders to refugees, but the border with the “Islamic State” is still open. Every night over a hundred fully armed jihadists pass through on their way to war. While Erdogan plays godfather to terrorists, prohibit dirty deals with him.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How many refugees can Germany take?
Wagenknecht: The capacity naturally depends on the policy. If cities and towns had full coffers — well, for example, there would be better opportunities to integrate refugees if a millionaire tax would increase the government revenue, and if again a lot more affordable housing were to be built. And if the labor market were better regulated, the abuse of refugees for wage dumping could be prevented. But it is also clear: We can not accommodate a million people every year. Therefore, Germany needs to do much more to ensure that not so many people to leave their homes. The wars are indeed the number one cause of the refugee crisis.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do we need to impose an upper limit?
Wagenknecht: What’s needed is a European refugee policy. If quotas meant that other EU countries would also receive refugees in large numbers and if legal immigration routes were opened up, then quotas would definitely be an improvement. At the moment, refugees have no choice but to use illegal routes to Europe that are dangerous to life and to put themselves in the hands of criminal traffickers. This can not continue.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How do you deal with that part of your followers who sympathize with Pegida about the refugees?
Wagenknecht: In my Dusseldorf constituency I have never met anyone from Party of the Left, that thinks Pegida is with it. I think it is, however, just wrong, for anyone addressing the problems that we have as a result of the refugee crisis, or addressing the worries due to rising rents or cuts elsewhere, to resort to Pegida. Pegida stokes racist resentments, we deal about state failure and the lack of political responsibility.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Euro, the question of government investments – when will these big themes again ensure displeasure in your faction ?
Wagenknecht: We deal with the Europe’s and Europe’s currency as two different concepts, and I think it speaks for us that we do this, instead of — like Merkel — stifling any debate with the dictum “If the euro fails, Europe fails.” At the point where we had to position ourselves currently, about a re-wrap of Greece in the summer, we have, with greater unity than all the other groups, rejected it almost unanimously.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is a coalition with the SPD about the Syria deployment even less likely?
Wagenknecht: That depends on how enthusiastic the SPD now feels about this war. In any case I did not get the feeling that Frank-Walter Steinmeier is defending the deployment with great conviction. If the SPD would ever remember that Willy Brandt used to call war the ultima irratio, as the highest form of irrationality, we could find each other in this issue.