In a wide-ranging exclusive Handelsblatt interview, Mr. Medvedev said sending troops to Syria risks drawing “everyone taking part in it into a war” and drastically escalating the conflict.
“All ground operations, as a rule, lead to permanent wars,” he said. “The Americans must consider – both the U.S. president and our Arab partners – whether or not they want a permanent war.”
“We must make everyone sit down at the negotiating table…rather than start yet another world war,” the Russian prime minister added.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have called for sending ground troops into the region and have asked the United States to take the lead in such an offensive. Instead, Mr. Medvedev said Russians and Americans in particular should exert pressure on the war-faring parties in Syria to reach a settlement for a truce.
Mr. Medvedev justified Russia’s own military campaign in Syria as designed to prevent terrorists from attacking other European cities. The air strikes were necessary to avoid “brainwashed murderers” returning to Europe and doing “the same as what they did in the past in the North Caucasus, in Moscow and other Russian cities, what they did in Paris and all over the world, including the United States.”
Mr. Medvedev also sharply critized Europe’s policy on dealing with the stream of refugees that have come from Syria, calling “all-out and total failure, an all-round fiasco” that risked causing another terrorist attack in Europe. It was “silly” for Europe to simply open its borders to all asylum seekers, he said.
“Some of these people – and it’s not just a few strange individuals or utter scoundrels, but hundreds and possibly thousands – are entering Europe as potential time bombs, and they will fulfill their missions as robots when they are told to,” he warned, adding that it was “almost impossible” to identify such terrorist cells among the waves of refugees.
Mr. Medvedev called for an end to the sanctions imposed on Russia by Europe and the United States, and said the European Union should take the lead in bringing them to an end.
“We are waiting for our E.U. colleagues to make the first move,” he said. Europe should find the “courage to admit that the economic sanctions should be lifted because they haven’t done anything good for either Europe or Russia.”
The prime minister also blamed western nations for breaking off dialogue with Russia following its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and said the end of talks risked a return to the days of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain.
“They shouldn’t have done this as this hasn’t benefited anyone….There’s nothing left of this trust now,” he said, adding: “We can close the curtain and refuse to talk with one another. I believe that this would be a huge political mistake.”
In the run-up to the Munich Security Conference, Mr. Medvedev called for closer cooperation between Russia and western nations to combat the challenges of security and terrorism.