Photograph: Bart Maat/EPA
As the Dutch referendum results show, many Europeans are now want to focus on their own problems rather than broaden the EU and are convinced that “they are paying for their support of Ukraine with a worsening of relations with Russia which is an important trade partner for Europe,” according to Vladislav Inozemtsev.
In fact, the Russian economist and commentator says, the Europeans are wrong to think that their support of Ukraine up to now is behind the decline of trade between Russia and the EU; but unfortunately, Moscow has promoted this idea and Kyiv has done little or nothing to counter it.
Inozemtsev says that “for Ukraine, now and in the immediate future, it is extremely important to organize an explanatory campaign in the EU, the goal of which would be the dispelling of these existing illusions about the economic consequences European sanctions and Russian counter-sanctions have had.”
What is needed, he continues, is “an assessment of the real effect” of these sanctions not so much on Russia – “Europeans are ever less concerned” about that – than on Europe itself. Unfortunately, Ukraine has not conducted any such detailed research up to now or provided what information there is to European countries and publics, thereby opening the way for Moscow.
“If the Ukrainian authorities were to hire serious international consulting companies for calculating both the real size of losses and what is now even more important the extent of potential profits, which the EU might obtain from eliminating sanctions, then it would turn out that the latter do not justify the betrayal of Ukraine and the surrender of European principles.”
Moreover, Inozemtsev says, “such research … would be extremely important on the eve of the EU summit at which will be discussed the question of the extension of sanctions on the Russian Federation.” Time is short as that meeting is scheduled for June 23. But a great deal could be done.
“Of course,” the Moscow analyst points out, “it is simpler to talk about ‘the hand of Moscow’ and ‘hybrid war,’ and to condemn the Europeans for allowing themselves to fall victim to Kremlin propaganda.” But if Ukraine continues on this way, its defeat in Holland will be followed by others.
The notion that sanctions and counter-sanctions provoked by the Ukrainian crisis have been responsible for the decline in trade between EU countries and Russia is widespread but mistaken. Much more important factors have been the decline in oil prices and hence Russian resources and Moscow’s mistakes in managing its economy.
Consequently, even if sanctions and counter-sanctions were ended, that would not restore trade to the pre-crisis levels, something that the results of the Dutch referendum show, Inozemtsev says, and something that Ukraine has a compelling interest in researching and pointing out.
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