Can Ukraine kiss Crimea goodbye? Not yet, says the Christian Democrat security spokesman in the European Parliament. The purpose of sanctions, he says, is to get his inner circle to put pressure on Putin.
DW: Mr. Gahler, has Ukraine definitively lost Crimea?
Gahler: With history, nothing is final. This referendum lacks legitimacy: a foreign occupation, no free media, a dubious electoral authority - and then options which didn't include the status quo, and the nearly Soviet result. That definitely leaves you with some big question marks.
But the facts are what they are. What can be done?
We'll now impose personal sanctions in the form of travel restrictions and bank account freezes. If you can't travel to go shopping anymore in Baden-Baden or Nizza or London, or can't access your accounts, then the pressure builds.
But hadn't Putin already planned on that?
Mr. Putin is already personally poorer. The rubel is collapsing, the Moscow stock exchange is crashing. That means he's already suffered personal losses through his stock holdings. And if things keep going that way, the oligarchs will soon come to him and say, "Listen, Vladimir, this isn't what we had in mind." I'm very confident that, even within Russia, pressure on Putin can also be built up.
Would the "red line" for Western military intervention be crossed if NATO countries in the Baltic were affected, for example, or even if eastern Ukraine were invaded?
I think that we would have a very Cold War if the boots of Russian soldiers were to touch Ukraine's mainland. And that's why it's so important that we internationalize this region in the sense that we bring in OSCE observers [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] to also ensure that dialogue gets underway. Up to this point we haven't felt any tension in eastern Ukraine. Previously, the people there lived peacefully with one another. It's also complete nonsense to say that everyone who speaks Russian wants to join Russia. They also know how things in Russia look. I therefore consider the things that take place there as largely staged, and provoked by Moscow.
Did the West make a mistake by working together with dubious members of Ukraine's opposition, among them fascists?
That's nonsense. We, the European People's Party, supported Tymoshenko, Yatsenyuk and Klitschko politically. We did not support Svoboda [a right-wing nationalist party - the ed.]. But people like to swing the fascism hammer. For me, however, the decisive point is: When did they become strong? They first became strong under Yanukovych. That's something which will take care of itself when people have a perspective.
Putin says that if Kosovo, with its Kosovar majority, was allowed to leave Serbia, why not the Russian-speaking majority in Crimea?
That perspective is totally off-base. NATO had to attack at that point to prevent a massacre. That's why there's no parallel. There has been no oppression of the Russian people by Ukrainian authorities. There is no comparison to Kosovo.
The German politician Michael Gahler sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and is spokesman on security policy for the European People's Party faction, which includes the German Christian Democrats.