Ukraine, Syria, and Putin

AFP Photo/John MacDougall

AFP Photo/John MacDougall 

2016/10/25 • Analysis & Opinion

Article by: Vitaliy Portnikov

The sanctions implemented against Russia for its actions in the Donbas have become the main lever against Russia. And they may help solve problems both in Ukraine and Syria.

The European Union summit ended without a decision to threaten the Russian Federation with sanctions over events in Syria. Even a few days before the summit there was no such item in the final EU document. It appeared in the draft document practically at the time of the Berlin meeting of the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

As has been reported, François Hollande and Angela Merkel remained after the “Normandy format” negotiations in order to discuss the situation in Aleppo with Vladimir Putin. Putin was unable to convince his Western counterparts. After the meeting, François Hollande and Angela Merkel talked about the war crimes of the Russian and Syrians regimes. The threat of sanctions should have been the logical consequence of this conclusion.

However, statements about the sanctions were removed from the final document at the last minute. As confirmed by Western media, this was because of the position of the Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi. It is well known that Rome has a special relationship with Moscow.

The traditions of Italian political life, where former communists and fascists support Putin’s politics, have allowed the Kremlin to form a pro-Russian lobby that the government needs to take into account. Additionally, Italian business, known for its corruption, also offer special opportunities for the Kremlin.

But Renzo is not alone in his desire to reduce the penalties for Putin for the systematic destruction of civilians in Syria. Forming a united front with the Italian prime minister are the Greek prime minister, the left-wing populist Alexis Tsipras, and the Hungarian prime minister, the right-wing populist Viktor Orban.

They are cautious, since their irresponsible policies have turned Greece and Hungary into countries that are dependent on EU aid and therefore on the positions of Germany and France. And yet they still have sufficient opportunity to amend documents.

All this has been an unpleasant surprise for Hollande and Merkel, as well as for British Prime Minister Theresa May, another supporter of a tough stance towards Moscow.

The events in Syria, unlike the crisis in Ukraine, are having a direct impact on Western public opinion and on the attitudes of voters. The Germans, the British, and the French are taking this much more seriously than the Italians and the Greeks.

Therefore, the decisions that have been reached reflect the traditional EU compromise between the tough position of some and the collaborationism of others. In this case, these were the sanctions that the EU had already approved for Crimea and the Donbas. At the EU summit the possibility  of weakening sanctions was not even discussed, even though that possibility had existed and the pro-Russian lobby had been working  on it.

However, even if these sanctions are the only ones retained, in 2017 Russian companies will not be able to refinance. Access to Western credit markets will be closed for them as before. The Russian economy will suffer a blow from which it will not recover. Together with the depletion of Russian reserves, this could be a prelude to the collapse of the Putin regime.

Putin is well aware of this. This is why his diplomats have been working actively all this year on easing sanctions. And they have achieved a certain result with the help of the same Europeans who have been lobbying in the interests of the Putin regime.

Aleppo prevented that. Right now the sanctions that have been imposed for the Donbas are becoming the main lever against Russia. And they may help solve the problems both of Ukraine and Syria. And perhaps — if the blow turns out to be devastating — the problems of Russia itself.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
Source: Espreso TV

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  • Quartermaster

    I hate it for the Russian people. But things are going to get rough for them over the next 12 months.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Don’t feel sorry for the Dwarfstanians. They elected the dwarf three times, knowing perfectly well that he is a third-rate Chekist thug, and they will continue to elect him regardless of the consequences. Very well, let them suffer the consequences, whatever they may be.

    • zorbatheturk

      They need to get far rougher. Sanctions on gas exports must be next.

  • Matt Franklin

    Destroy Muscovy.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      The dwarf is doing precisely that, and we should do everything we can to help him. Let the country suffer a total collapse; the sooner it breaks up the better. It’s time that the breakup of the USSR is completed with the breakup of the Dwarfstanian Federation.

  • WorldCommenter

    The situation in eastern Ukraine will be resolved either when Putin determines the cost is to high or the Putin / Medvedev dictatorship is voted out of office. There seems to be some “house cleaning” within the pro-Russian terrorists “commanders” as the more “unpredictable” leadership is displaced. However, will that lead to resolution or just a prolonged festering destabilization of Ukraine.
    Russia should look back to the treaties and agreements is signed in the mid and late 1990’s about how it was going to interact with its neighbors and return to that type of foreign policy. Spheres of Influence; economic, political and / or military domination of neighboring countries; aggressive chauvinism and demeaning of other nationalities / cultures are not how the post Cold War world was supposed to operate. The Russian Federation signed the “Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation” on May 27, 1997. When Putin and Medvedev came to power they promptly “forgot” all the agreements and treaties that the Russian Federation had signed from 1992 to 2000.

    • zorbatheturk

      Putin cannot be voted out, since credible opposition parties are banned. Any real challengers are assassinated, like Nemtsov.

    • Alex George

      Putin will be ashamed of himself if he is ever voted out of office.

      Real Russian leaders are shot (Nick II), blown up (Alex II), strangled (Paul I), stabbed (Ivan VI) poisoned (Peter III) or from a range of anti-social diseases (various). Putin will want to go in one of those ways.

      • MichaelA

        you forgot having relations with a horse

  • anonymous

    Do not overestimate the Russian people in their desire for a good life. A Russian friend stated that Stalin killed more Russian citizens than Hitler and millions cried at his death. Sanctions hurt the Russian population most of all and that will not end Putin. Sanctions will only decrease the ability of the Russian military to damage neighbors and friends. Sanctions will neither cause Putin’s criminal organization’s collapse nor bring Russians to their feet or streets.

    • WorldCommenter

      If sanctions DECREASE Russia’s ability to damage its neighbors, then we are in for long term sanctions and providing or improving defensive capabilities of Russia’s neighbors.

      • anonymous

        The sanctions in place are for long term impact; not short; Western leaders have made that clear. There could be decisive sanctions that would impact Russian very quickly but might also cause European impacts that would be proportional. Non-European countries might take that severe path but European leaders cannot. This is long term; possibly decades.

    • MichaelA

      ‘Sanctions will only decrease the ability of the Russian military to damage neighbors and friends’
      yes

  • zorbatheturk

    Italy out of EU. Spaghetti munchers!